Thursday, November 26, 2009
Off the railway station, Bandra
My car disgorges me at this spot. It is 5. am. I tell the driver to park the car, alongside a few feet off. You don't feel strange here, being the lone woman -- the men are busy and incurious. They know I am not a pick-up and understand that I have come for pamphlet distribution. Mumbai is that sort of city. I am directed clinically to the youth handling the pamphlet distribution. He is a Maharashtrian and I am relieved. They are the sweetest men, generally, and very chivalrous... I find that the Maharashtrian men have the best respect for women in the whole world. I had written earlier: when I distributed the pamphlets the first time, I remember the vendor, a Maharashtrian, actually told me to keep ten bucks (that I had to pay him). It was his way of saying, I respect that you, a woman, are doing this on your own... It felt so lovely. I kept that ten bucks for long, because it is that sort of thing about this city that makes you love it... and it comes from the locals. Even my driver, a Maharashtrian, when I give him some small extra cash if some such mission (pamphlet distribution, or early morning workshop) went off well -- he will brush it aside with affectionate brusqueness.. That is also so nice... Tell me where else in India -- I mean in a city -- u will find that attitude?
Well, everybody says this of Mumbai -- that it is the outsiders who make it what it is (I am an `outsider' in that sense too). But actually, it is this Mahashtrian ethos that allows you to be who you are (an enterprising woman) without disturbing that enterprise you bring to your task with useless labels -- woman, alone, rich, poor, jeans-clad, saree-clad, old, young -- whatever else that the rest of India (try this in Delhi, for instance, and you know what I am talking of) assigns to a person and tries to suppress you from there -- that is not there in Mumbai. And that comes from the Maharashtrians. A staunch cleanliness of behavior. Whatever else the debate may be -- on who makes this city and the rest of the blah -- there is no doubt we can reach where we want -- reach right to the stars -- because the original locals have no quarrel with you doing that.. We must salute that laissez faire ...It is the soul of this city...