Mumbai truly is a global city – not only does it play host to people from all over the world, it even propitiates to two deities. The elephant headed Lord Ganesha, the harbinger of good fortune in any new venture and the greek god of wealth, Mammon. But whether this Indo-Greek Divinity Inc. resides here certainly seems doubtful.
The city, more or less, has been left to its own devices, by both god and the politicians – maybe not in that order. Take a look anywhere in the city – forget that there are slums. There’re slums and ghettos everywhere – even the Big Apple New York, which incidentally happens to be Clinton’s and Bloomberg’s playground, has its fair share of ghettos. What straightaway pierces the eye is the utter neglect of infrastructure.
The staircase at the railway stations, with the widening cracks, miraculously surviving year after year, the dirty, betel-leaf stained medians on the road, the broken sidewalks for pedestrians, the sheer apathy for the roads, the railway stations, the residential buildings, even the beaches and the sea makes you wonder why a city’s administration is so callous about its responsibilities.
It’s not as if Delhi is paradise in heaven – it has its own share of muck. But the fact also is that while Delhi overdoes the infrastructure maintenance bit – perfectly good sidewalks will have their tiles uprooted for some fancy new ones to be put in place – Mumbai swings the pendulum to the other extreme – that of let it be damned.
It’s like the administration, the ministers, et al have completely abandoned this portside entrance to India on its western coastline. And the attitude indeed percolates down to the citizenry – most buildings, be it residential and commercial, have had their exterior façades untouched for decades perhaps, with the building owners unwilling to spend a penny on their upkeep, despite earning monthly rentals equivalent to the price of an entry-level hatchback car.
Projects that once get underway, rarely come to fruition within a government’s lifespan of five years, with the last six to nine months of any administration spent in complete limbo in expectation of elections.
The only time some movement happens is when there are fatalities involved – be it a building collapse or bridge collapse. For a while, one can actually feel the earth spinning on its axis, but soon, that sense of complacency dulls and numbs the mind – till the next such incident.
It’s not just the cost of labour arbitrage that is our USP – the cheapness of human life arbitrage also works in our favour.
God, it would appear, checked out of the city long back and is in no rush for a repeat stay.