To say 2011 has been a crap year would be putting it mildly. I don’t mean for myself but for Mumbai at large. We bemoaned the city’s apathetic response to terrorist attacks. We were aghast when two boys were killed because they tried to stand up to a group of thugs who were harassing girls. Many expressed despair at how Mumbai is increasingly turning into an eyesore (it really is a ridiculously ugly city in most parts). The traffic got worse, the trains got more crowded, the roads got unsafer, prices increased, taxis were harder to get. But then, living in Mumbai has never been easy and no one makes the city home because they’re impressed by its infrastructure.
The only thing that seemed to be going for Mumbai this year was that it had the good sense to not throng MMRDA Grounds when a fasting Anna Hazare descended upon the city. Some years ago, Roger Waters’ pink pig had flown above these grounds. The likes of Buddy Guy, Beyoncé and Iron Maiden had performed there. Now, where 50 Cent had once promised to take you to the candy shop, Anna was fasting, and the grounds were largely empty despite regular shuttle buses from nearby train stations and Kiran Bedi dancing. At the end of the first day of the fast, rumour had it that Team Anna was organising a massive import of people from Ralegaon Siddhi.
This lack of public support in Mumbai for Anna has done nothing for the city’s image. Singer and songwriter Vishal Dadlani, who (judging from his non-musical interests) seems to be steadily evolving into the Bono of the Indian music scene, said to news channels that it was because half of the city was on holiday. Others, like Pritish Nandy, hypothesised Mumbai had time only for business, not protest. A few pointed out that Anna could have had the city at his feet if his team had had the sense to screen cricket on the giant screens. Maybe Mumbai figured that it couldn’t, with any integrity, show up to support a man who whipped people for drinking alcohol; not at the height of party season. Whatever the reason, thanks to the poor showing at the MMRDA Grounds, now all those who favour Delhi over Mumbai can claim the national capital has more of a social conscience. Or a stronger inclination towards herd mentality. It’s all a matter of perspective.