A friend of mine was planning to travel from Chennai to be part of Mumbai Marathon. Another one has a blog, updated daily for the run-up to the Marathon. After the race was over, it was loaded with pictures taken by himself. The whole of media was buzzing with Marathon news. Corporates, from board rooms to canteens were only asking one question - are you running ? And anyone answering "No" was seen with contempt. "You don't seem to care". "I am running for a cause". The entire glitterati was part of the race, so were politicians, corporates, students, housewives, young and old. The whole day looked like a celebration, almost everyone on roads, celebrating the spirit of Mumbai. You feel proud to be part of the city which is so alive, cares for others, celebrates small occasions like a race !
But you get equally frustrated when you hear that Mumbai voted 41% for elections this time. Most of these people who made a Mela out of a race, are missing in action. What happens to their sense of "I care, you don't care", and "I am running for a cause". Blame it on heat, dust or a long weekend. The fact is, people don't seem to care. And these are people who live in high rises. When I went voting this time, I could sense it well that it matters only to those who are not well off. You got to be living in poverty, need to be really hard pressed for a good life. There was still a celebration around, lots of people, booths and tables for helping around, NGOs, political activists, buses and tempos ferrying people, Patriotic songs, Music, posters, rallies and a lot of rhetoric. Only that people are different. The Mela is there, for different set of people. Most are poor. If you are well off, elections do not matter to you - even if third front and left parties form government at center with PM's post getting rotated every 6 months. The reason for regional parties to become so powerful is that only poor and downtrodden vote, because they are happy with promises of free water, free electricity and rice at Rs 2 per kg etc. And the political parties also don't care for the rest, because in any case the rest will not vote. So its clear, opposing a landmark nuclear deal will not cause any harm to the left or the BJP, because the people who vote, care more for local issues and those who debate national priorities, do not vote. Mumbai celebrates every year a marathon, and every few years an election (Marathon seems to be a fixed date but elections are not fixed), but it seems there is a class divide. I have achieved in life, I run in Marathon. I am rich, my sense of responsibility ends with cribbing on politicians and running in the Marathon. After all, I am part of who is who now. There is another class of people who vote, these are still struggling in life. So much for priorities of Mumbaikar.