I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Part 7: X-factors

For this final post of the series, I have decided to abdicate responsibility. To two people who can write better about their cities: Anand and Bombay Addict.

As I see it, this series is not about coming up with the 'better' city, that's for statisticians like them (and here)*. I have had the experience of living in both the cities. With frequent travel that I end up doing, I also get to experience the best in them simultaneously. I count myself lucky.

In a country that is picking itself up with frenetic pace, these two cities will determine what India will be over the next fifty years, if not the next century. It might sound pompous, but I believe it's not. The conversations we are having at Andhra Bhavan and in Mondegar, in buses, in trains, in Metros, at Nehru Park and on Marine Drive, why even on blogs, will determine public opinion, policy and results. In Tony Greig's words, "It's all happening out here."

Also, I must add that when I started off this series of posts, I was convinced that Bombay is better than Delhi. I still am convinced (Girl, are you reading?), but I have started understanding and getting to know the city of my childhood and adoloscence a little bit more. I don't know whether I have fallen in love with that city yet, but I definitely have started appreciating it more. That, for a week of effort, was definitely worth it. So, SloganMurugan, panga notwithstanding, it's over to friends.

"...In Delhi, even the most casual observer will notice the existence, or at least the possibility, of many times. Whether it is the roundabouts of central Delhi where you have government servants taking extended lunch breaks of playing cards right next to the swirling traffic, or whether it is the empty, echoing spaces of the monuments that dot the busiest localities of South Delhi; Delhi is filled with the juxtaposition of many times at once. And the public space to 'do nothing' if you so wish. No, I'm not just trying to say that Delhi is full of lazy buggers like me. It is just that all time here is not the constant present.

Of course, the fact that Delhi is at least a thousand years old, and that the ruins of the past abound everywhere is just one reason for this. The other is that the ruins and monuments of Delhi are only among the vast amounts of public space that the city has. Lodi Gardens is just one example that brings together the monuments and public spaces of the city wonderfully – there are far more public spaces. Spaces to do nothing if you wish but 'hang around'. The lawns around India Gate, The vast Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Nehru Park in Chanakya Puri and its open air concerts, the vast courtyard of the Jama Masjid . Right next to Delhi University stretches the forested Delhi Ridge.

Much of my first years in Delhi were spent in wandering through far flung ruins, and lying down undisturbed for hours in the cool shade of thick domes. Isa Khan's Tomb was one of my favourite haunts, where I would use my bag as a pillow on hot afternoons, if I was early to meet friends at Nizamuddin Station.

Delhi abounds in space-time – not for metaphorical reasons alone. Including the space to be oneself, perhaps? Delhi does not have one unifying accent/lingo (except, perhaps the distressingly frequent use of the term Behenchod) which can be identified as 'Dilli-ya' to coin a distressingly bad term… there are broad accents, Jat, Purabiya, Punjabi, Malayalee… people keep saying that no one feels like they 'belong' to Delhi… why do they need to? Delhi gives you the space to not belong, I think, or feel the need to… there is room for disagreement here, and arguement, and conversations..." More here.

"...Bombay is a drug. Prolonged use is lethal. Highs include money, wealth and success. That's what draws the droves into the city everyday. From the uneducated exile arriving at VT with Rs10 in his pocket dreaming of becoming a film star, to the IIT-IIM grad arriving at the airport dreaming of heading Citigroup India...

For all its crowds, Bombay also gives you privacy. Even if you share it with a million others, your space is still yours. With the sea as your constant companion. For each harried commuter that pushes you to get ahead at Churchgate station, there will be many others who won't care as you ponder life's vagaries over a sunset at Marine Drive. Or Chowpatty. Or Worli Sea Face. Or Carter Road , Band Stand, Chowpatty and Juhu. You will come here again when you fall in love. And probably when it's raining....

And then the people. Bombay belongs to its masses. Bombay belongs to Sailu, the nariyalpaani-waala , who personifies the typical quiet do-gooder in our city. Bombay belongs to the street kid who peddles a whole array of books at traffic signals. And then asks you for a lift from Mahalakshmi temple to Worli Naka. He's not worried if you refuse. This is Bombay and he'll get his lift. His day is over. It's time to study. Under the streetlights on the road next to the Doordarshan TV Tower. And there are many others like him at the steps of Asiatic Library. They will make it in life. In their own way, all of them will. If they will, so will you. This is Bombay.

Money, wealth, opportunity, lust, agony, ecstasy, crowds, loneliness, privacy, space, fun, people, food, Gods, demons, poverty, affluence, effluence, greed, power, movies..." More here.

I am happy that I didn't attempt to define these cities myself. Do read.

* Having said that, do check the score!!


Blogger dazedandconfused said...

