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Salaam Bombay errr... Mumbai!

Remember?As kids how we came to believe the story of a stork coming down at midnight and dropping in our little sister next to our Mom ? Well, remember the time when you have already been educated about the human angle in the process from the porn mags brought by the year down student at school, and later have this inconvenient moment of seeing a really agonized woman doing a labor scene in some DD1 movie along with your family? Years later,Remember the time when you yourself (The unsung sexologist of your college by then ) impart the same wisdom to your kid cousin in the hospital and share a smile with the refined, sensible adult community in the warmth of a shared secret? And the story goes on!


See, lemme be clear on my stand. I have no objection to kids being told the stork story rather than what-goes-where-to-make-a-baby thing , but with passing years isn’t someday the right day to clarify stuff around the dining table? Do we allow our kids to learn about the basic starting points of their lives from porn movies/Penthouse mags/gossip-Aunty columns/out of syllabus biology chapters? Excuse me , but I wouldn’t fancy my 15 year old to believe his “virgin” dad to be waiting for the stork to do the act, the second time! A sissy ,impotent tale that would sound like for a todays grown up adult of fifteen.

What is it about pretence that we Indians are so ga-ga about? Look at the news we make.Take for instance the Beijing Olympic Games soon to be and the torch relay preceding it that made such a flash. The torch for the worlds most participated event marched from San Francisco to London to Rome and other major cities amidst lonely police cordoned roads away from the masses, wihtout the very spirit of participation and feeling of oneness to be generated from the run . As it was about to enter India, the whole world waited with baited breath about whether India, the country that has given the Tibet issue and its leader The Dalai Lama so much currency in the world today, would let/let not allow the spirited torch to pass through the Delhi leg of the worldwide journey! I personally thought, the Government of India would at least take a stand for Tibet. But,alas! Leave right, leave wrong,,The Government of India decided to go trendy! Came quick the popular sounding official reply, ”Lets not mix sports with politics”. And since the know-it-all Aamir Khan decided to endorse this view of the GOI, we thought, Jesus Christ, they are damn correct. I said to myself, Aha?Since when?. As was pointed out by a famous commentator , Wasn’t India one of the prime movers of the boycott that kept South Africa (in the apartheid era) from participating in the Olympics. It was largely because of us that the South Africans became pariahs in the cricket world. We ran a similar campaign to exclude Rhodesia (the country that later became Zimbabwe). And till the mid-1980s, we had no sporting links with Israel. And with the upcoming Commonwealth games due in Delhi in 2010, why shouldnt India pretend to play the good piper with China now lest it brings down bloody human rights reports from Amnesty International about Indian forces’ repressions in Kashmir and call for a pullout of the 2010 games. And talk of mixing sports with politics? We are toasting on this very cocktail in world polity for years now! Just that this time around I wanna send a greeting card to the Dalai Lama saying, “I am Sorry, on their behalf". This one was a nice chap.Oh Boy! He is.


.While the world watched with hysteria the amount of frenzy generated with the torch relay run in Delhi, one family was busy playing games in its own backyard. The only true family, as it claims, that stands for the common Marathi Manoos, the Thackerays! A monarchial family with a huge misled fanbase fighting against an entirely weaponless and poor army of UP-MP bhaiyyas sounds less than half as exciting as an Ekta Kapoor soap.! And we blame the poor lady for making run Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu thi for almost nearing a decade, when we happily switch on television sets and watch riots live conducted by the goondas of Thackeray family for over 40 years now? We are a damn pretentious society with impotent people in it that ways(Makes me believe the stork story sometimes, even as an adult).We just let things happen, as long as its happening to someone else, and as far as it makes good TV.Or what else explains such ridiculous claims of the Thackeray family, and our silent acknowledgement of them down the years. One such Thackeray classic has been laid down here for your inconvenience.

.They claim:1.Any entity using “Bombay “ as its name should change to “Mumbai” with immediate effect.

.2.Mumbai is for the Marathis , and anyone else laying any small claim even to it will be shown the door outright.

