16-Jun-2010

Rethinking Mumbai

Of late, I have been travelling abroad a lot. And with every return to Mumbai, my heart grows heavier with a question I am too scared to answer.

Is this really the city I am going to spend the rest of my working life in?

Having linked my life to the financial sector, I have long accepted that Mumbai will be karmabhoomi. Yet it has not been a painful or forced decision, considering I succumbed to Mumbai’s charms the day I went out alone in the night at one a.m. without a concern about my safety. I have been loyal to the city.

Recently though, a couple of things have triggered off this morose thought. One has been the rapid descent into domesticity. Like our parents before, we have also decided that it is perhaps time to start investing in a house instead of spending a goodish amount on rent. And like our parents before us, we have also realized that it is going to cost an arm and a leg. Though, unlike our parents who lived on government salaries, we are reasonably well paid and in any other city in India would have managed to find a decent house in a decent locality.

The other factor has been comparing Mumbai with all the cities I have been visiting – Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore and London. Sure, we are not a developed country. Yet, surely we are no longer a poor, third world country that cannot afford to spend on infrastructure. When all the large cities of the world can have efficient ways of ferrying people from one spot to another, can have parks and gardens, can have well planned and laid out suburbs, why is it that Mumbai’s infrastructure is becoming a nightmare with every passing day. Why are the roads so congested? Why is it that only South Mumbai has wide roads and public spaces? Do you have to be a billionaire in Mumbai before you can afford to have the same roads and gardens as the average middle class citizen in other countries?

My initial peek into the housing market has already confirmed that after we pledge our souls, we should be able to afford a tiny house in a crowded suburb. If we both stood up together in the house, we would probably bump into each other. And if we decide not to move and stare out of the windows, then we would enjoy a scenic view of the slums nearby. We would emerge from this apartment into the building complex that would have a tiny park and walkway around it (that would have accounted for nearly much as 30% of our purchase price). We would join the dirty streets and the messy office hour traffic to travel to a distant office. If we decided to take the train, then we would be squashed into compartments packed like matchboxes. When we crossed the roads, we would run across like maniacs even if the pedestrian light is on since no one, but no one, respects traffic rules. In the rains, we would brave leaking taxis, leaking trains and flooded roads that carry the city’s muck into our toenails.

Seriously, is this really the city I am going to spend the rest of my working life in?

1 comment:

anjali said...

move to london. the parks are better here.. :)