It rained this morning. Not much… just a wee bit. But after a couple of days of fairly heavy showers, traffic snarls, and delayed trains, I was glad. My mum had her cataract operation scheduled for around 10 am, and I was in a rush to make it in time to take her to the clinic.
My drive took me past the SNDT signal at Juhu.
Early morning traffic can be beastly in Mumbai, more so when it rains. And on a Tuesday, it’s usually hellish. Even a drizzle is often enough to throw things out of gear, and of course our roads are a (bleeping) mess. Bitch and moan all you want to your corporator at the LACC (Local Area Citizens Committee) Meeting, if he/she is nice enough to attend, and they’ll give you the standard, much rehearsed promissory answer that they’ll “look into it”. But then the monsoon comes and goes, and after you’ve spent a bundle on your car or on your clothes, depending on whether you drive or take an autorickshaw, you get the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation aka the BMC’s usual response – that they simply weren’t prepared for this monsoon… which makes me want to revisit my old geography books, though I distinctly remember learning that the monsoon was and still is a yearly phenomenon in Mumbai, except occasionally, when it fails, and then the municipal corporation imposes those water cuts and jacks up the water bill. But even then, even when we’ve had one of those bad monsoon seasons, it still rains, even if it’s the odd drizzle or the occasional shower once every 10 days… if my memory serves me right. I can’t recall a year of… well… nothing.
“So what’s up with the promises?” I ask my corporator, when I meet him post monsoon, and he ignores me amidst the myriad voices that crop up, yelling out their grouses and turns to some ‘Sandra from Bandra’, who he knows voted for him since she was in his campaign party and asks her if the drainage system down her road, which he did have cleaned, works fine, and she gives him a smile that would make Jesus blush.
So yeah I’m on the pot-holed road, in my car, and I reach the SNDT signal and the first thing that strikes me apart from that lovely picture of Radhe Gurumaa in all her come hither splendour, is a large hoarding from some Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) lackeys wishing a certain ‘Asif Bhamla’ a very happy birthday. You can’t miss it… it’s huge, and it’s all there.
And then just below it, a much smaller one, with the same greeting, to the same birthday boy, from another set of admirers, of obviously more humble resources, and from perhaps way down the pecking order.
So I whip out my phone and take a photograph as I wait patiently at the signal, and then I spot another banner across the road, but no… not directly opposite, because that spot’s taken by Mr. Nitesh Rane and his Swabhiman Sanghtana… so this one had to move a few paces down.
Now isn’t that nice? I think to myself, so much brotherly love and camaraderie and space sharing. After all it is everyone’s road isn’t it? Around Andheri – Lokhandwala all you get to see is hoardings from and of some guy called Baldev Khosa… oh … and his son too… at least on a couple of occasions.
And I go back fondly in time, to the relatively recent past, to February of this year, and to the Mumbai Mirror’s “No Chamchagiri On Our Walls Please” initiative, and to Sanjay Manjrekar and his maali, and to Mr. R. R. Patil, Maharashtra’s Home Minister, who incidentally belongs to the NCP and to his assurances that he would request his party workers and leaders to exercise restraint while putting up hoardings. And the fact that for a short while after that I didn’t have to crane my neck to peer through the banners to get a glimpse of the few trees that happened to still be there, along the side of the road as I drove by every day.
And I wonder…
“Do you have a dog, Sanjay Manjrekar?”
“Does he have a birthday coming up sometime soon?”