Saturday, January 30, 2016

The City of Hills and the Sea - IX

In his article, Sri Lanka has much to teach us about civic sense (HT, 31st Jan, 2016), Mark Tully questions, “What can you say about the civic sense of a society which tolerated the death of 3,034 commuters on Mumbai’s suburban railways last year?” Another front page report suggested how Mumbai is choking with pollution levels on rise.

While many claim that India’s intolerance has risen, look at how tolerant we have become to our blindness towards civic responsibilities and a crumbling society, is just amazing. We are more worried about what one says on social media and news channels while we let 3034 mumbaikars die in train accidents in just one city. By the way, these numbers are more than most recent terrorist attacks. In these attacks, the ‘enemy’ is out and known. Who is the enemy that we need to fight who let these train deaths happen or let the city choke with pollution?

Though, the stats almost always give us a macro understanding of things, I think, it’s about us, the individuals. The resident-but-not-resident individuals.

I have lived in this city for over ten years now. Did I intend to? Not really. I had come to this city, like many others, in search of a better education and career choices, but most importantly in search of my individuality, my freedom and my life. Does it resonate with many of you? Oh well! I am not just talking about the biharis and the UP-wallahs, the telugus and the tamils, the mallus and the govans, the sindhis and the bongs; I am even talking about the gujaratis and the maharashtrians. We all have come to this city at some of of time in our ancestral history. I still remember when Dev Tayde, one of the most amazing people I have met in my life, asked in one of his sessions, where are you from. Most people in the group said, Borivali, Chembur, Colaba and Vashi. He asked again, where are you really from. That question in that moment seemed pushy to me. I was like, what the heck, I am from where I choose to be. and I chose to be from chembur, from Mumbai. But over the years, I have found much relevance to this question. A couple of year ago, it struck me, most of us are travellers to this city. This city doesn't become home. We love it, like most travellers do, for what if offers. But our love doesn't come with much responsibility and accountability towards the city. Afterall, its the host who has to keep the house clean once the guests are gone, right? But what about guests, who come to your house forever? But don’t bring the responsibility of this foreverness? And I am talking about all classes - from doodhwala to Diamond merchants, from Bollywood-wallahs to software engineers.

It’s great that our constitution gives us the right to travel around and live anywhere we want in India. However, with this right also comes the duties to rise above personal aspirations and be responsible towards cities, towns and villages we travel to or live in through our lifetime.

These days we all have views. So many views. We all want to be heard. We all almost fight it out when not heard. And it’s important - to have a view and to want it expressed. However, unless our views translate into action, they don’t have much meaning. Sudhir Mishra, in his interview in today’s Brunch, very aptly sums up what I am thinking, “... when people state their views in conversation and not in their work. If you have a political opinion and something upsets you, it's your job to reflect it in your work because that’s where it will have the maximum impact. Tweeting doesn’t fulfill the purpose.”

So, if you are a photographer, think what you can shoot today? If you are software programmer, which code of yours can change the face of this city? If you are banker what services will make many of the social causes so relevant? If you are a policy maker, how will you create right tools for policy implementation and accountability? If you are a cleaner, how will you create sustainable system of cleanliness? If you are a salesperson, what will you sell today? Well, I am just a teacher, and I log off. To go to my sunday class. To teach my young minds with a hope that their aspirations will not only be about their achievements but our collective growth.

Have a lovely Sunday!


To read the previous posts in this series, you may visit following links: