Mumbai or Manhattan?!

Mumbai may not be a place that reminds a tourist of being aesthetically amazing. The crowd, traffic & the uneven urban dynamics may confuse a newcomer here. On a busy day, the traffic jams and honking cars at a bottleneck junction can create a heated cacophony among masses! But like they say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining, and that we just have to persevere to find solutions. On the same lines an absolutely amazing infrastructural eye candy, born out of the traffic chaos of the city, connects the South and the North land masses of Mumbai. For a moment ‘The View’ may look like New York’s Manhattan area seen from the river Hudson! The breath taking sight of Mumbai is visible from the Bandra-Worli sealink from the Bandra end of the bridge.

Cycling over the bridge at the Mumbai Cyclothon

Yesterday, as I stood admiring ‘The View’, I realized how the city holds the extremes of socio-economic elements which are evolving out of its urban growth. On one side you see dazzling skyscrapers inviting business and trade from all around the world and on the other side one sees the hutments of the fisher folks off the Mahim coastline. The contrast is startling for a visitor but Mumbaikars have accepted the fact of the city’s evolution over the years. Even before the British realized the commercial potentials of Mumbai (then Bombay), the fishing community (Koli community) lived here. They are the first settlers of Mumbai and their settlements have co-existed along with the emerging skyline of the city

Short drive in the rains over the Bandra Worli Sea-link

Till recently the landmark view of Mumbai was the Gateway of India with the backdrop of the Taj Mahal Hotel, which still possesses attraction value for many tourists and photographers who capture it in their cameras. But since a decade ago new state-of-the-art infrastructural developments have shifted the city’s aesthetic focus from South Mumbai to North Mumbai. One such landmark marvel is the Bandra-Worli Sealink bridge, which is named as ‘Rajiv Gandhi Sea-link’ bridge. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid in 1999 and was completed in 2010 costing the government a whooping $250 million! In the initial phase of the project environmentalists protested against the making of the bridge as they could predict adverse conditions that would later affect the geography and marine life surrounding the area. It is the first cable-stayed bridge to be constructed over open Indian seas having inbuilt seismic arresters that can withstand earthquake vibrations up to 7.0 on the Richter scale! The bridge can hold a total weight of 340,000 tons (the weight of 7 Titanics!) that have pylon towers erected, to which the cables are attached. This arrangement creates a beautiful geometric design which gives a great feel as one drives from below the towers.

Queen’s Tiara! Bandra Worli Sea-link at night.

Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and Hindustan Construction Company were two indigenous organizations who offered technical and man power support to the project. International consultants from U.K, Austria, China, Germany and Gulf countries offered additional expertise and aesthetics to achieve the targets of the gigantic project. The bridge has a toll plaza and a single trip fare for light motor vehicle is INR. 60 (approx. $1). Two wheelers are not permitted to ply over the bridge. It is risky to drive a two wheeler, especially during the monsoon or when heavy winds are blowing over the seas. The only opportunity one gets to ride a bicycle over the bridge is if one has participated in the annual Mumbai Cyclothon. In 2011 and 2012 I had participated in the cyclothon as an amateur cyclist. It was a delight to slow ride the entire bridge and admire its beauty from all angles. I noticed that the pylon towers looked like the letter ‘M’ which I naturally connected it as ‘M’ for Mumbai?! Well, I know it is just a random design that has got formed out of the placement of the towers, but eventually it is adding great aesthetic value to the entire decorum of ‘The View’.

Bird eye view of the cable suspension of the bridge.

During night time the sea-link bridge, with the backdrop of glittering skyline of the city, looks like a tiara placed in a Queen’s treasury. The massive feel of the structure is a marvellous sight that cuts through the sea waters and winds that hits Mahim bay. The making of the bridge involved people from all strata of life. The expert intelligentsia, the government, the labour class, the environmentalist and last but not the least, the common Mumbai’kars who are the main beneficiary of the bridge’s utility. A revenue is collected from the commuters, but given the value of the bridge, which saves our time and gives us moments of mindfulness, its worth it! The bridge is just not an architectural and engineering wonder but it reflects the ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ that envelops people from all levels of society to give the city its true identity!


Photo credits: Shraddha Sankulkar, Aditya Chichkar, DNA newspaper and free internet source.