By: Vivek Mohan
I came to Bombay (then!) in 1989 for an ad course and since then have stayed back for a career in filmmaking that has proved rewarding enough with a national award. I found the atmosphere here very open and welcoming to people who toiled. My first lesson in Marathi and later-life jostling during peak hours in Best buses when the master yelled, ‘Pudhe chala…!’ (move forward…) too had no outsider feeling. With Hindi being the national language and English the library language of the world I survived in, learning the local ‘mannerism’ was not an essential exercise for me, but I anyway did it spontaneously (maybe that’s how we Indians define our multi-cultural existence).
There’s no doubt that Mumbai’s success has been a collective effort (including that of the Marathi Manoos), and for a collective benefit (including the Marathi Manoos). I remember an article that appeared long back in the Reader’s Digest saying, “Delhi is too Punjabi, Kolkata Bengali, and Chennai Madrasi but Bombay (then!) is truly a cosmopolitan mega metro.”
Mumbai’s story, in fact, is no different than Bollywood, which evolved as earlier producers were rich Gujarati cotton traders) who respected nothing but talent. Art, craft and cinema, in fact, have hardly had any boundaries ever. Probably that’s why Madhuri Dixit and even the legendary Dada Saheb Phalke have ever had any other identity than being Indians. And that’s why I have never ever felt being a Himachali here, or my neighbor has seen me that way.
I always told myself that if I fail to make it here I’ll go back to Himachal and open a ‘Sharma tea stall’ (the official surname and too many of them). But the city favoured me, as it has been doing for any hardworking Indian, and I flourished, as did the city. I have always told my colleagues here that like ‘-kars’ (Mangeshkar/Tendulkar) in Maharashtra, we’ve ‘-ta’s’ (Preity Zinta whom many thought that she’s a Parsi). But these matter only in a friend circle for a good laugh.
And it’s not that ‘outsiders’ are surviving on Mumbai, rather it is the other way round. The option of ‘Sharma tea stall’ is still open for me, but in the process Mumbai will certainly lose an honest professional, on whom it has flourished for over a century.
It’s corruption of the mind that has divided us into castes, creeds, religions, nationalities and even languages. Knowing or not knowing any language doesn’t make anyone better or worse, but being human or inhuman does make a lot of difference for better or worse.
Let’s learn the language of love once again.
(The writer is a award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker)