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A term so exclusive is no good for Mumbai

Am I a Mumbaikar? I’ve been born and brought up in Mumbai. I speak, read and write Marathi. I have acted in and directed plays and produced television programmes in Marathi. Yet I would not say I am a Mumbaikar, writes Harsha Bhatkal, 46.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2008 00:29 IST

I live in Prabhadevi, a predominantly Marathi-speaking part of our metropolis. I live in a “housing society” where almost everyone speaks Marathi. And the ultimate litmus test — if suddenly woken up in my sleep, I would wake up saying “Aie ga”.

Yet I would not say I am a Mumbaikar.

<b1>My thoughts go back almost 25 years, to when I appeared for an interview for the National Talent Scholarship. I was asked which caste/community I belonged to. I said that I did not know and that I was an Indian.

Most of the interviewing committee was aghast that I did not even know which community I belonged to. But I said what I did not because I didn’t know, but because I never felt that I belonged to a particular community.

I was an Indian… and still am. When Tagore wrote about a free India, “Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls” I do not know if he envisaged that a term like Mumbaikar would ever be coined, a term which was meant to be exclusive.

I am unable to come to terms such a concept.

I find quite scary the whole concept of trying to define a “Mumbaikar”. Does that mean that anyone who does not fit this definition should not live in Mumbai?

And who is to set this definition? The MNS? The media (which by blowing this issue up is only playing into the hands of Raj Thackeray and the MNS)?

I think it’s time all Indians, including Marathi-speaking “Mumbaikars”, got on with the job of continuing to build our economy and investing in development and a better quality of life for our people.

If Marathi-speaking people are feeling insecure or feel their culture is being destroyed, we have only ourselves to blame.

We need to take pride in our culture and heritage. We need to take more risks and be more entrepreneurial. Buy Marathi books and teach our children Marathi. Watch Marathi films and listen to Marathi music.

Be proud that Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar speak Marathi. But remember that, though they are Marathi-speaking, we must not call them Mumbaikars. Because they are Indians and no one should define them in any other way.

So I may live in Mumbai, speak Marathi, but I’m not willing to say I’m a Mumbaikar.

Liberal Maharashtrians speak out about Mumbai, Marathi culture and how both can be nurtured. Have an opinion too? Write to editormumbai@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Nov 05, 2008 00:25 IST