I find the whole idea of comparing cities ('my city better than your city') pretty stupid. Though am not sayin that you r doin that.

There was this report released recently on quality of life in cities of the world. None of the Indian cities made it to even the top 150! Looking at the cities which are ahead of us is a humbling experience.

Its time we stopped comparing cities/IIMs/IITs because frankly, there's a long way to go for each of them.

By the way, my favorite city is Chennai :)

Sunday, April 23, 2006 10:34:00 PM

Blogger Bombay Addict said...

@D&C - needless to say I beg to differ.

The fact that our cities don't make it anywhere on any list is as old hat as the reactions of "ooh, aah (and then) ouch" from those returning to India from a trip to the Shanghais, HKs, Londons and Sing. Of course our cities could/should be better.

However, there is a potential in India that the world is waking up to. As DK2 pointed out, and as Deano puts it - "It's all happening here". (Good Lord man, even Tanya Zaetta relocated from Australia to Bombay...and no, I'm not a fan of our fetish for the Whites. But she seems to have sensed this fetish and has been lapped up by YashRaj and page 3! FYI - this was a light-hearted point pls!)

There are people (residents and investors of cities mentioned above) who are putting in serious money behind what is going to happen in India. Obviously, they are taking a call on something (like a transformation?). Whether it does happen or not is a different issue altogether.

I'm taking a call it will and agree with DK2 that both cities will determine India in the future.

In the meanwhile, we can at least invoke a healthy debate and have some fun? We're all passionate about our cities, indeed it is something worth being passionate about. Not stupid.

Monday, April 24, 2006 12:12:00 AM

Blogger Achtlandia said...

Obviously…home is worth fighting for…but I find myself in the midst of D&C and Bombay addict, between Delhi and Mumbai…having lived in both cities…I’m torn…of course…I have my share of passionate debates with a dear friend about how delhi-rox-mumbai-sux and he comes back with as many counter arguments. As I write he s gloating how Mumbai won 4-3…a well-deserved victory even though so many factors weren’t considered…chicks, transport, industry…but if I didn’t feel it was my obligation to fight for Delhi, I would get to say so many awesome things about Mumbai…the magic of that city envelopes me as soon as I step off d aircraft…the many nights that I’ve got wasted and sat till 3-4 in the morning on marine drive…alternating between staring at the waves and the queens necklace…but its not like I didn’t do the same at India Gate…again getting wasted and driving around eating ice cream! The diff was that the Delhi thing couldn’t be done without male friends, but big deal…fact of life eh? For every hour spent loitering on linking road and pickin up 6 pairs of ultra-hip footwear for a cool Rs. 800, I got a janpath and a sarojini…and for a bandra/phoenix/hiranandani/haji ali, I got a GK/South Ex/CP/Lajpat plus Noida and Gurgaon! For Enigma I got Elevate. For NPT I got CP, for BKC I got Nehru Place. Of course…there are some things which I don’t get here…like how mad Mumbai city got after that marine drive rape, and here people read daily cases with sheer indiff. It’s just too common here. There the verdict is out, here the tandoor murder is still discussed over coffee. Then again, when I had repeated accidents on the Mumbai locals, no one batted an eyelid, but when guys would bump into me in DTC buses, some guy would always either glare at the perpetrator or position himself as an obstruction, immediately on realizing my discomfiture. I find “mumbaiyya’ just as fascinating as Punjabi. My first day in Mumbai a guy said ‘khallas’ to me (in an irrelevant context), but it scared the daylights outta me cos I thot it meant ‘kill’…from doses of bollywood! I will always be biased towards Delhi, but I do love both cities as home. And some things Delhi will never have, natural beaches, sea breeze and a kick-ass mafia!

Monday, April 24, 2006 5:03:00 AM

Anonymous Vipul said...

I am a Mumbaikar who has lived and stayed in 11 different cities around the world. In my opinion, only 1 city comes close to Mumbai - New York. There is no way you can even compare cities like Delhi, Lucknow or Hyderabad to Mumbai. Period.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:38:00 PM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dazed n confused, you sound like TOI which asks, "Why should we focus on World Cup football, since we are only ranked 117 in the world?" !! :-)

Bombay Addict, I am with you on this.

Achtlandia, Interesting - chicks, industry... transport was considered a little bit in traffic... Why don't you post about these, by the way?

Vipul, yes, right.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 12:55:00 AM

Anonymous Maksood said...

I think it is a cool idea to compare cities.. 1 because it gives an non-textbookish overview of the city (which u haven't seen) and 2 because it just gives u a choice to expeience best of both the worlds..

Just because of some report said that we are not in top 150, people should not migrate to these cities which are in top 150..

but having said that, i think nashik is better than delhi if not mumbai...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:00:00 PM


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