Friday, June 25, 2010

The Father's Son

The arrival of a new political menace on the Mumbai scene is heralded by two events. The first is a show of muscle power on the streets designed to make citizens’ lives maximally difficult or even impossible. The second is the appearance of hoardings congratulating the menace on having added one more year to his life.

This is to announce the arrival of our new political menace—NITESH RANE, son of, (or should I say scion of?) Shri Narayan Rane, erstwhile Shiv Sena man, then rebel Congressman, presently subdued Congressman, but raring to be something more volcanic. Nitesh Rane, besides running petrol pumps, hotels, beer bars and whatever else that has come to him by way of silver spoons in the mouth, has now also gone on to earn his own spurs. We are not privy to the rites of passage that a young tough is put through before he is let out on to the streets of Mumbai; but one surmises that his elders will certify him an honoured member of the tribe now that he has distinguished himself in his first stint at street service.

Nitesh Rane took this test on Tuesday the 22nd of June and came out with flying colours. His three-year-old outfit, Swabhiman, made it to the front pages of every city newspaper for putting such a huge spoke in the rumbling wheels of the city that the city stalled and came to a halt for one whole day. All Nitesh had to do was to say to his men, “Go get them Rufus” or its equivalent in Sindhudurg-Chembur lingo, and off they bounded and smashed up 200 autos and taxis. The remaining one lakh ricks and 55,000 taxis ran off the roads and hid.

The entrenched union leaders whom we have learned to live with, claimed not to have called the strike. “Why would we,” they argued, aggrieved, “when the government had already set the date for talks on the fare hike we were asking for?” So when the strike happened, they were left with their mouths open. The venerable A. L. Quadros had to shut even that when the Shiv Sena’s Mumbai Taxi Chalak Malak Sena asked the gathered media who the hell he was to be asked to speak for taximen? Quadros didn’t even twirl his considerably weighty whiskers in answer to that question. He simply turned tail and walked away.

But it was Nitesh Rane who had won the day. The following day the Press carried his utterly reasonable statement on the previous day’s victory. His aim had never been, he said, to inconvenience the public (had someone been insensitive enough to suspect him of that?) No, No, No. All he had wanted to do was to help the poor rickshawallas whose numbers his union commanded. Since this was said with an admirably straight face and justifiable pride, the Press quoted him without comment. He has thus lived up to the name of his outfit, SWABHIMAN. Pride in self.

As I said earlier, two events mark the rise of a political menace. With not a single taxi or rickshaw on the roads on Tuesday, Nitesh Rane has vaulted clear over the first bar; and the proof of this triumph is in the birthday greetings. They congratulate him, their “dashing, dynamic saheb” (yes, he’s already that! We live in fast moving times) on growing up by one year on June 23. As for us, we must now find a way of living with this added dash and dynamism on our streets!

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