Mumbai has always held a special place in my heart from my childhood.
We had our dear uncle and family living there when we were kids and had made quite a few trips in summer when we had good fun with Shashi, my cousin out there.
I loved using the Electric local trains those days having come from Bangalore which did not have any ( It does not, even now), getting to know my way on Central and Western Lines. Even beaches were nicer then, esp Versova and Juhu to some extent…
Bandra Bandstand was lovely at sunset too…
And then I got my first job in Gammon, in Mumbai. It is another matter that I had to go far away from Mumbai to a misty Meghalaya and its project sites to serve.
Mumbai (Bombay, it used to be called those days) was busy, and sultry but never lacked in energy and cosmopolitan ethos. Yes, trains were always packed and traffic jams common then too..
Well, life happened since then and I have been now all over the globe. Well, almost!
As I recall, I left visiting Mumbai some decade ago now. Till the last week I mean, a rare trip to the once favourite city. On a professional cause.
Before I visited it this time, I was now not so enamoured of the metropolis having lived all these years in Bangalore and Chennai with their equally busting lifestyle and jostling crowds.
But Navi Mumbai and Mumbai ( ‘proper’, should I call this old one?) had something in store for me this time.
While Navi Mumbai (Vashi, to be specific) still has a certain charm and calmness to attract you, its roads let you down. Mahape a famed IT sector is poorly connected, with inadequate transport and food facilities. The MIDC area which houses the renowned flagship companies of today has several buildings that look like a big earthquake shook them not so long ago. There are snakelike cracks and rough plaster repairs adorning the walls are all too glaring which at first glance cut a sorry figure.
On the other hand, it has some glittering new Malls, where one can shop till you drop.
We could grab some South Indian snacks- Idli, dosa in the Hotel where I stayed but for dinner or Lunch, I do not think you have any other choice to go in for anything other than the typical North Indian Roti- Biryani menu. Mumbai will be cooler than Chennai this time of the year, a friend had promised me. No, it wasn’t.
But it is now Mumbai City as such, which sends chills down my spine with its almost horrendous traffic conditions. The roads just seem to be bursting with vehicles and they crawl for hours, inch by inch, even on six-lane roads like the ones from Mahim to Santa Cruz. We had a definite scare that we would miss the flight home when a 2 ½ hours of cab ride from Vashi could not get us there in time. If we made it, it was only by the skin of our teeth, as they say.
I do not know if it is a daily ordeal for Mumbaikars, but it certainly cannot be lot better. Is Mumbai’s golden days over? I daresay if I am being too sceptical.
When we were wiping sweat after running into the airport and trying to catch breath, the modern airport certainly held my attention. It looks wonderful and superb after the recent modifications. To dampen my spirits, the announcer said on PA system that many flights were delayed due to ‘existing congestion over the airport’..
Was he talking about the clogged roads leading to the airport or was there a traffic jam in the Mumbai skies too? I wouldn’t wonder…
To make our miseries complete, the plane waited for a good half hour on the runway after starting almost an hour late in the first place. Traffic jams have certainly come to stay.
At midnight, when I reached Chennai, the roads looked contrastingly empty and peaceful but then it was only midnight yet…The day and Chennai’s own bustling and unruly traffic was just hours away, I reminded myself on the way home.