Every time I meet someone for the first time in Delhi, where I have lived since August last year, they invariably ask me: “So Delhi must be tough after Bombay, no? Which do you prefer, Delhi or Bombay?”
None of the above: The politicians and elite of both Mumbai (left) and Delhi are a huge let-down. Photographs by Kunal Patil / Hindustan Times and Manoj Madhavan / Mint
For the first six months I said, Bombay of course! Or, when I was feeling non-communicative I snarled: “Surely you know the answer to that question!”
Then I got bored of my response. “If you have a good pedicurist and a good driver,” I began saying, “you can survive any city.”
Recently though, I can’t understand why anyone thinks either of these cities is worth living in. Just a couple of weeks before the anniversary of 26/11, Nationalist Congress Party politician R.R. Patil was reinstated as the state’s home minister. Everyone remembers what Patil said after 26/11: “Big cities face these kinds of small problems.” Those of us whose links with the city go back further in time also remember him as the man who was responsible for shutting down the city’s dance bars.
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One year after, we have empirical proof that last November’s terror attacks didn’t impact the inertia dynamics of the city I call home. We continued in the same direction at the same speed, despite all that disturbance. Yes, I wasted my vote and failed the good citizen test too.
And as we head for 26/11/2009, concerns about preparedness and attacks have been replaced by yet another Size Zero debate: The trials of the Marathi manoos. The Shiv Sena’s first senior citizen Bal Thackeray rejoined the shrill Maharashtrian chorus earlier this week and railed against Sachin Tendulkar’s comment that while he was proud of being a Maharashtrian, he is an Indian first. Thackeray better watch out before taking on this Mumbai Indian. The city may believe that casting ballots is unfashionable but we all know Breach Candy and Borivali would make an exception for Tendulkar.
And Delhi? The less said about it the better.
Last week Virender Sehwag’s mother was replaced in the popular imagination by Manu Sharma’s mother. The spoilt brat parole buster finally crawled back into jail after a teary letter to ma.
But nothing Sharma said in his letter reflected the city’s self-important psyche as beautifully as this quote from tycoon Samir Thapar after he was mistakenly arrested at Delhi’s newest posh nightclub, which is run by two boys from Bombay. “I walked out of LAP at around 3am. When I started my car, the cops caught hold of me and dragged me into their Gypsy. At first I thought that maybe the sound of my Ferrari’s engine was too loud.” Delhi is the city where restaurants carry the “Firearms not allowed” sign; it’s a playground for young men who speed on our best highways and shoot truck tyres for sport.
So these days when people ask me if I prefer Delhi or Mumbai, I say: “It’s like asking whether I prefer Bal or Raj.”
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