In Defense of MAN

At the very outset, and before you venture to decipher what the title means, let me tell you that ‘MAN’ here refers to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Yes! Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janta Party. The man who was getting all the attention on national television following his tirade about the protests that were held at the Gateway of Mumbai post 26/11 and the incessant clamouring for the heads of politicians everywhere. ‘Lipstick gate’ for the MAN, and his party, couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Lest, you begin to believe that when I say that I plan to defend the MAN, no puns intended, and justify in whatever manner what he said, let me get it clear that I plan to do no such thing. However, at the same time, one cannot actually believe his point to be completely pointless.

Honestly, is it the first time that such a “peace march”, or a “protest gathering”, or ‘whatever’ you may call it was being held with such great attendance? Since, it is a thing that has happened as frequently as we’ve had tragedies – which makes a rather strong number. And then, what did we get out of those protests? What did we get out of all those marches that citizens made after the attack on the Parliament, the Mumbai floods, et al? I’ll tell you – and as you very well know yourself – we got nothing. And we got nothing because, after a week of being submerged in water, after a week of running “Real life Hero” stories, and after a week of making soap operas of the sufferings of real people – we were busy shopping at the local mall. We were busy proclaiming the “Spirit of Mumbai” – the euphemism we give to our total lack of any social responsibility, complete apathy towards any suffering – so long it is not us who’s suffering – and utter disregard for the inertia that has gripped our country and the halls that run it. It is the name we give to the weekends that we spend trying to shop for things that we don’t really need, sip hyper overpriced coffee at uniquely named outlets (since one never really knows what is the fashionable term for a coffee shop at any given point in time), visit multiplexes to catch some cinema – not movies – and hang out with friends at the disc. All this, while the scars of the previous encounter with death haven’t healed, and Destiny has crumpled the name of Mumbai with another.

Isn’t he right to question their claim to be the real India? Who would know better- after all, his party lost the 2004 Assembly Elections when the ‘real India’ wasn’t much impressed with the ‘India Shining’ campaign that showed our bustling and growing cities. I mean, forgive me if am mistaken, but I do not think many people in the rest of India could leave earning a day’s bread and collect together to show their unity. For the rest of the country, the show of unity would be in their absolute disregard for any such public demonstration – by its utter boycott. I don’t really think it would work anywhere else, for that matter, save Mumbai, and the southern metros. And three cities do not – despite what a large number of Mumbai Kars think – the real India. The real India, for all those who’re still in doubt, is one that dies everyday because there’s no longer enough rain happening. The real India is one where they still have to condition every aspect of life depending upon the load shedding hour. The real India is keen to torture to accept dowry, and also the one who’s always ready to kill if their wells are polluted by those of the lower castes. The real India’s ready to kill, and does kill – its own family, because there’s no money to pay debts. The real India is the one that has no room for other religions because poison has been inculcated in their minds with the Bhagvad Gita and the Quran. The real India still deals in the barter – a rape for a rape. Your daughter for mine.

That, my friends is for you. The place whose madrarsas and mandirs today spawn as many jehadis as those from across the border. The place that has room for Malegaon, the place that is proud of Kandhamal, the place that rejoices in Godhra and the place that dances with joy when Benares burns. Sitting in air-conditioned rooms in Colaba and Napean Sea road makes it very easy for one to pour out all his gyan of English to show that he’s a concerned citizen. However, have this realisation- that it is because you consume, it is because you are filled with the lust to be one up on your neighbor, and your neighbor on his – it is because of you that there is a divide. It is because you’ve chosen to be elevated to another level on the chain of consumption that the divide between the rich and the poor has greatened. It is because that you’re in such a fairyland that any lesser mortal becomes like a victim of the plague – to be shunned and run away from. You address them as the ‘Bhaiyyas’ and the ‘Goondas’. And it is because of that, that the very netas you’re crying foul against chose to help you in your growth – even when half of the nation burns in the flame of hunger. When the rest of the nation is so depressed against the loans they’ve taken, that their lives and those of their loved ones seem cheaper. It is from these starved families that come the Kasavs and the Fahims.

And then, when the circle completes itself, you take the day off and protest at the Gateway.

You scream at the system, and hail the Youth to rise and stand – in all your Levi’s and Armani’s.

Enlightened, educated, responsible citizens!

I remember watching television coverage of this protest. Another Mumbai “Indian” – prim and proper clothes, fashionable accessories, American accent – all the equipments – was there crying hoarse against Man’s comments.

“Being from the minority community…”

I didn’t really register the rest.

Enlightened, educated, responsible citizens!

Abhimanyu Jain

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