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January 23rd, 2018

A tale of two cities. The Indian version

I’m back in Delhi, and feeling distinctly cold, after the heat and sunshine of Bombay last week.

Yes, OK, OK, I know the city is called Mumbai, but 99% of my friends and family there still call it Bombay, and old habits die hard.

I was in Mumbai/Bombay to run the marathon on Sunday and a jolly fine time I had, meeting up with friends I’ve known for over a quarter of a century (yikes!) & some of Himmat’s family, and just simply being back in a city that is part of my DNA.

Bombay was the first place in India I visited, arriving there on work in January 1983 – exactly 35 years ago. Yikes Mark II.

Loved the city from the word go.

Simply loved it.

2 weeks into this first ever visit to India, I met a charming young man called Himmat, the man who is now my husband 🙂

And so yes, Bombay is indeed very dear and very special to me.

7 years later, married & parents, we were posted to Bombay with Himmat’s job, and our daughter Anjulie was born in Breach Candy Hospital.

So now do you begin to understand why I love the city so much?

Bombay gave me 2 out of the 3 people I hold most dear in life (my son Hari was born in Paris, so that’s a city that has an equally important part of my heart).

Each time I go back to Bombay-which-is-now-Mumbai, I marvel at how great a city it is, how vibrant, how friendly.

Admittedly I only go back for fun things like family weddings and marathons, and I don’t have to deal with any of the hassles of big city life, but Mumbai has a buzz and a vibe and a get-up-and-go-ism that I relish.

So, a few impressions from last week, and these are going to be non-running observations, don’t worry!

South Mumbai, where I stayed, is WAY, WAY, WAY cleaner than south Delhi where I live. Both are comparable areas, being considered “smart” parts of town, but Mumbai beats Delhi into a cocked hat in terms of cleanliness.

Pedestrians seem to have an easier time of it in Mumbai, with pavements/footpaths not overtaken the way they are here. How come cars are not parked on the pavement there, the way they are here?

Then there’s the traffic.

Heavy, in both cities. Bad traffic jams in both cities. But, by and large, Mumbai drivers sit out their traffic jams without using their horns non-stop and deafening everyone, the way they do up here.

They also stop before zebra crossings, allowing pedestrians to cross with ease.  If I had a rupee for every time I’ve nearly been hit by cars as I attempt to cross using a zebra crossing here in Delhi…

Mumbai drivers also let emergency vehicles through.  As in drivers stopping without being told, to let an ambulance through.  True.  Saw it with my own eyes.  Here in Delhi, forget it.  No one gives way.  No one.

But wonderful as Mumbai is, the fact of the matter is that I live in Delhi, so let me give you a snapshot of the city this cold, rainy January morning.

It’s a rather bleak picture, if the morning papers are anything to go by.

Rehearsals for Republic Day, the imminent arrival of guest for the upcoming ASEAN conference and Republic Day itself on 26th January, means that we the residents, we the tax payers, we the common folk, are in for a nightmare-ish week, with our lives being put on hold so that the VIPS can get around to do whatever it is VIPS do.

Metro stations will be closed, which means commuters get to work exactly how…?

Roads will be blocked off, meaning commuters get to work exactly how…?

Air space is closed for some time every day, meaning…

You get my drift.

This city‘s obsession with & pandering to VIPs is never more in evidence than at times like these.

Which means the city’s lack of concern for its residents is equally on display.

Plus our markets are closed today, as some traders are on strike, protesting government action against shops that they are operating illegally.  Go figure, as they say :

Added to which, we might not have any water…

So yes, all in all, as things stand right now, in the tale of two cities, guess which one comes out tops?

No prizes for guessing.

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