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The futility of struggles in Mumbai

I live in Mumbai and while it has become routine for people to sing praises of the city, idolize the 'struggles' they face here, there are some people, who see the naked thruth through the Stockholm Syndromed reactions of 'Mumbaikars', and talk sense! Today I plan to add my take to this line of thought.

I live in Powai, specifically in the Hiranandani locality of Powai - probably one of the most urbane spaces developed in Mumbai - paved streets, proper footpaths, angled / curved turns etc. Traffic flow has been planned to be regulated well; even then every morning between 8:15am and 8:30am, there is a cacophony of cars honking their way on the road beside my apartment. The reason is that there's a school in the alley behind my house and since it starts at 8:30am, cars of parents who have come to drop their wards occupy one lane of slow moving traffic.

I am sure there are several commuters who pass this point every day at this hour and get stuck in this jam daily. There is a very simple way indeed to avoid this route, though. If you take the previous right turn before my house, take the next left, you will end up back where this main road otherwise takes you - and this route at 8:15am is quite free. And even then, every morning, here they are, the daily commuters honking their way to glory than take the alternate route.

It may look like I am simply blabbering my frustration out because this affects my morning, but no - that's not the point I am making. Just like this troubled lane beside my home are several arterial roads of Mumbai - the Western and Eastern Express Highways, the JVLR, the Peddar Road, Babulnath lane, NM Joshi Marg, Ambedkar Road aka Tulsi Pipe road etc. - all these roads experience similar mayhem at specific hours of the day. Some of them are ill fated, they are possibly the only ways to get into and outside specific parts of the town (ex. parts of WE Highway) - but many of these roads have alternatives, there are by lanes, alternate roads and of course you always have the option of traveling off-peak hours if your work schedule permits.

And its not just roads, the local trains are also jam packed between 7:30am and 10:30am! Same here - there are alternatives. Some of us can leave homes early and take buses - trust me I see many buses (even AC buses) plying half empty in rush hours. Or you can take trains after 10am or before 7:30am.

But alas, the average Mumbaikar is plagued - s/he is plagued by the fact that everyone else honours the secret Mumbaikar code and if you don't, you'll be singled out as lazy, inefficient, not capable of hard work, sometimes even untrustworthy. Yes - Mumbai loves to struggle; even if there were ways of making our lives simpler and more comfortable, we struggle - wade through waters, carry an extra shirt in our backpacks, cling on the the mere 2 inch vacant space on the train's door, sometimes rush into an incoming train at VT so as to get that coveted prize of a window seat!

To be sure, the city is deficient; its is deficient in urban transport supply - there are times when everything from buses to trains will run packed; it is deficient in roads - however you may try, you'll never find some parts like Kalanagar signal bereft of traffic; it is deficient in amenities - there are no dustbins at train stations or bus stops, the rainwater evacuation is not yet smooth. And the city administration is corrupt - contractors maintain island city better than suburbs, repairs are fake .... the list is endless!

BUT, these problems exist in all large cities of the world; even though they probably may be proportionately severe in Mumbai. Nevertheless, what keeps the Mumbaikar struggling is not the deficiencies alone but the deficiencies coupled with her resolve to avoid common sense, to prioritize timeliness over convenience, her resolve to beat the weather or beat the other commuter on the road ... if it was her day, even beat God - to reach office on time!

I think, this needs to stop - Mumbaikar's need to stop celebrating their spirit and get to their senses. There are better ways to live in this city. If you can, change your habits, change your routine, change your driving routes or your commuting methods. Living a life is a choice which is available only to those who choose to accept it over the choice to struggle!

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