There is something Mumbai has against wall paint. There is something we like about the concept of letting layer upon layer of grime, fungus and disease accumulate on the walls of our homes, offices, shops and establishments.
We always hear about Indian streets and stairwells. How both are lined first with dirt, and then with spit, then peppered with bits of paper, foil and cigarette stubs. But no-one talks about the utter lack of fresh paint. If you happen to step out of the little islands of Malabar Hills, Parsee Colony, Diamond Garden, or Pali Hill, it would be impossible for you to not see what I mean.
The walls of our buildings blend so well with the neighbouring slums and shanty’s, with their splattered satellite dishes, faded curtains and dirty utensils all up for display. And as I walk by all of this, what disturbs me more than a little is that the only buildings which seem to be rebelling against this sea of neglect are little orange painted temples with golden bells, or grey marble Jain temples and mosques.
Obviously God is God because he believes in the concept of a clean home both within and without.
So here we are. In a city which the MMRDA has forgotten, using proximity sensors to keep noisy autorickshaws from scratching our shiny Audis and Porsches, closing our hearts and minds to how ugly a once beautiful city has become. With streets which suddenly collapse into pits casually fenced in by yellow tin strips. With a majority of its people forced to sleep, eat and watch TV in conditions my middle class mind can hardly grasp. With the police fast becoming the only visible face of any form of government or command structure. With a populace trained to be inured and endure.
Have we lost hope? Is that it? Do we not want to paint buildings that are typically always in danger of being torn down? Are we tired of being defeated each year by the monsoons? Are we too poor to afford paint?
Why are our villages so clean, and our beloved city so fucking dirty? Why, why, why?
Bombay was not like this. I know it wasn’t. And it was just as crowded, just as hard-up, just as chaotic. All this construction is so pointless. We dig out the earth, and put it back on the walls of the buildings we erect. Or we just leave it there, to settle into peaty grime. For everyone to collect bits of, like prasad. Yes, this grime and filth has become the prasad of this city’s people. Shunned only by its places of worship.
Before any reform can happen it is still-born. Before we can even think of moving forward we move backwards. Of course the Housing Society can decide who resides in it on the basis of your religion. Or your maritial status. Or what you cook. How dare you even suppose otherwise? Did you think your grand Constitution, would manage to prevent this dark ghetto mentality, avoid this fostering of communal hatred?
Did you actually believe that someone out there wants a more efficient city, and therefore phased out that ridiculous relic – the Fiat Premier Taxi? Why? So that less jams happen? Signals move better? People reach on time? If you care so much about all that, just take the local train. Or buy the aforementioned SUV and block out all the road rage.
I always laugh at people who attempt to categorise an entire city through a singular concept. Mumbai is different for every person who lives in it. For me, it is impossible to capture in one idea, or one post. I just know that it has stopped being the city I once loved.
Or maybe I have just stopped loving it. Who knows with these things.