Here is what I have come to realize about Bombay in my three years of stay and four years of long distance relationship with the city:
1. They forget to build drains but crib whenever it rains. My guess is the city drains have been shut by a cartel involving all TV channels which get 3 days worth of content every year
2. They build houses that look like matchboxes meant to store prisoners before they are shipped off to Siberia . They can never remember that small space does not translate to nil aesthetics
3. They have zero sense of cleanliness. Which other city do you find people spitting at will on the road, on the stairwell, on other people? And staying in buildings so filthy you need a TT shot just to look at them.
4. They love narrow roads and pollution and come up with weird ideas on what to do in your travel time. I mean, what about the basic question – why would I want to travel so much?
5. They come up with logical explanations on the city being too narrow to accommodate everyone close to their offices, hence the travel time. But the actual idea of building a bridge from new Bombay to south Bombay is too much for them to handle.
6. If they do build a bridge, they are fastidious about getting it right and don’t mind taking their time over it. Look at the Worli-Bandra Link
7. They hate the sunlight and air circulation. That is why they build tall skyscrapers everywhere. Even if some mill lands get freed up, they talk about building parks but that is just to stretch an illusion about their love for nature. It has nothing to do with actual action
8. In fact, they dislike nature and like to obliterate any signs of it. So they build buildings on erstwhile rivers. The ones which are too large to be drained out, they simply kill. Like the fishless lake in Powai.
9. They love having their slums right by their doors so they can get their kick out of seeing how rich they have grown. No, other cities are not hypocrites for hiding away their slums. Their maid servants have slum housing boards or do a 2-hour commute if they stay far away.
10. Their love for fantasy is well known. All their bathrooms and toilets are built for hobbits. So what if humans have to hold their breadth, crouch and lose weight to squeeze into this space
11. Their public transport is the best in the world. Especially if you are young, aggressive and don’t mind F1 kind of accurate timings to jump in and out of trains. Just move somewhere once you grow too old for this.
12. They don’t mind buying a newspaper even if the only thing covered in its 13 page main section, 8 page supplement and the 4 page colour feature is Bollywood.
13. Their range of movies is simply breathtaking – right from Govinda to Bruce Willis. And obviously you are not a patriotic Indian if you want to watch some of the more offbeat foreign language movies
14. They can leverage themselves 10 times over to buy a 1000 sq feet house in the heart of the city with a view of the neighbours dilapidated flat and the pollution from the vehicles on the road wafting up and spend the rest of their lives paying back the debt. Their children will do the exact same thing, moving to a more up market location.
15. They can wait two hours to sit in restaurants around tiny tables with their elbows banging into strangers ordering food that costs half a month’s pay and think they lead a cool happening life
Sure they are super efficient. They have six sigma beating Dabbawallas, shops that are open till 11 in the night, service providers who can be at your house by 7 in the morning. But all so that the average Mumbaikar can be on the right side of sanity in a city waiting to push him over the edge. Still, their claim that they have resilience is definitely true. After all how many people can travel three hours a day in a hot, sweaty train, breathing in the toxic air of their co-passengers’ armpits, reach home too late to meet their kid and still have the energy to do it again, again and again. They need the resilience.