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This is What a Bundh Looks Like

June 12, 2012

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I’ve wondered before what the streets of Mumbai would look like with no cars, and no people.

I always thought this was impossible, something we’d have to computer-generate.

Turns out that all it takes is a nation-wide strike.

It’s easy really. Get three political parties to throw a fit over the government mandated rise in petrol prices, and have them declare a national strike to protest the price change.

One of their key arguments, by the way, was the rise in prices of petrol would add to inflation and make domestic items more expensive. With a (further) weakened  Rupee,  India may become less competitive. The answer to this is clearly….stop working for an entire day at an estimated societal cost of INR 500 Crore (USD $90 mn).

 

But what happens to your average office goer when the entire country goes on strike?

pre-1) I obsessively check the news and twitter the night before to see if there even will be a bundh. I want a day off badly, yaar! Bharat Bundh means everyone? Everyone in India? If I don’t care either way about the cause, then I just get the day off, right?

1) Day of Bundh: Office are closed, but not my office. I call my manager and ask if I should come to work. He recommends that I “try” to get a cab, otherwise work from home.

2) 20 minutes later I’m still in bed, and my manager calls to admit he’s seen no cabs on the road and I probably wont find one. Trains are not running, but buses are under a separate authority and are running. I opt not to even try to figure out the bus. Good thing, too.

3) I inform my manager in Dubai of the Bundh. He’s heard about it already, and after six years outside Bombay is pretty sure this means RIOTS IN THE STREETS. I am advised by him it is unsafe to go out at all (so stay home and work damnit!)

4)  I get my work assignment for the day and figure out that I need extensive use of the internet and as usual, my home internet is not working. I know if I call my boss and tell him this, he might drive to Bandra himself to bring me to work. And I would prefer to work in my pajamas. So I head to a friend’s house to steal her net connection for the day. Despite the warnings from the Dubai managers about how a Bundh definitely means I’m going to die.

5) Step out of my door and realize BAM, I still live on a street with a Shiv Sena headquarter office. Shiv Sena is one of the political parties that has instigated the Bundh. Multiple police cars are parked in front of their headquarters (which, by the way, is just an open garage with a television and an effigy of their leader). Oops… I should have stayed inside but now I’m committed. Also I’m hungry and hoping there is some food shop open along the way.

6) Obviously nothing is open. Even the Pan-Wallahs are  on Bundh. The lone rickshaw or two goes by, probably charging 100 rs per kilometer.

The streets, being empty for a change, are mostly deserted except for the Catholic community of Chapel Road which has taken this opportunity to built an altar in the street and have a massive hymn session. I’m confused, mostly because cars can still use the roads, there just aren’t any cabs out. The below picture is on a pretty narrow, and important, street. 

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But it’s OK, I think Shiv Sena won’t mind. After all, these are the guys who built a giant clap-board castle on my road once and people lined up for hours to receive a blessing from a mechanized mannequin (as in the mannequin figure of their leader had a motor in it so it could wave its arms and give blessings. It was wild.)

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And by 5 pm when I finished my work and left my friend’s house, the Bundh was mostly over. The middle class was complaining about the lack of rickshaws and cabs (they ended the Bundh selectively and were only full back on duty when the late shift began). The trains were running again and once again packed with office goers, maids, hijaras and day-laborers.  Shops were selectively open, and by 8 pm even liquor stores were open (hurrah!). Somehow, having an unproductive Thursday made it feel like a weekend day, and the usual Thursday night parties raged on harder than usual.

 

But realistically, the Bundh meant almost nothing to me.  Strikes happen often enough in Mumbai that while they are annoying, people can mostly work around them. Taking the day off work or working from home was no surprise to the middle class Mumbaiker.  Who was really hurt by the Bundh? The lower class. Day laborers couldn’t get to their job sites and lost a day’s pay, or worse, may have been replaced. Maids who travel from Borivali to Churchgate missed a day of work, and may or may not have been forgiven by their Ma’am. Even beggars who work the train cars must have had a rough Bundh with no one on the streets, they surely made no money.

 

The very people the Bundh was supposed to speak for- the poorest and most vulnerable who would be the most effected by inflation of any sort- suffered the most from the misguided Bundh while the rest of us enjoyed a day off and dodged work calls.

 

India’s misguided politics strikes again. Great job Shiv Sena (oh, and NDA and BJP).  But Shiv Sena is right outside my door, so easiest to blame them Winking smile

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2012 9:12 am

    lol dude. we have witnessed this thing, as their were no taxi on mumbai central when we arrived to mumbai central railway station. good work shivsena.

  2. ashleypatterson21 permalink
    June 14, 2012 12:17 pm

    Dislike shiv shena 😐

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