Building Bridges and Everything Else

Driving through Mumbai is like driving through history. Not the history of textbooks, but the history of memoirs and autobiographies and forgotten photographs: random, erratic and romantic. The buildings look as though they have been plucked from any number of places, eras and climates, and simply thrown together. Small boxy buildings with no aesthetic value stand across a narrow by-lane; decrepit stories embellished with stone rosettes and tiny cat heads that are well passed their pristine days; and others that look as though they’re only standing thanks to sheer willpower, or perhaps because there simply isn’t any space to fall into. 
A Mumbai building’s appearance often belies its use. The grand, gothic building dominating the large intersection isn’t a cathedral but a train station (interestingly designed to resemble St. Pancras in London). The elegant yet understated villa behind iron gates isn’t the home of a diplomat, it’s in fact a Jain temple. The building with dramatic pink stone domes is not a mosque or hotel, it’s a hospital. 

Some are breath taking and oddly heart-warming for no reason at all. The college across the road from a beach; the building with an impressive statue of a Roman woman in front with a sword and tiger that previously housed the head offices of the shipping companies; avenues ending in bright yellow and blue petrol pumps a stone’s throw away from the docks.

The city planner obviously had the odd sick-day as well (or perhaps the street food just didn’t agree with him) for there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind anything.

Another very amusing thing has to be the Linux bins… Garbage bins all along Worli sea front in the shape of enormous open-mouthed penguins. There is also a pair of gymnasts’ beams on the walk by the sea here, not to mention a bronze statue of a man resting on a bar (no, the other kind) staring into the sea, overcoat and all. There’s the now infamous Taj, whose facade seems to resemble Harrods, standing proud and (as seen recently) slightly vulnerable, by the Gateway to India. It almost looks as though a child shook out his bag of buildings of the world all over the carpet, then ran off to play with something else. 
And of course, can’t forget THE bridge. This bridge is the Worli Sea-Link, connecting two parts of Mumbai that were previously an hour away from each other, to being only ten minutes away. It opened in July 2009, and is something every Mumbaikar holds close to their heart as I discovered when I mistakenly referred to it as a ‘bridge’. The residents objected to my throw away phrase for something so impressive. But despite my poorly chosen vocabulary I actually love watching watch cars drive over it at night, waves spectacularly breaking on its columns.

Nair Lakshmy

5 Comments on this post.
  • vijaya nair
    12 May 2010 at 16:36
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    I absolutely loved reading your account of Mumbai(still Bombay to me!) with the all so true comparisons of this city where I was born and where I grew up.
    With all the anomalies you have enumerated, I must confess it is a city that is very close to my heart.

  • suja
    14 May 2010 at 03:06
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    Mumbai is close to my heart..the local trains connect the cities as well as people, that is some thing which is missing in Bangalre,Once a mumbaikar, a mumbaikar for ever.
    Worli sea link is amazing. Nice to read the above article.
    You need to travel by ordinary transport, local trains. Then you will feel the real mumbai

  • JK (AJ’s colleague)
    16 May 2010 at 13:21
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    That picture that you have put up there – if it is taken by you you have chosen the wrong profession! It is fantastic. The article is well written though as rightly mentioned above, you need to travel in local trains in Mumbai to feel the pulse of real Bombay.

  • R. Willams
    17 May 2010 at 11:02
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    this is a brilliant article…very well written. After reading this i certainly am able to appreciate what i saw in mumbai during my private visit last year.

  • Raymond Danz
    17 May 2010 at 11:42
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    an article written by a person with an open mind and a keen sense of observation. btw, i am sure you have your own blog, tell us about it

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