Mumbai: City of Dreams? Not really

Posted on August 17, 2011 in Specials

By Rahul Singh:

Day before yesterday I came back to Mumbai, the city I have been living in for the past 3 years and which I so dearly love. It is monsoon season and I was glad it wasn’t raining. The last time I came back, my auto rickshaw stalled due to flooding and I got stuck for half an hour. While in the auto, I enjoyed the early morning freshness of the air which turns nasty by noon because of the pollution. I always go into a thoughtful mood watching the surroundings of early morning Mumbai. Then suddenly I was jolted back to reality as the auto hit a pothole and then many to follow. Annoyed I cursed, “How many potholes are there in Mumbai!?” The auto driver replied, “Saab, 6000”. I was taken aback by the prompt answer and asked, “How do you know that?” He said, “Read it in the morning newspaper, 6000 potholes in 1100 different places. And they can’t even repair it till monsoon ends by which time there will be 1000s more. It’s a complete joke, the BMC.” Auto drivers hate potholes, a three wheeler is very unstable on uneven roads and accidents can happen anytime. Roads have always been a problem and a shame on the improving reputation of Mumbai as a world class city. Needless to say, people complain a lot about roads, especially in the suburbs and the situation is uglier in rains.

High population and heavy traffic are a major issue for the normal commuter and even the suburban railway, which is the most efficient means of transportation, are difficult to travel in during peak hours. Impressed with the auto driver’s paper reading habit I asked his name. He was Shyam Kumar, migrated from UP as have so many more in hope of a bright future for their families. On probing further he said he always loved studying but could not do much because of living in a rural area. He wants to educate his son and hopes he will become a big afsar (officer) someday. But again government schools aren’t that good and he plans to shift him to a private school once he is older. Dreams, Mumbai has always been the city of dreams.

Another huge problem for Mumbakars is the water supply. During the rains, the 7 lakes providing water over flood but at other times citizens have to face long water crisis and often, there is dearth of water in households. One visit to the chawls and slums and long lines of housewives with buckets are often seen at common water taps who have to rely on saved water throughout the day. Ration supplies are also a problem in some places with shortage in rations a regular problem and the corrupt shopkeepers selling off government supplies in markets instead of supplying it to the needy. In fact the problems in slums are so many that it is difficult to imagine how people survive in such a place. Ironically, these slums are huge revenue providers. Dharavi alone has a turnover of over $600 million! And it is not even the largest slum in Mumbai anymore. Sanitation, housing, education, you name it; everything known to humans that is necessary for living is in a deplorable state in these slums. But not only are the slums, the families above poverty line are also facing the menacing problem of inflation.

The increasing food prices are taking their toll on the wallets of families. High prices of common food items like potato and onion are hurting the budgets of the middle class who have to now struggle to maintain a positive cash inflow. While strolling in Powai market, I heard a lady argue with the vendor about the onion prices. The lady, Puja Kale, told me about how they are forced to shift to other vegetables and put a check on their monthly expenses. Obviously, kids are not too happy about their fun being reduced. Add to this, there is a problem of mosquitoes during the rains. She said, because of living in the vicinity of the market, a lot of garbage is dumped in the area and water logging adds to the plight. In spite of being directly adjacent to the posh Hiranandani Gardens, the area’s cleaning and maintenance is grossly overlooked.

And last but not the least, the evil of terrorism has shaken the very soul of the city. Lives have been taken, people fear for their safety. Every time an attack takes place the economy takes a blow, affecting people’s earnings. It is frustrating as well, because anyone could be the next victim. There is nothing but anger in hearts and we want to live in a safe environment. For this along with police and intelligence efficiency, every person has to be aware of our surroundings and work towards making this city a better and safer place to live.