When the next monster cloud decides to burst over Mumbai, we will show our wonderful spirit again and regain normalcy within no time.
Get angry, dammit and stay so
There's an epidemic lurking round the bend? Not to worry, we have a booster dose of our spirit... that's inoculation enough.
Hey, the stock markets have hit the stratosphere (at last count, the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex was above 7800). The bullish stock market too reflects Mumbai's fabled resilience, as it cocks a snook at the latest tragedy to befall it. Cheer up, everything's normal.
Mumbaikars, here's more for you to rejoice about. Wikipedia says you account for 33 per cent of India's income tax collections, 60 per cent of customs duty revenue, 40 per cent of the nation's foreign trade and Rs 40,000 crore in corporate taxes.
And how much gets invested back in the city to develop its infrastructure? Not even 5 per cent. So what, isn't Mumbai India's financial powerhouse, the land where dreams come true, the hub of Indian economic activity?
In another six years, there will be almost 10 million more Mumbaikars. The more the merrier. The already overtaxed infrastructure will attain breaking point, you say? Don't lose sleep, our shining spirit will see us through. Soon thereafter, your city will be like Shanghai. Or Manhattan. Or Hong Kong... After all, we have been promised that.
And if that does not happen, we shouldn't pay taxes, you say? Yeah, sounds great. But this is what we will actually do about it: forget it and move on, of course. After all things are normal now, why bother?
Our spirit is rich, but our memory is poor.
So what is Mumbai's problem? It is this city's stoic acceptance of substandard things: substandard infrastructure, substandard politicians, substandard everything.
Mumbai suburbs need to break off
And what better way for politicians to get away without tackling the city's most significant problems than to pat the calamity-stricken Mumbaikar on his back and pronounce: 'Hail Mumbai and the spirit of the city's people. Even in the face of catastrophe, the city gets on its feet in a jiffy, dusts off its pants and gets going.'
True, the irrepressible spirit of the city's populace cannot be admired or praised enough. The Mumbaikar's resilience is phenomenal, but how about something more than a pat on the back and a lofty speech?
How about addressing the city's grievances? How about according people a decent, comfortable commute to and fro their work places? How about restraining the construction lobby's rapacious intentions? How about letting the city's natural defences be?
Good infrastructure and superior town planning are vital for the safety of the citizens, stronger economic growth, higher productivity and competitiveness, and better standard of living. It's time we stopped praising our resilience at accepting the unacceptable. It's time we resolutely concentrated our energies in getting our due for the taxes we pay, in demanding a better life. Time to make it the jewel in the nation's crown in every sense of the word.
Till then, nothing will be normal.
Terrible Tuesday: Mumbai copes with a calamity