Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

Sent by: "DVS Kang



Anna Hazare may have moved his protest to Mumbai because of the Delhi cold, but the real winter freeze took place at the MMRDA grounds. It probably went for too long for Mumbai to stay interested. It became too involved, and the thicket of detail too cumbersome to pick one's way through.

Now there are several reasons why the two cities reacted to the agitation in such different ways--the timing was very different, Team Anna had lost the halo they once sported, the Lokpal Bill was already in Parliament—to name a few perfectly valid reasons, but there does seem to be an underlying variable work, and that has to do with the nature of the two cities.

In Mumbai, life is a zero sum game, everything has a cost, and every day brings with it a new set of trade-offs, choices that inevitably involve consequences. Its linear structure encourages concentration of intent and depends on clarity of purpose. One can have one priority at one time and the overriding priority in Mumbai is to maximize the opportunity value of time.

The Lokpal agitation was a worthy cause but one where the returns on personal time invested did not seem adequate. It was too transparently an exercise in tokenism for its role was to keep up the pressure on Parliament by dangling the sword of public outrage on its head.

The crowds were not expected to act but merely to be there as passive signs of a simmering revolt. If Mumbai could outsource the protest, it might have been happy to pay for it, but for it to invest its own time made little sense to the city.

If time crouches in Mumbai with limbs tensed and brow furrowed, it sprawls in Delhi, stretching itself here, scratching itself there. Life is not slow in Delhi, but it is less intently driven by purpose.

In Delhi, things unfold, they don't just happen. Every event has its own ceremony, and work obeys the rules of bureaucratic convention, by which nothing can officially happen before its time. Rules can be broken, and indeed must be, but even here some rules must be followed. This is a city where everything is a sign of the same thing, and that thing is power and significance. It is the city where power is craved for and the powerful despised. Delhi understands corruption, for it is what Delhi is founded on--the quest to find extra-legal answers for problems that it creates for itself through the law.

The anti-corruption movement finds its emotional headquarters in the city because it is the place where the gap between action and purpose is the greatest, and corruption breeds in the space between the two.

When people in Delhi land up at an anti-corruption rally, it is not because they are habitually used to protesting; Delhi might be the capital city of protests but rarely do the residents of the city get involved. They show up perhaps because in reacting to corruption, Delhi is looking at the mirror, and the anger it feels is mixed with self-loathing. For Mumbai, corruption is an irritating problem; for Delhi, a feared character flaw.

Life moves on in Mumbai for it has to. It is a city founded on perpetual motion and protests tend to slow things down. Mumbai is too deeply connected to the mainland of opportunity to occupy itself for too long with unproductive protest. It is Delhi that is the island where the politics of power is an end by itself.

The Anna Hazare-led movement might have been ranged against the government, but it needed a city that understood the power of government as its base.

For Delhi, the anti-corruption movement is a form of exorcism, for Mumbai it is only treatment for a disease.

By Courtesy : Times of India thru following links.

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