Here’s to new beginnings…
New year…. new beginnings. Mumbai’s gloom and doom mood at the end of 2008, has been miraculously replaced by a more upbeat attitude towards 2009. This is the great thing about our city.Only, this time, there is a huge difference. Let us call it an ‘awakening’ for want of a better word. While the collective catharsis is still on (how can we possibly obliterate those all-important emotions that will eventually lead to complete healing of a deeply wounded city?), most people have decided to get on with their lives – but more sensibly. Nobody wants to dwell on the morbid details associated with the terror attacks, but everybody is pressing for fundamental change. This is a hugely significant and positive shift. Citizens are far more sensitized and pro-active this time, and not leaving their fates to some phantom figures of authority who are supposedly in charge of ensuring our safety. I have been receiving countless mails from some really intelligent folks who have concrete suggestions to offer. Take the Lok Satta movement for example, which is rapidly gaining ground. It is a group of aware, informed and educated citizens aiming to bring about the change we all seek in governance but don’t really know exactly how to demand it or make it happen. There are thousands of petitions and appeals being sent to various government agencies. But most get ignored or trashed. Our only hope lies in self help, decentralization, and the appointment of someone outside the system, with enough executive powers to actually get the much-needed work done…. before it is too late. Ideally, we should be able to elect such a representative directly ourselves. Which means that such a person will then be answerable only to the people of the city and not to a political party. There are enough capable, dynamic, motivated CEO’s in Mumbai who will be very happy to bring their expertise and experience to the table – on one vital condition – no meddling from politicos. This is really the only way forward. These are men and women who head gigantic corporations, have the skills , resources and time to devote to such a monumental task. They exist!! Given the new ‘awakening’, it makes sense to identify just five such leaders, persuade them to take up the challenge, and support them all the way after that. Unless we come up with a results driven, responsive and responsible agenda, we will once again pay a heavy price for sleeping on the job.
Even though Goa had been converted into a virtual fortress over New Year’s, the deployed security forces added so much to ones sense of comfort, knowing Goa was (and remains) one of the most attractive targets for international terrorism. It was heartening to see frequent beach patrols, with cops in jeeps driving along the vast stretch of sand between Baga and Aguada. Of course, tourist traffic is down – and how!Talking to listless, bored shop keepers around Candolim, it was clear Goa has taken a huge hit after 26\11 – dhanda was so thanda, they complained, it was down by as much as seventy to eighty per cent! Despite that, there were enough merry makers at all the favourite haunts, to give the brief illusion (needed!), that all was well…. God was in his heaven, looking down benignly at the world and saying, “ Just chill, chill…. just chill.” Most of the standard Goa parties stood cancelled (No Mallya. No Mittal ). Instead, everyone but everyone made it a point to attend Dipti and Raj Salgaocar’s 25th wedding anniversary bash at their spectacular home at Dona Paula. Friends and family flew in from all over India, to be with the one couple with no enemies\rivals\dushman – everyone loves Dipti and Raj. As their love story unfolded on the screen ( a marvellously put together film by the very talented Kaushik Roy), through Munnabhai and Circuit’s improvised take on love (“ Jab pyar ka headlight full rehta hai na….boley toh….majaa aata hai…”), the one person who loved every minute of it was Kokilaben Ambani (Dipti’s mother), who sportingly sat through the long and lovely evening on their expansive grounds, and clapped enthusiastically when her grand daughter, Ishi, made a sweet and touching speech about her parents. Oh …. Dipti’s brothers (Mukesh and Anil) were both there to raise a toast to the happy couple. As were the bahus ( looking superhot…. in hot western attires. Nita wearing a flowing caftan and Tina in a metallic mini ). This is how it should be. If business analysts are taking the rare sighting of the Brothers Ambani being seen together at the same venue at the same time as a sign of rapprochement in the year 2009, why not?? After all - isn’t that what new beginnings are all about?? You may never forget…. but forgiveness is always in your hands. Let’s drink to that. Let’s drink to shanti on all fronts in the year ahead…. Have a great twelve months…. and many more. Stay sane. Stay safe. Smile a lot. That’s my magic mantra for 2009. You are more than welcome to borrow it!!