Ahmedabad has almost always behaved like a metro in one aspect – that of ignorant self obsession. Kids living in tony areas of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc have always believed that the world revolves around their cities. And quite like the revolution of moon around earth, they need not worry about the ‘peripherals’. Funny as it may sound, it is true for almost the whole of USA! For the Americans, and primarily for their President, the world is divided into two parts – USA and the non-USA. (Refer column ‘whatever’ on page 34 for more on that)
We, in Ahmedabad, too suffer from such hallucinations occasionally. We believe that we are a first world city with fly-overs, malls, multiplexes and all things good in life; and that the world is dying to have a bit of us. While we do have all of the aforementioned, and a bit more of other things, it would be quite hilarious to think that we are the leaders in ANY of that. Malls by the likes of DLF in Gurgaon, double-digit-screen-multiplexes in Delhi by PVR and fly-overs in Delhi and Mumbai would tell us why.
What the world outside Ahmedabad makes of our city is largely decided by what it gathers through information mediums like TV news channels and newspapers. And the last two big features by the two mediums on the city, gravely enough, have been on the ‘arbitrary and self-defeating self-ban’ of Parzania by theater owners of Ahmedabad and the recent prime-time hogging and parliament-stalling issue of the ‘encounter’ of Sohrabuddin. Prior to the two mis-adventures was of course the ‘unofficial’ banning of Fanaa, starring the astute Aamir Khan.
So there. Ahmedabad is a lawless, intolerant city where no one has the freedom to go against a particular ideology – opinion formed and dusted by the rest of India. We all know how naive and inaccurate the above understanding is. But as they say, knowledge is nothing till it is used. Our gloating about our city does no good to the prospects of our city outside the city limits.
Incidentally, today, more than ever before in the history of human civilization, the need of the hour for every city is to continously evolve – not necessarily in numbers, but definitely in terms of the basic fabric of the society. And one of the primary methods of making that happen is a continous exchange of people, materials and ideas between all the various societies of world. Something which generally happens only between societies who consider the other one equal enough to be made a partner of a symbiotic growth.
Unfortunately, publicity in the form of news about violent ‘moral policing’ and politically suspicious police actions put a spanner in the blades. Such publicity discourages talent, business (local employment and outside money) and ideas (outside expertise) from joining hands with the city.
But is it fair to equate a vibrant city of 55 Lakhs with odd blots? Of course not. And which Indian city can claim to have a spotless shirt? Don’t Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad (the cities bigger than us) have their own plentiful share of poisenous alleys? Is their police any different? Are their politicians from outer space? Are their ‘moral brigadiers’ any more principled? Of course not. And that’s what the point is. Those cities manage to overcome and push behind the nasty bits by their good work. While we don’t.
Where are our filmmakers; why can’t they make an Ahmedabad or Ahmedabad Blues or Ahmedabad Heights? Where are our supremely talented musicians; why can’t make an Ahmedabad anthem and give it to MTV, Radio Mirchi or any of the net broadcasters for free, in order to have it played round the clock? Where are our teenage whiz kids; why can’t they win national level quiz and cultural competions?
All of them are quite capable of doing all that, and much more. But like all people with adequate self esteem, they need to be provided a proper podium to exhibit their skills. They require ample respect and love for their skills. And they require all of us to put our hands together.
Of course, a film here and a city anthem there are not going to change an outsider’s perception about our city overnight. It would eventually happen because of tangible work – infrastructure, career & education options, lifestyle & recreation avenues etc – on ground. But underestimating the might of sustained good publicity would be an even greater mistake than overestimating it. Hollywood is USA’s greatest export. And it’s biggest magnet. So is the Hindi film industry that of Mumbai. The power of culture is undisputable. Use it as your publicity manager, Ahmedabad. Now.