Jai ho, Ratan Tata ki…. Jai ho!! While the rest of corporate India was suffering from collective laryngitis, post 26\11, it was only Ratan Tata who broke his customary silence and spoke out strongly against the abject failure of leadership in the state of Maharashtra. Two weeks later, he has spoken again… and this time he clearly means business. Business - in real and abstract terms. He has announced a bold initiative which involves hiring his own security force to protect his people and his properties. Which is great. The Tatas can afford it. But I fear by doing that he is actually letting the government off the hook very easily. Following Ratan’s pragmatic example, many more corporate honchos will do the same….. but sneakily….. chhupke chhupke se. In fact, several Big Boys do possess their own private armies (with crack foreign recruits) already. They just haven’t gone official with the news. The fact that our leading business leaders cannot rely on government agencies to safeguard their lives is a shameful indictment of the system. Our movie stars have followed suit and beefed up their security as well. Soon, every Mumbaikar will feel the need to acquire some kind of personal security systems – which can lead to a potentially dangerous situation, with unlicensed weapons, even country made pistols being put into use by frightened, panic- stricken citizens who are finally convinced about the shocking absence of any form of official protection in our vulnerable city. The police force is politicized, divided and corrupt. The less said about the bureaucrats, the better. Oh….our netas…. well, you already know that story.
As more and more facts of systemic failures surface, we the citizens of Mumbai reel and seethe at the official indifference shown – for example, Anita Wodeyar, a casual collector of waste material was at Machchimar Nagar, a half-kilometre from my residence, when she saw the dinghy with six terrorists in it, as it came towards the small jetty. Since she could tell it was no ordinary fisherman’s dinghy, she asked the young men who they were. They told her to mind her own business before setting out on their killing spree. But guess what? The police have not bothered to record her statements so far !! Twenty one days later, she is still to be thoroughly questioned.They are so busy with their in-fighting and back biting, that nothing else seems to matter but to hang on to their kursis…. and worse, ‘protect’ the local politicians at Nagpur, where they have congregated for the ‘winter session’. Over kandey pohey, bhajiyaas and much else, these duffers will ‘assess’ the situation. What a laugh. Meanwhile, Dilliwallas are airing their pashminas at assorted garden parties and worrying about the fog over the airport. In their heads , the Mumbai crisis is over ( if it was ever recognized as one). P. Chidambaram has swished his mundu a few times and made a couple of tough noises. But he gets my vote for voluntarily doing away with the Z –Category security provided to him. However, take a look at how absurd all this security business sounds – America could not protect its own President (invariably billed as ‘The most powerful man on earth’), from a couple of Size 10 jootas hurled at him in Baghdad - and we are asking Americans to protect us??? George Bush’s secret service outfit is resembling those caricatural Pink Panther cops, as they weakly talk about taking better positions the next time.So guys…. you KNOW there is going to be a next time?? Paradoxically, it is Bush who has emerged smelling of roses with his sense of humour intact, as he niftily ducked the joota attack and joked about it seconds later.
Back home, I am waiting for Pranab Babu’s reaction to this latest Amrikun embarrassment. The last time Pranab made India blush was when addressed Condi Rice as ‘Her Excellency’ (really now… we know you couldn’t stop pumping her hand…. but there is a limit to such chamchagiri). Pranab only compounded Manmohan Singh’s mushy gush when he’d emotionally declared India’s love for George Bush earlier in the year (speak for yourself, darling!). Bhaisaab, politics is not the place for pyaar-vyaar…. aaj ke dost kal ke dushman bhi ban saktey hai.
Which leaves Mumbai to Mumbaikars. As always. We sink or swim together, and keep our fingers crossed that Kalyjug has not chosen Mumbai as its destiny’s child to sacrifice at the altar of international terrorism. Just when despair, rage and frustration were giving way to hopelessness, along came the hero we were all waiting for – Mumbai chha Mulga Sachin Tendulkar. With that ton in Chennai, he not only clinched the match for India, but also lifted Mumbai’s flagging morale. He sagely found the right words at the right time to describe his historic century, which he appropriately dedicated to the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks – his defiant words were just the salve needed to soothe our tortured souls and send out a strong message to the world – not just the cricketing world, mind you. The RBS brand ambassador ( Sachin) proudly stating, “I play for India. Now more than ever….” in full page ads, suddenly acquired an inspiring context. The words, “ I play for India,” definitely have the power to become the anthem we have been searching for. But with RBS itself reeling from the latest Wall Street bloodbath, let’s keep our fingers crossed their ad budgets don’t get seriously down- sized after Chennai. Sachin’s own positioning is peaking at present as is evident from the press adulation he has been receiving. Of course, he richly deserves it, but puh- leeze guys – ‘Mother Teresa of Cricket’ is a bit much , even by Brit tabloid standards. It simply does not work as a simile or metaphor. But we aren’t complaining! India desperately needs a Superman\ Batman. We have more than enough jokers in the pack. If Sachin is the anointed one – why not??? Sachin for Sheriff, is what I say. Come on, Mumbaikars …. join the chorus : “ Sachin! Sachin! Sachin!”