After reading the first three post on memories, food and books, you have probably concluded that I am an incorrigible nostalgia buff, yearning for the ‘good old days’ of the sixties and seventies.
But if there is aspect of our lives that has changed for the better it is traveling around Mumbai and more particularly in Bandra. Despite the overcrowding, double parking and the pot holes, we are better off today than we were forty years ago.
As I mentioned in ‘Growing up in Bandra’ when we first moved to Bandra, the road outside our building had not been tarred. Walking on that road was a nightmare, especially during the monsoon when you risked slipping and falling. Only a few years later, when more buildings were constructed along the road that the municipal authorities tarred the road.
To get around Bandra, in those days, you either had to walk or cycle, because though there was a bus service the frequency was around once in half an hour. And the bus traversed a long and circuitous route. So you sometimes reached your destination faster if you walked instead of waiting for a bus.
Initially, I used the school bus to get to school. But since we lived on the outskirts of Bandra, I was one of the last to be dropped in the evening. And as the long drive cut into my play time, I started skipping the bus on the return leg, instead walking home with my friends. Eventually, my parents got wise to this and discontinued the school bus.
Owning a bicycle, in those days, was a status symbol in school. And a racer cycle with gears and cable brakes was the envy of all. So, when I reached the secondary section, I started pestering my parents for a bicycle.
My dad did not directly refuse to buy me a bicycle. Instead he laid down a condition; if I got a first five rank in my class at the examination, he would buy me the bicycle. Being a sucker, I agreed when I should have known that this was never going to be.
Eventually, I realised that was being taken for a ride by my dad. So, using a gift from my godmother who was visiting us as seed capital augmented by my ‘savings’, a couple of years later, I bought a bicycle. If I recollect right, the bicycle cost around rupees seven hundred, which was quite a fortune in the sixties.
With the acquisition of the bicycle, every morning I joined the peloton at the start of what is today called Manuel Gonsalves Road, all heading towards the school. In the evenings, the peloton headed in the opposite direction.
Traveling out of Bandra to other parts of Mumbai or Bombay at it was then called was always a horrendous experience for me. As a consequence of an infrequent service, a bus would sometimes be so full that it would drive past a bus stop without stopping. Especially if no passenger needed to alight.
For some reason, my dad did not like to use the local train to move around the city. Of course, getting into a local train in Mumbai, then as well as now, requires a special skill set and is not for the faint hearted. It was only when I joined a college that was located in the city that I began to use the trains, which I believe is the life line of Mumbai.
As I mentioned earlier, traveling is one area where I am glad that things have changed. Today the bus services have improved phenomenally and with more people driving their own vehicles, the buses are no longer overcrowded. In addition, auto-rickshaws ply in the suburbs and make commuting quite easy. If fact, given the difficulty finding parking space, it sometimes makes sense to use an auto for shorter trips.
Also the government has invested in infrastructure like flyovers, subways and freeways all of which have made traveling around the city comparatively a happier experience. I know that many will still complain of the bottlenecks resulting in traffic jams or the lack of parking or the overcrowding of the local trains, but when I compare the present with the sixties and seventies, I’m not complaining.
I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.
I personally have been to Mumbai a couple of times on official work, but the drive from the Domestic Airport to Malad where my office was located was crazy enough on both trips that I personally feel that commuting in Mumbai is something that people like me will cite as the primary reason for not liking your wonderful city as much as you Mumbaikars do!!!
And based on your post, if you are saying that the situation is better now when compared to years ago, then I am scared to imagine how it was in those years.
Commuting has always been horrendous and I don’t believe that it will improve in the foreseeable future. Partly, this is because to the geography of Mumbai and also the consequence of corruption and bad planning. We don’t really like the city, but for the want of an alternative, we live and let live.
I have not visited Mumbai. But the book Shantaram has taken me through the streets of Mumbai. And of course, have heard a lot about the spirit of mumbai 🙂 🙂
This stuff about the spirit of Mumbai is a load of hype. No doubt, in an emergency, people put themselves out and help. But all this stuff of the indomitable spirit of the Mumbaikar is just the adrenaline pumping in the blood stream and the instinct for survival taking over. Mumbaikars are survivors, period.
