Mumbai Memoir 122- The duality of a city like Mumbai!
When tourists visit any world-famous city, they are taken to the historical corners of the town or to the famous tourist spots by the tour guides. The visitors innocently absorb the facts, which they are introduced to. And that’s how it is supposed to be when one is on a vacation. In a relaxed holiday mood, no one is interested in understanding the dark side of the city. This thought occurred to me when I recently watched a French movie named ‘Les Miserables’, which depicts the beauty of Paris on one side and also exposes the audience to the dark truths that exists in the streets of East Paris, which bog the harmony of the ‘aesthetically perfect’ capital city of France. I could relate to the film very much as the city in which I live- Mumbai too has a glamourous side and also a dark side which usually the tourists are unaware of.
The tourist who visit Mumbai are fascinated to know that the city was gifted to the English by the Portuguese as a gift! It so happened that in May 1662, King Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, whose family offered a large dowry (a gift made by the father of the bride to the groom). Part of this gift was the Portuguese territory of Bombay. That time the geography of Bombay (now referred as Mumbai) was based on seven separate islands. Due to its strategic coastal location and being blessed by a natural harbour, British East India company officers reaped maximum commercial gains from the land. Further understanding the market potential of Bombay, the British developed the islands thus shaping its present-day geography and culture. Here’s a link to the 1932 (pre-independence) Mumbai: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob8n_Aaog58
Today the city has developed into a glamourous international destination. The tourists get awestruck with the glamour of Bollywood and after knowing that the city is called the ‘financial capital of India’. It is the city that houses 49 billionaires! As reported by Quartz India business magazine, recently a South Africa based wealth intelligence firm released their New World Wealth’s October 2019 report, that declared Mumbai’s total wealth to be $ 960 billion thereby featuring Mumbai among the world’s top 20 wealthiest city!
But underneath the glitter and glamour of Mumbai’s identity, dark truths about the city too exists. The poverty-stricken slums, the notorious operations of the underworld, the corruption, the sad past of the city being attacked by terrorists, the climate havocs, triggers a gloomy vibe for both a Mumbaikar and also the visiting tourist. On one side the city is buzzing with people who are achievers, influencers and who are powerful personalities, but on the other side there are strugglers, one’s who are victims of the system & one’s who are unable to rise about their ‘have not’ status and who constantly get crushed by power. A Cannes Festival award winning, 1988 Mira Nair movie named ‘Salaam Bombay) depicts the dark truth of struggles of Bombay (Mumbai) life. Here’s the trailer for the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYciGm4tziI
As I further reflected on the French movie ‘Les Miserables’, the Victor Hugo quote- “Remember this, my friends, there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators”, made total sense to me. This quote has been best understood through this movie. This film is a creative piece of cinematic work that takes the audience on a journey of the highs and lows of life in France (East Paris). The mania after winning the football World Cup against Croatia, the police department blues, the racial gang-wars, the criminal suspicions and finally the conflict between the police and ‘The Miserables’ in the streets of the beautiful city. The film is a year 2019 contemporary adaptation of the book written by Victor Hugo in 1862! The director of the film has cleverly incorporated 21st century threats that bog down a beautiful city like Paris.
Needless to say, the lead actor Damien Bonnard has given his best to depict the role of a law protecting policeman but who is also empathetic towards the ‘Les Miserables’. A must-see movie for all who value intellectual cinema and love to get an exposure to world affairs. Here’s the trailer of the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnEHfqiKGBA&feature=youtu.be
As per the same ‘New World Wealth’s report of October 2019, the city of Paris ranks no. 19 as the total wealth worth amounts to $770 billion. This further made me think of how both Mumbai and Paris have their own contrasts as they both achieve and struggle on their respective fronts. Paris is aesthetically immaculate and is a part of the ‘developed world’, on the other hand Mumbai’s town planning is rough & the city dwells in a ‘developing world’, but when it comes to possession of total net wealth, Mumbai surpasses Paris! I believe, its time that both the cities should learn from each other and strengthen each other in the areas which need improvement. As Victor Hugo would agree, ‘it is all about good cultivation that will create synergy for growth’!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar and free internet resources