Once the shock wore off started another set of headlines. This time they read “Thousands participate in candlelight vigils” and other variants of the same. (Incidentally I mentioned in class that all the candle light vigils seemed to be at the Taj and at the Gateway and none at the CST station. I suggested that participants in these activities seemed to be a very South Mumbai specific crowd that was shocked that their Taj was attacked as opposed to ordinary people who travel by train and BEST buses. Most students, surprisingly, agreed with my thinking.)
Then started the next phase where Facebook groups were started. Campaigns were initiated on how we need a CEO for Mumbai and about how it was high time politicians were held accountable for their actions.
I sat back bemused and wondered through all this if the average middle class/upper middle class Mumbaikar had suddenly become such a politically aware citizen. The other thought that I had was that this was, as usual, a result of a total disconnect between the English language media plus the Blogosphere – the two sources that I get my information from – and the Mumbaikar. My initial reaction was – balls, no middle/upper-middle/rich Mumbaikar can possibly be interested in politics. And that it is all a hype created by the media. I felt that all this would last till maybe December 26th 2008 and no further.
Then came today (yesterday now). The first election post 26/11 and what do I see? A voter turnout of 42% - 45%. Well well well so much for citizen activism. So much for young voters who wanted to change the system. Where were they? Earning a well deserved break because we have 4 holidays in a row? Seriously where the hell is the middle class Mumbaikar? Or has the passage of five months completely driven the issue out of her mind?
For once I am terribly sad that I was right. I was right when I said that the Mumbaikar is not going to care beyond a month or two. I was right when I felt that creating Facebook groups will not translate into active participation in issues concerning the city/state/country. I was also right, unfortunately, that participation in candle light vigils will not translate into people walking out of their houses on a “holiday” and voting.
Damn when will the middle class Mumbaikar prove me wrong?
Ps: The Facebook group “In Remembrance of the 11/26 Mumbai Bombings & All Those Affected Discussions” has 9057 members and 13 discussion topics. The last Discussion Topic on 26/11 was on December 7th 2008. The latest one is on Greenpeace (April 28th 2009). So much for political and social activism.