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September 13th, 2005

11 th September 2005


This evening I met a planner from the Eastern part of India . We met to discuss issues of land and housing in Mumbai city. I imagined that the meeting would last an hour. It seemed to go on and on till I eventually realized that our planner friend is seeking to talk to someone. I then invited him to take a walk with me along a promenade in the city. We began walking. “I live in a 8 by 12 ft room. It is well furnished and has a television. That’s all. I go there only at nights. Otherwise, I am working in office all the time. In this city, there is hardly anyone I know. If I discuss the issues that I am discussing with you with my colleagues at work, they wouldn’t be interested in listening to me. All they’d want to talk is business – where’s the money? I have lived in cities all my life. I lived in Kolkatta, then Delhi following with cities of the Middle East , then Ahmedabad and finally here, Mumbai! Have you ever eaten bread-pakoda in Delhi ? It is a common street delight in Delhi . I don’t know how old that bread must be with which they make the pakoda. And the interesting thing is that in Delhi, if you see most buildings, they have the triangular pakoda kind of structure on their facades as well! So Delhiites eat the bread pakoda and put it up on their building facades also!”

We walked along the sea. “Have you always lived in Mumbai?” he asked me. “Yes,”
I replied. “What do you like about the city?” “I like the fact that at least it has the sea to which one can take recourse when one is too worked up and needs space. That is unlike
Delhi where there are few or none public spaces to bum around without having to spend much money. The other thing is that Delhi is a circular city. The scale is much larger and wider than Mumbai and hence, the city is imperceptible to me. I cannot fathom it and it confuses me. As one auto driver said this time, “ har taraf 360 hai ! (everywhere you go, it is 360 degrees!)” Mumbai is a linear city and therefore, the scale is much smaller. And of course, the biggest asset of this city is its public transport system which gives you a sense of freedom of movement and sense of community as well!” He seemed to agree with my observations, “ Delhi is too hot. We used to live in the DDA ( Delhi Development Authority) flat. It is like a vertical slum. The room was as tiny as the one I am presently living in. In the summers, there would hardly be any water and electricity. We used to sleep on the terrace because it was so hot in the room. People in Delhi can be very rough and aggressive!”

We went on talking for long – about hobbies, interests, writing, research, time, parents, etc. Time went on and on, and perhaps he would have continued talking if I did not decide to leave.


This evening’s experience brings me back to questions of loneliness, the instincts which make us human animals, companionship, community, spaces, individuality, anonymity and cities. Perhaps all I could do was to empathize with our planner friend and share a few moments which would bring relief – like rains to a parched desert. But beyond this what? How can communities and spaces develop in cities? Are communes the only way out to live and experience community? …





  1. September 13th, 2005 at 11:57 | #1

    Nagpada brings back memories to me 🙂
    Eating at Sagar and Saarvi, walking from nagpada to bombay central station, the first time i walked tht route i was quite psyched but as i did it regularly the place grew on me. have you had the nankatai of tahoora sweets? quite delicious. near bombay central station is a restaurant called udipi, loved the rava masala dosa there… must say i have fond memories of nagpada.