Thursday, July 14, 2011

Maximum City, Minimum Value

It's happened again.

And nothing has changed.

Politicians queueing up to fly to Mumbai and visit hospitals , for votes and photo-opportunities.

The usual speculations about who did it. By now , even the man in the street can tell who the announced suspects could be. But instead of doing quiet investigations, keeping things close and away from the newsfolks, unneccesary announcements about who did it, every few hours. A free update for the perpetrators on how far they need to escape.

The visit of the Chief Minister of the state to hospitals, followed by a midnight visit from the nation's Home Minister. Accompanied by a posse of police who actually should be somewhere else, augmenting the law and order and investigations in the monsoon city. Both making announcements over television, that could have been actually made by a specified spokesman. MP's from Mumbai giving sanctimonious advice from Delhi over TV. Opposition leaders arriving the next day to show their faces.

Once again, the ordinary man on the street, assorted truckdrivers and car owners, the cab drivers (who planned to strike at midnight (then cancelled that), but ferried the injured to hospitals free of charge), even folks who only owned their two legs (and not much else) and Mumbai citizenry with outstandingly large hearts did their stuff despite those who purport to be in power.

The announcements about which investigative types are flying in from where.

The hopelessly understaffed Mumbai police started their investigations way before the so called national Investigative Agency and National Security Guards platoons got on to planes to be flown from new Delhi and Hyderabad.

So many years on, so many blasts, so many terror strikes, deaths, lifetime life changing injuries, , and the powers that be still do not understand that investigation teams need to be posted in places like Mumbai, not flown in 3 hours later in the throes of a heavy monsoon rain that washes away proofs of the heinous deeds.

There is a sense of deja vu....

I wrote a post when the 2006 train blasts happened.

Amazingly, it looks like every single thing written there looks like it was written for yesterday .

Like I said, Nothing has changed. Except our perception of a PM now hemmed in by politics......

I reproduce that post below. (Published by Indian Express , July 19, 2006, in printline/ed. page)

Resilience in the time of Rudeness

Words have specific meanings. Words like Spirit. Resilience. Coming from the mouths of those whose entire career is based on buying and selling of human votes and emotions, they almost sound like abuse.

For years together, its been a pattern. Grandiose plans are made to safeguard people. Committees with names and unpronounceable acronyms are established. The head of the committee, his prestige doesn't depend on what good work he does, but whether he has a car with a flashing light and a siren, and a police constable hanging on for dear life to the car. Meetings are held. No one talks of any expenditures less than several hundred crores. Lips are licked in anticipation of being designated a supplier of stuff to the office. Networks buzz overtime . Maharashtra asks. The centre reduces, or sometimes, even refuses.

We have heard for years that the police force needs to be augmented . They don't have money for it. Statues in the sea are more important. Statues in parks are even more important. They feel no shame withdrawing police from after-hours duty in the ladies compartment of trains, and putting them on security detail at railway stations, post the blast. Why the security detail could not be drawn from all those politicians who are granted X,Y and Z+ security (for their families as well), is not clear. What is clear is that families of these folks need complicated security, so they can drive and spend relaxing time at the various posh coffee shops and restaurants and malls around town.

Why should a train carrying working women, returning home after a crushing day at the office, not looking forward to a two hour crowded commute, cutting vegetables in the train to save time, be given protection from predating males , who have traumatised and maimed so many women in an about to be empty compartment, in the recent past? These guardians of our law and order , prefer to morally police us. Energy is expended in banning bar dancers, slapping court cases on your political rivals, and basically forgetting the people who put you there in the first place.

The recent blasts in Mumbai, proved all over again, that we don't really need a government in Maharashtra. When the crunch comes, the people of mumbai are absolutely capable of taking care of themselves, and whats more , others. Within an hour of the blast, the various injured were well on their way to hospitals , if not actually already admitted. The "aam janata" came out on to the highways and arterial roads to stop vehicles, and request them to take passengers in their cars, those folks that were stuck miles away from their houses due to the blasts. Entire building societies chipped in with blankets , food stuff and transport; the slum dwellers who may not know if they will have a house next week, ran out with bedsheets for transporting patients, and climbed into the train to extricate the casualties, using whatever little they had at hand. College students returning home, found out that they could help the police control the traffic and keep things a bit more organised.

And people who I cant classify (and wont classify) under any category but saviours, even stood out in the rain handing water bottles, tea, hot snacks , food packets and even simple accommodation , to those people returning home from work, standing for miles together , crushed in a bus, because their train was blown up, and others were stopped; and those unknown folks who stayed on at hospitals , contacting relatives, comforting the hurt till some family member turned up.

