It is New Year’s Eve. I am sitting by the side of the window of my flat overlooking the most modern hub of Mumbai, the Bandra Kurla Complex contemplating whether to go out to celebrate the New Year’s Eve in a restaurant or sit at home and watch the television. My son and daughter-in-law in any case have decided to party out. My wife and me finally decide to stay at home and have a quiet dinner. We are getting old, we don’t like going out too much and generally avoid outside food. The world outside has changed. When we moved into this flat, through the same window I could see a long stretch of Mithi river and the entire expanse of sky scrappers of BKC. Today, few ugly buildings have come in between curtailing the view and the sunlight, which we had enjoyed for over a decade. The Mithi River that is supposedly cleaned every year has started giving foul smell even during the non-monsoon period. Added to all this is the constant noise of tunnel-drilling coming from the site of metro station ( coming up for last many years) next door adds to the misery of the residents of the locality. The dust in the air and inside the flat has increased- pollution is increasing and the pulmonary problems are on the rise in Mumbai city.But we have no option but to be patient and tolerant.
All roads around our locality are either dug up or partly occupied by the Metro-workers. Walking on the roads is no longer safe. Senior citizens are scared to go out for a walk. The two old men ( of the light weight category) acting as traffic cops at the free flowing red-light junction are themselves scared to step ahead to stop the speeding vehicles. They whistle though, which is never heard in the din of the honking cars and speeding auto rickshaws. They have been especially chosen for this job, because they are peace loving non-interfering types. Sometimes I say hello to them as I venture to cross the road in order to go to the post office to speed-post my books or film-DVDs to various people.
Driving a car on Mumbai roads has become the riskiest thing. Every morning one reads about pedestrians being knocked down by the rash drivers. Bikers are toppling over the permanent potholes on the roads landing under the wheels of the speeding trucks or buses. I am scared of driving on Mumbai roads not knowing which pothole or man-hole has been designed for me.
Water logging on the roads during the unusually long monsoon period has become a permanent feature of Mumbaikar’s life. Commuters are falling off the local trains losing hands, legs sometimes their life. None of this makes any difference to anyone in this city of dreams. Life goes on as usual, even if people get buried under the collapsing bridges and inside the debris of falling buildings. Their photos provide the content for the newspapers and television channels for a few days and then get replaced by new set of images. Human life is not so important, business is. And so is the business of politics. After all it is the business capital of India. Commerce must rule the city.
The safest way to live in this city is to close the windows of your flat, lock the door from inside and watch television. But the news on TV is also not good. India just lost a match in T20. I switch off the TV and pick up my pen.