The market is a uniquely mid-class Indian word. It refers to the place we go to shop. ‘Go for marketing’, you see. The proverbial bazaar is of course also where, for centuries, people have picked up good gossip, besides the obvious goods. The street itself, crowded, colourful, cacophonous, is the everyman’s preferred playground, the ultimate social leveler. This is where the rich and the poor of every city, town, mohalla intersect: Delhi’s Sarojini or Lajpat Nagar, Mumbai’s Crawford or Linking Road, Kolkata’s New or Old… Those markets still exist.
Here’s what began to happen in the 2000s. The rich got richer. They built air-conditioned islands in the sky to at once shop and secede from their own real cities. Which is okay. We guess. Though not, if you’re our reporter Collin Rodrigues, who was kicked out of four popular city malls. Gatekeepers of those glass ceilings just wouldn’t let him in. Journalism’s a poor paymaster. We know. Yet, surely, he had the money to afford a thing or two, an ice cream, an underwear, maybe? It didn’t matter. He just looked like a poor man. Or was dressed up to look like one. Security guards misbehaved with him, threatened to beat him up, they practically threw him out. He would have still passed the security test. How do you overcome discrimination, snobbery, intolerance…
This episode doesn’t tell us anything new about ourselves. Nothing does anymore. These are cynical times. It still helps to look at the mirror. Sometimes. Starting today, Mumbai, we’ll put you (or for that matter, ourselves) to a similar test. Every week. Hope we fare better next Tuesday.
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National Cultural Editor