What a superb initiative! I spent two afternoons at the Made in Pakistan Expo at the World Trade Centre.... and was delighted to see the enthusiastic response from eager Mumbaikars grabbing all those gorgeous Gul Ahmed lawns and Khadi outfits. There was just one stall selling onyx objets... and I bought my daughter two lovely tables. If only we had more such exchanges! What's more, there was delicious Pakistani food , too!
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror....
Why I feel a li’l worried for Meera Sanyal…
Let’s face it, SOBO generates very mixed feelings , not just in the rest of Mumbai, but across India. South Mumbai does exude a very specific vibe – you either get it… are a part of it… or you don’t. Meera Sanyal, the polished, sophisticated, well-educated banker , with declared assets of 50 crores, is very SOBO. She is also the AAP candidate from South Mumbai. Meera really ought to be ‘the one’ most likely to win from this elite constituency, given her impressive credentials. But will she? It is assumed that ‘People Like Us’ will vote for ‘People Like Her.” Let’s forget what happened during the last elections – Meera was a late lateef candidate, and a total novice at the time. Well, she has had four long years to think about her future in politics, and it is obvious, she has bravely made that incredible leap of faith. Meera has taken the plunge, for better or worse. She contested (and lost) as an independent candidate in 2008. This time she has picked up the gauntlet (and jhadoo), donned the AAP topi, and is giving it her best shot. A lot has changed in the interim. We are living in an era of Boti Kebab politics. There are no issues in this election. Just personalities and dirty tricks. So, what is a SOBO memsaab supposed to do to impress voters?
Four years ago, I has accompanied Meera to the Ganesh Murti Nagar, along with a rag tag army of supporters. It was quite an experience.There was Meera going from door to door trying to engage residents in a meaningful dialogue. Her language skills in Marathi were pretty poor at the time, and it was obvious she was not going to win.Today, Meera is far better equipped ( she has worked hard on her Hindi and Marathi). But Meera is still Meera – a fancy Memsaab in their eyes – a rich lady in whose home, perhaps some of them work as domestics. There is no getting away from that. And to Meera’s credit, she too isn’t running away from addressing their concerns about her refined background . Instead, she is telling them how she could use her elevated position and considerable skill sets to help them improve their lives. The biggest challenge till today, remains the scarcity of water in the area.Women complain they are forced to pay anything between 500 to 5000 rupees a month to buy water in the black market! How can someone like a Meera Sanyal fully grasp the enormity of the crisis, they ask anxiously. “A lady who probably drinks only mineral water at home, will never understand our problem ”, they sigh. It is the lack of latrines in this over- crowded, filthy bustee that voters feel most strongly about. They really don’t give a damn about anything else. Give us latrines and water, and we’ll give you our vote, they emphasise. Rightly so.
And this is where I feel concerned. Why should Meera’s SOBO identity or her upper class background work against her? The fault isn’t Meera’s ( her sincerity cannot be doubted) . The fault is with the rest of us who live in SOBO. Those who talk endlessly about the ‘right’ people getting into Parliament, but refuse to line up with the aam janata on election day to cast a vote. We expect Meera to do our dirty work for us, because we don’t want to do it ourselves. We say we’re sick of thugs, sick of corruption, sick of unaccountability in public life, sick of just about everything around us. But we definitely don’t want to budge from our comfortable homes. Meera has had the guts to jump into the fray. If voters refuse to look beyond her posh appearance, it is not her fault! At least Meera is being herself and not donning deliberately dressed down, crumpled sarees ‘so as to identify with the hoi polloi.” That is patronizing, condescending, hypocritical and downright insulting. The only way for Meera to win – if not this election, than the next – is to win the confidence of her constituency - to prove to her voters she means business and is capable of getting basics in place for them. Basics!
Like a Congress volunteer sniggered, “ Why waste time on high flying, high rise wallahs? Milind doesn’t bother about them. He’s smart. He knows they don’t vote. He focuses on keeping the slum dwellers happy – Congress style! Meera Sanyal should learn from him.”
Really? Should she??