April was all about Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. We, the people, who had been looking comfortably the other way as corruption gripped our nation, were suddenly aware of the power of unity. There was hope.
However, as much as Mumbai is the city of dreams and hopes, it is also a city that puts you back in touch with reality. The city did that to me as I saw an elderly couple wait patiently for a cab to move to earn a parking spot.
As soon as the cab left, the couple started to move behind, but the gentleman had to slam his brakes hard as a snazzy Skoda swerved, rather rudely, into their spot and the driver — sporting a chakachak uniform—without so much as an apology, made his way into a shop to buy something. He didn’t seem to care that he stole someone’s parking spot or that his awkwardly parked vehicle was also blocking another lane on a busy road. When the lady from the car told him that they had been waiting for ten minutes for the spot, he barked at the lady. “Theek hai na, ruko aur paanch minute!”
My friends were appalled. And as true blue Mumbaikars, we jumped in to help. We demanded that he immediately move his car but all we got from the person was “Don’t do machmach.”
We decided to get a traffic cop to teach this man a lesson for parking in an illegal manner and for his rude, chalta hai attitude. The driver smirked and asked us to get cops before throwing some verbal abuses at us.
“Let the guy go, getting cops won’t help,” a gentleman told us, “His maalik is a powerful guy and he will be let off within minutes.”
“Wahich na, laane do police ko,” the driver told this gentleman with an increased sense of pride.
My heart collapsed like an air-mattress punctured by a pin. In a city where a driver breaks the law with confidence because his owner has the power to manipulate the police, is there even a point of demanding a stringent anti-corruption bill? We need to shun the Tu jaanta nahi main kaun hoon (Don’t you know who I am?) and Saheb chahapanyacha kai te bagha ani jau dya (Sir, take some money and let me go) attitude to manipulate rules and laws to suit our convenience.
On the other hand, if the Jan Lokpal bill gets passed, this attitude might just change. I’ll wait for Mumbai to drop a hint my way. And to hope that this city would acquire a crash course in driving etiquette is too much; the city has already informed me.
As for the elderly couple? Another car moved out down the street and they happily parked their car. And even if they didn’t win the battle, they at least spoke up.
Originally published in DNA