Roses really smell like poo-poo

IMG_1307.CR2 exoticIt’s a little late but I finally watched John Madden’s 2011 sleeper hit ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ the other day on tv. It turned out to be a predictable story. It was a big hit with left-of-centre, Guardian reading, Birkenstock wearing crowd in London. As an Indian, I couldn’t help but get irritated with the unending stream of stereotypes.

Ah well. It’s just a stupid movie.

Then, today I came across this article written by an Indian writer in the Guardian sneering at an ultramodern airport terminal built in Mumbai.
10IN_THSAS_MA6_1716515g
His slant was to focus on the squalor of the rest of Mumbai “The size of the average Mumbai family is 4.5 people, and the average home size is 10 square metres, so some of their most private moments transpire in the midst of a crowd.”

Now I’m no fan of Mumbai. It’s a shithole. But this sanctimonious liberal Western media really need to get their heads out of their arses.

The Airports Council International rated Mumbai’s terminal one of the best in the world, along with the new Indira Gandhi terminal, while no London terminals made the list.

In the words of one angry commenter:
“Since the British can no longer tell Indians and others how to think about India, they’ll pay an Indian writer who is more than happy to pass off British racist perceptions as his own, or dress it up in high caste “brown-face”, like Pankaj Mishra, Rohinton Mistry, and Arundhati Roy (all of whom speak for lower castes but are high caste).”

It is as if the value of India resides only in its ancient contributions to human knowledge whereas its pathetic attempts to modernise or develop are to be winked at and patronised.

We all starve; we eat monkey brains; we worship rats; we worship cows. We are noble savages.

And look at that, they’re even building an airport now. How sweet.

Did you watch The Wolf Of Wall Street? I don’t know what the critics are saying, but I enjoyed it. I found it inspiring enough to google Jordan Belfort.

True, he’s a criminal, but you’ve got to admit to become a millionaire many times over like he did, at his age, needs brains and balls. And in all his interviews, the one thing he keeps repeating is “You are not your past.”

You are not your past.

Most of our limiting beliefs come from our past experiences.

Belfort takes a triumphant view on traumatic past life experiences. You are not your past, you are the resources and capabilities you glean from it. That is the basis for all change. If you survived the worst of the worse and are still breathing, you can learn from that. The more crap from your life that you survived, the more likely that you will become great. You must change the way you look at your past. Reverse the angle. View the past as a prelude to your vision for the future.

True, we are the land of Ayurveda and Gandhi. But we are also now, in a lot of ways, not too dissimilar from urban America or Britain.

Miles and miles of urban sprawl. Check.
Malls, ATMs and Starbucks on every corner. Check.
Millions of cars and traffic gridlock. Check.
Skinny hipsters ordering egg white omlettes. Check.

Oh but you also have so many poor people. It’s the Great Divide.

You want to talk about the Great Divide? 
London ranks as one of the most unequal cities in the developed world. Wider than it has been since the days of slavery. the top 10 per cent of people living in London have on average wealth worth £933,563, while the poorest 10 per cent are on average worth £3,420 – some 273 times less.
And if you think disparity isn’t a problem in America, that is just self-delusion. The highest child-mortality rate in the developed world, less social mobility even than the UK. And which country did the phrase ‘white trash’ come from? Or ‘loser cruiser’ for a public bus? No, the difference is Americans live in a state of complete denial about their rigid paralysing class structure.

While our slumdog culture, religion and the caste system are emphasised in Western discourse and movies, no mention is made of post-independence secular India’s efforts toward national integration of its minorities. No mention is made of laws and efforts against discrimination, or the country’s 60-year effort towards active inclusion of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population in educational and employment opportunities. People also forget to introspect the fact that social discrimination and prejudice has been a widespread worldwide issue, for example the treatment of African Americans in southern United States. For every Gujarat riot, there’s the Hurricane Katrina efforts, which, succinctly put, are a strategically planned failure by the US government. The 2011 London riots were caused by welfare dependence, social exclusion, lack of fathers, hooliganism, spending cuts, consumerism and racism.

You want to talk about rape? The U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Justice Statistics counted 188,380 victims of rape and sexual assault in a year recently. These are charged crimes. 1.3 million incidents were reported. And they say rape is one of the most grossly underreported crimes in the United States. In the UK, only 1,070 rapists are convicted every year despite up to 95,000 people suffering the trauma of rape. That means nearly 98 out of 100 rapists in the UK get away with it.

My point is, there is a lot of shit over here. But there’s a lot of shit everywhere. In the words of rapper Andre 3000, I know you’d like to thank your shit don’t stank. But lean a little bit closer, see that roses really smell like poo-poo-oo. Yeah, roses really smell like poo-poo-oo.

Slumbai

Until recently I had Mumbai labeled as One Of The Shittiest Places To Live In. And if it weren’t for the existence of Patna and Kolkata, the ‘One Of’ would also be questionable.

Let’s start with that popular euphemism

The buzz of Bombay

“Everyone is always walking so fast!”

Now think about it.

If you have to spend 4 hours every day going back and forth to work, the one thing you wouldn’t want is to extend those 4 hours by another half hour.