Indeed the scenario has changed a lot…
I too remember pestering my dad for a cycle 😀 after lots of hunger strikes (??) I finally got one 😀
I’m physiologically incapable of going on a hunger strike. I need six meals everyday.;)
yes, sir you are very nostalgic… but then nostalgia is good for health.. i remember my first cycling experience.. it was not that good, as i was a feeble little kid, and got hurt most of the times…
Yes, I am prone to bouts of nostalgia. But in the context of traveling, the memories are hardly pleasant.
Brings me alot of fond memories…I was promised a bicycle too if I got through the board exams with 1st class, of course I got it but six months later and it was a status symbol, but I liked my dad’s old wrist watch better, so I asked if I could trade :P. I have never been to Mumbai except to the airport to catch a flight. I have friends and family there who swear by the Trains…I watch all of that on tv and think “I dont think I will survive :)”
I like the transportation system of Mumbai, which was 9 yrs ago. The local trains were on time, the autowallahs were honest and buses had a good frequency. It is only the traffic on roads that was a killer. Dont know hows the situation now.
The local trains are usually on time; the problem is getting into the train. The autowallahs are even more honest today, with the introduction of electronic tamper proof meters. 😉 I don’t believe that traffic congestion will reduce. In fact, it will only get worse.
Oh you got fooled by your parents…We recently promised our son a playstation if he maxed his dictation 10 times in a row thinking he’d never do but he did.. So it works both ways 😀
Oh I love the Mumbai trains. I worked there for a few years and once I got used to them it was the best.
In my case it was the impossible dream; I should never have agreed to the proposition. But the silver lining, I guess, was learning the virtue of thrift, which has stood me in good stead to this day.
You made me travel to my first love Mumbai in all your posts…. am loving each one of them <3
Yes it is crowded, yes it is unorganised at times but it has a life of its own which is difficult to replace!
I agree that it is difficult to replicate the chaos that is Mumbai. Some love the city, other loath it, but all of us get on with living in Mumbai.
There are immense travel possibilities in Mumbai and beautiful Bandra. It is an enriching and timeless experience to travel in locals, our life line. It’s absolutely a city to die for and I love the vivid description in this inspiring post. The picture of Bandra Station brought back memories alive. Like always, it’s awesome reading you.
I used to travel to Bandra twice a year to Elco market to buy fashionable dresses and Linking Road to buy footwear. and always travelled by train. I used bus services scarcely then. But I agree transportation in Mumbai is very good and has improved with flyovers.
The train service was and will always be Mumbai’s lifeline. If you want to shut Mumbai down, just stop the trains. Kaput.
I am from Navi Mumbai and visited Bandra occasionally. I can’t imagine that walking on Bandra road was a nightmare once! BTW nice photos!!
For a few years, yes it was quite a nightmare. Then the roads got tarred so it was lovely to walk of cycle around the place. Now, the roads are not all that great and there are too many vehicles on the road.
Imagine seven hundred rupees! And you got a bicycle in that. I can imagine myself doing something similar, even today the thought of walking around appeals to me better than hitching a ride. Back in school I would often give my bicycle to girls who didn’t have one and go from one place to another on foot. Five kilometres one way was average for me back then..
I always say, traveling around your own hometown can always give many interesting insights..
Yes, Richa, I bought a bicycle in all of seven hundred bucks. Kings ransom but worth every paisa. Nice to know that we are on the same wavelength.
Whilst I enjoy walking around Bandra, I’d rather have ridden a bicycle. But it is too risky. For me a three kilometers walk is the limit.
Having a cycle was definitely a status symbol then. The same goes to having a radio. Securing a rank to get the cycle brings back some common memories. Another brilliant post by Jose 🙂
Yet another brilliantly nostalgic post. And really – the traffic is better now, than it was in those times? Wow. The traffic is the only thing I really dislike about Mumbai. Apart from that, love the city 🙂