How 76 cars & 1 Restaurant Turned Kolkata From The City of Joy to the City of Bhoy for us, the ‘Urban Helpless’

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The Urban Helpless – You, and me. The ones with swanky jobs, living life one weekend at a time. Creating memories, one ‘facebook check-in’ at a time. Measuring milestones one ‘expensive purchase’ at a time.

You and me who are outraged at a Facebook post mentioning a grievous experience. You and me, who believe we are the masters of our lives and the best that there can be. From Facebook popularity to the coolest of social circles, we are the Urban Helpless. We live behind the windows of our air-conditioned UBERs and in the safety of our pseudo social acceptance.

So here, let me compare two recent events in our City of Joy in light of recent events.

The incident: So, a restaurant you and I love check-ins at, refuses to let a person in and we go bonkers about it over the ‘social injustice’. We break the ‘share’ button and mindlessly spread hate about it.

The war: Armoured by our glamorous command over the English language (mostly by binge watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S), we devour anything and everything that pops up related to the restaurant in the comment box. We make sarcastic memes, we come up with the most hilarious of comparisons and the meanest of responses to anyone begging to differ.

The war of one particular individual becomes our own. We don’t care who that person was. We maybe wouldn’t even pay her a second glance on the street but ‘There has been a social injustice. We MUST rush to the rescue through social media’.

We furiously ‘tag’ our friends to form a gang. We don’t bother to cross-check sources. We are an unstoppable hound of angered mercenaries out on a mission to destroy any form of social injustice.

  1. First the smaller weapons: We write elaborate posts about ‘How could they do this?’
  2. Then the mid-size weapons: We form online groups to confirm the common hate
  3. Then come the click hungry media: ‘This woman was denied entry to a posh restaurant with her driver. What she did next will blow your mind’
  4. Then the atom bomb: The ultimate weapon. We give the restaurant poor ratings on Zomato.

Then, we are reminded of the presentation that is due in office as the weekend comes to an end and the war is over.

Early on Sunday morning an incident of ‘Social injustice’ occurred too. But this time with Urban Helpless category 2.

Urban Helpless category 2 are the ones who often drive our UBERS. The ones who deliver our Swiggy food orders or the ones we generalize in the category of ‘dada’/ ‘bhaiya’.

The incident: A speeding Mercedes hits a scooter with three young guys riding on it. One dies. The drivers of the car are escorted away minutes later, leaving behind the car at the spot.

The war: A few hours later, on Sunday morning a mob storms a nearby housing estate and goes on a rampage, damaging the cars parked inside the ‘posh’ housing.

Informed based on a roumour and armoured by sticks, stones and bricks, the mob ensured they damaged every vehicle that came in their way as they went to seek ‘social justice’ inside the parking lot of Fort Oasis.

Remember?

We furiously ‘tag’ our friends to form a gang. We don’t bother to cross-check sources. We are an unstoppable hound of angered mercenaries out on a mission to destroy any form of social injustice.

In words of the renowned consultant psychiatrist JAI RANJAN RAM “Vigilante justice always occurs when citizens have no faith in the governance and often no respect for or fear of the law enforcers, in this case, the police”

Be it a mob breaking down cars mindlessly or a social media group defaming a particular place without any thought, Vigilante justice comes in all shapes and sizes for us the ‘Urban helpless’.

The bigger question here though is. Do we really care for social justice? Or do we take out other worldly stress in the name of it?

Be it a slum-dweller angry at the system for not being able to afford a BMW or you and I, the urban poor and urban helpless, frustrated at the peer pressure of maintaining a difficultly budgeted socially cool lifestyle taking a dig at a troubled expensive brand, vigilante justice does come in all shapes and sizes.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely ridiculous comparison. I appreciate your effort, but there has been no comment from Mocambo claiming the whole story was a lie. We as Calcuttans are actually doing a bit more than waging an online war, most people I know have started boycotting Mocambo, and it is actually justified. Also, the hate is directed only towards Mocambo, not at the expensive properties of 70-odd households. Further, three people on a bike is illegal. That they were not wearing helmets is illegal. Venting your anger by destroying cars is definitely illegal. Posting reviews and not going to a restaurant is not.

    These incidents are actually examples of the class divide that is breaking up the city. Mocambo was an act from the bourgeosie. The car damaging was an act from the working class. Both completely mindless, but please stop billing them as comparable.

    • One can argue that according to Zomato policy or the policy of any food ratings/aggregator site, the viewers are supposed to ideally rate restaurants based on their experiences. Half of the trash reviews i read about Mocambo came from people who had never even stepped foot in the establishment. They saw something online, formed an opinion and trashed a restaurant ratings based on what they heard. Mob mentality.

      One can also argue that the Mocambo incident had in fact nothing to do Bourgeoisie as per say, but more to do with the postcolonial classist mindset of the management. Also the same people who would trash mocambo online, would however have no issues celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries at say, Peter Cat or any other Park Street establishment. Now I’ve been to Park Street eateries, I’m yet to see a driver or a plumber chilling at Peter Cat, or some guy hanging out with his electrician in Someplace Else. The fact remains that pretty much all the establishments in Park Street have a Rights of Admission reserved policy, and its a colonial leftover, and we were completely ok with it till now, no questions asked. Then an incident goes viral and people trash a restaurant. They don’t discuss the reasons behind the social injustice and the colonial past which created this situation and the need to internally liberalize and de-stratify Bengali society in general through dialogue. They would trash a restaurant ratings on Zomato. Mob Mentality.

      I don’t think the author is wrong at all in comparing a physical violent mob mentality and social vigilantism with its online equivalent.

  2. One can argue that according to Zomato policy or the policy of any food ratings/aggregator site, the viewers are supposed to ideally rate restaurants based on their experiences. Half of the trash reviews i read about Mocambo came from people who had never even stepped foot in the establishment. They saw something online, formed an opinion and trashed a restaurant ratings based on what they heard. Mob mentality.

    One can also argue that the Mocambo incident had in fact nothing to do Bourgeoisie as per say, but more to do with the postcolonial classist mindset of the management. Also the same people who would trash mocambo online, would however have no issues celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries at say, Peter Cat or any other Park Street establishment. Now I’ve been to Park Street eateries, I’m yet to see a driver or a plumber chilling at Peter Cat, or some guy hanging out with his electrician in Someplace Else. The fact remains that pretty much all the establishments in Park Street have a Rights of Admission reserved policy, and its a colonial leftover, and we were completely ok with it till now, no questions asked. Then an incident goes viral and people trash a restaurant. They don’t discuss the reasons behind the social injustice and the colonial past which created this situation and the need to internally liberalize and de-stratify Bengali society in general through dialogue. They would trash a restaurant ratings on Zomato. Mob Mentality.

    I don’t think the author is wrong at all in comparing a physical violent mob mentality and social vigilantism with its online equivalent.

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