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January 8th, 2006

January 6, 2006


11 o’clock at night.


I am still at Carter Road . Bus number 1 had just passed by. I imagine there will be another one in 20 minutes to ferry me to Byculla.


11:30 PM. No bus in sight. Mobile phone battery is also dead. (No means of communication. But I am not terribly afraid.)


Bus number 220 – I am moving towards Bandra station, hoping that there will be more choice of buses there and I will still be able to reach Byculla by 12:30 AM .


The crowd at the Saga bus stop is bleak. The regular bunches of burkha clad Muslim are not there (their presence is a form of consolation for me i.e. ‘people ‘like’ me, waiting for a common bus).


A couple is there, standing with a baby each on their shoulders. I look at them and know ‘instinctively’ that this is a Muslim couple, sophisticated and educated.

Which buses are you waiting for? I ask

I and 4 number, the woman replies. (She has a kind of near suspicious look.)

I am also waiting for those buses, I said

1 number bus just passed by, the man said.

Oh shit! I remarked.


I continued waiting for a bus. Buses would come and buses would go, but none for me (and the Muslim couple – reassured I am!).


A fat purdah clad woman came and stood at the bus stop. Her presence was also consolation because I ‘instinctively’ knew that she was also waiting for bus number ¼.


(How I mark Muslims and ‘my people’! I wonder about scale and the city – practices of marking, grouping, locality and community – the operation of the eye in the city!)


12:00 AM . I am still waiting (and so are the ‘Muslim couple’- I still haven’t verified their identity, but I know). The thought of taking a taxi seems unsafe and expensive. I notice that the couple are also looking at their watches and about to make a move to a taxi. Somehow I also know that they may be going my way – perhaps Byculla or nearby. I approach the woman:

Can we share a taxi?

Yeah, I was about to ask you where you are to go?


Which side?

On the bridge.

Okay, then we can drop you and take the taxi ahead.


I am relieved in a way. We board the taxi. I start making conversation:


Your babies have fallen off to sleep.

Yes, the kids get very heavy when they are on your shoulders, the man said.

How old are they?

One is 1.5 and the other is nearly 3.5.

That’s a very precarious age. You must be having to spend a lot of energy on them.

Precarious is a mild word, the wife said.

We are both doctors. I am ______ and this is my wife __________ (they were Muslims). I work as a doctor in _________ and she works as dentist in ________.

Oh great, so you are a dentist! I needed to clean my teeth so I will come to you.


We advise you to think carefully before you get married and before you have kids. Really, it’s a lot of energy and time and commitment.


The discussion on children and raising them went on for sometime.


So how come you are so late? (now the man is making most of the conversation)

Work. (I explain my work on cities to him.)

Oh! So you would know more about cities (now I am marked as an ‘expert).

Not really! I am still trying to understand.

I spent my time in London and Paris during my medical education period.

So, how was London ? I have always wanted to be there.

It’s okay. Nothing great! Brits are snooty and cold. Winter is terrible. They follow a five-day working week. Saturday-Sunday holiday. So if you don’t have friends/company/family around, it can be very depressing. I liked Paris better. I would advise you to go there. It is much, much better. Paris is beautiful.

(I wondered a bit about the riots in Paris – and I wondered whether the riots are part of his imagination of Paris .)


As the taxi passed along, he asked.

What’s your name?


So you must be Dawoodi Bohra?

No. (And I explained by community affiliation to him, which anyway is meaningless because I don’t practice.)

Oh, I am sorry I asked. (It’s natural I guess.)



We saw concretization of roads taking place.


They are always digging roads.


So, what’s this thing about Bombay becoming a world class city? Do you think Bombay will change and be different in the next ten years?

I can’t make any random conclusions for now. I am somehow beginning to believe that eventually, there will be a massive paradigm shift in terms of economy and business and that might create a new turn for Bombay . Presently, I feel concerned about the way Bangalore is going and the pressure on infrastructure. I think we are still better off in Bombay .


But then, the northern suburbs are hugely pressured and collapses might occur there which will be crazy.

Yeah, I guess we are better off in the city region.

Sure enough!

They are talking of clearing slums along P. D’mello Road and Tulsi Pipe Road .

It’s not going to be easy. The communities are very strong there. We can expect rioting if this were to happen. (And my mind went back to rioting in Paris and Danielle’s comments on social housing and how rioting took place in the social housing areas.)

I can imagine. You know things better because you study these! (ah damn!)


Byculla came.

The taxi halted.

I opened my wallet to pay for half the fare.

No, no Zainab, the wife said, we were anyway going to ask you to come along with us. Please don’t pay!


I thanked them profusely. And I wondered about trust, scale of people, the city, relationships and trust, trust, trust! How do strangers meet in this city!?!?!?!!?


Questions for today:

ü              Public transport and the experience/imagination of cosmopolitanism

ü              Public transport and cultural identity and difference

ü              Public transport and practices of marking

ü              Public transport and the division of the city (thereby making it easier to mark in terms of location, neighbourhood and geography)

ü              Imagination of the city (and therefore mind mapping of the city and cognitive maps)

ü              Planning, centralization, authority and subversions – everyday life!


  1. January 8th, 2006 at 07:56 | #1


  2. January 9th, 2006 at 05:52 | #2

    ofcourse , Mumbai is far better that bangalore….  in terms of public transportation,  living standards, etc…..