Of Cabbages and Kings

August 8, 2008

Bombay – city of contrasts

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 8:37 pm

If you spend a day, just a beautiful winter day on Marine Drive in Bombay, you will fall in love with the city as I did three years ago. Stay a little longer and you will find that your fascination for the energy, magic and irrepressible growth of the city will be mingled with the deep-seated horror for the apathy and cruelty that is part of daily life in Bombay.

My first night in Bombay was also at Marine Drive, the beautiful and expensive golden seaside strip where every apartment is worth at least a crore even if it is unpainted, ramshackle and crumbling. If you sit with your back to the sea and your face to the road, you will see the most glamourous cars in India pass by. And if you wait until the city goes to sleep (and this will happen well past midnight), you will find an alarming abundance of bodies stretched out on the sidewalk of the road. You will find them stretched out in the apartment complexes that line that road, in front of the all the expensive cars that are parked inside, arising groggily when they hear a car start and interrupting their much needed rest so that the owner of a vehicle which costs over ten times what they are likely to earn in their entire lives may go out and get some ice-cream late at night without running them over. If you take an elevator up to one of the apartments – the ones which are worth over a crore – you will find that the corridor on every floor has people stretched out and asleep on it. In the morning all the sleeping bodies vanish (except perhaps for the occasional drunk) and Marine Drive is sunlight and humming again.

This is almost insignificant in comparison to other parts of Bombay. Parts where children peddle drugs and huge trafficking rings flourish. Gigantic slums and terrible living conditions.

The International Herald Tribune carries a description of the contrasts of Bombay which is definitely worth a read. An excerpt:

Step outside, and you see sedans reeking of new affluence. Sleeping inside are drivers, many of them asleep because they work 20-hour shifts, waking up at 6 a.m. to catch a train, taking the boss to and from work, then to his dinner, then to drinks, then dropping him home at 1 a.m. and taking a taxi back to the tenements.

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