Divide and Rule. Sound familiar? Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to the days of the Raj, the British one. They made a fine art out of politicing and playing one group of those 'natives' against another, while they sat with their silly wigs in perfect order exploiting the hospitality of some simpering monarch or the other. You would think we've learned our lesson. That we would rather tar and feather ourselves than to emulate the twisted ways of our former oppressors.
I was watching a news story today, about some school kids who have sent an open letter to Raj Thakerey requesting him to put an end to divisive politics. With the media omnipresent in our little urban bubble, these kind of pleas rarely fall on deaf years. Gone are the days when Raj's uncle, the much-feared Balasaheb, could quietly go about his racial profiling, back in the 70s, unblinded by the media glare.
By 2015, Mumbai will have 30 million people. With thousands arriving everyday in this Mecca of moolah, from every conceivable corner of our country, it doesn't look like the 12-15% of the Maharashtrians will have too much of a say. But does that mean that this peace loving, extraordinarily hospitable community of people would want the thuggery of Raj's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to be their face? And this isn't something the MNS believed in. Till recently the Shiv Sena, now headed by cousin Uddav was content to woo North Indians, putting their money on the vote bank. Considering that he was spurned as Balasaheb's successor, after putting in more than a decade of party work before Uddav even considered politics, it isn't surprising that Raj branched off to form the MNS. Even less surprising that he almost always tries to oppose the senior Sena's mandates.
Walking down Bazaar Street in Bandra, the start of Mumbai's suburbia, it was hard to see eye to eye with Sena politics. Here North Indian bhaiyyas selling fruit shoot the breeze with local merchants; the azaan from a tiny mosque rises up in perfect harmony with the evening mass, from an even tinier church; meat shops rub shoulders with the freshest of vegetables; a bunch of boys chattering in Marathi lug an unwieldly cushion with a Santa Claus mask on it, asking for Christmas contributions (on pressing for information it was revealed that they were out of rubber balls to play cricket); barbers shear through the hair of many faiths; every corner holds a new smile, more beaming than the earlier one; a motley bohemian bunch demand a group snap, though most of them have never even met each other before; languages float by my ears, like the notes of an orchestra, as a variety of food being prepared conjures up fragrances to bring the most benign appetite to life. All this on one narrow decrepit street. Bursting with life, oblivious to its secularism.
While I would be foolish to take this as a microcosm of Mumbai, I'm going to do that anyway. More as a hope than a conclusion. Mumbai's future is in inclusion, not division.
If they can do it, Raj saheb, why can't you?