My parents arrived in Mumbai a week ago.  Its been almost 18 months since we have been together, and so they are having an extended visit for a few months with me.  Its been really lovely having them around, I come home to home-cooked food, and its nice to show them my Mumbai.

They arrived on Friday evening, and I went to the airport in an auto-rickshaw to pick them up.  Coming back we just hired a pre-paid taxi, and within an hour were comfortably home.

The next afternoon, Bal Thackeray passed away. Bal Thackeray was 86 years old and died of natural causes. There was no controversy over how or when he died, it was just nature taking its course.

He was a politician who founded the Shiv Sena political party here in Maharashtra.  According to Wikipedia, the party  advocated strongly for the place of Maharashtrians in Mumbai.  Others I have spoken to simply say “he ran the city”.

Some criticise him like here, others praise him. I don’t know enough or have enough history here to feel I could say what my thoughts are either way. Regardless, in my opinion, the death of any person is a sad occasion.

Within two hours of his passing, Mumbai was Bandh, or in English “closed”.  Bandh’s occur here every now again, like when Autorickshaws are seeking a rate increase, but this one was by far the most extreme I have seen in my 6 months in Mumbai.

If my parents flight had arrived 24 hours later, I would not have been able to get to the airport to collect them as all autos and taxis were off the road. When they got out of customs, they would not have been able to get a cab to my place as the pre-paid taxi counter at the international airport in Mumbai was closed. No taxis or hire cars were operating at all.

They could have walked to one of the nearby International Hotels that surround the airport, but they would not have been able to eat anything (other then the mini-bar) as all the restaurants were closed, even in 5 star hotels.

They could have walked out on the street to find sustenance, but would have had no luck, as all street vendors, shops etc were also closed.

They could have at least entertained themselves with television, but would have been restricted to watching the news as all other cable channels had been suspended in Mumbai. The news was 24/7 coverage about Bal Thackeray’s passing and then his cremation on Sunday. Bear in mind, this was also the same day that Israel was firing bombs into Gaza.

This went on for over 24 hours.

It is not clear to me if everything shut down out of respect or fear, I suspect it was a mix of the two.  For a country that is a democracy, I struggle to understand the logic behind a Bandh. Particularly given that many people live hand-to-mouth here, losing a day’s wage because they can’t open and sell their wares is a huge financial burden for many people.

Regardless, I am just grateful that I had my parents safe and sound in my home, rather than stranded at Mumbai’s International Airport. Their introduction into my new home was certainly different than I had anticipated.  In some ways, it was actually quite pleasant.  Under a cloud of jet-lag, they got to walk the streets of  Bandra with no cars, autos or honking.  In the middle of Pali Naka in Bandra, usually a street that takes some skill to cross without being run over, some kids were enjoying a friendly game of cricket.

Pali Naka, Bandra, Mumbai: 17th November, 2012

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7 thoughts on “Bandh (Closed): Incredible India Indeed

  • November 27, 2012 at 7:12 am
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    We encountered a similar situation in Santiago, Chile a couple of years ago. We arrived the day before the Presidential election and next day – no shops or food outlets open, no public transport or taxis, all public toilets locked!! Lots of very annoyed tourists who couldn’t even get a drink in their hotel bar. The taxi driver who took us to the airport the next morning told us that this shutdown also occurs on saints’ days of which there are many.
    Leonie G

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  • November 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm
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    What you decribe were exactly the concerns my fiancée had. Having lived through the week-or-so long bandth when Bal Thackeray´s wife died some years ago he wondered what would happen to all the stranded tourists who reached Mumbai during the bandth via the airport.

    However, the bandth is still on for governmental agencies. We just found out that Shiv Sena ordered the governmental officials to stay home until this Thursday. Waiting for our Wedding Documents since ages now this is just another delay – an annoying and pretty senseless one nevertheless!

    Not wanting to go too much into politics, but thinking that Sanyasi on ´Chapati Mistery´ is right on. Thanks for the link!

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    • November 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm
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      I had no idea that government agencies were closed. I hope you get your wedding documents soon.

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      • November 27, 2012 at 2:45 am
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        We just found out today. After 8 month (?) wait one or two weeks more are acceptable:)

        Wish you and your parents a great time together.

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  • November 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm
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    Once of the facets of India. Bandh for 24 hours is still better than violence in the city. Anyway neither of the things are necessary is a different topic altogether.

    Good to hear your parents didn’t have to bear the brunt of the Bandh.

    Reply
  • November 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm
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    /me was hoping to see all comments on this post are Bandh ;). Nice post nevertheless.

    Reply

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