A conversation on urban politics with an ‘Autowalla’

Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures and i happen to meet a great diversity of folks every single day among the invisible spine of the transportation network of this megapolis; the three tire Autorickshaw driver and of course cabbies. I have written a couple of posts on my interesting conversations with cabbies earlier; one with a UP migrant and another Son of the Soil individual with differing takes on Maharashtra and UP Politics . They are more the eyes of the city and they keep a pulse of the developments on the ground. More real time than Mumbai Mirror anyday. I would suggest any urban transportation planner to speak to this real community of practitioners rather than exclusively refer to planning formulae that fail to be real more often than not. Cabbies and Autowallas are quite a cool repository of oral social history of a city and they give you a sense of where the wheels of a society’s wagon are heading towards.

I took an auto ride from Saki Naka Junction, which is of the busiest intersections of the city to Powai recently and the auto was driven by a gentleman called as Mr. ‘Bappa’ . He is a former Shiv Sena Political Activist from rural Pune area who started the conversation with a mouthful of colorful expletives regarding migrants due to whom congestion in the City is increasing. Our short 30 minute conversation cum ride was sprinkled with the genesis of the anti congress movement in Mumbai in the late 1970’s with the Janata Party to its transition with a saffron color with the Sena. The thing which really caught my attention was his zest for development and good governance. ‘Bappa’ Saheb spoke with the fire of an evangelist about the need for a new leader to lead the opposition in the State. His Faith in Raj Saheb was unshakable and spoke like a true Sena Man when he wanted to know about my origins. He also dissected the irrigation scam by understanding of masonry and poor construction of dams and how much money is siphoned off infrastructure projects which are meant for the poor. He said ” In Maharashtra, development takes place with a price and that price is the corruption, and that development often occurs with the relevance of the project long gone”.

This is surely a man who understands developmental politics better than many an academic.

His experience with Anna Hazare’s model village concept was interesting to hear as well. His nationalistic sentiment was palpable in every statement he uttered while navigating the  chaotic traffic. We need more folks like him who think about functioning of the City and the Nation.

The conversation was abruptly cut short while I arrived at my destination at Powai to have a drink to celebrate V Day eve with my loneliness. I handed over the fare to him with a ‘Jai Maharashtra’ Bhau (Brother), i took leave.

Mumbai certainly has many untold stories to unravel.

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