Bombay or Mumbai? Ask Raj Thackeray

The words, Marathi and Maharashtrian, over the course of the last two years have come to be more than just words. They are more like agents of fear. But that isn’t the complete truth – in fact it isn’t even an iota of the truth. If you live elsewhere in the country, Maharashtra is now a state that is not welcoming. If you wish to come to Bombay – you better start calling it Mumbai. And, if you wish to reside here – you better be prepared to bear the consequences of being an outsider. Accept, deny or what you may – all of this must be accredited (really?) to one man alone – Raj Thackeray.

This man has come to gather more nicknames than you could imagine – not all of which can be spelt out in public forums. This man has come to amass the support of thousands of those in grief – or made to believe they are in grief. This man has come to be hated more than you can imagine – or even loved by those who have dared to. This man has come to grab more eyeballs than most think he deserves to – and television time as well. But, more importantly this man alone has come to make an entire nation uncomfortable in their chairs. And for once – get up and think.

Rewind to 2008 when Raj Thackeray was just another name that carried with it the powerful Thackeray label. One fine day, the Maharashtra Navanirmana Sena (MNS) decides to protest against the presence of North Indian immigrants in Maharashtra – and who’s heading them? Raj Thackeray. Move on a little bit and all of a sudden Mumbai belongs to only and only the people of Maharashtra, whereas the rest of the residents must go take a hike including those who’ve always been there. Controversy after controversy and scandal after scandal – this man, alone, raked up so many problems, ranging from the use of Marathi in signboards to protesting against the use of Bombay (against Mumbai) in the Karan Johar film – Wake Up Sid!

The man does not give you much in one go, but enough to think about until his controversy – some of which are absolutely unnecessary. Some however, not even required to be highlighted, but are, by the media. For instance, the controversy created over Jaya Bachchan’s statement about being from UP and speaking in Hindi, hence apologizing to the Marathi members in the audience. And until very recently, the controversy after being silent for a while, over the spread of malaria in Mumbai thanks to the immigrants. Apart from being ridiculed for it, the man not only lost his image of being a rational thinker.

Rounding off the debate, the man wants the attention and the media does give it to him in some way or the other. The man needs his support; he does get it – in one way or the other. He may be a game-changer for the governments in Maharashtra but that doesn’t necessarily mean he needs all the attention. For once, if we decide to practice ‘selective hearing,’ this country would be a better place.

Naman Saraiya

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