Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Fishmonger Wisdom

This is not a political blog; nevertheless I thought I would share an anecdote about Mumbai and Bal Thackeray, the recently-deceased right-wing politician and founder of the Shiv Sena.

In the wake of his death, there is no shortage of fawning obituaries, but if you are unfamiliar with Thackeray and his legacy, this Hindu Op-Ed is worth a read. It is also worth noting that over four decades, Thackeray and the Shiv Sena have been responsible for fomenting hatred variously against communists, trade union activists, Dalits, Muslims, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Kashmiris, South Indians, North Indians, Biharis and people who celebrate Valentine’s Day – hatred which has led to violence and sometimes murder.

I was in Bombay last week, and on Thursday, it being the day after Diwali, Jogeshwari market was nearly deserted. When Mrunmayee went to buy fish for dinner, there was just one solitary fishmonger. This was two days before Thackeray’s death was officially announced, but the fishmonger (like many other Mumbaikars) believed that Thackeray had died already, and his death was being hushed up so as not to clash with the Diwali festivities. She said her main concern was clearing out her stock before the announcement brought Mumbai to a standstill. “बालासाहेब ने हमारे लिए क्या किया?” she said. “मुझे तो मेरी मछली बेचनी है । काम करो, महेनत करो ।” (“What has Balasaheb done for us? I need to sell my fish. Work hard, do your job.”)

This is why I like Bombay.