More articles by

Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar

LAST WORD

Our 70 per cent nation

When I am in Mumbai, I live in a bubble; my home.

When I step out of my house, it is only to wander within my apartment complex.

When I have to leave it and step out into the city—the real world—I take deep breaths and toughen myself up. It’s a jungle out there.

I have lived all my life in Mumbai city. It is my home, where all my near and dear ones stay, but it is also a place that gives me stress.

Oh, I don’t mind the crowded co-existence. I understand that completely. What I can’t take is the ‘man-eat-man’ attitude.

And yes, being a bit of a perfectionist (a curse, really), what gets to me is how everything is just about 70 per cent complete. Never 100 per cent. And, we are happy with 70 per cent.

We have roads that we can drive our cars on, but they have no lanes on them. No zebra crossings, only a faint reminder where they once used to be. But the road is functional, so it’s good enough for us. Our 70 per cent.

In England, there are warning signs for motorists when there are no lanes marked on a newly constructed road. These are what I call 100 per cent countries. For them, 70 per cent is incomplete, as it should be.

I had done a traffic campaign recently and had taken up the Mumbai traffic issue with the CM. No, no, not the excess of it on the roads, but the disorganised nature of it. The indiscipline.

I made a nice video presentation for the CM and all the other senior officials in charge of various aspects of Mumbai city’s infrastructure.

How motorists go way beyond the red traffic light and get in the way of the traffic coming from other directions; how we get honked at from behind when we stop at the red light; how pedestrians have to crisscross between vehicles while crossing the road on the imaginary zebra crossing; how, despite helmets being made compulsory for two-wheelers, only 7 out of 10 actually wear them. It is that figure once again, 70 per cent.

I also suggested ways to improve the general look of the city’s infrastructure and make it less chaotic, more organised. An effort towards the 100 per cent.

Our 70 per cent nation Illustration: Bhaskaran

A senior traffic police officer told me after the meeting about how he was very happy that so many people had begun wearing helmets. But when I suggested that everyone should be wearing it, considering it’s the law, he seemed surprised. He was happy with 70 per cent.

What about people driving on the wrong side of the road, I asked. He looked confused; possibly because he had not noticed it, or because he thought I was being too fussy.

As I write this, the Mumbai municipality elections are three days away. For me, these elections are more crucial than the state assembly or the Lok Sabha elections.

We, on a daily basis, are not stressed by the GDP of the country, but by our immediate surroundings. It starts with the little road outside our house that takes us into mainstream Mumbai, which is largely managed by the BMC.

That’s the world that really stresses us, day in and day out. Not the fiscal situation of the country.

So, it is the municipal corporators who dictate our state of mind. Good surroundings put us in a good mood.

Unfortunately, until we see well meaning and educated people from decent backgrounds as candidates for corporators, there is a slim chance that Mumbai will change and become the city we deserve. A 100 per cent city.

Until then, I will continue to be a realist. Like last time, this time too, I will vote for the candidate who does not look like a gangster.

editor@theweek.in

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