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20 June 2007

Moody in Mumbai

Some of you may recognise this as the title of my older blog on issues related to Mumbai. I am one of those who really has no problems with the name, rename, new name, old name of the city for I truly believe, a city by any name, smells just as it is.

I have been fortunate to live in the greener and more pastoral parts of Mumbai. In childhood it meant eastern and central Mumbai and the streak of luck continues as I wake up in the western suburbs in the morning and see birds that bird watchers travel miles to see, due to it's proximity to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (and a leopard or two)

When I was schooling, the croak of frogs heralded the monsoon, and sparrows were a nuisance to my mom and our maid, not the disappearing species it is today (along with balconies as an architectural element in buildings- I liked reading the article by Jerry Pinto in HT Cafe on the topic of balconies in Mumbai). Our building (and the balcony) faced a huge field or maidan as it was called in those days. This was a space that was part land that became half water body during monsoons due to the creek. The boys would play football and cricket in the maidan and in October the Durga Pooja would be held there. Of course we kids had all the balcony view!

In the marsh land beyond around the fields, buffaloes grazed and wild purple flowers grew.I'm not sure about it's name but it is the same which is now threatening to destroy the Powai and Vihar lakes. So I guess it is a flower for the marshes and not for fresh water lakes.

The cow herd was a friend (and not an anti-social element to fear) who would rescue our ball and our dog who would run into the marsh to get dirty just in an attention seeking behaviour gimmick. Adults thought the marsh land was conducive to mosquitoes and hence were happy to see development take place and today, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would never believe such a pastoral scene existed.

I never speak of it for fear of sounding like those adults we'd hate as kids, who would begin stories with the sentence,In my days. There was only one word that described them. OLD!

Why do I recount them now? Because it makes me very angry to see a headline today that says, Inventory of city's natural assets soon

What assets? The ones that are barely left?

By the time the bids are called, the inventory is made, objections are raised, reviews are formed, interim report is submitted, final report is submitted, by which time the whole public interest is forgotten, before that there'd be debates and lobbies on what defines large and green, water bodies and other definitions; offcials are transferred, original applicants move or die, the city will have no natural resources left. Think Mangroves if you feel I am being unduly cynical.

Then again,we may discover there is river that we thought was a gutter or nullah and used to throw rubbish in (The Mithi River); a rock that as survived millions of years the onslaught of time (Gilbert Hill), but not of greed; caves that go back to buddhist era but go forth to be only hideout for drug peddlers (Mahakali Caves). Beautiful structures of old mills that are pulled down to house steel and concrete malls, wells that have been sucked dry by illegal tanker operators; Ganesh immersion ponds that had lotus and frogs now which are now club houses.

There are two sides to every issue huh?

I will be happy to see JUST ONE instance in Mumbai or suburbs where the authorities have JUST ONE illegal construction razed and a park made in the area, replete with trees, birds and water bodies before I believe any more intiatives.

If only an inventory of greed was available. Let us not pretend we love our city as she is. The truth is she was only seven islands of fishing village . We are not proud of it's humble heritage as such.

We want to convert it to Singapore, Shanghai, New York and every place else except retain it as Bombay.

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