Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai

“These rains won’t last long!” remarked the senile old man sitting beside me in a BEST bus on a rainy and thundery afternoon. “With all the deforestation and urbanization around, it won’t be long when the rains will desert us” he continued. I glanced outside the window and caught a glimpse of the mountain ranges that seemed to have picked up a few tricks from the Mumbai fashion gals and were sporting a size-zero look these days. I got lost in my thoughts...remembered my Class VI geography....’Mountains cause a reduction in the surface winds carrying rains and hence cause precipitation’. I could visualize the old man smirk and say “Elementary my dear Watson!”

If there are two things that catch the attention of new entrants to this city and leave them dumbfounded it’s the “Pace of the city” and “Mumbai monsoons”. What if the old man’s prophecy comes true?? Well considering the incessant rain we’ve received this season this is far from reality! However, right from the Dinosaurs to honest politicians...there are a lot of things that have become extinct in this country and city. But never thought the famous Mumbai-downpour could end up in someone’s to-be-extinct list. This triggered my mind to think of other things that Mumbai might be soon deprived of.

Here’s what I think will be things-of-the-past for good in Mumbai...

Mumbai Spirit
The clichéd ‘Mumbai Spirit’ may soon erode off in the near future if Mumbai continues to be a soft target for the carnage and cowardly acts it has been receiving from decades. This spirit is now on the verge of being exhausted especially after the recent attack on 13/7. It was coined to celebrate and applaud our attitude to bounce back from chaos and show our enemies that we care a damn about them. But with the politicians and the media using this as a shield to cover up all the anguish we have been facing, it has now transformed into a white elephant and may cease to exist in the future. Frankly speaking this is one obituary that I would love to see.

Another outdated mode of communication (after postcards I must say)...another victim of the emergent mobile technology in the country! The only time I touch my landline is when I undertake the cleanliness drive at my home. The STD-PCO boom that gripped the nations a few years back seems to have fizzled out and these yellow booths are hardly in evidence these days. I remember we used to set out after 10pm to call our native place just because half rates were applicable for STD calls. A telecommunication minister C. M. Stephan (under the Indira Gandhi regime) once remarked that ‘Telephones were a luxury and not a necessity....and those who are not happy with the service may return it back”. This was in response to the Parliamentarians decrying the frequent network breakdown issues those days. C.M Stephan would be retracting his statement in his grave as landlines are now not a necessity but a vestige. 

I remember bunking college for enjoying a couple of hours of cricket on maidans and then relishing on golas at the boundary lines. These days I see children bunking for spending time browsing the net or staying glued to their play stations. Partial blame should go on the lack of playgrounds. With Mumbai facing realty shortage, playgrounds are being sacrificed on the altars of concretization. These are being replaced by tall buildings at hugging distances to each other. The day won’t be far when parents will pay at the Wankhede stadium just to show their kids how a playground looks like or probably when you see a kid googling “What is a playground?” 

I miss those mornings which used to start with the mellifluous greetings of the sparrows just outside my window. Now-a-days sighting a sparrow is rare as finding breathing space in local trains. They seemed to have vanished almost suddenly into thin air. A study has revealed that sparrows are under threat due to rampant tree cutting, activities and industrial pollution. Mumbai may be transforming itself into a Shanghai but it is definitely proving to be a graveyard for these “common birds”. 

But yes...there are a few things in Mumbai that we would love to live without...namely the local train crowd...the indelible blot of terror mishaps on the city’s history...the daily jig of finding roads between potholes... But I guess some things never change...!

This post featured in ‘Around the Blog’ section of DNA newspaper dated 19th Sep 2011 titled as ‘What If Mumbai has no Rain?


  1. Hey Adi... Well written yaar... Mumbai's spirit will surely be extinct (if not already extinct).. Feel sorry for landlines though.. But technology will have its own say.. I feel Playgrounds may not go, with emphasis increasing on Sports and including that as a subject in schools, but yes, social media will play spoil sport..
    Your comparisons are cool yaar.. Sparrows to breathing in local trains :D

  2. Hehe...The old man understands a modern phenomenon better than most of the modern generation. I really wouldn't term him senile.

    There is no such thing as 'Mumbai Spirit'. It is just a need of the people to continue with their lives. If you want to counter that by comparing with NY after 9/11 choose a better example like Israel. The tiny nation still keeps chugging along in spite frequent bombings and a hostile neighbourhood. The sane media over there doesn't term it 'Israeli Spirit'!

    I don't own a cellphone! So, a landline is the only way you can reach me. My landline also acts as my broadband pipe. So, that's staying with me. Landlines will continue to be around for decades but will probably be upgraded from copper to optical fibre and route not only voice but TV, internet and everything else....

    Playgrounds...oh yes, they are in danger. Unlike the modern generation's summer vacations which are spent in personality development classes, mine were spent playing rubber ball cricket on the gymkhanas of Marine Drive. Touch wood that all of them are still around though the Police Gymkhana was made out-of-bounds for the normal public. about them in DNA but luckily I still get to see them and hear them too (I am sitting here in the bylanes of Lalbaug)...

    Nice blog...touches on the points that are common to most Mumbaikars...

  3. Dude, congratulations! Imagine my surprise when I found your blog in this morning's DNA! Here's a PDF - are attracting all the right eyeballs :)

  4. Adi, I love reading these posts! Good work , keep writing.

  5. very nice...... :D i loved reading each and every part of the article.. especially Playgrounds and Sparrows !! :)