Jaipur Envy (or…why do we need to live in Mumbai?)

Who would ever have thought I could land up being envious of Jaipurites?
With 3 months left for the Mumbai Marathon, I carried my running shoes on a trip to Jaipur last weekend. The hotel I was staying at directed me to a place called Central Park. I wasn’t sure what kind of park this would be, but with no other choice, I entered the garden at one end and started my run, assuming I would be back at the start point within 10-15 minutes. That didn’t happen. It took me a good half hour before I managed the full circumference of around 4.5 kms. During the run, I encountered a golf course, a polo ground, horse riders, people doing yoga, a good number walking and a few running.
In Mumbai, we have the racecourse and a few small parks and gardens here and there, but honestly, we have nothing that matches up to what I saw in Jaipur.
Basically, we have no gardens worth their while. While the open space per 1000 population is supposed to be around 4 acres internationally, it is less than 1 acre in Mumbai and our green cover in the island city is a horrific 1.3% as compared to 18-20% in the suburbs and 35% in Chandigarh.
Early morning, on my way to work, without fail, I see runners using the new Lalbaug flyover, pacing ahead in the direction of the traffic. There are at least two blind curves and sometimes I fear that a car overtaking from the left might just bang into one of them! They are not supposed to run on flyovers and yet, what does one do? Where are the places where one can practice one-two hour long runs? Forget running on mud, we don’t even have good areas where we can run on concrete.
Over breakfast that day, after returning from Central Park, I mentioned my experience to a 58-years old true-blue Mumbaiite colleague. He looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t know why we continue to live in Mumbai.”
Apart from the economic opportunity, which in turn is due to the high population density, which ironically is the reason for the small number of open spaces, is there any reason to live here anymore as compared to a smaller, quieter town? Sure, we wouldn’t have access to bars and lounges like Aer or restaurants like Indigo Deli or live music performances and places like Blue Frog or the shops at the Palladium, but it’s not like we frequent these places every day or week. There are even times when we’ve not gone out for up to a couple of months at a stretch!
Apart from some peace and quiet and open spaces, if what one needs to live a fuller life, are books, DVDs and access to clean food and water, then Flipkart and Amazon deliver everywhere, most places have good Internet access and the vegetables are usually fresher outside Mumbai.
I am slowly beginning to wonder. If you have the resources and if you no longer need this city for money, is it possible to live somewhere else and if the desire comes up, drive or fly into the city once a month or so to catch up with friends and entertainment and dining?
I actually started to write about the 93 days left for the Mumbai Marathon, using my Jaipur run as an anchor. Instead, my fingers, displaying a life of their own, typed up the last few paragraphs about living outside Mumbai! This is how much the city can play with our minds.

12 Comments

  • Meha Savla wrote:

    Nice article, I have always questioned this to my husband, why do we need to live in Mumbai, why cant we shift to Vadodara, (I personally love Vadodara. we frequently visit Vadodara. Vadodara has everything what Mumbai has plus much more things that Mumbai doesn’t. Gardens, open spaces, entertainment, restaurants, malls everything… plus it also has nice dry air, unlike Mumbai humidity. Even the property rates are not high at all. Education is good too. Its pretty much laid back city, unlike the hustle bustle of Mumbai.
    But, yes a very huge But, money, security opportunities rules over everything.

  • I moved back from Ahmedabad last year and I just can’t get over the time I am losing in commuting.
    Your article resonates with what I am writing currently: commuting and being hard-wired to choose professional mobilty over comfort. I am afraid the day one no longer needs Mumbai for financial reasons will never come with the kind of expenses we are running up.

  • Ditto here, have asked many times same question, but Bombay has something, some intangible quality hard to define which other places lack. It has life of it’s own which other places do not have, they seem dull. But may be stay about 200 km around and come once in a while as you suggest, because everyday situation is turning from bad to worse. Take any parameters, noise, traffic, law and order, cost of living, open spaces, walking spaces, can’t find one thing where things have improved.

  • Dalzeen Minocher wrote:

    Very beautifully written, and something I’ve often wanted myself. You couldn’t have put it better: “…what one needs to live a fuller life, are books, DVDs and access to clean food and water…” Nothing else matters! I hope you can find it possible to dream and live a better life, and I hope I can too.

  • a friend got transferred to Chennai and simply loves it. Much less commute time and all the other perks you have mentioned. But money makes the mare go.

  • Vikas Sharma wrote:

    Hey Bhavin,
    Aapne dukhti nas pe haath rakh di…. Why cant we do something about it? Is there a solution to this menace. We obviously need money. As professionals, we dont have anything to do outside Mumbai, no opportunity, no PE funds outside etc.
    I think, there’s this place Uran developing well where Arrow City Manhattahan is developing a mini town on 1500 Acres plot. Once Wadala-Uran highway starts in few years, then it seems to be a quiet and secluded place to stay far and travel to mumbai in 30 mins and drive back there.
    Hope infrastructre is nice and some good developers like Hiranandani / Lodha / India Bulls build some nice and presentable area to stay.
    Lastly, nice article. Do also suggest some solutions.

  • This reflects what everybody feels … we all hate Mumbai or at least lots of things about it, but we still can’t leave it! I think it has something to do with the effect of beautiful sea on our senses.
    But having said that, the city is truly becoming unlivable – commuting anywhere over a distance of 3 kms is a nightmare – and its already grossly over burdened. So even if a few of us, who think we can live better lives elsewhere take the lead and shift, well thank you… the rest of us here who are elbowing out each other will be the better for it.

  • Sanjay Vijan wrote:

    Great Bhavin. I always dream of staying in a small place with clean air, clean surroundings and time for myself.
    In Mumbai, leave alone time for family and friends, I have no time for myself too.
    The other day an interesting thing happened. For weeks I did not have a hair cut, due lack of time and fatigue. Last Sunday, I just combed my hair down to my forehead and chopped off a couple of inches.
    I can see and others have commented that I look silly with this haircut.
    How do I tell them what I had done?
    I told my wife and she couldnt stop laughing. But seriously, she was concerned wrt whats happening to me. Sanjay Vijan+

  • Hi Bhavin,
    Exactly the point I try to tell to my relatives and friends. Also the reason I shifted from Mumbai to Pune. I have so much time for myself & family now.

  • Anand Desai wrote:

    Bhavin,
    I agree. I strongly feel each one of us Mumbaites turn a nose upwards at any other city comparisons– but heart of heart dont have a plausible reason to explain even to ourselves what the hell we are doing in this city.
    Places such as Poona; Baroda ; Hyderabad and even to an extent Kolkatta have what it takes to live a more happier life… parks ; warmth ; all amenities … we are stuck in this hell hole. Even if you shift out of Mumbai to sy Poona and have a small say 1/2 bedroom flat here one could always have best of both the worlds.
    ALl tehse cities offer a better and a cleaner lifestlye for us and our families…. biut our MUMBAI EGOS wont allow us to “accept” this.

  • Thanks all. Interesting how so many of us want to move and yet won’t. I told my 11 year old daughter and she freaked out…she thinks Matunga is the best place to live in.
    Pune used to be great, but now it’s as polluted and crowded. Bengaluru and Hyderabad are getting there. Those cities that have had wide open spaces to begin with fare better…I had an email from someone in Navi Mumbai asking me to shift there.
    Some days you feel there is nothing like Mumbai, especially when you are back from places like Silchar, etc. And other days…you land up writing articles like these.

  • Dr. Rahul Navalkar wrote:

    I wish all those who hate the city do move out!

    That may leave some space for those of us who have lived here all our lives and love BOMBAY.

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