by Shujoy Dutta
It’s Monday evening, I’m auto-ing home from a meeting at Andheri, it hasn’t been a fabulous day, I’m rolling down the canvas curtains in order not to be completely mud splattered, and all I can think about is whether the colony 5x5 football team have dented my car. Why would someone auto home from a meeting you ask, when there is a car that takes up so much of the mind-space, but then you obviously aren’t a resident of Mumbai.
Coming from Delhi-NCR, I think there is a natural resistance to becoming a Mumbaikar.
The first thing you notice, no surprise, is the dirt. In Delhi, you sweep it into corners or piles, avoid it. Out here it lies all around reintegrating back with its environment. The worrying thing is the comfort people have with it. All around you is this volcanic black muck, with something man-made adding texture – paper, plastic, potty or paan. And people are walking through it without a shuffle, wading through it when it rains, playing on it, sitting on it, even romancing in it.
Romancing in Bombay must be one of the pluses of the city. It’s much more evident than Delhi where you have to go the parks and investigate a little to find some budding romance. In Bombay, apparently all you need is a ledge. The ledge could be the wall above the sea, or failing that, a wall above a road and you’ll have couples dotting it, ten yards apart. I don’t quite get what being in love has to do with dangling your feet, but there must be something deep and physiological about it.
Whenever I am on the road I make a mental note to look up love, longing and dangling. Speaking of roads, I tend to just keep on any wide road, driven by a Delhi sensibility that a wide road must connect to somewhere important. But often it just ends. And this in Bombay is a recurrent theme. I’ve noticed a dozen odd roads or flyover, not including the world-famous Sea-Link, in varying states of incompleteness. No workers, no poking iron rods and an absence of any road-building machinery. You can’t also help but worry that the two sides of the flyover won’t quite clear the railway track, street or the gutter.
I mean the Commonwealth Games might have created an artificial sense of building urgency in Delhi but at least things seem to move. Out here the goal is different- to create some parking, as long as possible, for the city’s perennially parking-challenged cars, taxis, tempos and thelas. The actual road or bridge isn’t that important. And for the most part, Mumbaikars are cool with this too. Tunnel/ Sea-Link/Coast road from Worli to Nariman? 5/8/10 years. Never mind, take your time. Just build a little so that we have some more space to park.
But yeah, Mumbaikars are much happier with the lack of development than say an invasion into their clubs. They’d rather candle-march against Dhoble than walk to the BMC and ask why the road to their home isn’t getting completed. This is the opposite of what would happen in Delhi. The NCR nightclubs don’t attract the RTI activists quite as much as the bitumen content in the roads.