Saturday, November 29, 2008 

Spirit of Mumbai

Here’s a term that has been much abused - the spirit of Mumbai. Once again there are terror attacks on Mumbai, and once again, you can expect the term to be thrown around aplenty. The media and the politician will no doubt be looking to salute the spirit of Mumbai. So what is the spirit of Mumbai?

The way it has been used after each terror attack just goes on to convince me that the spirit of Mumbai is a red herring. Coined by politicians and popularized by the media, it is a term used to distract people from the failings of the government to deal with government passivity to terror. Every time I see any politician cornered in a debate over the failure of the government, he will change the topic to appreciate the spirit of Mumbai, earning audience applause in the process. It has become an easy way to get out of tight corners for the nincompoop politico.
Of course, the spirit is no myth. Most offices (expect those in vicinity of the terror attack, like mine) conducted business as usual on Thursday and Friday. There was 100% attendance in most offices, trains were as crowded during peak hours.

Though schools and colleges were closed, most coaching classes and private tuitions continued to be run as per schedules. Though people may have avoided getting out of their houses unnecessarily, one could still find hawkers in the street, most shops open. A remarkable feat, considering paramilitary and military forces were fighting with terrorists in a part of the city.

Part of this spirit though is borne out of sheer necessity. Mumbai is an extremely competitive business minded city. If I don’t reach office, someone else will. My place on the road maybe taken up by another hawker, if I don’t turn up. If my shop has its shutters down, my customer will turn to the shop next door. Terror is no excuse for not working, for not performing. This city IS the business capital of India, and the business must go on. Only cricketers and politicians have the luxury of chickening out, of not doing their jobs.

My request to every Mumbaikar is this: Yes, we are spirited. Yes we will continue to live like we have, terror or no terror. We will not be afraid of attacks. But let us not allow the politicians and the media to exploit our spirit. I request everyone that every time you hear the mention of the term ‘spirit of Mumbai’ look for ulterior motives. Look at if the person mentioning it is using it to divert our attention. Do not let applause to our spirit calm the sense of outrage, the anger within us. Stay angry. Ensure that terror is an election issue, for nothing else but votes matter to the politician. Enough is enough, we Mumbaikars need to draw the line. We will not be afraid of terror, but we will also hold our politicians accountable for it.

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