With a population of 13 million, Mumbai is India's largest city and its most diverse, cosmopolitan and westernised.
Thriving alongside each other are the Bollywood film industry, some of the world's most opulent hotels and India's leading industrial and financial – all against a backdrop of extreme poverty.
Already India's financial centre, Mumbai boomed when India emerged as Asia's leading economy. Last year its stock markets hit record highs, fuelled by investors looking for a safe haven as the global credit crisis bit elsewhere.
The city is home to many of the country's industrial giants, including the Tata group, and new skyscrapers bear witness to the amount of new money pouring in. Shops and bars that would not look out of place in the most fashionable quarters of European capitals open every week.
Mumbai is a magnet to Indians seeking a better life. But many who arrive dreaming of Bollywood end up in prostitution or organised crime. The city's population has doubled in 25 years, with half living in slums. In some parts, 50,000 people are said to be crammed into each square kilometre.
As Bombay, the city grew to prominence under British colonial rule and is littered with monuments to the Raj. Next to the iconic Taj Mahal hotel, built in 1903 and combining Moorish, oriental and Florentine influences, is the Gateway of India, built to commemorate the arrival of George V in the city.
Bombay became Mumbai in 1995 when the newly elected government of the Hindu far-right Shiv Sena party rejected the colonial name in favour of that used by the Marathis, the region's indigenous ethnic group.
The city is no stranger to violence – conspicuous western influence and the gaping wealth gap fan the flames of centuries-old cultural and religious rivalries.
Among the worst atrocities has been the bombing of seven commuter trains within 15 minutes in July 2006. About 180 people were killed and a further 700 injured. A little-known Islamist group, Lashkar-e-Qahhar, claimed responsibility.
In 1960, more than 100 people were killed by police in riots after the Marathis had the city incorporated into their state in the face of attempts by the Gujurati merchant classes to declare it an independent city state.
In 1992, riots between Muslims and Hindus killed 900 people, mainly Muslims. Another 200,000 Muslims fled their homes.
A year later, a wave of bombings killed 257 people. The attacks were said to have been carried out by Mumbai's Muslim-dominated mafia in retaliation for the Muslim-Hindu clashes, and were thought to have been coordinated by the terrorist kingpin Dawood Ibrahim, who is linked to Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups.
The Bollywood action hero Sanjay Dutt was jailed for six years in 2007 for his part in the 1993 violence, having been found guilty of possessing three AK-56 rifles, a pistol and ammunition thought to have been obtained through the Mumbai underworld. He has been released on bail pending a review of the case.
Mumbai- City of Dreams
August 30, 2010 at 6:36 pm
Delhi, the National Capital of Indiaand Mumbai the Financial. While Fashion & food are like two lifelines for Delhizens, its sensex, film stars and larger than life dreams which gave Bombay its identity. What to talk about those cities which are in news every day? What is that you already don’t know about them and we can tell you? The sole purpose of this two part series ‘ Tale of Two Cities’ is to look at the cities from a perspective of two individuals who found everything here from work, home, friends- in short a new beginning to life!
Mumbai – City of Dreams ( Part I)
For me, Mumbai is a city of dreams. So am I living my dreams, yes you can say that I am living in my dream city. And like me, millions of dream filled eyes come to Mumbai every year to make it big. And it is the place where dream do become true. The city has something for everyone. So many times we have heard Shahrukh Khan saying, “When I came to Mumbai, I didn’t even have a penny in my pocket.” And he is just one among the many many people who came, saw and conquered. The city is kind to those who believe in themselves.
When you hear a morning 6’oclock alarm ring, you just can’t ignore it and sleep back. A minute extra sleep means you will reach the bus stop late. A minute late and you would be welcome by huge queue waiting for 6:50 AM – 461 BEST bus. A minute late at railway station means you will miss your 6:58 AM Churchgate fast local. The effect will be you would have to wait for the next train/ bus and the whole process makes you delay by 20-40 mins at your work place. So the system makes you disciplined. You start valuing time. You prioritise and plan ahead. Number becomes part of your life.
When you are in the office, you forget all the hassle you managed to reach the office. At the work place, you meet a hundred people, bright, young with one thing in common – all outsiders i.e. non Mumbaites. And if you happen to come across a localite, you can’t resist exclaiming, “Oh, you are a localite. Cool! Where do you stay in Mumbai?!” So you end up meeting people from various parts of the country and share different cultures but similar dreams – to reach at the top of the world!
In the evening, when it is the time to wrap up from the office, you get charged up once again to face the crowd and fight for your square centimetre of space in the local train. And again if you miss your 7:37 PM local from Fort station to Borivali, you get late for the dinner atleast by 50 mins. But you can always munch on a Vada pav. Cheapest and best snacks of Mumbai. There are people who survive only eating Vada pav, so if it is just a snack for you, you are a lot better off!
By the time you are done with your dinner, it is 10:30PM. You talk to your parents over phone and then you realise it’s time to signoff for the day. The next day is 6hrs away from waking and you need to rest before you gear up again! The sleep you get after toiling for the complete day cannot be bought from any shop. You sleep with a faith and wake up with a hope the next day! Are we missing something here? Oh Yes! This is just the starter and the main course and deserts are still waiting. You have only tasted first dish of the Chappan Bhog food. (Chappan Bhog – 56 variety of dishes served on auspicious events)
The day you feel life is getting monotonous, you need a break – you message your friends “Today evening at Marine drive, dinner at Jazz by the Bay.” So you meet up your college friends at the Queen’s Necklace. You chat with them, share stories, watch the ocean waves moving and stare at sky thinking. You land up at Pahlwan dhaba behind the historic and royal Taj President hotel for dinner. Paratha – curry with Coca cola and friends. You end up running towards station to catch the last local. Not that staying all night awake at the sea shore would not have been fun, but the next day office drags you home. A day well lived.
And the weekends are much awaited time. You sleep out till the noon. Do your pending work and plan for the evening. You hang out with your roommates at Juhu beach, go to Versova beach with office gang, at the ISCON temple with closed ones, Siddhivinayak, Mahalakshmi and Haji Ali with relatives, Hakone Go Carting with your friend’s group and now you are also part of that group, Water Kingdom water park with your project friends, latest flick with your ex project friends, English play with random friends (term I came to know in Mumbai itself), Lonavala on a rainy weekend with old friends. Your cousin visits Mumbai and he is a great fan of Shahrukh Khan so you take him to Mannat (SRK’s bunglow) at Bandra.
The city never sleeps. And not just in the literal sense but also when it is gripped by foreign attacks. 26/11 the biggest terrorist attack in the history of India – yet next day offices was open. Life was at normal, up and running in few days time. The city has its own challenges. The traffic is maddening at times, slums is as much an integral part of the maximum city as the Sensex, Bollywood and politicians, food is cheap but living is expensive, yet “Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, usse perfect banaya jaata hai!
The post would remain incomplete without the mention of vigilant and agile Mumbai Police. They are the once who keep crime under control and ensures fearless mobility. They are the once because of whom people like me can go to Juhu beach at morning 3 o’clock and sip road side ginger tea!
fOoD fOr ThOuGhT: There has been a Harshad Mehta and there is a Ratan Tata. There has been a Dawood Ibrahim and a Hemant Karkare. Monika Bedi or a Priyanka Chopra. Or you can be larger than life, Sachin Tendulkar is an example. This is ‘the’ city where people come to make their career and end up making their life, it depends what dreams you want to realise!
*This series will also be published simultaneously on Karan’s blog. Part II titled ‘Fashionable Delhi’ will be posted in days to follow!
Entry filed under: Tale of Two Cities.
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