Tuesday, August 20, 2013

People Make It Work!

You have great roads, well designed fly-overs, metro rail and now a super terminal in the airport. All the basic infrastructure is in place, there are still few things to improve, but it is still far better than other metro-cities. Delhi, or Delhi – NCR, has ‘almost’ got everything that will merit this city to be as India’s capital. When I visited this city, after a gap of a decade, I went with a lot of apprehension. And the apprehension was built over the same last decade where the crime rate in our capital city has gone up several notches up. Today, it is a known fact that a girl cannot step outside her house after 7 in the evening alone. What has happened to a city like this that the situation has reached
IGI Airport
such a point! During my last visit before this, around 2003 – 2004, it was only the taxi & auto drivers along with the shopkeepers were unruly and rude. The number of species has now grown manifold to an extent wherein you will start suspecting every person you are dealing with outside your comfort zone. During my current visit, by looking at the Delhi roads, I realized why Mumbai has lesser number of Lamborghinis. When I stepped into Gurgaon, I was elated to see how beautifully a city can be designed and infrastructure can be managed. So where is Delhi, the home to our parliament, babus & media houses, going wrong?

My next stop of the journey was a neighboring state of Delhi, full of scenic places, Uttarakhand. Recently devastated by the horrific flood, the state is recuperating from the effects. I went to a place 8500-feet above sea level and the road was good until a point. After that, we had many moments where we had the opportunity to witness some breathtaking picturesque surroundings and some such rough mountain terrains where we had to drive our vehicle through 2-inches gap from the other. Throughout the journey and during our stay, we interacted with many people, and each of them exuded one thing: warmth. They were helpful, they were soft-spoken and never misguided us (which they could easily have done). The stay was pleasant not ‘only’ because the temperature was 11 -12 degrees or the place was simply beautiful, but critically because we were taken proper care of. They ensured we get everything we required during the 24 hour stay.

Then I headed for my next destination, my hometown, Bhubaneswar. The state of Odisha has grown quite well (if not quite fast) in last few years. Bhubaneswar being the capital has seen tremendous amount of development with a lot of projects still underway. The city is not as big as Delhi nor as small as Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. But it is a city where you can settle down post retirement knowing there will be lesser noise, pollution &
interference. What I have observed over the years when the city has seen many changes that there are two different sections which are growing separately. One that is growing with the right outlook of what future holds for them and they are preparing themselves for it and the other who are inclined to stay in their shell and does not like to be disturbed. Now, the second species are a bane to any society and a city at large. You can change everything in a man, but not the attitude. The attitude can be towards work, towards civic sense, towards their approach to the people or simply be the attitude towards life. Personally, I believe that attitude is your ‘upbringing’ plus your ‘education’. Both these factors overlap and inclusive. Now every society needs more of the first breed of people than the second to create stories people can feel proud of.

Whether I want or not, I had to leave home after a 6-day stay for my karmabhoomi, Mumbai, a city which is defined in many ways. Now when I stepped in, I found the airport terminal smaller, the parking slot outside slightly cramped, the road to my home with far more potholes that I found in all the 3 above cities added together. The traffic in Mumbai on a Sunday afternoon was more than the traffic of Gurgaon on a Monday morning. It has this never-ending monsoon spree which sometime continues without a break for 3 months (seriously without a single break of a day). During monsoon, the commuting in the city goes from bad to worse. The city has a metro project running for a half a decade now and is yet to start the operations. Now, what is there in Mumbai that millions come every month here, even though they are not even sure whether they can sustain in this city where the cost of living is higher than any other city in the country! I just gave a brief on the infrastructure, the haywire projects and the pain. Well then, let’s talk about those 8 million (yes, that’s 80-lacs) commuters in Local Trains (close to 2500 services/day) that runs for 22 hours in a day. This figure is barring the bus services and the taxi/auto services. The
Mumbai Local
last local train which runs around 2 in the morning will have ladies travelling in them, same goes for bus services. The busiest public places often turn into an uncomfortable place to female travelers, but not in Mumbai. You get into a local train or some other public transport system, you will feel welcomed. This city has embraced all, but how? The answer to all these questions is: People. It is the people, from wherever they are, they have one thing in common – tolerance. Tolerance to the person in front, irrespective of the religion, caste, sex or education is the proof of a healthy society and an enriching one as well. Mumbai, with its lack of space, has been the most accommodating city for me in my life. And it is the people who make you feel a part of this place, this city. Under no circumstances, I can take away the role of each Mumbaikar (yes, we call ourselves that, whether we are born in this soil or not) who shaped me into a better person. The accountability and the onus lies ONLY with us.

To summarize (not to ‘conclude’, as ‘comparisons’ has conclusions, and this piece is not one), let me put this straight - I am no Delhi-basher or Mumbai-supporter, I do not even have my ancestors linked to any of these 2 cities. I feel I can connect to a city like Mumbai like no other, after having spent my life in multiple districts of smaller and an under-developed  state because of only one thing: The People. They make it a place to live, they make it a place to respect, they make it a safer place. They make it move on. No city can work with just infrastructure, skyscrapers, flyovers, terminals, shopping malls. Every city need people who define it. A city is as good as its people.

People make a city work.

A small video, you may call it a travelogue, which I made during my last long-trip spread over 5120 KMs here.