.Now, the argument used by the Thackerays is that, “Mumbai” (derived as a tribute to the local deity here, Moomba Devi!) is the original name of the fishing village that used to exist near the present day city. And that the word “Bombay” is the corrupted version brought to usage by the British whose usage hurts the larger Marathi spirit of the Thackeray family along with the millions native. Fine. Point noted and taken. If “Calcutta” can be “Kolkata”, if “Madras” be “Chennai”, “Bangalore” be “Bengalooru”, why not Bombay? But my problem was with the clause “with immediate effect”. First of all, the present Bombay is no longer a fishing community village anymore, its bloody the most showcased city in India today . It has developed its own psyche, magic, character and personality under the name “Bombay” for centuries now. To unlearn that and start living with a different name, it is but obvious, a slow process in time. But no, the Thackerays’ instead with their do-it-today or else, we will come to you threats, tried to change all those decade/centuries long establishments /institutes/shops from “Bombay” to “Mumbai” overnight. The ones that failed to comply with their deadlines immediately , had to face wreckage, goondagardi,loss of property and lives and a lot of nonsense.Cmon Mr. Thackeray.Ceylon became Sri Lanka,Persia became Iran but we still listen to “Ceylon Radio”, or pay a fortune to buy an exquisite Persian rug. No one refers to Sri Lanka as Ceylon or Iran as Persia anymore, but it did take its own time in history .So just give it a thought, if “Bombay Dyeing” be made “Mumbai Dyeing” overnight would it feel the same with those linens ? Change is a little more complex than a 2 minute noodle!

.And to the second claim that Mumbai is for the Marathis, I have one question and one response to you on your stand. The question being, Okay fine as you say, Mumbai is for the Marathis, but , is Mumbai essentially, "by" the Marathis? And my response to your entire stand is a simple, WTF! ( A silent disclaimer here, i live with a beautiful Marathi family atPune and here i have come to know how peaceloving and graceful a society Marathis actually are!!)
And if nothing works out sane , I have this question for you which a reader of HT fabulously wrote in one of her articles sometime back,“If he’s so keen on Marathi usage, then he should use his real name. It’s Thakre not Thackeray, in the manner of William Makepeace Thackeray, the author of Vanity Fair. Not only does Thackeray use the anglicised spelling, he even pronounces it like the English author, who, as far as I know, was not a Marathi manoos.”You are all 86 years young now and I don’t wonder if you have an erring son and a rebellious nephew at home who just simply don’t listen to you. I am saying it now, and Madonna did it long back," Papa dont preach"!

.So guys you see, pretence is growing up to be one unifying cult in our national psyche.We dont mind paying our hard owned blings to MPs to discuss cheergirls and their impact on our moral fabric in our parliament but let an important nuclear deal die a cold death due to lack of consensus to even bring it to table. We call ourselves a democracy, dont we? Even US calls itself one. Look at the rigorous US presidential candidature process going on there and think of ours( Do we even have one?). Primary after primary, region after region,Obama and Clinton had to munch words, spin dreams, win millions of hearts, prove their worth to be capable of serving their own people.That is what sounds like a democracy. And here in India, remember the last time a party started on their campaign with someone as their prime ministerial candidature??? That was Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. And none later.After that we even had human beings like Deve Gowda, I P Gujral,V P Singh etc. in our "operational" highest post. And now we are currently toasting over putting a woman up there in Rashtrapati Bhavan and bridging our sexist gaps. But not to be unfair to Honourable Pratibha Patil, i would anyday put all my money and borrow some more on Hillary Clinton for being the first woman in the American history to push all frontiers and win a whopping 1900 + primaries in an all male domain of cowboy-mafiaso politics. Woman equality? Picture that. Our version ?A Karan Johar movie.
Pretence again!!Barry Humphries once said “New Zealand is a country of thirty thousand million sheep, three million of whom think they are human.”India, fits in there, just as fine. Jai Hind!

.P.S: I mainly write at:


Si_Lee said…
Welcome here surya ...
and about ur article I guess you will fully understand what I mean when i tell people here and abroad .. I am proud of India not Indians ... It's culture heritage traditions not its citizens..I am proud of the land that is my home but not proud of myself or my family of Indians
hey hi! thanks!i aggree what u mean
Tushar Mangl said…
Welcome Surya
A very long post indeed
I never heard that story u mentioned.
But you raised a very crucial and an important point.
Keep the spirits Rolling...
Mythri said…
Awesome write up!

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