After 63 years of Indian Independence, there is a sense amongst Indians and even the rest of the world, that India is not living up to its potential ‘completely.’ There is a lot more it could have done, but is unable to get it done.
With democracy comes a serious responsibility.
What are you doing with your democracy?
Happy Independence Day!
Now is such an exciting time for Indian History! New technologies from satellite imaging to DNA sequencing are bringing scientific curiosity to the understanding of our ancient history.
The latest findings are typically scattered in scientific journals and archaeological reports. In history books I find a sad disconnect between what they are still parroting and the latest findings. Thus it was such a joy to see the latest issue of Pragati, dedicated to early Indian History.
Nitin Pai, an Editor of Pragati, who blogs at Acorn, has done a masterful job of collecting related topics in one issue. Nitin was magnanimous in writing here a short introduction to Pragati: A Sense of History. He has also given permission to have the complete issue of Pragati available here as a PDF. Previous issues are available for download at Pragati.
Enjoy this issue of Pragati!
Reading the blogs, I notice a subtle tension between those who refer to themselves as Mumbaikars and Mumbaiites. When our city was called Bombay, we were all Bombayites. We are no longer Bombay.
In 1509, returning from a conquest in Dabul, the Portuguese first landed in the bay off Mumbai and massacred the local kolis (fisher folks); then in 1534, took control of nearby towns of Mahim, Thana and Bassein by treaty. They referred to the tiny island of Mumbai, as Bombaim – ilha da boa vida (Bombaim – island of the good life). Bombaim itself did not mean “island of the good life,” it was simply how the Portuguese said Mumbai. After more than a century during which they fired canons at the exquisite sculptures at Elephanta Caves, the Portuguese turned over the city to the British as dowry in 1661. The British called it Bombay. The British left in 1947 and in 1995, Mumbai got its name back. Colonial sympathizers need to just get on with the program.
But what do you call a resident of Mumbai? I have previously used Mumbaiite. It does not sound right. As the word rolled over my tongue, it seems to catch. A cultural misfit – an elitist “ite” grudgingly grafted onto a gritty “Mumbai.” So incongruous. I would have preferred Mumbaikar.
Mumbaikar has a certain resonance, characteristically Mumbai. In hindsight it’s so obvious – a perfect match of the indispensable Marathi bai and the enigmatically reserved 'do-er', kar.
The “-ite” ending on Mumbai seems elitist, particularly in this graft. A pseudo-phoren lingo, best vocalized with a western drawl and a flourish of the stylishly held cigarette. Walk down the streets of Mumbai today; can you see that paan wallah, fruit wallah, dabbah wallah or zhaddu wallah mouthing Mumbaiite? Guess not! Mumbaiite seems the exclusive domain of the Peddar Rd-stomping, Barista-sipping, crowd.
Yes, Mumbaiite is exclusive, in that it excludes the likes of Ramu, busing tables at the tea shop, or these laborers pulling Haath Gaadis, or these vendors selling street side vada paav and sandwiches. It excludes all those who make the city go, albeit in fits and starts! Excludes those police – men and women, picking up the 'pieces' after the 7/11 and 26/11 terrorist attacks. It excludes that fabled, but tired, Mumbai spirit.
It is democratic, a social leveller, inviting everyone irrespective of which school you studied at – if at all, irrespective of your social class. Mumbai belongs equally to those who ride posh cars and flick cigarette butts out the window, as it does to the sweepers picking up the butts. Mumbaikar, invites you to this city of broad shoulders and a big heart.
A few of my favorite Mumbai Posts:
- Flower Sellers at Matunga
- Flower Sellers at Dadar
- Coverage of the Mumbai Blasts of Nov 26-29, 2010
- Mumbai: Beloved City Reclaimed
- Video: Premchand Yadav, Mumbai Taxi Driver
- Come Running with Me
- Visiting the Gateway of India
- Gateway of India, Boats