They did this in the recent floods, and now the blasts. And they will do it again, because its ingrained. (Readers Digest , please note: one cannot learn this, like eg, saying thank you, wishing others, holding open doors . Some of the folks we are talking about , don't even have a door, forget holding it open. Some get all embarrassed if you say thank you to them, and almost feel insulted. And i cant think of a more useless thing to do than say "Nice day, isn't it?", while hanging on to 5 square inches of an open door in a moving train, trying to avoid torrential rain, or a burning summer day. )

That is what one calls the spirit. Resilience is the ability to keep on showing this spirit, blast after blast, flood after flood, carnage after carnage, one inefficient shameless government after another.

Our so called elected representatives don't need to waste their time passing resolutions in the legislature, when they should actually be amidst the people who elected them , trying to make their lives a bit more tolerable. Announcing Rs 50,000 dole to those injured, and Rs 1 Lakh to those dead , is not the end of the responsibility. The government should ensure that money needed for special medicines for the blast patients is directly paid to the municipal and state hospitals. Relatives of patients shouldn't have to trudge in and out of hospital buying medicines written up by doctors. The Railways, also announce a monetary compensation. I can just see a bunch of unscrupulous ears perking up and hands being rubbed in glee by people who see a great source of income , on the side in all this, ensuring that papers move.

And there needs to be a rule that only the Prime Minister and /or Home minister can come and visit the scene of the catastrophe. Seeing a politician holding your hand, and mouthing inane nothings, has nothing to do in improving your vital signs like heart beat, blood pressure, etc. For them its a photo opportunity. A Khota opportunity , if you really want to know. And all those cars that swish into the hospital porch , supposedly as security detail for the politicians, simply end up splashing monsoon dirt on those waiting outside, not knowing if someone is dead or alive, and what direction their life will take from now on.

So those in power need to stop commenting on Mumbais spirit and resilience. It sounds like a convenient thing in the mouths of the parasitic, moneyvorous people in power. It almost sounds like abuse , from the mouths of those that know not what it really means.

Learn something from the one man, who despite being elected , has never been a politician , and despite being elected by a party, has never really belonged to it.

Dr Manmohan Singh, the PM. Three days after the blast, he and his wife paid a visit to the hospitals . One patient, with one leg and one arm fractured , sat up to salute him. Those with visceral burn injuries tried to give a hint of a smile , so pleased they were to see him. Patients couldn't stop talking about the empathy that radiated from the man and his good wife as they made their rounds, quietly reassuring people, strong and firm. Then he got on television and sent a no nonsense message across the border, with no sparing of words.

Governing in Maharashtra is all about squabbling and power, and talking rot. And , of course , making money . These guys don't deserve an electorate like the people of Mumbai.

Mumbai has the SPIRIT and RESILIENCE despite them.

It will continue to have it, irrespective of blasts, floods, carnages, and moneyvorous politicians.

And never mind those guys who declared us the rudest people on earth.

(Maybe they simply looked at our politicians. Eat you words, Readers digest. ).


  1. It is heartbreaking when politicians are more interested in their own photo ops than in the lives of the people. Canada has a prime minister like that right now. He wants to see his own face everywhere, but has openly said he isn't interested in what the people of Canada want.
    So, I can understand, just a very little, of how you feel. You're right, bringing in an investigative team hours later isn't good enough.
    The prayers of the people of Canada are with the people of India. It doesn't matter who prays to what gods, it matters only that human beings have been needlessly killed and no one knows why.
    Kay, Alberta, Canada

  2. I'm so glad that you and your family were not harmed. It is indeed heartbreaking to listen to politicians these days. I am so disheartened by the politics taking place in this country right now. I do so agree with all that you've written. My thoughts are with you each and every day. Take care, stay safe, my dear friend!


  3. can feel your anger and frustration and empathise with you...
    the tragedy never seems to end :(

  4. My sentiments Mam, as i wrote on another blog as long as our leaders are happy with there Z secutirty and safe in there own home REST do NO matter and never will ..

    We the nation as ONE have ot do something cause our leader WONT they never have They never will


  5. Good to know you are okay - was thinking of you when I heard the news. I hate to say this, esp now. But even with good governance, safety in this environment, our country is a tough one. Which part of a colander would you shut down to keep the water from draining?! A strength of a democracy is also its weakness. This wouldn't happen in Singapore, but then neither would this blog post.

    And of course our guys are falling down on the job. I can't believe Mumbai does not have its own investigative folks, that specialists have to be flown down. Thought they set that up the last time!

  6. Will there never be peace in the world? What misery and suffering!

    On another note, thank you for including my photo in Sylvia's header. It was so suprising that I laughed! You are so clever and creative. Thanks again or as we say in Hawaii: MAHALO.

  7. I have come to hate the word resilience. What choice do we have?

    Our leaders know very well what can be done to stop these attacks, but will not do it for fear of losing votes.

  8. Extremely well-written. After yesterday's blasts, I'm even more sick of hearing about politicians.