Mumbai, the dream city, wears its heart and soul on its sleeves. While modernity and its cultural roots compliment each other perfectly well, the megapolis itself is the personification of our life – replete with happiness, sorrows, fears, challenges, health, sickness, love, setbacks, and above all, triumph. Triumph of the spirit. Vidyottama Sharma on this amazing city that lives by the mantra: Life is a challenge – Face it.
Mumbai is not an easy city. Not with its unique geography at least. And with its limited land which forks out into two longitudinal stretches – Western and Central. Oh, there is a harbor line as well, making it more like a tripartite agreement among the train-travelling passengers of the city who crisscross the various lines to reach their destinations from home and back. It is a city which, thanks to its burgeoning population, is bursting at its seams. It is a city that has been home to a dreaded underworld for decades. It is a city that houses one of Asia’s biggest slums – Dharavi –a world in itself within its over-packed womb. It is a city whose oh-so-evident demarcation between the elite and the have-nots is a blunt reality. It is a city where monsoon kisses the lanes and bylanes and offices and homes and railway tracks every year with full force, in an effort to throw Mumbai’s life out of gear.
And yet, Mumbai thrives. Not just survives, but thrives. The rush of adrenalin in its visible and invisible veins is always too strong. Dreams are the city’s fuel. Each day it makes thousands of dreams come true, and each day, it breaks hundreds of them. If paradox was ever the second name of a place, Mumbai would win hands down. It can sap the energy out of its residents during the day through its travel woes and difficult work and life targets, but can also rejuvenate and reenergize its people in the same measure. Its on-the-job or out-of-job work force binds by a single word – HOPE and the Never-Say-Die spirit. Hope of a better future; and never-say-die spirit that never lets it slide down the popularity chart of international cities.
That is what makes Mumbai so magnetic. That is what attracts dreamers to its fold like a moth. The densest city of India that has outlived its capacity to hold any more people in its belly, is still it so seductive to the people of India, and even the world. Reasons? Resilience. Opportunities. Professionalism. Ingenuity. Its enormous capacity to give. Dreams. Infrastructure. Speed. And above all, Hope. If you have the will, the passion and zeal to stay on, it will reward your perseverance despite burning you on hot coals initially. And in abundant measure.
Its creative fashion industry, its tall heritage structures, its hip and moneyed advertising industry, its film industry – the opium-like attraction of the nation, its theatre groups, its kaali-peeli taxis, its auto rickshaws, the sprawling Arabian Sea that surrounds it, its suburban rail network that carries millions of passengers each day, its world-famous corporate sector that has been on a roll (buying foreign companies in many a sector since years) – the amazing potpourri gives Mumbai an enviable place among the cities of the nation.
The city’s underbelly has given it the worst gang wars. Each time the city has been shaken up with bomb blasts, its gritty people have vowed not to get cowed down by scare tactics, have shed tears, prayed for the departed souls, and continued with life sending a strong signal to the perpetrators of crime. Each time its soul gets bruised, it takes a step ahead, resilience writ large on its social fabric, and moves ahead. Each time monsoon comes knocking on its doors equipped with its evil intention of flooding the city, the Mumbaikars, umbrella in their hands, wade through water, walk, hop on to slowed down buses and pool cars but reach their offices, they do. Each time it hears of a heart-rending story, it opens its heart and purse strings to pour money and love into the bank accounts of the people who need them.
Mumbai is home to buildings of amazing architecture that lend it a heritage hue. Its Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the only national park of its kind in the world with a 103km area within the precincts of a city, and the Kanheri Caves that date back to the Ajanta-Ellora era within this National Park, are its pride of glory.
What also stands out is its corporate culture. Its corporate bigwigs who lend their entrepreneurial muscle, and economic prowess to the city, fill the nation’s exchequer too generously. The amazing professionalism that its corporate walls confine inside the offices – swanky or run-down, with an equal proportion of the vyapar crowd that knows no rules, is found nowhere in India. The unique diamond bourses that hide an entire economy within their shining stones, and have their own set of rules, are another intoxicating aspect of Mumbai.
In such a complete megapolis, infrastructure has to keep pace with its very progressive people. It has an amazing network of suburban trains spread over 494 route kilometres, and over 2,340 train services. Asia’s oldest railway network carries over 65 lakh commuters a day. While water transport will get more robust in the near future, we have already built a state-of-the-art Bandra- Worli Sea Link. We brought modern Metro to Mumbai. We built flyovers, Sahar Elevated Road, freeways, expressways… and we are still trying to ease the city’s travel burden with many more infrastructure projects in the pipeline. Just last year, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) initiated projects worth Rs 80,000 crore.
Mumbai accounts for a little over 6 percent of India’s economy and 30 percent of taxes. It accounts for 60 percent customs duty and 40 percent foreign trade among other things. It is the world’s 29th largest city vis-à-vis GDP with most of the world famous MNCs, fashion houses, and other groups having their offices here, not to mention the world famous film companies that tie up with
many an international film production house nearly each year.
But then, the picture is not all positive. It isn’t that there aren’t challenges. It isn’t that life in Mumbai is the best you can get.
It isn’t that the struggles of Mumbaikars aren’t intimidating. But then, Mumbai has a spirit that never dies. Mumbai has a heart that never gives up. Mumbai has a resilience that cannot be matched by other cities. For, Mumbai is the home to celebration – celebration of life, celebration of spirit, celebration of humankind, celebration of cultures and religions, celebration of creativity, celebration of business and industry, celebration of the very essence of being.
And that is why this Annual Supplement. It pays homage to the spirit of Mumbai, and in some measure, to Maharashtra. This is a spirit that can never be quashed. This is a spirit that says Yes to Life. And Life never ends.