Saturday, 20 June 2015

Mumbai Is for Marching Men.

Every year, at least once or twice, Mumbai turns into a swimming pool during the rains. It pours so much that life comes to a standstill. Trains stop. Buses don't ply. Entire stretches of roads seem like a meek tributary of the Ganga. And what do Mumbaikars do? They don't sit at home. They don't catch the news and decide to work from home. They actually head out to work. They know there's no way they could get to work in their usual time but they still march on.

And it makes me wonder - is this just the legendary spirit of Mumbai or the crippling obedience of its working class? You see Mumbai is a heartless city. You could make a lot of money here but living here is so expensive that you can't even think of taking it easy. A day off at work means you would be cutting it too close with your budget. A day off means there will be even little to show in your savings or in your kitty. So, people do their best to make it to work. But then you have to wonder, a city that's known for its hustle, a city that's our financial capital - should it be so ruthless?

Why don't employers cut some slack to its employees? Most MNCs don't deduct salaries when such things happen but Mumbai's full of privately owned enterprises whose owners aren't exactly generous. And this ruthlessness is also part of Mumbai's DNA - we have diamond merchants, textile merchants, all sorts of businessmen - all following the credo - work hard, be ruthless and you will make it.

Nothing wrong with it. But is that credo good enough for the 21st century? Look at Bengaluru or Gurgaon. The place where the digital startups - the companies of tomorrow are flourishing. They are more pliable. More for employee satisfaction. They certainly are going to make a lot more money than the traditional enterprises in Mumbai. But Mumbai collectively doesn't take notice. Here, its individuals, will go down the road most taken. Which is work hard, be ruthless, and you will make it. They actually don't see anything wrong with going on an epic watersports adventure just to get to work.

Now if only they would realise that there was another way. That if the rains washed out the perceptive haze which makes them feel that just because Mumbai is our financial capital doesn't mean the city or its people be so heartless. This island city was made on the foundation of ceaseless innovation. Time we saw some more of it.
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