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Govinda: At the other end of a Mumbai local
Dhiraj Shetty |
March 30, 2004 01:21 IST
Last Updated: March 31, 2004 20:32 IST
Virar is known for two reasons.
For a long time it was known as the last stop for almost a quarter of the local trains heading uptown, though few people actually went there in the early days.
The town got its second claim to fame when a certain Govind Arun Ahuja began delivering superhit films. Virar then became known as the place he grew up in.
Nominated by the Congress as its candidate to take on five-time MP and Union Minister for Petroleum Ram Naik in the Mumbai North constituency, the street-savvy actor began his campaign on Friday by undertaking a journey in the second-class compartment of a Mumbai local train.
Of course, commuters don't expect him to do it daily. On a normal day, the trains are jam-packed, and his presence will only attract more crowds, adding to their misery.
Govinda's friendly smile will not leave you unmoved. It seems to come to him naturally. So it was no surprise that even those who have no intention of voting for him came out for a glimpse of the popular actor.
Many women were disappointed when they failed to get an autograph. But if he were to give in to their demands, he would never have finished campaigning in Virar in the course of one day. He knows the sulking is merely an expression of their affection for apna chokra who made it BIG in Hindi filmdom.
Many people earn name, fame, and money and leave their humble beginnings far, far behind. But Govinda makes it a point to visit his hometown every year on February 12 to spend time with his childhood friends and well-wishers, and entertain them. How can one not like him?
The Jeevadani temple on the outskirts of the town was brimming with people because the town's most famous resident had made it his first stop for the day.
Residents believe Jeevadani Devi, a form of the Mother Goddess, is the one who ensures their security and well-being. Her temple, located high on a hill overlooking the town, generally draws a good crowd on Sunday. People say the town has prospered under her benign gaze, and through long-time MLA Hitendra Thakur's efforts.
The independent MLA does not enjoy an enviable reputation, but in the semi-urban belt from Vasai to Palghar his word is what matters. As one youngster put it, "Mumbai mein kuch bhi ho jaay, bandh, riots, apna Virar mein kuch nahi hoga. Poora shaanti hai [Whatever happens in Mumbai, Virar is unaffected.] Jeevadani Devi looks over us. Appa [Thakur] ensures that nothing happens here."
Residents credit Thakur with injecting life into this farflung outpost of Mumbai. Power, water, schools, colleges, multiplexes — you name it. And, they add, it will only improve because Thakur has more plans for his constituency.
He happens to be a long-time friend of Govinda; they went to the same college, and he also supports the Congress-led Democratic Front government in Maharashtra.
Thakur accompanied Govinda around the town and is likely to play an important part in his campaign. Mumbai North is a large constituency and Thakur may be able to help stitch together the logistics for a campaign to match the size that Naik can rustle up without a sweat through his well-oiled Bharatiya Janata Party network.
'All politicians are useless' is the refrain everywhere, but people have a good word for Naik. It was through his efforts that people like Rajendra are able to commute daily to his workplace in Goregaon, which, incidentally, is where Naik lives.
A good section of Virar's population is employed in Mumbai. Over the years, Naik has ensured an increase in the number of suburban trains to Virar and got the Western Railway to introduce services between Virar and Dahanu Road further north.
A drawing teacher, Rajendra, was not impressed by the womenfolk in his building, including his wife, lining the streets for a glimpse of the star. He likes Govinda, but will vote for Naik.
His enthusiastic wife, like many other women, failed to get an autograph. But that is not the reason she will vote for Naik; she just happens to be a traditional BJP supporter.
Dinesh Solanki, however, is willing to give Govinda a chance. The young government employee from nearby Bhayandar became emotional while complaining that the BJP has failed to generate jobs for the youth.
There seems to be considerable enthusiasm among the youth about Govinda's candidature. A group of them, first-time voters all, said they would support Govinda because he is young and deserves a chance. The father of one, who was listening to them, agreed, but refused to desert Naik.
And why should he? Govinda may have grown up in Virar, but it will take him some time to get a grip on the ground realities.
Residents of a chawl in Munshi Nagar complained that no politician has come to their aid. Their demand: a toilet close to their homes, which is a basic necessity. They promised to vote for any candidate, irrespective of party, who fulfils this demand. But mere promises will only attract gaalis and chappals, they warned.
The actor readily admitted he is unaware of the nitty-gritty, but reminded people of his humble beginnings and said his aim would be to help the needy.
Govinda began his journey to stardom from a two-storeyed chawl in Bazaar Wad near Virar station. When he became successful, he tried to help those whom he could. Like Taj, whose father worked with the actor. The youngster credits Govinda with helping him to complete his studies.
The area is now seeing better days with a high-rise due to replace the chawl soon.
No one says Govinda contributed to the growing prosperity of the town; that appears to be Thakur's handiwork. But many people, like the autorickshaw driver who drove me around, are willing to give him a chance simply because he is apna chokra.
That he has Thakur's blessings is an added advantage.
Rajendra said Govinda's candidature will definitely make a dent in Naik's votes. The latter may have won people over with his hard work, but Govinda symbolises the hope in every human being -- of success and a better life.