I saw my poor newspaper lying on one of my side table wanting to be picked up, opened, read, shuffled and laid back to rest in its huge bundle at its final resting place for the bai to pick up and give it away for raddi. My cup of tea in hand I decided to give a glance and saw a row of people gesturing obscenely with a finger pointing as if to say “up yours”. It caught my eye and my thoughts that as it is the newspapers carry all kinds of weird things let me just check these out. On wearing my specks the picture became clearer that they were celebrities with their fingers up. Generally, I find bollywood stars with a thumsup kind of ad, but fingers up cajoled me to investigate. Now I got hooked on and even saw big political netas and their families with the same gesture. I thought this must have been a mudslinging match which netas are very famous for. In Mumbai these two fraternities’ that is netas and abhinetas are loggerheads on national issues like Pakistan so finger pointing is no big deal. As I turned the pages the mystery was finally revealed that these were BMC elections. All these people were actually posing with the ink marked fingers. Long live our democrazy.

This time I found that these elections were in mid week. It appears to be a tactical victory of kinds for the election organisers. Reason being had it been on a weekend most of the glitterati and the literati of mumbai push off on weekends to tourist destinations in the vicinity. So instead of voting, they enjoy boating and floating away from the humdrum of a hectic life of Mumbai. Now they were caught between the ‘aasman” and “khajur ka per”. They had no choice but to go out and vote. Who should I vote for is a big question?  For a cause, for a party or for the sake of media, well your guess is as good as mine.

Be that as it may, I again want to get down to basic issues of this mega city. First is the space crunch. No space for a house, no space in your house, no space in the bus, no space in the train, no space on the road, no space in the slums, no space for privacy, no space for garbage, then what do we vote for. Half the city is running towards VT and the other half towards virar. There is no space on the foot paths; no space under flyovers, no space over the nallas, no space for Meethi River to flow, no space for planes to land, in fact there is no space in space above Mumbai. Even the pigeons are fighting for space in the kabootar khanas as they don’t find space on any tree. Well the space for trees has been eaten away by something else, even the crows’ ride BEST buses to commute as they are afraid of cables which may cause fatal flying accidents in the crowing community. They can be charged for ticketless travel though.

The worst space crunch I find for the madly in love couples. Sea fronts and beaches are there favourite joints. Even in the scorching sun, love knows no bounds, armed with an umbrella, not for the sun but to hide identities from the public to do things which should be done at home. As 15 people staying in a 2BHK flat is not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, there is a space crunch on the parapets of the sea faces too. The witness to their “conversations” is the sun and the sea, rest of us only can read the manufacturers name on this multipurpose love enhancing gadget called the ‘chaata”. I also get surprised that all parking lots are always full at such places, to create space for your vehicle you got to have a lot of space in your wallet. The scene at the station when a train arrives is as if rats have suddenly been released to follow the pied piper. If you are a novice at stations like Dadar and Andheri, you may not be able to get down only because you are pushed back by the crowd waiting to board. Best is to stand in the crowd which has to get down, just don’t worry on who stepped on your toes just flow with them. You may reach your destination in a crumpled shirt, torn pant, nicked hand bag and maybe a picked pocket and sweaty as hell.

One does often see the green and orange vehicles of “Clean up Mumbai” kinds. My salute and hats off to those people. They toil day in and day out in that stench, picking up all that we throw. Most of us who have used taxi the “kali peeli’s”, one dreads to get behind these trucks. I can assure you, the nauseated feeling you get from the aroma generated by the fumes of the truck is better than anaesthesia. The trail of a dripping liquid which oozes from one of the trucks pipes, is like a scent of a woman that you get when you smell one whizzing past you on a bike. That trail cannot be obliterated. They are the actual heroes of Mumbai, who carry our garbage. Did they vote? Or could they vote should be the question? What is the BMC doing to keep them safe, and do their job without the stench and stink? Will the citizens vow to help reduce the stench by properly packing garbage? Such culture is missing in us Indians. I was staying in a society in Mumbai few years back, everything which was not of use, from diapers, to napkins used to he hurled as missiles down the fire duct. One could see the lift roof littered with paper and wrappers. One saw overnight dal and rotis being released from as high as the nineteenth floor, in a poly bag which used to land on cars below making a beautiful spread on the roof of many a Mercedes. Well, hope the voters of Mumbai make their vote count for them too.

The budget for BMC polls is more than many state budgets, so the moolah is a big attraction for many. The drains are blocked, in fact choked, the nallahs are full of plastic, the roads are full of potholes, the foot paths are uprooted once they are laid, the hawkers are on the roads, the busses stop in the centre of the roads, infrastructural waste is dumped anywhere and everywhere, population is exploding but Mumbai moves on. The vada pav never falls short is this city that never sleeps. The rich, the poor, the blue collar, the white collar, the dogs, the cats, the pigeons and kites, the dadas and bhais, the ganpati and the tajia,   the Parsis and the Christians, the Chawls and Skyscrapers, the slums and high rises, the Bentley’s and Ambassadors, the kaali peelis and Ola, everyone has embraced Mumbai. There is still space for everyone; there is a certain warmth in the air of Mumbai which attracts you. Kuch baat to hai Amchi Mumbai mein.

As far as I remember this finger pointing gesture used to indicate to my buddy that I see one terrorist over there. You cover my back while I, pointing the same finger towards myself am going to take him on. Thereafter, we used to give a thumsup and silently move on till the job was done. I do not know finger pointing or finger painting which is more important. There we used to point this finger to the lips to keep absolutely silent and freeze to listen to various sounds around us. Here we finger point and make noises that we voted. Well, situations are different, circumstances are different, and there is no comparison at all. The only thought which cuts across my mind is will the results of the voting finger, bring about a change in life in Mumbai. I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis