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Sights and sounds of Mumbai


Though I was born in Mumbai, I have hardly spent time in the city because I left it when I was only three. Still, the images and smells of the city have always stayed with me. When I recently visited Mumbai ( 7 years since my last visit), it was like returning to childhood all over again. The fragrance of fresh flowers at every street corner...the aroma of vadas frying...even the salty yet refreshing breeze of the sea. It was a wonderful feeling.

Memories apart, I tried to find out what it was about this city that kept the people attached to it. For one thing, it's the bindaas nature of Mumbaikers. Though they work hard, they are always ready to share a joke - there are few signs of frustration. It was a relief to be able to travel in a city without haggling over price. The taxi drivers take you to your destination without hassles. The buses are not crowded and the bus driver waits patiently while you get on and off. And most exhilarating of all was the freedom of walking on the street without having dozens of eyes staring at you. Oh, the relief of it! I don't know why Mumbai is more courteous to its women, is it the fast pace of the city? I don't know, but even in this fast pace, people are always willing to help others.

Mumbai is also an advertiser's heaven. It's hard to capture a frame without a hoarding in it. Yet, advertisers are innovative. There's a Hutch phone box in almost every bus. There are Red FM taxis plying the city, and broadcasting live on radio.

One thing I appreciated was the responsibility with which BMC (bombay municipal corporation) have maintained the city. It made me realise how important it is to have a responsible municipality in your city. It makes a world of a difference if there are clean streets (ok, it's not Singapore - but hey, this is a megapolis bursting at its seams). There are dustbins at public places, the parks are green among the concrete. The buses are clean too, as are - to my surprise - the various slums. You may call it a failure on the part of the government to control illegal houses but the slums are not at all like what I have seen in Delhi. They are sweeped clean and have a closed sewer system. There are no dirty open drains you find even in good localities in Delhi. There are tarred roads even in small lanes and buses connect every little place.

Here are some pics I took with my mobile camera:

Tall buildings are coming up all over the city.

Who says there's no greenery in the concrete jungle?

The resplendent dargah of Haji Ali attracts people of all faiths.

The trademark taxi of Mumbai...ever-reliable.
This is by no means a city guide to Mumbai, these are just my thoughts and sensations. I believe that every city is different to every person - with a unique set of perceptions.
Musings 4001276241140670403

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15 comments

Sharique said...

You have presented a completely different picture of Mumbai than I had in mind. Eve teasing is more dominant in North because of reasons which i cannot think of!

Adonis said...

Apali khoop diwasat bheta naahi! Might be because you were not here. Your observations about Mumbai seem to be absolutely perfect.

No Puedes Ponerse el Caer en Amour con la Ciudad (you can't resist falling in love with the city)

The city is receiving positive opinions because it has taken centuries to evolve its culture. Unlike Delhi (which's ruined many times and not yet fully evolved to call it a city) the people who move to the city (Mumbai) get adapted to the culture.

Surprised to see that, Victorian Gothic buildings were missing from the photographs you have taken. Mumbai has got the highest number of such structures in India (Goa has Portuguese). Seems you have missed the Le Mache too which is the latest Mall in Lokhandwala.

But don’t worry; a time will come when Delhi will also be a civilized city. Let all of us try and make it a better place for women (and of-course for all). I feel ashamed about the opinion women have about men in Delhi.

Tarana said...

Oh yes! I forgot to mention the Victorian era buildings at Opera House. They just fascinated me.

Ankita said...

i fully agree with your description of mumbai..
had gone there last month and what struck me was that inspite of the crowd, civility wasnt missin...
Unlike Delhi...
Each city has its owns ups nd downs and it'll be unfair to compare Delhi with Mumbai but yeah it wudn be bad if Delhi took a few lessons about courtsey and humility..

Vishwas said...

You want involvement with your readers, write something fantastic. This is a truly fantasy description of Mumbai, which always comes from one off travellers only.
I used to have the same opinions when I visited the city as a tourist ages ago, but having worked there for some time now, I have a different view altogether. Especially for the Bombay beyond Dadar... You seem to have stayed in south bombay all the time...
Filth everywhere, lack of public amenities, rash BEST buses, and more honest drivers, but taxis that have certainly seen better days a few years back.
You could have added plaudits for the many art galleries in Colaba too, where I used to take a loo break...
Yes, the spirit of the mumbaiya is admirable, for bearing all this, and still not knifing everyone around in frustration. Which is the other complaint about the place. That the indiffrence to everyone other than money, while having its advantages (lesser eve teasing for instance), also ensures that the city is fast losing its soul. The heritage part of the coty is going fast in any case, under the new land deals that are happening.

Consumer said...

Tarana, you are being unfair to your adopted city, Delhi. You know, comparisons between Delhi and Bombay, direct or implied are unfair for a lot of reasons.

Mumbai is actually a city, while Delhi is actually a collection of villages. That explains the difference in mindsets to a large extent, especially from the native north Indian Delhiite who women don't seem to take to:)Mumbai on the other hand, precisely because of it's hands off approach became a natural home for Bollywood, making it a virtuous cycle as far as exposure to the art of gawping goes.
Mumbai is not a patch on Delhi when it comes to Public spaces, and the difference here really washes off a lot of other Delhi sins, like the miserable public transport etc.
Delhi has actually got more 'culture' if you track your listings well, and as Vishwas in his message says, nothing as commercial as Mumbai.
Finally, I think Mumbai is a city of the rich, which despite it's advantages has been allowed to fester and fall into a rut, while Delhi, in its own way and due to it's compulsions, is a more inclusive place. Biases , implicit and explicit can be shockingly high in Mumbai, and the ghettosisation there is far more stark than it is in Delhi among comunities. Including the richest areas like Pedder Road, where you won't have a hope in hell of finding accomodation if you are non-veg, for instance. In fact, all non veg joints have been systematically hounded out, making it the only place to have a 'jain' Pizza hut/Dominoes:) I would tend to agree and say, spend a long enough time, and you will be able to smell beyond the roses and see the thorns too.

Consumer said...

Having said all that, I would of course still vote for Bombay when it comes to professionalism:)

Hill Goat said...

I love Mumbai for its matter-of-fact approach to life and Delhi inspite of all its lewdness (can offer reams of sociology to explain both but this is hardly the forum).
Btw, have you read Shantaram (a thick volume) or Maximum City? You will love both if you like Mumbai. Infact last I went there I made sure I visited Leopold thanks to Gregory David Roberts (now a movie is being made on it with Brad Pitt as the producer and Amitabh as kader bhai). No use going on and on unless you have read Shantaram.

Tarana said...

Heard about both the books, but I am still reading up on Mughal history!

Adonis said...

Tarana,
Just logged on and saw your post. The comment indicator, which was showing 9 attracted me to take a glimpse on them.

After going through the comments I felt that we have forgotten that we are living on earth. Its over 200,000 years now we have been thrown out of Eden. Things on earth can’t be like what Adam used to have in paradise.

People choose to talk about bad things and hardly appreciate good things…

It’s like smelling a bunch of roses and talking about the thorns.

It’s difficult to stay in harmony while talking about disharmony. Your soul will draw your attention towards beauty while mind will push it towards weirdness causing strain.

Health connoisseurs say that, diseases are increasing due to higher levels of stress. You can see some of the reasons.

Reduce stress and be happy.

Amour Mumbai de Delhi d'amour

RainbowCreator said...

Tarana, Nice to see your view points. After going through this particular blog of yours, I could not resist myself for replying you for the same. It seems we may have more discussion on the same so you may post a reply to this or else mail me through mail ID of brother XGM.

< It was a relief to be able to travel in a city without haggling over price. >
It is because the taxi and auto drivers are paid more than they are paid in Delhi. The fares advised by government are around 50% more in Mumbai than in Delhi for Taxis and Auto Rickshaws. When they are ordered to charge less they would definitely avoid taking the passenger on meter and this becomes a point of haggling over the price. Should we blame the government or the taxi / auto drivers?

< The taxi drivers take you to your destination without hassles. The buses are not crowded and the bus driver waits patiently while you get on and off. >
Taxi and Buses are not the main means of transport for the people of Mumbai; that is why the taxi drivers take you to your destination without hassles and the buses are not crowded. Why are you forgetting to mention the local train of Mumbai? You need to have a permanent orthopedist, as you don’t know when you will have broken rib. At least we don’t have such situation in either of the means of transport in Delhi.

< and the bus driver waits patiently while you get on and off. >
Catching a moving bus is not a demerit rather reaching our destination not in time is a loss. I do not know how to comment on this point. Even in Delhi buses stops patiently for females and older persons.

< people are always willing to help others. >
A point which is DISAGREED TO FULLEST. Nobody cares to help in Mumbai. An accidented person cries for help on the road and dies but nobody cares to help, as their office or work is more important than somebody’s life. If you ask somebody the address of a particular place the most common reply you will hear is – Mujhey naheen pata. (Don’t know). Ask the same in Delhi with any one person, you will be replied by almost everybody who hears your question. Believe sometimes you will feel irritated and would feel – Yaar ghaltee ho gayee sawaal pooch kar as you will be replied by so lot of people. Agar unkaa bas chaley to who us address tak hee pahunchaa den.
We are more social in Delhi than the Mumbaikars. We know our neighbors, we interact with them, and we look for moments to have social gatherings. Rather in Mumbai you yourself might not know who stays beside your flat.

< Mumbai is also an advertiser's heaven. It's hard to capture a frame without a hoarding in it >
This is with every city. Every growing city. The advertisers look for a place to put their advertisements. Nothing unique about Mumbai.

< the parks are green among the concrete. >
The parks might have been green, if there would have been any park. Mumbai has got negligible number of parks as compared to Delhi. Take a snapshot of Delhi from a landing plane you will find all green and you will see very less of non-green areas and you do the same exercise when you are some feet above Mumbai, you will find greenery at rare places infact rare points.

< You may call it a failure on the part of the government to control illegal houses but the slums are not at all like what I have seen in Delhi. They are sweeped clean and have a closed sewer system >
Did you make a study on the demographic status of people staying in Mumbai slums and in Delhi slums? The people living in Delhi slums are daily wages labors who earn Rs. 60 a day or of this profile rather in Mumbai the people living in slum are those whom we call a Middle Class or upper Middle Class people in Delhi.

< There are tarred roads even in small lanes and buses connect every little place. >
Delhi has got the best roads as compared to any other city of India with just two or three exception and of course Mumbai or you can say Maharashtra is not in to the exception list. The Delhi buses are more well-connected than Mumbai because as Mumbai runs on Local Trains Delhi runs on Buses so they of course have a better connectivity.

< I believe that every city is different to every person - with a unique set of perceptions. >

O! Yeah, at last, I got a point on which I can agree to a thousand percent. Nothing is good or bad; it is a unique set of perception.

I am really impressed to see your view point. It’s great that you have got study on varied subjects; you just need to have a more specific research. Research based view points, always have more weightage than the perception.

Tarana said...

Hi rainbowcreator,

Thanks for your views. Really enjoyed reading them, but let me know how I can reply to you since I can't find your profie oe e-mail id.

RainbowCreator said...

Hi, I am sorry;
By mistake my blog-porting got published twice.
If it is in your command please delete one.
Anyway I am an active member now.

Tarana said...

@Rainbow creator

Ok, here goes my reply to your wonderful comment (no sarcasm here, i really liked reading it!)

It was a relief to be able to travel in a city without haggling over price.
I am ready to pay a higher price (even 50% more - that's what they charge anyway) just for the peace of not having to haggle after a long day at work.

The taxi drivers take you to your destination without hassles. The buses are not crowded and the bus driver waits patiently while you get on and off.
I did not mention the train because I had no experience of it, though I have heard about it. However, the girls at my office in Mumbai have one good thing to say about the crowds - even if they travel at 11pm at night, there are many people travelling with them. Secondly, the ^&@%#$%&* bus drivers in Delhi would sooner see you dead under their wheel than wait patiently for you.

people are always willing to help others.
At least Mumbaikaers tell you they dont know the way. here in Delhi, they will tell you the wrong way so that you will end up 7kms further from your destination.

It's hard to capture a frame without a hoarding in it
i mentioned it bcoz hoardings are banned in Delhi.

The rest I agree with you :)

Blaga said...

I've been doing a research on Mumbai for a story that I write and I found your post here helpful to get more into the soul of the town. If you have any other posts about Mumbai please do share them with me at my blog - http://brokensparkles.wordpress.com/, Id' love to read more about the town! Thanks for this post!

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