Believe it or not, but the horrific terror attacks that devastated India’s psyche, have become money spinners in Mumbai. I nearly fell off my chair when I received an email from a respectable book shop inviting me to attend a “Terror Attacks Event.” I thought there was some ghastly mistake – maybe a typo. But no. The graphics on the ecard were perfect – an artistically designed blob of blood at the top, that left a trail which ended with the name of the p.r. agency hired to handle the canapés and celeb list. This is but one example. Over the past week, I have received at least fifteen invitations via smses, phone calls, printed cards, letters, flyers and personal visits, to participate in various ‘events’. Amazingly enough, most of these are ‘branded’. If there was a so -called citizens’ drive asking Mumbaikars to turn up and put their signatures on a mile long scroll on Marine Drive that was meant to represent collective anger, every few metres of that laminated strip featured logos of well known brands. I felt really sorry for the poor suckers who’d taken trains, buses, taxis or walked all the way to Marine Drive, imagining their signatures would count. These are the innocents who are consistently used by self-serving publicity hounds in order to pump up their own constituencies. The shrewd organisers are the ones preening for the cameras while the aam janata writes heartfelt messages of peace and solidarity that nobody reads. Does anybody ever ask what happens to these petitions once the tv cameras move on to the next story?
My guess is the sponsors look for the biggest garbage bin and throw the scroll away, having got their mileage from the – you’ve guessed it – event!!Right now there are enough p.r. professionals who have gone into a huddle trying to figure out ‘discreet’ and ‘tasteful’ ways to capitalize on the somber mood. Media savvy artists are busy painting their ‘anguish’ (for a fat fee, of course), and fashion designers are working on their next ‘terror-themed’ collection. If this is sounding cynical, that’s too bad. But what is happening is far worse. With elections round the corner, national security is going to be the top issue for politicians of every hue. Realising that, most political parties are rethinking their strategies and redoing their posters. Within hours of Mumbai losing three top cops, there were gigantic hoardings put up all over the city ‘Saluting the Martyrs.” It goes without saying, the hoardings also carried mug shots of politicians seeking mileage from the tragedy. No wonder, the biggest villains in Mumbai at present are our netas, who have never had it this bad – from the prime minister to the sacked chief minister, people are openly expressing their frustration and contempt for our leaders - the first time ever. In fact, when I met a cabinet minister last week, I told him he should wear a burqa in public, even though he was not directly involved in handling the calamity that devasted our city. Mumbai’s anger against politicos this time is on an unprecedented scale.No wonder most Dilliwallas are sensibly staying away – their minders must have advised them to avoid direct contact with Mumbaikars, who are livid enough to give vent to their contempt in unambiguous terms.
And yet, lessons have still not been learnt. Just yesterday I , along with several other motorists, had to pull over during peak hour traffic, and wait for over twenty minutes for a VIP cavalcade to pass. Perhaps people in Delhi are accustomed to this. But in Mumbai, nobody is a VIP in quite this way… and it annoys the average person that on one of the busiest stretches, with two main hospitals, three colleges, four schools, several offices and hundreds of residential buildings, people are denied access even if they themselves are facing an emergency. Why? Because some minor mantriji gets priority over us – the tax payers who shell out the lolly for those ten police cars, an ambulance and god knows what else to protect these non-entities. The time has come to review these antiquated, feudalistic and worthless rituals. Politicians are public servants – not ‘rulers’. Let them set the example themselves by voluntarily giving up these absurd and expensive perks. Now that’s what I’d call a top class ‘event’ that doesn’t need any management. The first person to do so, gets my vote!