Published on March 26th, 20150
Dear Mumbai, I am leaving you
A Mumbaikar writes with sadness about being unable to cope with the madness of Mumbai – and asks for forgiveness.
Dear Mumbai, I am sorry but I have decided that eventually, I will leave you. Not that I don’t love you or take pride in being a Mumbaikar. I am a Mumbaikar to the core of my heart and you are my eternal abode. My most memorable years of life have been spent in your shelter. However, I am really shaken at how you have transformed over the last few years.
I owe you everything for making me strong and independent, but I am unnerved by the state of affairs. As I advance in years, the Mumbai lifestyle is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with. My reserves of endurance are draining at the crammed trains, buses, roads and traffic signals. I begin to freak out now when I wait endlessly in a traffic jam. It is wonderful that the city is getting its various mono and metro rails, and over bridges and freeways, but I shudder to think how Mumbai will cope with the herds of immigrants crowding into it every day.
A few years from now, I anticipate that all our modern infrastructure will only be bursting with people. The many freeways and bridges built to make commuting easier will simply crumble under the weight of so many people. Eventually, everything will sag under the burden of catering to the huge population. How many more bridges will we make, how many other developments of such type will take place? There is simply no space left any more.
My Mumbai, I loved you in the monsoon when you looked so beautiful under a canopy of clouds for almost three months. The arrival of monsoon was timed to perfection, but for the last few years, the rains have been a cause for much nail biting and stress for me, as I wonder if I or my loved ones will be stuck in a deluge. Or the rains are so poor that our water reservoirs have no stocks left. And then there are the potholes, making my body ache and causing so many accidents every year.
Water shortage is now an accepted part of our lives, and soon, power cuts would be, too. If it’s not water cuts, it’s the fear of dengue, malaria and swine flu. I get goose bumps when I see an ambulance stuck in traffic pleading to pass through the merciless traffic, and I torture myself thinking that I am in that ambulance and not able to make it in time.
The city’s busy life gives us just enough time to meet our loved ones on the weekends. We have lost the luxury of catching up with our neighbours over cups of tea after a long day of work – because we know we would be intruding on their private time, of which all of us have so little. I like to imagine that I will spend my retirement years in a garden in front of my house with a cup of tea and my husband and friends for company. Sadly, I don’t see this dream taking place in Mumbai. Leave alone a garden, I have started envying those Mumbaikars who have balconies in their houses.
I am pained and saddened that my formerly ‘safe’ city is no longer so. My life’s story too may end up like so many elders in the city who are alone, their children having left home for better pastures. The ghastly stories in newspapers about acts of organised gangs targeting seniors fill me up with fear.
Dear Mumbai, if I am so stressed out, imagine the pressure you are under! You also must long for shady roads and clean air, quieter festivals and open spaces for citizens. You must long to look prettier and not so dirty all the time. Do you even remember a time in your past when we didn’t shamelessly rob you of everything you had and not give you anything in return?
I am sorry to be selfish and abandon you, my home land, and I expect that you would forgive me some day.
Dr Pooja Birwatkar is currently pursuing post doctoral research and working in the area of science education. She has been associated with the field of education in the past as a teacher educator, and her area of interest is research in education.
(Pictures courtesy badabingbadabambadaboom.wordpress.com, knowledge.allianz.com)