When the train drivers went on strike I saw what the city was like travelling in a bus. The bus was crawling and the five hours I spent inside the slow-moving vehicle gave me a perspective of what is really happening in my city. I mean how it had changed over the years. I could make out the changes that had happened over the past few years, slowly, incrementally, insidiously.
First of all I noticed the high rises in Parel mill district. I don’t see any development here. I had hoped to see a lot of modern office complexes, neat streets, progressive urban development, “new urbanism” as the much touted areas were made out to be. Travelling on the train network I had missed all these sights. What I saw shocked me. I was a sort of a nasty surprise, of a Kafkaesque and Camus-ian kind. I had expected neatly constructed apartment-cum-office blocks laid out in gardens and freshly watered lawns. Mostly, children playing on these lawns and an aura of residential bliss.
Alas, alack! None of these. Disappointed, I hang my head. I see the usual rubble on the streets, the bricks stacked brazenly in front of buildings, sand dumped on the roads, and encroachments, encroachments, encroachments. I see people, some of them very old, sleeping on the streets, dogs, sidewalks encroached greedily by shops, unauthorised vendors and hawkers brazenly doing business.
Things have changed but not for the better. The congestion has increased. There are more cars on the roads because people living in these sky-kissing monoliths all have cars, there are more people because the high-rises are full of people. There’s more pollution and the carbon emission from these areas is sickening even to look at. I guess this has raised the temperatures, I think as I sit and sweat in the bus.
The sweat and the heat, both unbearable and the thick emission from cars forming a kind of bluish haze, I feel sick, but then can I help it? We have goofed. We have. Real big time.