Monday, April 11, 2011

City of Mumbai – my first impressions!

After having lived for exactly a week in Mumbai, one lets go of the inertia to write the blogpost about one’s first experiences of the city. Though I got a mix of clearly stated warnings from a few people and exaggerated hype from the others before I moved in, I feel the city has a good combination of both!

My first impression on the city is how the rich and poor co-exist so beautifully. If I consider other cities, Chennai for example, you’ll never see a hut right next to a bungalow with a Volkswagen Passat. But in Mumbai, you see exactly that, over and over again. There could be a 25 storeybuilding with a few BMWs and Mercs parked inside, but they have to pass through the slum to get in to the building. Most high rise buildings have grand views of impoverished slums.

And it seems like a common situation to not have parking space in the building one resides in. I see Honda Accords and Toyota Corollas parked anadhaya on the roads in the night. Once again, this is something that startles a resident of Chennai, where even a Maruti 800 is ducked inside the compound wall through a gate meant for two-wheelers!

As the fiancé nicely puts it, the co-existence of rich and poor in the city gives the rich a humble approach to life and the poor a growing aspiration. Maybe she is right!

Next thing I observed is the traffic pattern. I hear Mumbai built over 50 flyovers in just 2 years early last decade. Talking about bridges/flyovers, there is one toll booth to get on the Vashi bridge that I take daily. Though the toll operation is completely manual, it is faster than even fully automated EZ Passes in the US. Cars here hardly stop at this toll, they just slow down and in one split second, the exchange of the money for the toll receipt happens and the cars speed away. I have tried both - giving the exact money or expecting change. It just works perfectly.

All one has to do is to stick one’s hands out to display the cash he is to pay while entering the toll. Rest is taken care of by the robotic arms of the toll booth guy (and the helper who stands outside, almost on the road). The transaction is complete before you know it! I just think it’s fantastic and silently wish tolls in OMR Chennai are at least half as fast!

And the traffic regulations implemented in the city are just awesome. Especially I love rules such as Auto-rickshaws not being allowed to certain parts of the city and two-wheelers not being allowed on certain freeways/flyovers. I think it greatly helps to organize the flow of traffic.

Maybe I drive against the traffic since we reside in South Bombay and I drive towards Navi Mumbai. But I think the traffic flow is slightly better than other cities in India. Also, I see far less two-wheelers in the city than other cities. I am still to find the probable reason for this.

Another thing I found very fascinating is the night life in the city. On weekdays, the city goes to sleep only after midnight and during weekendsI suspect the city never sleeps. Most high end restaurants are open till 1 or 2am and even malls are open till midnight. There was bumper to bumper traffic at 2am when we came home after a late night dinner at Colaba last Saturday. It only reminds me of life in NYC!

With the business centric minds of Mumbaiites, they go to a good extent to create value for customers in every single business avenue they venture into. Most shops deliver pretty much everything from breakfast dosas to vegetables to batteries to milk. People in general are very nice – be it while giving directions or while assisting in parking a car in the apartment. They are so nice that even terrible Hindi does not deter themfrom helping (yours truly’s first-hand experience!)

Just like every city, Mumbai might have its darker side and I’m probably not exposed to it yet. I truly wish impressions remain the same. And though it’s very early, except for some initial blues, I’m slowly starting to like the city. But will I ever get comfortable here to call this placeHome, only time will tell.


Sreekrishnan said...

So You talk Flawless Indhi ?

Nandini Vishwanath said...

You speak with such wonder :)

Hawkeye said...

i think their traffic regulations are excellent. something for madras to emulate.

but their trains and buses suck. they need to emulate madras there.

Gradwolf said...

Yep, once you get used to the Bombay way of life(great transport facilities, night life, get delivered every damn thing to your doorstep), it is quite difficult to start afresh at another place!

SRK said...

Welcome to the city of dreams... and dreamers...

@ Hawkeye: Chennai's buses are better than the BEST ones of Bby? Really?

Hawkeye said...

no comparison. for past 30 years from non-AC bus era to the new AC deulux era, the seating comforts, connectivity and convenience in madras in way ahead. Infact bombay has improved quite a bit now. In 90s it was just pathetic.

Ganga said... of dreams... ur blog helped me visiualise everyday life there with ease... i have visited and did feel very comfortable there... the taxi wala did not cheat and the skies did not go dark before 8... but trains had a mad rush even on a sunday... overall experience was good.. too fast for me live in.. but surely a life to dream about..

Anonymous said...

I was blog hopping when I landed here..I was also to Mumbai recently..Mys first trip thr..and I had also written about how city is full of contrasts..Extreme richness sand extreme poverty together.

My first impression abt the city is also very good..But the three negatives I saw thr were the traffic, snobs (we encountered some really snobbish rich girls in the posh areas of mumbai) and the humidity. It isn't as hot as Chennai thr but it makes us sweat twice as much as here. Also I suck at that was another major negative!