The first anniversary of 26\11 is behind us.The tears have dried. Candles snuffed out. Flowers, wilted. Speeches and parades done with. Mumbai is back to ‘normal’. There will be post-mortems and more. Some will focus on the city’s cynicism. Others will laud its optimism. Television anchors will nurse their sore throats and sigh, “ Thank God, it’s over.” Yes. Truly. Thank God, it is over. And can we please get on with our lives?? Change the subject and move on… just like everybody else?
Mumbai needs a makeover. At the moment, it is resembling Rani Mukherjee at her worst. Rani is one of our most talented actresses. I totally adore her. But somewhere down the line, Rani lost the plot. Well, so has Mumbai.This disgustingly huge , monster-metropolis no longer knows what it is. Rani faced a similar dilemma a while ago. She did what a lot of actresses do in similar situations – she lost weight and climbed into a bikini. The film tanked nevertheless. Or perhaps, because of the bikini. The ‘new’, ‘toned’ Rani failed to impress audiences, even though the movie was constructed for and around her.The bikini did her in. Mumbai is also stuck in the same sort of groove – it desperately wants to reinvent itself and show the rest of India that it is still the sexiest, most desirable city in the country. Unfortunately for Mumbai, the rest of India has moved on. It just ain’t interested! As they’d say in Bollywood parlance, “ Weekend opening bekaar hai, boss.” This is an alarming scenario for a destination that has always fancied itself. But you know how it is in showbiz – the box office is always right. Mumbai has been declared an official flop.
Rani is at a crossroad in terms of her rapidly dwindling career, Mumbai too is wondering which direction to take. Its showing at the box office has been dismal, the collections are depressingly low, and investors are busy looking for the next big thing.Fading actresses try several gimmicks to hang on to their positions – new hairstyles, fresh make-up, hot boy friends, controversies and scandals. What does a fading city do?? Accept its wrinkles and carry on??
There was a time, not so long ago, when being identified as a Mumbaikar gave a special edge to a person. It meant something.Chest-thumping came naturally to those who called Mumbai their home. Today, the connotation is different and Mumbaikars are only too aware of changed perceptions.All that made Mumbai such a powerful magnet has disappeared, or is fast eroding. Money has moved to other cities ( hello, Hyderabad!), and with that, so have several related businesses that once made Mumbai glamourous and seductive. Fashion has fled North.So has talent in other spheres. Today, a Bharti Mittal gets as many eyeballs as the Ambanis. Plus, he is cuter. Power in Mumbai, was never about politics ( sorry, Sharad Bhau). It had to do with the billions in your bank. Now, even those billions are relocating. Not a single politician from this city has the clout of a Pranab, Chidambaram or Rahul. And that is pretty much the current Mumbai story.
The prevalent feeling amongst Mumbaikars post 26\11, is that Mumbai has become marginalized and no longer counts. The indifference shown by Delhi was the first sign that Mumbai, its safety and survival, are low priority for the Big Boys in the Capital.The macabre anniversary of the terror attacks was marked by tokenism and not much more.This may sound like petty carping, but somehow the visuals of Obamaji saying ‘namastey’ to Manmohanji and clinking glasses at a grand sit-down dinner around the same date, seemed a little insensitive. As did the timing of our Prezzie flying high in a Sukhoi while Mumbai was in mourning. Sure, Chidambaram showed up in the city to hold hands, light a torch, make soothing noises and so on. But in real terms, whether fairly or otherwise, Mumbaikars felt short changed and quite cross. As it is , what was equally hard to swallow was the finger- pointing, blame game going on between our top cops, with several innocents caught in the cross- fire, leaving shell- shocked Mumbaikars demanding, “ But… what about us?”
Really. What about us? Right now, we are feeling marooned , abandoned, and pretty unloved. There is an exaggerated emotionalism at work here, combined with a dollop of martyrdom. It happens. Mumbaikars are melodramatic.It is inevitable given our proximity to the movie world. Everything in our lives is exaggerated, and that includes anger. 26\11 has been the tipping point. No doubt about that. Something snapped during those 62 hours, and nothing is going to be the same again. That’s too bad, given Mumbai’s unique position in our imagination. Maybe Mumbai was never really all that ‘different’ or ‘special’. Maybe it was always a dump. Maybe squalor consistently scored over glamour. But it was good while it lasted. The illusion, I mean. It’s time to get real. No retakes, this time. Same as for Rani.
Whoever said Sunday is a day of rest was lying. I've had the busiest one. But I am feeling on top of the world right now, so who's cribbing? Not me. My tween novel titled
'S's Secret' will be launched by the publishers tomorrow. The Sunday Times of India carried a half pager on the book, and an interview avec moi, which you can catch online. This afternoon, I did the tv interview for Times Now with a lively, dimpled reporter called Janice. This will go out at prime time tonight. Even though I've been there, done that, sixteen times over ( 'S's Secret' is my 16th book), I still feel deliciously nervous on the eve of a book launch. This one marks my foray into new territory - from writing adult fiction to writing for young adults. It's a sweet, innocent, uncomplicated story about Sandhya, a 14 year-old Mumbai girl. I am looking forward to reactions from an entirely different age group. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck. And watch the interview !