Mahadevan's Monologues

If we had the vision and feeling of ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. – George Eliot

Monday, September 10, 2007


According to a report in Times of India, the migration of South Indians to Mumbai City, during the past one decade, has come down. This report also attributes the dwindling migration level to the availability of Software and BPO jobs in the entire south and also the automobile hub in Chennai.

A close observation of life around South Indian populated areas like Matunga, bears testimony to the Times of India analysis. A few decades back, young men ( not much of women) fresh from Universities, armed with degrees in Economics or Commerce, and familiarity with typewriting and shorthand would descend in Mumbai for jobs. Pharmaceuticals like Glaxo, Sandoz and Pfizer, engineering giants L & T, Siemens and ABB, MNC Banks Grindlays and Chartered Bank, SBI and RBI in the government Banking sector proved haven for the immigrants. As a large number of them would land without their family, ‘bachelor accommodation’ in one room apartments, was the boon and buildings like Shantinath Bhavan, Mohan Niwas and Paanch buildings at Matunga had always been wearing a ‘come hither’ inviting look for the youngsters. Three or four would share a room and toilet. Sleeping on the floor was certainly not a taboo.

Between 8 to 9.30 a.m. one could see an army of youngsters in their twenties and early thirties, wearing Tinopal starched white pants and shirts, with shining black shoes and matching black belts ( brown was looked down upon as oddity) and Brassoed buckles, in platform no.4 of Matunga Station, anxiously looking for the trains and the girls in their mind. At 6 p.m., descending from the train at Matunga, scores would cross the road to have hot filter coffee with a small bite at Sharada Bhavan, opposite Matunga Station.

Two meals per day were available at Concerns and Society with concessions. If the Tamil Nadu boys were Concerns loyalists, Palakkadians would not stir out of society. Lesser mortals would drift to the nearby Trichur Mess or Rao Mess. Trichur Mess could also command the loyalty of young Keralites, who were yet to dream about their days in the Gulf.

If a bow before Bhajan Samaj or an eye shut in front of Asthik Samaj, proclaimed the prospects of a prophet, attendance in monthly musical concert at Shanmukhananda or the annual drama series of an R.S.Manoharor and Cho would under-line their fetish for fine art. Tamil movies in Aurora and Rivoli Theatres relieved them of their tedium during week ends.

Dabbling in politics was certainly not discouraged. M.Madhavan, who ascended the hierarchy and became Mumbai’s mayor, when asked about his political leanings, would say without batting an eye-lid that he was neither a leftist, nor a rightist, but a typist. A Kamala Raman could become a Congress MLA and a Dr.Subramanyam graduated from being a bureaucrat to a Minister in the state cabinet.

Today, even in the dense Matunga, platform No.4 looks deserted. No fast trains would stop as white pants and white shirts with black shoes would not be visible at the station. Mamas and mamis, who would lend their tiny rooms even for truant boys, have disappeared in the distant suburbs, surrendering their Matunga mansions to monied marwaris. Blooming BPOs back at home, in distant south, regional aspirations energized by political clamour, liberalization and the linked VRS schemes with resultant reduction in public and private sector jobs have dissuaded the potential migrants. Udipi restaurants have usurped the place and Concerns and Society, struggle to survive. Sharada Bhavan is an apology for the older version. Though Aurora recently boasted of screening ''Shivaji", even the remnants of Rivoli do not remain now. In politics, dynasties have started asserting themselves and plebeians have no place. Pharmaceuticals have yielded place to Malls, Multiplexes and multi-storied residences. Only the highly skillful can find entrty in L & T, and a mere graduate has to contend himself with a call centre or a BPO. A few middled aged lakhs have lost their jobs and also in their place few thousands younger generation found fresh employment.

Perhaps, old timers may lament ‘ Bombay has been Bangaloored now’.