Bharat Mahan

I thought ‘surging India’ has brought certain change in the confidence level of its politicians too and they have stopped behaving like ‘begging India’ of pre-reform era. But recent utterances of the chief minister of Maharashtra pointing to the President Hu must make all Indian ashamed. It was Man Mohan Singh who gave a slogan to make Mumbai a Shanghai. Congress CM of Maharashtra should ask Man Mohan Singh to help him in making Mumbai Shanghai. Why should he seek the help of Hu to make Mumbai Shanghai?

And many felt bad about the unwanted request or appeal of Deshmukh. One is Shobha De. In her column in Sunday Times of India, she puts her points nicely.

I don’t know what to say about Maharashtra’s CM, Vilasrao Deshmukh’s strange request to the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, to help ”Mumbai become Shanghai.” Had I planned President Hu’s itinerary, I would’ve taken him straight to Ludhiana. Perhaps, after visiting one of India’s most cash-rich cities, Hu might’ve gone back and announced, ”Let’s make Beijing into Ludhiana.” I’m serious. It’s time to reverse the situation. We’ve certainly come a long way from that memorable moment when actor Vinod Khanna assured voters in his constituency that he’d convert Bhatinda into Paris! What? Complete with can-can dancers and the Moulin Rouge, in place of balle-balle and bhangra in the mustard fields of his home state?

I certainly don’t want Mumbai to become Shanghai, but I would welcome any initiative that will make Mumbai, a better Mumbai. Why should we ask for help from China? It makes me jealous when I go to cities up north and check out the quality of life there. Last week, I whizzed through Amritsar and Ludhiana and had the opportunity to speak to locals who boasted about their cities. ”Do you see a single Sikh beggar here?” our host in Amritsar asked as we entered the Golden Temple. It was late evening and devotees were still pouring in through four imposing portals. The complex was spotlessly clean – so clean, in fact, one could virtually eat off the washed marble floors. The sight of the Temple itself was so overwhelming, it took me 10 minutes to pull myself out of a trance-like state and undertake the parikrama.

It was true – there was no beggar in sight. No pesky hawkers and no ‘guides’ offering to show tourists around for a small fee. Soothing kirtans sung in low, mellifluous tones wafted over the water, while free meals were being served in the enormous community kitchen (over 75,000 worshippers eat here daily). The entire complex functions seamlessly, which is a feat, given the numbers. From making and distributing delicious prasad, to ensuring the premises are thoroughly washed, it’s volunteers who perform the seva in a spirit of deep humility. ”Nobody starves in Punjab,” my host reminded me once again, as we left the magnificent complex. I looked back with longing for one last time to catch the shimmering reflection of the Golden Temple in the sacred pool. It is an image I shall always carry with me.

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