When I read Suketu Mehta’s award winning book –“Maximum City” on Mumbai, I found it a bit hard to comprehend what is “maximum” about the city. If Mehta has to write a book on Mumbai today as a sequel he could very well name it “The Maximum potholed City” which will make for unchallenged comprehension. A drive this day through what people often refer to as a metropolitan city – Mumbai will be an (w)holesome experience with an exposure to holes of all sizes and shapes 🙂 In between holes you will be lucky to find some bits and pieces of road. While in other cities you find signs of “Caution bump ahead” in Mumbai soon you will find signs of “Caution Road ahead”!!!
All of us who keep cribbing about potholes in Mumbai sadak are missing an important point called “Positioning”. If Mumbai roads are as good as they are in Tokyo, Paris or Dubai then what is the unique positioning? What is Bappida if he is not a walking jewellery showroom? The dark glasses which our Tamil Nadu octogenarian politician Karunanidhi wears 24*7 defines now his identity. Potholes and Mumbai are something like this and now defines the city’s personality.
Realising the importance of imbibing this personality of the city, one NGO proposed to change the name of RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) in Mumbai to HTA (Holes and Transport Authority). But the proposal has apparently hit a “Holeblock”!
Recently one of the popular travel companies in Mumbai made a killing by positioning Mumbai as a destination for bachelor trips to the West. The idea was very simple. Post Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara movie there has been a rush from rich boys in India to travel to Spain to do Road trips. This agency turned the concept on its head and positioned Mumbai abroad for fancy “Holi(e)days”. The result has been extra ordinary.
There has been another novel attempt as well. Considering the fact that “Space holidays” or “Moon holidays” are still some time away and may not be also light on the pocket – for lesser mortals there is the option of “Moonbai holidays”. Sasta and Sundar. See the pictures for yourself.
Picture courtesy “Indiaopines.com”
That Mumbai resembles moon’s surface is not a figment of my imagination. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) which has plans to do a manned mission to moon may well be advised to divert to Mumbai and save a few millions. In our country millions still need basic food security.
While on this moon like experience, a novice foreign pilot flying to Mumbai for the 1st time panicked when he was losing height above Mumbai and was wondering if he was landing in another planet. But soon he breathed easy as he saw the countless shanties on the surface which he recalled seeing in Slumdog Millionaire.
In the midst of all this, one thing which got missed is the fact that today Mumbai is the “Beta site” for many car manufacturers to test the quality of their vehicle suspensions. If a suspension passes the test in Mumbai it passes the ultimate test. What started just with one manufacturer has now become an industry standard and is a major revenue stream for the Municipal corporation. Hence there is now an unstated commitment from the Government to maintain the condition of the roads with enough holes of different hue at any point in time.
This is not the only reason for the Government to have a ‘Hol(e)istic’ view on the road condition. The other being to ensure jobs for the thousands of workers engaged with the road contractors. Laying substandard roads and keep doing something on them in the garb of maintenance is another Employment Guarantee scheme. The only difference being this scheme doesn’t have the Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi prefix to it.
While on prefixes, suffixes and adjectives, the “spirit of Mumbaikar” is a famed one. But what is not is “the spine of Mumbaikar”. Mumbaikars possess the strongest and at the same time very flexible spine among human beings in the world. As one of my friends value added, after all Camel rides are supposed to be good for the spine and more often than not in Mumbai when you are in a vehicle the ride is akin to a Camel ride.
Recently when the minister concerned was questioned if the Government has a Roadmap to fix Mumbai’s roads, he mentioned that as of now they only have a “holemap” 🙂 and soon they hope to have a master plan and will reveal the same shortly. So it’s still not end of the hole oops road for Mumbaikars as yet. There is some hole oops again, hope!!!
Postscript: Years back – Nestle created a unique positioning for their mint by just creating a hole in the centre and calling it “Polo – The mint with a hole”!!! For a commoner it was difficult to fathom what’s so great in a mint with a hole. But the point is, it was different and “hole in a mint” became the defacto standard for a mint candy. The same Nestle after a few years introduced Polo Mini – with the tag line “The Hole with the mint”. This hole didn’t find many takers and had to be buried quickly 😦 😦
Disclaimer : The characters and incidents in this post are fictitious and imaginary. Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. And no animal was injured while writing this post.