Scum

Travis Bickle: Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

Taxi Driver (1976)

(Mumbai) The meat ban. If you followed this comical episode you may be aware of the following excerpts. On September 4, the BJP won the meat ban vote after four Shiv Sena corporators remained absent all of which said they would have voted against such a proposition had they been there, thereby not allowing the ban to come into effect. Anyway, the Shiv Sena then challenged the ban by selling meat themselves. The courts squashed the ban. It was then revealed that such a ban always existed albeit for a shorter duration than the one being proposed. And then the whole thing went cold. Sleuthing isn’t my métier, but if I take a hunch and connect some dots, it points to the fact that these two allies shook hands over lunch to contrive this whole set-up. To what end you ask? Well, obviously to remind their section of voters: “hey we are working for your best interests”. Vote bank politics, anyone!

Gandhi once commented that roads are the backbone of the country. This may be unrelated to the above paragraph, but use it to contrast the thinking of a great leader and the farce played out by a bunch of nitwits. The meat ban is a already yesterday’s news. But it forces us to question whether this is what we want from the people we elect. We elect and give power to a few so that they can do things on our behalf that we need as a community. “By the people, for the people”. What then gives the right to these elected morons to abuse that power?

Our best interests would really be improving the quality of life in the city. Sticking with Gandhi, let’s just take roads as an example. Just a sampling of complaints would go as follows. Where a footpath ends and a road starts even the stars cannot foretell. Hawkers on the footpath, pedestrians on the road. Each speed breaker is unique in its size, length and breadth. Potholes are a whole different story. The highlight in the news this week, is a common citizen who is charged with rash driving and killing her own mother when in fact the cause was a pothole.

Growing up, I began to believe that the perennial situation of our roads is something beyond solving. I thought the population was to blame or the weather conditions or the technology wasn’t available for our specific needs. This lie seemed to allow me to accept the reality around. However, my naivety was shown this year by a 1 KM stretch of inner road. Every year this road would be made new just before the rains. Two months of rain and I would have serious difficulty in convincing you that a road actually existed on that route. Travel on that road meant a good grinding of bones and sore muscles. This year however the road has stayed unscathed during the rains. The road is so good that I use it even though it is the longer route to my destination. But this begs the question what was happening all these years and why is the road on my shorter route not as good. Everyone knows the answers. Contractors are hired not based on merit but on how well they can fill pockets with money. Later on they get contracts to fill the very potholes they create.

Roads are just one example. The entire city is reeling everyday from the action or inaction of those elected. In the movie, when Travis mentions scum, he refers to the lowlifes: pimps, prostitutes, drug peddlers and the like; people he thinks harm and pollute the soul of New York city. Out here in Mumbai, I know who I would reserve scum for. Yesterday as I was on my way to work, I saw the BMC pulling down posters of one political party. Today I see new posters at the very same spot of another political  party. I shake my head in anger and disgust, thinking “someday a real rain should come and…”

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