Bombay-secular, Mumbai-?

I was forwarded a “Dear Terrorist” mail where, for the umpteenth time, it was reiterated that cowardly acts of terrorism will not break the back of Bombay.

As usual there were the usual secular statements:

We are not Hindus and Muslims or Gujaratis and Marathis or Punjabis and Bengalis. Nor do we distinguish ourselves as owners or workers, government employees or private employees. WE ARE Indians.

To be frank I have not seen this in evidence after the Babri Masjid riots. It has always been made clear where a person stands with respect to caste and religion. Granted that speaking in a purely business sense the only relation for a Mumbaikar is that of a supplier and a customer. However that does not mean that everything is calm in the depths.

Personal incidents to make me worry:
Many people (unamed of course) have pointed out time and again that all Muslims are Pakistani lovers. How can a city be secular if this is the feeling of the common man?
Many people have commented about the birth rate of the poorer Muslims in Bombay. I always thought that this was unfortunate as it made their life even more difficult. However these people who make such comments are trying to prove that if we do not fight for Hindutva we will be overcome by numbers.
Every community and religious group in the city is looking out for itself. Any piece of work which offends either a Muslim group, a Hindu group or a Catholic group (how much ever small these groups may be) is sure to be banned.
Fanatical groups like SiMI, the Shiv Sena, VHP etc. all have big followings in the city
I walked down East Byculla during Shivaji Jayanthi. Nothing happened – just a normal walk. However when I spoke about it later the reactions I got made it seem as if I had done something really brave by walking in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood during Shivaji Jayanti.
The minute there is any matter which has a religious overtone Mumbai is sure that it will be brought to a halt by one group or the other.

To sum it, in the past decade I have always felt that I am a Malayali Hindu in Bombay. Furthermore there is a feeling of being safe because we make a sizeable majority. It is constricting. At no time do I remotely feel Indian – ever.

This is not to take away from the many who really do not acre. However it is really not as hunky-dory as people make it out to be. The divisions of caste, community and religion run deep in Bombay. The only saving grace is that in times of natural or manmade disasters the human side does come out.


2 thoughts on “Bombay-secular, Mumbai-?

  1. Brij,

    I very much share your sentiments and observations. I have felt something similar since the ’93 blasts. And somehow reconciled or resigned myself to the sentiment, that a small part of being Indian is actually having to see or feel these conflicts in terms of identities (what you identify yourself as v/s what different sets of others identify you as).

    Also, somehow this seems like the underbelly of any multicultural city of country. Increasingly, here in the USA – ( either my awareness for it has grown or the phenomenon is actually growing ) – cultural and racial lines are also getting defined very clearly.

    It’s also probably an age thing. I’ve heard many older people in India complain of cultural/caste/regional/language bias and prejudices for several things like jobs, promotions, dealing with civic officials, etc. As a yougster, more cosmo I thought in my thought process, I used to dismiss that. Now, I am starting to see a little bit of what they were talking about. I am obviously not thinking on their lines. But I can see why they’re talking about what they are.

    Finally, while money will hopefully, eventually correct everything and take us into a class world (replace several bad social systems with one uniformaly bad and corrupt one), I also think more sex and kids across racial/cultural/caste & most imp. religious lines will make the most difference. Northies need to hump more southies and southies need to hump more northies.

    Luckily, telugu, tamil and some mallu movie producers are promoting that by employing fleshy gora northie actresses. 😉 More power to them, no?! 🙂

  2. I think the only thing that keeps us ripping each other’s throats off is that Bombay is tough place to live and make money for a majority of people. And yet everyone knows that this is the only place that they can make money.

    ( when I say everyone, I mean all without a Computer degree)

    So if this is a rat race that we live in, good people don’t have the time nor patience to fight real problems, they seem to allow the bad to live with the good and take a holiday on a sena bandh.

    Too bad we won’t see any of those bandhs anymore coz teh supreme court slapped a 20 lakh fine on the sena.

    So yeah, Give me a break on secularism, Show people the money and they will live and let others live in peace.

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