Glass Revisited

A view from a glass-fronted cabin of my office.
The forlorn wall is all that remains of a three-storied office that used to exist only a few months ago. it was one of the scores of three-storied pre-1991 offices which had come up on the mill campuses of Lower Parel, Elphinstone & Currey Road after the mills had shut shop. Since the past five years, these drab structures are being torn down, replaced by gigantic corporate parks, residential super-structures and mega-malls.

Beside the wall there is now a seven-storey deep crater, lined with the thickest steel & concrete that contractors in that area have ever seen. Rumours abound as to the height of the building they are building on top of it. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be a residential tower.

The Frontline magazine published an article titled “Vanishing Mill Lands” on the September 10-23 2005.Although well written, the article fails to point out that industrial cities the world over have failed where they expect Mumbai to succeed. We conveniently forget that cities mega cities like New-York, Boston, London, Paris, Madrid have gone through massive, often ruthless transformation, in order to cater to the changing needs and demands of the free-market economy. They were all industrial power-houses who are today massive financial and commerical nerve-centers.

It is a fascinating time to be in Mumbai. Bombay is being slash-and burned, and living and breathing in Mumbai, with its hurtling real-estate development, is like being in a war-torn city. Promises abound: Dharavi will be transformed, a Metro transit system along with air-rail, a Golden Gate style bridge connecting Bandra & Worli & of course, Central Mumbai as the new commercial hub.

And while they are being fulfilled, our memories of Bombay become more precious, for a few of know, in our hearts, that in our own life-time, it will be gone forever. A part of me does not mourn, for I know that it is a privilege to be born on the fault lines of History. But a part of me is afraid. Afraid that the price this city is paying is too steep. There are two Amdavads. There are two Dillis. But there can never be a Bombay & a Mumbai. One of them will perish. For they are cultures. Not geographies. Navi Mumbai can never be New Delhi. Because Central Bombay can still be transformed into Central Mumbai. Like London & New York, people will soon forget about the mill workers and aspire to visit the shining glass and steel structures. For they are the 21st Century’s chimneys & shop floors.

2 responses to “Glass Revisited”

  1. It was wonderful and provoking when you were talking about this, and it is the same here too… muah…keep writing and thinking, its pretty!

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