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March 9th, 2005

Indian Flag, Indian Idol, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Nationalism in One City


Walking around VT station is always a revealing experience. The Indo-Saracenic architectural style gives Bombay one shade of its multi-pli-city character. Surrounding VT railway station are the buildings of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Times of India, Capitol Cinema and old style residential and office buildings. Sooner or later, the area from VT to the High Court, all structures of the British Colonial Rule period, will be encased into a heritage precinct. I have heard that during the British rule, this area was walled off from the natives and was known as the walled city.


Today, as I was walking around the main road of VT, I noticed that visible on the VT Railway Station building was the flying national flag – jhanda ooncha rahe hamara (flying high be our flag). And as I shifted my gaze, I noticed the national flag was flying high on the BMC building as well. I don’t know exactly when this symbol i.e. national flag, come to adorn these buildings. What does the national flag do to these two buildings? Does it change the character of these two institutions/structures? Does it impact the identity of the city? Why does the flag have to be played out at a railway station and at an administrative building in a city? What is heritage? How does it relate to our individual identities?


Indian Idol

Now, Pushpa, our housemaid is one of my sources of understanding the city and its imaginations. She loves to talk. She talks about people in the other houses where she works and their lifestyles. She talks about mobile phones. She talks about slum dwellers. She talks about local trains. And she talks about television programmes. Off late, her daily pratter is about Indian Idol, a Sony Television programme, which has caught up on everybody. I am unaware about this programme except that I have been watching large hoardings at Dadar railway station which urge commuters and citizens to vote for their favourite contestant in the Indian Idol programme.


Before I proceed any further, let me tell you what Indian Idol is all about. Indian Idol is a singing competition programme on Sony Television. Participants are aspiring singers from all parts of the country. Since four months, they have been competing to win the Indian Idol trophy. The winner at the end of the four months of hard work will truly be the Indian Idol – the best singer of the country – a new symbol of national pride. What is unique about the programme is that while there are three judges who judge the technical competence of the participants, viewers are asked to vote for the participant who they think is worthy of becoming their Indian Idol.


Hoardings at Dadar Railway Station show the voting symbol where the black dot is replaced with a sticker of Indian Idol on the index finger. “Before you go shopping, vote for your Indian Idol” or “Before you put on your make-up, vote for your Indian Idol” are what the hoardings have to say.


Today, I entered the BMC building to complete some work. While waiting for the officer, I strolled along the corridor and saw a poster which said (in summary) ‘with your blessings, our son Abhijeet Sawant has entered the finals of Indian Idol. Now you must vote for him and make sure that he wins’. On finding out about this poster, I came to know that the Abhijeet Sawant, one of the two final competitors, is the son of a BMC worker. The BMC workers’ union is praying and voting hard for his victory. The poster was signed by none other than the infamously famous Sharad Rao, union leader of the BMC, who is known to hold the city at ransom through strikes of civic workers. These posters were put up everywhere in the BMC building.


Later, my friend informed me how the Shiv Sena was also campaigning for Abhijeet Sawant in the Western Suburbs with banners everywhere.


Finally, that evening, the finals took place – between Abhijeet Sawant of Mumbai and Amit Sanna of Kolkatta. Pushpa excitedly said that morning to my mother, “If Abhijeet wins, it will a matter of pride because after all, it is a Mumbai boy!” As audiences sat glued to television sets in their home, I was at an STD booth. Suddenly, crackers went up everywhere and there were loud shouts of victory. The STD booth owner asked me curiously, “Is there a cricket match going on?” He was surprised with the crackers and shouts. I said to him, “No, it’s Indian Idol. And I guess the Mumbai boy has won.”


Abhijeet Sawant had won. He is the Indian Idol.


What does media do to the city?



  1. March 9th, 2005 at 01:56 | #1

    Hi, you have put all the stuff in a good way…

    Well, Rahul vaidya ,the favourite of this show, was voted out in the penultimate round…. Mumbai said that they will vote for the mumbai boy…it doesn’t matter that who is more talented……so they have proved it ….you see that….

    i don’t mean that abhijeet is not good…he is good as well, but being a mumbai boy has made an easy win for him….

  2. March 16th, 2005 at 06:48 | #2

    i enjoy your blog tremendously. and i thought amit sana rocked.