The papers look like a poll catalogue today. BJP rules the roost with its front page ads but the Shiv Sena isn’t far behind. The NCP comes third in the ad blitz splashed around… two vendors missing from the most popular English dailies – the Congress and the MNS.
I was out the other day, on my way to a popular mall, hurtling down the Ghatkopar slopes in a hardy tuk-tuk that seemed inured to assaults from its driver, who betrayed airs of particularly bad mood. I discovered later that the poor man already knew what to expect in the direction I was heading for.
A kilometre or so we found ourselves stalled. Flags everywhere, people everywhere, chaos everywhere, and cops elsewhere. The driver sighed, a minute later he started hissing out his frustration; people were walking past raising slogans and waving flags and I saw our man muttering away. So, in a way showing himself amenable to small talk, I was prompted to ask him who was he going to vote for. I saw that he did not look like the usual auto-wallas, for he was dressed in white rather than the customary khaki. He was Marathi, that I was sure of.
We had all the time – the traffic wasn’t going anywhere, nor were the party wagons and we were certainly going to have to witness the entire political rally pass by. So, he coolly crossed a leg over the other and turned back, shaking his palm with fingers outstretched and dismissed my question with a simple, “Majha farak nahin padat”. Although no fan of Singham movies, I’ve enjoyed its one-liners that I think are particularly catchy; I had a sneaky feeling of the real contesting the reel.
Just then a pesky bike-rider occupied whatever little room there was in the front and our guy turned off the engine and muttered , “Khali peeli ka time pass karta hai yeh log”. He explained he wasn’t going to vote, after all nothing was going to change, was his explanation. “Yeh log bhi idhar hai, apan bhi idhar-ich hai, kahan jaane ka!?” The latter question, considering the situation we were in, was particularly relevant – sounded less and less like a political comment to me. “Lekin madam, ek kaam karo,” he spoke sitting up erect, making eye contact into the mirror, he pointed out further into the distance – “woh aapka mall hai“, saying that if I wanted to avoid all the chaos, I could. It was a bit of a walk but then…
So, of course that’s what I did. Off the auto and on shanks’ pony, I quite made it, not without an incident though. At the divider I hailed a fellow traveller, a woman dressed in sharp formals, a glossy tote and wayfarers… hair keeping their own against the horrid heat and humidity. She avoided being knocked over by an overzealous trio of party cadets riding down the road on the wrong side, by a hair’s breadth quite literally. She was just a shoulder behind me and I thought she had noticed the errant biker; I realised she hadn’t. She obviously hasn’t lived in Lucknow or Ahmedabad as I have. I gave her a concerned look and she said, “These guys, seriously! How annoying!” tottering away on some pretty likable pumps.
And I knew all was well with the world. While the BMWs and Mercs and Fords condescended to rub elbows with the autos, while bikes jostled for the space in between, Mumbai moved on, that’s what it did.