I rarely take a taxi once I get down at the Churchgate station - that is by the way, the last stop on the Western Line of the Mumbai local train network. Just as the train is pulling into the Churchgate station, my heart always skips a beat. This is a part of Mumbai that has changed the least in the twelve years that I have known it. Hmmm, on second thoughts, there is little that can afford to be changed.
The flats in these regions are humongous by Mumbai standards and pretty well-maintained from the inside. Incidentally, I have never understood how Mumbaikars can be house-proud but not necessarily building proud. So you could see several dilapidated looking buildings desperately needing a coat of paint, with residents that read like a Who's Who list. Step inside their parlour and you wonder if you fell through a hole like Alice of the Wonderland fame.
Now I wonder if it is only the city and its infrastructure that appears crumbling and peeling with age. The train I took to go to the city would easily be over three decades old. There are newer swankier ones that ply on the same line, but these older ones, with the rusty springs poking uncomfortably out of the worn out seat cushions still continue to be in service. The stations that serve seas of humanity every day show evidence of massive wear and tear. In Andheri and Jogeshwari - two stations I use most, I know a few steps that I need to be careful on. If I keep place a foot wrong on those worn out steps, I could very well be slipping down the whole set of stairs uncomfortably. Age and lack of maintenance - the question is when do you shut down the station to undertake maintenance? If the Andheri station is shut off for renovation, there would be bigger riots - people would rather continue using crumbling infrastructure than suffer the inconvenience of taking a longer route to the next station!
As I walk towards the building where my meeting is scheduled, one final thought makes me chuckle so hard that I'm sure several people did turn around to check for the source of that strange noise. I have walked these very streets as a rookie in Mumbai. Then the heat did not bother me as much and travelling light was the mantra - the insouciance and irreverance you may say of the young and free-spirited. This time however, the thought of taking myself to Fort alone, required a lot of enforced mental conditioning. I had to convince myself of the importance of the meeting and the need to be there personally than get it done on skype! Once convinced, my preparations to leave began at about 12 and by the time I'd left home, in my bag, was a bottle of water, a small box of munches (just in case I got hungry on the train), an umbrella for the trek from Churchgate station to Fort and a book to ensure I get in some constructive reading done during the one-hour journey!
I was never this well-planned, I was impulsive, fun and all-over-the-place. I feel like a peeling Mumbai now...I age and I guess I change too!!