I had stopped eating fish in Mumbai because the levels of mercury in fish in Mumbai are 50 times more than permissible levels. I kept on finding this consistently—be it studies on green vegetables or salads that are grown next to railway tracks. Commuting was impossible. I had stopped meeting friends, and vice versa, because it would be impossible to meet, given everyone’s schedules and the time spent on negotiating traffic. I stayed in Andheri West and a friend of mine lived in Andheri East. The east-west commute is so poor that we did not meet for two years despite wanting to. There is a funny tailpiece to this. I had travelled to New York six times, Paris four times, Churchgate once and not even once to Andheri East. We had coined a special term for cancelling get-together plans—ARDY, or aaj rehne de yaar.
I came to the city when it was Bombay; it then became Mumbai. R.R. Patil and Vasant Dhoble further made it unpalatable. It is touted as a global city, but lacks a global ethos. It is supposed to be a melting pot of cultures. It still retains some of those elements but parochial politics has drawn communal lines and people have increasingly been confined to ghettos. The deepening of these faultlines after 1992-93 definitely hastened my departure. The city has become harsher; I find the lack of a sense of community. It makes me wonder if the spirit of Bombay is a myth? It also has commercialised ethos, where money is everything, and the spirit of jugaad reigns supreme.
I thought about moving for several years. Finally, a month after I filmed the aftermath of 26/11, I moved. Now I live on the outskirts of Panjim, with a river view. I still need my bookshops and movies, so I did not opt for a village life. Goa is a true melting pot. So many filmmakers and musicians are around here. Many have second homes. A lot of my friends pass through. I meet my Mumbai friends more in Goa and everyone wants to live the life I live now.
Rakesh Sharma is a documentary filmmaker based in Goa
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Rakesh would be happy to know that just in case he had stayed on he would have been able to meet his Andheri East friend easily with the Seven Bungalows-Ghatkopar Metro being functional now.
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