According to official statistics, the informal economy in India makes up 90% of the whole. If you have ever been to India, you know what we are talking about. And if you were lucky enough to be at Juhu beach in Mumbai when the cargo ship Wisdom was stranded there, you have witnessed a great example of the idiosyncrasy and adaptability of the local Indian economy.
During those days, Juhu beach was transformed around the site of the ship, and visitors and in particular street vendors poured in from every corner of the city to satisfy the demand of the increasing public. All sorts of amenities were provided, from food and fake tatoos to a full fairground to satisfy the kids. A couple more weeks and miniature Wisdom toys would surely be found. But in a city which lacks public leisure, where parks are next to none and ‘outdoor’ entertainment is found primarily at cinema screens, the arrival of Wisdom was received for Mumbaikars as a chance to experience a new sight of the urban landscape, a relief from the concrete monotony that had to be seen, and enjoyed.
Also, the attempts to pull the ship away were fully covered by the local press, increasing its popularity. One attempt had to be posponed due the amount of people who congregated around the big vessel. The excitement was such, that few people had to be rescued from drowning when attempting to reach the ship. So police rope had to be arranged around the ship and security hired, who spent their time blowing the whistle to keep people away, whereas police agents remained lazily sitting in front of the iron animal, as if they were preventing someone from stealing it.
But surprisingly for us, when one day the tide was exceptionally high, the ship was tied and pulled back from the sands of Juhu beach, and then dragged until the original destination: the state of Gujarat, where had to be pulled apart. We suppose the state of the roads and buildings made us suspicious of the authorities’ ability to ‘do the job’ and get the ship out of the beach anytime soon.
Sure the vendors were also surprised and deceived. After a week of the sad goodbye, only the garbage remaining on the sand was proof of the previous days. Otherwise the wealthy neighbors of Juhu, who could, after all, rest in peace, and were surely very happy when the ship was finally gone. But one thing can never please all, and we know that these Mumbai vendors will find their Wisdom in another place soon, no doubt.