A series of unfortunate incidents: The malis of Mumbaipur

How green was my valley? Well, it’s getting a lot greener. All those activists worried about Mumbai losing its green cover, with the forest land being diverted for various other ‘developmental’ activities, need to relax. There are a few crusaders whose tireless efforts to grow new patches of forestland in Mumbaipur will soon pay dividends.

There are numerous crusaders across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), and it won’t be possible for me to enumerate or discuss all of these ‘heroes’. I will share with you my experiences with two heroes who don’t wish to be named (see how selfless they are).

A restaurant in New Mumbaipur was the stage for the first hero —the manager of the eatery, which is quite close to the bus depot. Having alighted from a bus after a lengthy travel (which had given me enough time to empty my water bottle), I was quite keen to find a place to relieve myself. I approached the joint with desperation in my eyes and hope in my throat. The hero (a slightly portlier, balder and older version of your favourite film star) was sitting majestically on his seat supervising everything.

When I asked him to direct me to the loo in his establishment, he let off a limp guffaw and snidely told me to water the bushes outside. On my insistence that I wouldn’t do my business anywhere but in a cubicle, he explained that the restroom was only for the staff and, in an emergency, paying customers. He tried to persuade me not to use it with the warning that it wasn’t clean enough.

I felt faint when he started to talk about how the authorities weren’t paying attention to the plants in the area and it was important for citizens to do their bit for the environment. I steadied myself though and explained to him that being a shy boy I couldn’t do it in public and needed a private designated space for the act. Sadly for the plants, he wilted and agreed to let me use the dirty loo. But I am sure that though he lost the battle with me, he would have convinced many others to water the plants and thereby won the war.

Now, the New Mumbaipur experience was a little while back and while I did encounter side heroes from time to time, who would be striving to bravely go where many men had gone before and single-handedly water the entire forestland, I was getting disheartened that there weren’t enough heroes and crusaders out there bringing the community into play. But just when I was at my lowest, a chance encounter restored my wavering faith.

It so happened that I had gone to buy some medicines. With the Sun God smiling extra benevolently upon Mumbaipurwallahs, I have developed a drinking problem. Instead of my usual 2-3 litres a day, my parched throat is gulping down 7-8 litres on a daily basis. With the added input, output too has increased. And so it was that immediately after putting the medicines in my bag, I got an urgent call from my bladder. Being good friends, I wanted to rush to his rescue and make my bladder gladder. Upon inquiry it was revealed that there was a toilet in the same building. I rushed to the joint, but the security guard blocked my way.

Now, the guard was fully aware that I was committing a crime by using a loo when the entire wide expanse around him was available to me. He just prevented me from becoming a criminal. Tired of having to explain that same thing to many others, he gruffly told me that the loo was only for people who worked in the building.

Remember, I am a shy guy, so I insisted on using it still. I added the disclaimer that I had bought medicines and so was eligible to use the ‘royal’ loo. But he called me out as a liar and said that everybody (that is people like courier boys and maid servants) who visited big societies and posh towers weren’t allowed to use their loos, so why should I be given the benefit of using this one. But I wasn’t in any state to listen to logic and, having created a scene by raising my voice, managed to convince this poor soul to also let me use the facilities.

We expect citizens of this city to not let our pets dirty the city and carry doggie bags to pick up after they have done their deed (that is a good thing!), but what about all the humans who are constantly fertilising the soil all around us to ensure that if not trees at least bushes grow in those areas, and leaving behind such fragrant smells that it feels like we are living in ‘Garden of heathen’… Oops sorry, I meant ‘Eden’.

These travelling crusaders are teaching us that there is dignity in whipping ‘it’ out in public and womenfolk should not be offended, disturbed or revolted since they are doing it for a noble cause. I realise that my victories may be wins for the ‘Clean India campaign’, but they are defeats for these brave crusaders for a greener Mumbaipur. Don’t let these bravehearts be defeated.

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