Monday, 29 November 2010

Maximum City

What is it that makes some cities great? What makes some places the stuff where dreams are made of; What makes New York, the Big Apple; and Mumbai, the Maximum City? 

Having been to many of the world's greatest cities, it had begun to surprise and annoy me as well, that I had never been to Mumbai (yes, really!) Somehow, I never really had a big reason to go; but then I decided that perhaps visiting the city was reason enough.

And so here I was, in this bustling metropolis. A whirlwind of people and places followed, seamless amalgamation of new and old, rich and poor. As I whizzed past neighbourhoods of Mumbai - Borivili, Kandevili, Parel, Worli...I suddenly realised that these names have transported me back to scenes from various Bollywood movies;

Despite the constant streaming of images from famous urbanscapes into our homes; despite the demystification of large cities; why is it that their charm still remains? Why am I still breath-taken by the view from Marine Drive; Why has the chaos of Times Square taken me by surprise everytime I go there; Why am I still awestruck by the grace and grandeur of Regent Street every single time I visit?

It is true that Rome wasn't built in a day, and perhaps the fact that you can see the old mix with the new in these cities that lends to its charm. The constant evolution probably inspires, challenges and presents new experiences to everyone who visits....

The city really does not seem to sleep; The hurried pace exhilarating and exhausting at the same time; A city constantly in the state of flux....

But then, doesn't the state of flux make big city life all the more difficult? Most people living in Mumbai crib about the traffic, the pollution, the extremely high cost of real-estate.....Something that every New Yorker or Londoner would identify with. Why then, do people stream into this city every single day in the hopes of making it big? How does a city built on landfill continue to make so many dreams come true?

Is it the high rises, the bright lights, the history, the monuments that make a city tick?  The high-octane life-style, the glamour or the money? Or is it the fact that one visit (or many visits) is not enough to discover the highs and the lows of the place?

Or perhaps, it is the spirit of its people: determined to change and yet not let change affect them; distinct yet united - the spirit of the Maximum city.

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