Frankly, I don’t understand why we in Mumbai are so cross with the municipal corporation and are shaking our collective fist at the state road development corporation as well. Streets flood waist-deep when someone so much as knocks over a bottle of Bisleri by accident. So what? And roads sink when we drive to the office instead of taking a train. Big deal. Are those reasons enough to make rude remarks about the people in charge of our civic amenities?
I don’t think so. In fact, I strongly believe that, in accusing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) of being callous, we’ve misunderstood their intentions. Far from doing these things because they don’t care about their jobs, they did them just to start us off on a new style of living: a gentler, more environment-friendly one. For instance, when the MSRDC engineers created a driving lane in a place where they knew the ground wasn’t strong enough to support traffic, they did it to prove how anti-environment we are when we drive our cars.
First, we selfishly use up precious fuel. Next, our auto emissions contribute to global warming. Even though we know these are bad, we continue to do them. So the MSRDC kindly decided to give us roads that sink so we stop driving cars and save the world.
And when BMC chief Jairaj Phatak told us, first, that when it rains, the drains clog and the streets flood so we must just live with it, and next, that streets flood because of global warming, it was obvious that he was trying a) to turn us into better, more spiritual people, unconcerned with the trivialities of life, and b) reiterating the MSRDC’s point about the environment.
I must admit that I did fulminate a bit about the BMC and MSRDC myself, but the day I spent two hours on the Andheri flyover alone, I finally got their message. So these days, I don’t worry about such minor issues as flooded and/or sunken streets. Instead, I use the three-and-a-half hours it takes to get to work not only to catch up on my reading, but also to think creatively. For instance, as I finally closed Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay — a brilliant book about two comic book creators in the heyday of superheroes like Superman and Batman — I had a great idea.
Kavalier and Clay created a superhero called ‘The Escapist’ who rescued Jews from the Nazis.
Why doesn’t Mumbai have two superheroes of its own — Drainman and Laneman — who’ll fly to the rescue whenever we’re flooded and our roads sink? Since the people at the BMC and the MSRDC have so much time on their hands, I’m certain they’ll volunteer some of it to develop our superheroes. If they do, we won’t be cross with them any more.