Sunday, a woman riding pillion on a two-wheeler lost her hold on a shoulder when the motorbike went wheel-first into a pothole. She pitched sideways into the rainwater and was thrown under a bus. It was ‘dead on the spot’, her blood mixing effortlessly with the fast-flowing rainwater, going places where she never must have. It was death caught on CCTV!

Killer potholes are part and parcel of Mumbai from long before the city was called Bombay, from long before Dawood Ibrahim became ‘Don’ and Vikram Chandra wrote ‘Sacred Games’, the 900-page crime novel now turned into a Netflix flick with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan playing parallel leads. To the majority of reviewers, Nawazuddin is ‘superb’; to this writer Saif is at his sublime best.

Branded ‘low performer’ in the movie by his crooked and mean IPS boss, Kareena Kapoor’s husband is the understated ‘high-performer’ in Sacred Games, Season-1. In the online streaming film, both Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan are on a “mission to save the city they both love” and luckily, because it’s fiction, the city does get saved. But to save Mumbai from the vagaries of Monsoon and the slow death of neglect is a real-life conundrum not a reel-life conclusion.

Left to the avarice and misrule of politicians and bureaucrats – over-ground sewer rats – Mumbai or Bombay, pick your choose, will never rise over Nala Sopara. Both ‘Island City’ as well as Borivili, Goregaon, Bandra, Khar, Wadala, all the places where Bombay locals go, will always remain “inundated” come the Monsoon. So outdated is the Island City’s drainage system, home to the highest number of sewer-rats on the planet, only a Noah’s Ark will save Bombay-kind!

Mumbai is where the Maharashtra Government’s seat is; where the Shiv Sena rules; where Raj Thackeray intimidates; where Bollywood tests the box-office; where cricket is played at all places and where roads are not like Hema Malini’s cheeks. Mumbai is also where annual Monsoon-invasions leave it crippled, drowning in filthy water, year after year.

For how long will Mumbaikars live on Dawood’s exploits told in different versions? From ‘Company’ to now ‘Sacred Games’. Ganesh Gaitonde’s nemesis, the Muslim don, escapes to Dubai. Doesn’t that ring a bell? And Nawazuddin’s ‘Ganesh Gaitonde’, the mixed-up Hindu don, who equates himself to Shiva, who does he have traces of? The Chhota Don incarcerated in Tihar and recently convicted in the killing of a Mumbai crime reporter.

The problem with Mumbai is everybody in the city – who arrives in the city – is chasing a dream and Mumbai reacts often in devilish ways. The city, which lives its Dawood days with a ‘Dawood Movie’ every couple of years, cannot get over its “shared psychosis” for the fugitive ‘most wanted’. Condemned to crap with elbows cramped in tiny toilets, the Mumbaikar is left with no room but to see the same old crap year after year.

Jio will conquer from Antilia but the view from the top for Mukesh Ambani won’t be much different from what Pandu Pigela gets to set eyes on from Khar, Dongri or Nala Sopara – roads waterlogged, potholes exposed, houses collapsed; buses stranded, cars sunk in mud! People knee-deep in rainwater hoping, praying, not to disappear feet first in open manholes while municipal babus sit in rooms drafting reports on how to tackle rains come next Monsoon.

So, next time Saif Ali Khan slaps and punches someone in real-life, do mention that he’s so very different from Inspector Sartaz Singh, the man he plays in reel-life. That will be redemption for Mumbai. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays don in nearly much the same manner in movie after movie, like the Monsoon, repetitive.

The day Mumbai gets rid of its obsessive compulsive disorder for Dawood Ibrahim will be the day Mumbaikars will get over their fears and not forgive corrupt municipal officers for the pothole deaths and the waterlogging. It’s a toss between Hema Malini’s smooth cheeks and Dawood’s murderous cheek! (IPA Service)