A Museum for Mumbai : A bun-maska for thought

This new year’s day, I spent my noon convincing the receptionist at ‘The Museum of History of Catalonia’ to open up as advertised. We were visiting Barcelona around that festive time of the year and probably I had my stakes high expecting them to open on Numero Uno of 2017. Perhaps, that was just the museum enthusiast in me.
So, my father-in-law gave up practising his Spanish or rather trying to understand the local Catalan and we made our way to Barcelonnetta beach instead. The promenade reminded me none other aapli Mumbai, our Marine Drive.
My colleagues do ask me about Mumbai or India and express their desire to visit it someday. “Oh, The Golden Triangle”, pat comes my answer. Kerala for people seeking quiet retreats. Andaman or Ladakh for the adventurous. But rarely do I suggest Mumbai. … if you are going to Goa that is. Yes, Goa doesn’t feature on my top list. (I am willing to have an argument over this.)
“Perhaps, you could do 48 hours in Mumbai. Don’t forget to book the Taj though”, I add. I don’t think Mumbai would count on an average tourist map. One could really do the city in a day if they wanted.

But at the same time, I do have a bond with my birth city. The global me thinks, what will I show my child at Mumbai when say they are 8 or 9? Say, in another decade’s time. You would say take him to a local playground. But that’s where the new station is planned! It wouldn’t be there anymore. “Your mother had watched some amazing concerts here”, I will point out. “Oh and that was Dadar beach”.Of course, I could take them to the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum. I could tell them how visiting that Museum at 15 by herself was their mother’s first travel adventure.
How about a ferry to see the statue of Maharaj? No, I don’t want a Statue La Grande of Chattrapati Maharaj in middle of the Arabian Ocean. I have deep admiration for the king’s bravery and statesmanship but I don’t think spending ex-chequers money for that monument is a wise idea.
Apologies, but I don’t want a tour of the slums, I don’t think making a living exhibition of someone’s lifestyle is ethically correct. Did you say there were two options instead? The usual shanty towns and the masses of ugly tall buildings sprawled all over?

Nor, do I want to visit the many Socials opened at every corner with less than average fare on their menus. Maybe I could treat them to the Caramel Custard or proper bun maska at Café Military instead. If it is still around, of course.
I would be delighted if there were state of art facilities at Elephanta Caves. We could break the Caves image as the scandalous shack haven for average couples seeking a solace in the city. We could add a sound and light show at Bandra Fort explaining the Fort’s history.
Perhaps, something else might help my children appreciate Mumbai and inform them about the changes which transformed Mumbai in a decade’s time.
How about a Museum for Mumbai?
I would certainly take my child to a Museum – a place which celebrates the 18 million Mumbaikars who have stayed together through riots, terror attacks, poor infrastructure hazards and torrential rains. Spirit of Mumbai as they say. Or even our cool Chalta Hai attitude.
But, I do wonder if my children would ask me about the survivor’s fate in all the mishaps which occur in Mumbai. Did their families get a compensation, where the guilty bought to justice, was life same for them again or their families?
Would the Museum tell also the survivors story in a compelling way as much as that of a Bollywood super star who made it big in India’s city of dreams?

I wonder if my children would equate the very celebrated Spirit of Mumbai with Mumbai’s Chalta Hai attitude. For lack of accountability in Mumbaikars and failure to stand up to their rights?
What will they think when they come to know about the recent stampede at Elphinstone station in the Museum? That was the very local station which their mother travelled from every single day in her Mumbai commute days.
Would we record in the Museum about the inquiry which bought the concerned civic department to justice for their failure to monitor the stampede or the team who failed to recognise a need for new bridge looking at the ever increasing crowds during the last decade?
I hope there is an answer in that Museum.
Otherwise, how would we explain our children that their existence matters? I am sure all the family members in India get excited enough at the thought of grandchildren just when a couple has got engaged. Then why is it that their lives don’t matter. Would the relatives say Aur ek bacha kar lo? Or do they quote the Geeta and say, Death is but inevitable? Mar gaya bichara.
I really hope that a strong wave of change grips all the Mumbaikars. Not just saying #Mumbaikar #cool #different #liberal #Delhisucks.
That they shout of loud and beat drums not just during Ganpati. But that they claim the amount of money they pay for shoddy infrastructure. For better governance and civic sense.
For Accountability. Not Chalta Hai.

Show the World What Spirit of Mumbai actually stands for!
P.S. We did visit the Museum of History of Catalonia the next day at Barcelona. I learnt about the history of Catalan life and their take on Modernism. The Moroccan immigration wave. I wonder what the fate decides for Catalans today as they take a referendum much to the opposition of the Spanish government.

1 October 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

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