Thursday, July 12, 2007

The spirit of Mumbai

There are two kinds of people who talk about this phenomenon:
1) Those who run this country/state/city, or are supposed to. This sect believes that showering praises on the undying spirit of Mumbai gives them cause to test that spirit some more, and absolves them of all responsibility;
2) Defensive Mumbaikars or Mumbai-ites, especially when in heated conversation (read the 'I'm superior' argument) with Dilli-valas or Delhiites.

The spirit of Mumbai is the flavour of the season when drains overflow, uncleared garbage and dead rats compete for space on the roads, the Western Express Highway becomes negotiable by boat, and people spend their days throwing rain water out of their houses. The average Mumbai resident is as capable of a drunken brawl as his North Indian or any Indian counterpart, but somehow, the state of the city doesn't raise any tempers. Year after year, people die of dengue and malaria; year after year, officegoers take pleasure in relating 'stranded in the rain' stories. Flooding, water logging, houses being submerged... these aren't inconveniences any more, they're part of the Mumbai folklore, of what people have to go through to survive in this city.

Is this much-famed spirit just another name for sheer indifference? Or is it that the people of this city pleasure their struggles with the monsoon? Does it add to their self-esteem to have braved another rain, to have vanquished, perhaps, the only opponent they can vanquish? Is this some warped superiority complex that says, "Hey, look what I have to go through to just reach to work and back, look what I have to fight to live?" Or, is it a stoic resignation, a fatalist shrug of the shoulders, as eking out an existence and chasing dreams leaves space for nothing else?