Thursday, April 21, 2011


MUMBAI is thick, dense and viscous with people, automobiles, high rise buildings, slums and indeed with emotions and so much else - all jostling, wrestling, shoving, bumping, colliding against one another. With very sparse vegetation the only relief from the feeling of  great besiegement in this mega swamp of modernity is provided by the distant sea  when one overlooks any of the beaches here. At least that's  the impression an outsider like me gets on the first contacts with this great metropolis. Delhi, which is my forced hometown, is equally crowded but here, with far fewer high rise buildings and broader roads, the spaces and skies look more open,  and many of its beautiful parks with their ample greenery provide  great relief from Delhi's own peculiar oppressions. 

But read this poem I wrote on Mumbai after  a few contacts with this megacity, before 26/11 happened. 


Mega metropolis, once Bom Bahia, then Bombay, or Bumbai, now Mumbai
Perched on the eastern edge of the Arabian Sea, financial capital, Maya Nagari,
Arch temptress beckoning, beguiling, seducing, swallowing millions, day after day
Towers sprouting everywhere, jostling, growing upwards, aspiring to touch the skies
Trampling upon multitudes stranded in the grounded overcrowded hovels
Roads, looking more like streets, crammed, choked, bursting with automobiles
Streams of black-hooded auto-rickshaws, obsolete, moribund yellow roofed cabs
Red BEST buses too big for the roads, and the newest Lexus cars shaming all else
Local trains flying, thundering, roaring past one another stuffed with commuters
Hanging at the entrances like weightless spacemen readying for a take-off into space
Railway platforms full with people waiting to assault the trains like storm troopers
Church Gate, Victoria Terminus, now CST, the prime loading and unloading bays
The imperial Gateway of India, with the majestic Hotel Taj in the background,
Teeming with visitors, overlooking the sea crowded with steamers and motor boats
Marine Drive, the arc of honeycombed mansions bordering the wide-breasted sea
Seaside promenades, Chowpati, Worli, Bandra Band Stand, Carter Road, Colaba, Jhu,
Filled with people, Marathis, Gujaratis, Parsis, Sindhis, Tamils, Christians, Bhayyas
Dressed in saris, skirts, sleeveless or half sleeve blouses, jeans, tea shirts, pants, shorts,
Bermudas, salwar-kameezes, burqa covered bodies peering out from slit-like openings
A good sprinkling of young lovers, walking hand in hand, or nestling into each other,
The boys feeling the unprotesting waistlines, the relentless waves urging them on
BSE, the pulse and heartbeat of the corporate India, its mercurial systolic and diastolic 
Colaba, Nariman Point, - convergence of wealth, politics, arts, fashion, fun, food, crime
Siddhi Vinyak, Mahalakshmi, Haji Ali, St Peters, St Andrews, Mount Mary, the Agiary
Ever ready to receive the devotees with their prayers, pleadings, confessions, offerings
Flowers, garlands, sweets, fruits, coconuts, chadders, candles, hymns, qawalis, donations
The success stories on display on glamorous billboards – Bollywood stars, corpogiants,  Politicos, godmen, cricketers, real estate kings and dons – for awe, envy, emulation…
Shivaji Park, the playing field for politicians to promise, appeal, provoke, threaten…
The Wankhede Stadium, for mass glorification of the newly raised pantheon of gods
Hospitals - Nanavati, Lilavati, Hinduja, Jaslok - where money alone may cure ailments
Dharavi, mere two hectares, seething with a million humans, Mumbai’s pride and shame
Kolis, the fishing people and their boats, once the unchallenged lords of this coast land.
And, invisible underneath, the passions wrestling and contending in millions of hearts...