Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

America accepts, Maha rejects

While the world marvels at the wonder that is America and admires it for its inclusiveness in letting an immigrant’s son be elected to rule it, watchers like me who have spent many years in the US experiencing it first hand cannot help feel a sadness at the contrasting spectacle presented by India and its regionalism that has reached heights never seen before in our history.My experience of living in the US confirms what we hear about it, that it is a country that accepts anyone, of any nationality or language, with open arms, to become one of its own, nowhere better exemplified than in the Statue of Liberty inscription: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”Anyone is free to land on its shores and make his/her own future there by dint of honest and hard work. If you are not hard-working or law-abiding, you will not survive there. We on the other hand, in Mumbai—the closest Indian demographic analogy to the US—are savagely beating up our own hard-working and law-abiding people just because they hail from a different part of our own country.While America proudly celebrates and fiercely defends the diversity it is endowed with and is built upon and loudly proclaims it to the world, Maharashtra’s political leaders are openly proud about the attitude of almost racist exclusivity they possess and unrepentant of the physical abuse and humiliation their supporters heap upon innocents.Mumbai is built upon the toil of all its people, not only its Marathi residents. The migrant to Mumbai contributes to its efficient running through doing those jobs that the local Marathi resident does not touch, like those of the taxi-driver, the vegetable vendor, the gwaala, the dhobi. Let Raj Thackeray show how the city would run without its ultra-efficient taxi service which would close down if all migrants were driven out.A positive encouragement for loyalty to one’s city—such as the recognition that was given by the Mee Mumbaikar campaign—is very much in the right spirit, making the residents feel appreciated for having contributed to the city no matter what their origin. But to target people by surname, drag them out of their taxis, and kick them and beat them up is a mark of uncivilised, barbaric behaviour not befitting the Marathi manoos who claims to be culturally superior to others.The Maharashtrians of Mumbai would do well to model their city upon USA. Make it an exemplary model of law-and-order, of professionalism, of reward of hard work, of civic sense, and require its residents to abide by these rules and not those of caste or language. They will then find that an educated, industrious, well-mannered Mishra makes a better resident of the city and a better neighbour to them than a paan-spitting, lazy, corrupt Jadhav. And like all immigrants to US are proud of being called its citizens, migrants into Mumbai would be proud of their city.


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