Presenting our next submission for Readers Write, Vinita Radhakrishna’s view of the changing face of Mumbai. Send in your submissions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deafening Silence. Swaying of the trees. The roaring wind. Chirping of the birds. Sounds unheard in Mumbai. All these beautiful sounds of nature get drowned in the cacophony that is Mumbai.
In most cases, a Mumbaikar lives in a small, poorly maintained building surrounded by sounds of incessant honking, railway trains, the prayer calling of the Muslims, the tolling bells in Hindu temples and the incessant vehicles on the highway. Even the best of the roads have potholes, the gardens and landscapes are decorated with dirt and garbage and you learn to walk carefully even on the sidewalk thanks to the bikes and cyclists speedily buzzing from there.
Yes, this is all a part of Mumbai. I have heard people say it time and again, Mumbai wasn’t like this before. It was a beautiful city. It was a clean city. And my retort to that? Yes, it wasn’t like this before because it wasn’t Mumbai. It was a time when the city was younger, lesser populated, with lesser cars on the street and when bad politics wasn’t so rampant. Sadly, my friends, I accept it. It was a better time, a better city but it was Bombay and not Mumbai.
It is believed that it is this name change that has worked against the city. I disagree. It is not the name that has worked against the city; it is the people who have. What has changed in Bombay/Mumbai in the past few decades? People. The generations of people. The lifestyle which our parents and grandparents grew up in is not one which we follow. Sports cars and bikes have replaced walks. Malls and skyscrapers have replaced open parks and gardens. Mumbai has remained loyal to its people; the same cannot be said about the people though.
Why is that people now do not have any conscience or morality when it comes to throwing trash from their expensive cars? Or that people are not at all ashamed to spit on the road or worse, shit on the road for the passing world to see. Even the heritage places like The Gateway of India or Juhu Beach or Chowpatty are perennially dirty and stinking. I agree, most of these things are a case with every city, not just Mumbai but as a Mumbaikar, it pains me to see this filth everyday and well, accept it and live with it.
It is easy to say, hey, why don’t you begin the change? Seriously, but what can one person do? He or she cannot clean the spit, throw the stinking garbage into the garbage cans, fill the potholes on the roads, and remove the ugly, illegal hoardings of nameless ‘so called’ politicians destroying the charm of your city. This is the work of the Government, the BMC, the politicians but sadly, today Mumbai is a shining example of what a splendid city can turn into with mismanagement.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a hate article about Mumbai. I love this city. This is my birthplace and I would be proud to call it my place of death, as well. Despite these obvious, highly visible faults; Mumbai attracts lakhs of immigrants and foreign tourists. Yes, sadly, the highlight for most of these tourists is to see the poor India, the biggest slums of our country, Dharavi. But walk further from there and you would see the glorious Sea Link shining in the sun, the charming Bandra ahead from there. The other side of Dharavi takes you to the common man area, Sion, Matunga and likes – areas usually unseen by tourists.
It bugs me when I hear foreigners criticize Mumbai after only seeing a part of it. There is more to Mumbai than Bandra, the Gateway of India and Juhu Beach. See the real people, the helpful ones who guide you when you lose directions, the autowallahs who help you reach home via a shortcut you didn’t even know existed, the strangers on the bus who would haggle with a man for you simply because he was sitting in the ladies seat and you have to stand because of that. The native fishermen. The strangers who smile at you. The helpful taxi guys and bus conductors. Those creepy but usually friendly hotel waiters. The amazing roadside cutting tea for Rs.5 which is no match for the Rs.50 tea which you have at a restaurant. The friendly haggling and bargaining at Linking Road and Causeway. The breathtaking sunset at Carter Road, Worli Seaface, Marine Lines or in simple terms, anywhere with sea. The dozens of people standing outside SRK’s Mannat, Salman’s Galaxy and Big B’s Jalsa. Now, that is the Mumbai which people see in movies, the city for which kids run away from their small towns. This is the city I am proud of. The city I am also proud to be associated with. The reason I still proudly wear my ‘I Love Mumbai’ t-shirt every other week.
If you still think your city is better, it must be. For you. For me and lakhs of other Mumbaikars, this will forever remain the city of our dreams, the beautiful kid the mother always sees, the sanctum and luxury which no other place in the world can compare to. Yes, Mumbai is no longer the same as it was twenty years ago and yes, it will still no longer be the same twenty years later. It could get better. It could get worse. But whatever it is, this vibrant, casual, colorfully chaotic city is what I call home.
Somebody once said, I have visited the world, stayed at the costliest, most luxurious hotels, in the softest of beds but I slept the best in my bedroom, in my home, in my city with the sound of subway and traffic singing me an everlasting lullaby. And, I second that!