March 27, 2009

The Manoos have Every Reason to be Upset

So I have been working late nights. But that does not make much of a difference these days. Does it? But today was the Maharashtrian New Year and I really wanted to be a part of the land. Every time I have visited a new place, I have tried to make it my home, mingled with the people, laughed with them and shared their meals. In Maharashtra, I have made vada pav my favourite snack, cried after having Missal Pav and wondered how anyone could bite into the greenest of green chillies. But somehow the leaders that the Manoos have chosen for themselves seemed not to agree to the fact that someone from outside the land could come and be a part of it.

Bandra seemed deserted. Everyone was enjoying the holiday not realizing its significance. Perhaps there was no Manoos left in Bandra. Suddenly I thought of an idea. Why don’t I go to a place where actually I can meet the Manoos? So, the local train came to the rescue and brought me to Thane and there were the Manoos. Thane was decked up just like Hatibagan or Gariahaat for Chaitra Sale. For some reason The Manoos was of the opinion that one needs to bring out processions to celebrate the New Year. So there were the men walking along and the women resplendent in their jewellery and the best sarees sitting like Her Majesty the Queen on their own scooters and motorcycles. It was grand, it felt very Marathi and very much like home. But then I could see the politicians lurking behind the motorcycles trying to garner support. Money was being spent on firecrackers rather than cleaning up the streets and the neighbourhoods. And that’s where I lost all the interest. I no longer knew whether it was the Manoos celebrating their New Year or political parties gathering their brownie points.

Dejected I boarded the train and there they were. Men, women and children, of all ages but mostly of the same aspiring class of lower middle class Indians and they were the last bastion of their own culture which was getting lost in the heart of their existence. Mumbai was taking pride in being cosmopolitan and was slowly losing all the charms of being a party to every festival that touched the lives of her inhabitants. The Manoos is the train were not the ones who touch the daily lives of the readers of this blog but there they were, the young bride resting her head on her husband’s shoulders, tired after a long journey to her parent’s place. There was the father telling his daughter about the ways he used to celebrate. There was the old grandma stroking the head of her progeny.

And then it struck me. The reason why the politicians can play the son of the soil card is simply because anywhere in the world people feel a discontent if they see their traditional ways of life giving way to a different lifestyle. And more so if they see that they are not being invited to be a part of that lifestyle. As part of some general data gathering that I regularly do from my consumers I realized that more and more mothers were realizing that the Marathi medium was perhaps not the best place for their children. Whether it’s right or wrong I do not know. But I have seen a state government reject English and then bring it back again. Popular entertainment on the other hand was showcasing a just few festivals that were becoming pan Indian. I remember my friends from God’s own country loving their first holi but never forgetting their Onam in the process. Maybe, South remembers their culture far more strongly than Urban India does.

And then even though I will never know whether the Manoos will ever consider me one of them, I felt at home. I felt what they were feeling. I knew it all too well. I knew it the day I could find no mention of the Bengali New year is vast parts of Calcutta a few years back. I remember feeling lost and without an identity. I remember my embracing my global identity all the more strongly so that I at least have an anchor. The Bengali culture I had grown up in was slowly fading away. There was no difference in the nights at Park Street, MG Road or Carter Road. The Manoos I realized was sensing this sense of loss and confusion.

People say one day that there will be no difference between a Mumbai and a Shanghai. I definitely do not want it. I do not want Gurgaons sprouting up across the globe.

With my spirits confused, I headed back to work over the weekend.


Addy said...

Maybe you selected the wrong festival. Try Gujarati New Year or Parsi Navroz. The Manoos is alive and kicking.

V said...

Why do you sigh? This homogenisation you despair at is the loss of the old collective identities. In its place new ones may still arise. And yet I am tempted to believe that they may not - I will rejoice at the stark unveiling of the only identity of man that has existed beneath the manifold collective identities across times - the individual.

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Addy - It is evident you have been outside India for sometime now. The Manoos has a new meaning.

@ V- Individualism is tough to handle for most. That might result in utter chaos.