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Delhi Vs Mumbai: Who Runs The Country And Who Sets The Discourse?

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In one of his stand-up clips, comedian Kunal Kamra called out Mumbaikars for their arrogance. He went on to say that Mumbaikars (residents of Mumbai, erstwhile Bombay) have nothing to be proud of and should stop making fun of Delhi.

Manu Joseph (former Editor-in-chief of the Open magazine), in his weekly column, wrote, ”Like a rich man’s son, Delhi is a beneficiary of undeserved privileges. That is at the heart of Bombay’s contempt for Delhi.”

The conflict is better described as a physiological state of war between Mumbai and Delhi. Their respective intelligentsias lashing out at each other through their creative spaces is a riveting conversation to look at. And to be a part of.

Delhi, for long, has been taunted and looked down upon for holding the clout in policy formation and taking decisions for the rest of the country. This is very well reflected in the nature and the behaviour of its citizens. It is indeed like the rich man’s son, as rightly pointed out by Joseph. People in Delhi parade a sense of social superiority over the rest of the country. That is because most of its citizens are just two degrees away from the centre of power.

Mumbai, on the other hand, is merciless. Mumbai is more real. Mumbai does not hide behind the larger ideological arguments of the so-called intellectuals in Lodhi Gardens. Mumbai is in the face.

Mumbai is like the tough patriarch who does not give away too easily. Mumbai is like the patriarch who made it through the terrific political and social turbulence and respectfully earns a penny or two and is more than happy and content to merely be able to feed his family. Mumbai is not about the class struggle but about the consciousness of its class. It is conscious of its immense power and accompanying limitations. Simply put, Mumbai is fiercely middle-class.

Delhi is pretentious. Its debates tick all the social parameters which would make the larger liberal democratic class to place it on a social pedestal. However, its actions don’t seem to. Delhi’s intellectual narrative is embedded in hegemony. It is controlled by only a few, considered to influence decision-making much more than any other socially and morally uplifted, educated PHD holding individual in any part of the country. No wonder the anger of a fiercely led movement by a certain Periyar in erstwhile Madras was certainly directed at the Capital or rather the power brokers in that city.

The reality of Delhi, however, reeks of a deep sense of caste discrimination, sexism and a distinctly built class structure. Delhi is like Aziz Ansari or the contemporary desi Jat feminist boy. Come morning, he talks about the emancipation of women and women’s struggle for equality. But at night, he goes back on what he says and does what his community is largely stigmatised and accused of.

Mumbai doesn’t give you space which Delhi does. For an aspiring journalist who is largely looking at spaces that afford one the leisure to spend long periods of time socialising, debating and discussing academic nuances and other pressing issues, Delhi hits the jackpot. The city gives you this option without making you ponder much over your rent, about traversing with thousands of others, crunched on a train bogey. It doesn’t make you think that you probably can’t afford a first class ticket and have to hang on there till you reach home amidst ten other aspiring professionals from different fields, fighting over who is going to answer nature’s call first.

Gossip is an integral part of both the cities’ discourse. Karan Johar and Bollywood. Arun Jaitley and the Delhi Gymkhana. Knowing a big-wig from Bollywood in Mumbai and someone from the executive in Delhi adds a silver lining to your social status. ‘Mera baap kaun hain pata hain?’ and the unwanted display of societal capitalism has different interpretations in either city but is close to both of them.

Intellectuals like that of Joseph in his column, argue for the case of Mumbai and not much for Delhi. In reality, both these great cities are run by families who have, for long been in these businesses. They form the topmost rung in the societal and economic food chain. In Delhi, being the Prime Minister of a country is the job of a single family. In Mumbai, Tiger Shroff becomes the heartthrob of the nation, and a certain Rajkummar Rao is still lingering and trying to find himself a space in the world’s largest film industry, run by the smallest group of people. Hence, the central question remains. If both the cities display a certain similarity of character, then who really runs the country? Who sets the discourse? Modi from Delhi? Or Ambani from Mumbai?

Well, currently it’s Gujarat. Dhokla, without a doubt, is definitely on its way to becoming the country’s favourite food. Gujarat’s ‘khushboo’ is now ‘desh’ ka khushboo.

For years, the significant similarity between the cities has been the contempt its indigenous citizens have towards the system and anyone who is not a real ‘Delhite’ or a ‘Mumbaikar.’ The reality of being one has several parameters, but the most important one is linguistics. ‘Marathi’ will indeed save you from the daily nuisance of haggling with your landlord in Mumbai and the surname of a ‘Pandey,’ ‘Saxena,’ ‘Malhotra’ or one from the upper caste Uttar Pradesh or Haryana region will do the same for you in Delhi.

The indigenous people have underlining anger against the outsiders, leading to cases of racial hatred and anger. The dominance of Shiv Sena and the rise of Arvind Kejriwal justifies this argument. They are the symbols of anger of the indigenous population trying to regain their lost ground and be the dominant voice in the discourse of the cities. Is it then right to address these cities as ‘cosmopolitan?’

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