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BOMBAY MERI JAAN

(Bombay, my love)

BOMBAY MERI JAAN
By Kapil Gupta -

“Great city, terrible place” is how Charles Correa described Mumbai sometime in the eighties in a seminal essay, an idea that continues to capture the enduring dualities of urban life in this South Asian Eldorado. I’ve lived in former Bombay for most of my life, apart from the few years I spent in London as a student. I come from a family of migrant traders who arrived in Bombay in 1945 in search of its fabled streets of gold. My childhood was filled with rag-to-riches tales of other enterprising relatives who also migrated to Bombay, and my own family’s journey from a one-room, 50-square-meter tenement shared by 16 members of my father’s extended “joint” family to the three-bedroom apartment in the upper class neighborhood of Breach Candy where I was born. Bombay lived large on these stories of upward social mobility. The city was an extension of my family’s living room. As children, my father and his siblings, travelled on the city’s now defunct tram lines to catch the latest Bollywood blockbusters at the art déco cinema theaters of Eros and Regal; they played cricket in the palm-tree-lined Oval Maidan and walked past the famous Taj Mahal hotel on the wide coastal promenade of Apollo Bunder, dreaming of the continental buffets served inside. My life in the city has changed radically since my youth. I grew up in Socialist India and I have fully experienced the impact of its transition to a capitalist economy as it played out in Bombay. I wake up to the sounds of construction work around me from the high-rise condominiums springing up in my neighborhood. The circle of my friends has shrunk to a group of people who live within a 15-minute drive from home. I’m lucky enough that my commute to work is a short 20 minutes, unlike most of my employees who take anywhere between one and half to two hours to get to the office. In Bombay, we plan journeys by measuring the time taken between two points, not...

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