So you walk faster.

And it’s not like you want to stop and smell the armpits of the lepers and eunuchs who are inescapable in this city.

So you walk faster.

And don’t you just love the smell of benzopyrene in the morning?

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) latest Environment Status Report (ESR) released on September 3, 2011 shows shows that the presence of benzopyrene, a highly cancer causing chemical released in the air, in the city has risen eight times from its minimum level of 0.13 µg/1000m3 in 2008-2009 to 1.09. The maximum level has increased five times, from 0.54 µg/1000m3 in 2008- 2009 to 2.56. Long-term human exposure to benzopyrene can lead to genetic damage. I bet you can’t wait to raise children in Mumbai.

The Axe Effect

I’m not making this up. Mumbai authorities have purchased 42,000 litres of perfume to spray on the city’s enormous waste dumps at Deonar and Mulund landfill sites after people living near the landfill sites complained of the stench. The Deonar landfill site, one of India’s largest, was first used by the British in 1927. Now this festering pile covers more than 120 hectares and is eight storeys high. Around 500,000 people live near the two dumps.

In March 2011, Mumbai was ranked seventh in a list of the world’s 25 dirtiest cities published by Forbes magazine, a worse rating than even Baghdad. Mumbai’s council now has plans to close part of the dumps and use the methane the rest generates to help solve the city’s power crisis.

Hafeez Contractor’s vision of hell

Mumbai is a city built without city planning or zoning restrictions. A haphazard clusterfuck of a city designed by architects from the post-aesthetic school of design.

The trouble is typified by a nascent proposal for the development of a defunct textile mill at Prabha Devi. This 8-acre plot is being allowed to use a Floor Space Index of 10: three million sq ft of built up area. In Lower Parel, a 62-floor supertall skyscraper called the Namaste Tower is proposed. At the narrow Hughes Road intersection, is planned a 60-65 floor condominium; and at the even narrower Marine Lines Road near Charni Road station we are soon to have another splendid addition to Mumbai’s deluxe hotels.

All these oversized developments are permitted because FSI and building rights are treated in isolation from all other factors, divorced from the needs and requirements of the locality and, consequently, the city itself. These constructions bear no relation to the roads on which they stand, the capacity of those roads, or, for that matter, the supporting infrastructure, let alone the physical or visual feel of the vicinity.

The people, the vibe.

Naresh Fernandes, reporting for the New Yorker in the aftermath of the recent Mumbai blasts (What Mumbai Spirit?) said it best. “It suddenly became clear this morning that the sentiment many had identified as the Mumbai spirit was probably epic apathy all along. And, really, who could blame the residents of this city of just over twelve million for being too exhausted to think about anything other than their gruelling daily routines? Behind the sparkling Bollywood façade it projects to the world, Mumbai is a city riven with gargantuan problems. It’s more slum dog than millionaire. More than sixty per cent of the residents of India’s financial capital live in shanties, with twenty thousand people packed into each square kilometre. The pollution is often throat-searing; the water supply and road systems are overstretched. The trains, which carry about 6.9 million commuters every work day, are designed to transport seventeen hundred passengers each, but in peak hour bone-crunchingly pack in forty-five hundred travellers.”

Bambaiyya Hindi

Then there’s the pidgin Hindi lingo that has evolved out of this abyss. A coarse doggerel that is best suited to low-life and those without the IQ to understand a language properly. It is a commercial shorthand that evolved to deal with a large number of uneducated people. Like, imagine you have an illiterate Marathi maid and you speak only Tamil. In a matter of time you will concoct a form of speech with few words and few complications that get the point across ignoring finer nuances. Baby talk, essentially. Bumbaiyya Hindi is a version of baby talk between Marathi and Hindi speakers.

Subhuman, abominable shithole

If you watched Danny Boyle’s much lauded Poverty Opus, Slumdog Millionaire, the term ‘Beggar mafia’ would be familiar to you. I can’t think of any criminal act more debased than those committed here. I can understand someone stealing because they’re so dirt poor that they have no option. But what sort of person, what sort of sick fuck can be so violent and amoral that they are prepared to hack the limbs off children, as well as steal new-born babies from hospitals? And abuse and starve these children as begging ‘props’ to maximise their earnings from sympathetic passers-by?

Although this problem is pan-India, you guessed it, Slumbai is the heart of this industry. The beggar mafia makes more than Rs 160 Cr a year in Mumbai alone. According to official figures, as many as 44,000 children fall into the clutches of the beggar mafia in India each year and of these, hundreds are deliberately mutilated.

Mumbai is number one when it comes to missing children. Mumbai has been partly responsible for India being placed in Tier 2 of the human trafficking watchlist by the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

When I say Mumbai is a shithole I don’t mean that other Indian cities are shining examples of community living. Shit happens everywhere but why does the sickest shit happen in Mumbai?

And every day I read about someone raving about how awesome Mumbai is and there’s no place in the world like it. Fuck, yeah. There is no place in the world like it. If you love it so much, live there. You deserve it.

Enjoy the benzopyrene.