Part 5: Cleanliness
I have never been a stickler for cleanliness. Friends who visited (or tried to enter) my room in B-school were faced with a plateau of newspapers on the floor. Not a single square inch was left uncovered. Amongst other things that I have found in that plateau with verdant vegetation is an iron (hiding amongst the November issues), a half-full bottle of rum (Bacardi Oro), pencils and pens and Easter Eggs (okay, I am making that up).
Frequent attempts by Mama and gang notwithstanding, the room remained in that state till I found the colony of rats just before the convocation.
I am also not a stickler for getting to a place in a hurry. Every morning for college, I used to hitch till Pragati Maidan (14 kilometres), then get another hitch (in Delhi it's called a lift, but that term is quite pejorative in other places) to Mall Road, and then walk down to college. It was a life of adventure - meeting new people and travelling in new vehicles everyday. It also didn't suit itself to great planning as far as time was concerned. We were left to the mercy of strangers after all.
Hence, a city's cleanliness and traffic don't matter a lot to me (unless I am going to an Airport or I am on a picture-postcard photography trip). It does matter a little bit though. And to the Girl, it matters a lot. Hence, my take on the cleanliness and traffic etc. in the two cities.
Delhi is better than Bombay on both counts (nothing's new, of course). I have not delved into reasons here.
There are obvious correlations between the income levels of a community and the cleanliness of the streets. A friend was making a valid point the other day that people need to have pride in their cities to keep them clean. And obviously, the space per person will determine civic conditions. I wonder whether these factors are remarkably different in the two cities (other than the noticeable space constraints in South Bombay)*. It can't be pride, can it?
Whenever somebody (often the Girl herself) makes a point that Bombay is quite an unclean city, I do not disagree. Instead I point out the immense 'character' of those streets. Two-three areas are special: the walk from VT to Regal, via Fountain, which is quite littered, the drives in Parel, long, winding, crowded, passing through old mills, old flats, classical windows and steeples of churches, Princess Street, Opera House et al, full of life and remnants of it.
Yes, Bombay is dirty, but it makes up for it with character. However, character's no excuse. So is the case with some of the other cities I like - Venice, Old Kolkata and some parts of Delhi. Bombay doesn't really outscore those places, howsoever much I like it.
Further, if you really want clean roads and neighbourhoods, I will have to give it to you- Delhi does better. Yes, I agree that it's mostly South and Central Delhi and the rather antisceptic Diplomatic Enclave that has come to represent the clean, spacious city. However, even in other places - from the suburbs in Noida and Gurgaon to the residential localities North and West of Delhi, from the stretch next to Old Fort to roads in and around North Campus - the relative cleanliness does show through. I have been in various parts of Bombay now, and am yet to come across a large really clean stretch. Cleanliness to Delhi.
This is where I am out of my depth. On one hand there are statistics which show that Delhi roads are the most unsafe. On the other hand, there is the somnolent traffic on most Bombay roads. Which one is better? Of course, since I have never driven on these streets, I have only the back street perspective**. From there, I would prefer to reach a destination early and not have much more to do inside the car/ bus. Hence, I would go with my friends who drive me around. They say that they prefer the Delhi traffic. Nothing much to say here. Traffic to Delhi.
By the way, the overall scores are: Delhi - 3 (Weather, Cleanliness/ Traffic, Quizzing), Bombay 2 (Food, People***). I haven't weighted the factors, but then seriously, who wants to make this all scientific and enter that debate? At least now I have an excuse ready. Tomorrow, I take on things to do/ places to be in.
* Income, from the statistics that I have, decidedly is not
** I also have the pedestrian perspective, but then, obviously, I will prefer buses knocking about gently at 5 miles/ hour to killer buses trying to crash hard against me against my wishes.
*** In case you didn't figure out (many didn't!) I was kidding about liking Delhi people more. Honesty above abstract thought for me (on most days). I can give up my Kotla pavilion passes if I am assured that nobody will cheat me of my place in the stands (which happened in Kotla once).