What Do We Have that Delhi Doesn’t!

Yesterday, five days after the Mumbai Marathon, I spent a day in Delhi. Delhi has become an impressive city. The new airport terminal, the roads, the metro, the hotels, restaurants, night-life, the gradual shift to becoming the art and culture capital of the country, have all in their own way contributed to Delhi’s emergence as perhaps “the city” in India at this point in time.

I remember walking with a friend to Connaught place at 7.30 at night, from a hostel 10 minutes away, in 1983. When we didn’t return by 8.30PM (we were at Nirula’s having burgers), a search party was sent for us. Delhi has come a long, long way since then.

Ever so often, an article crops up in some paper or magazine talking about which city is better, Mumbai or Delhi. It all depends on who the writer is and where his/her loyalties lie. Typically, those who are for Mumbai, talk about it being the financial capital, how it is more cosmopolitan, how Bollywood and Television live here (honestly, I wouldn’t shed a tear, if the entertainment industry were to relocate to Delhi) and how Mumbaiites are more polite when ordering food in restaurants. Those who extol Delhi’s virtues talk about all the stuff I’ve mentioned in the first paragraph and the fact that on any given day there are more events of all kinds happening in Delhi than anywhere else in the country.

So what makes Mumbai special for people like us! (In no particular order…)

1. The Mumbai Marathon
Once a year, it is a different kind of high! This year, 9876 people finished the half-marathon, 1450 of them over the age of 45. Running with thousands of people, all competing with themselves, not each other, is an experience difficult to put into words. Yes Delhi has the Airtel Marathon, but it doesn’t really count. The SCMM in Mumbai is the place to be at!

2. The Sea
This is nature’s gift to us. Three weeks ago, early in the morning, I landed up running along the Gateway of India up to Radio Club. It was bliss! We may screw up our beaches, but the presence of the sea, even if we don’t see it for days on end, is perhaps the most important thing that makes Mumbai more liveable in and bearable than any other city in the country. I just wish we could take care off and use the sea better!

3. No Autos in the Island City
Every city in this country has been ruined by the presence of autos, Delhi included. While at one time, autos were a cheap way of getting around, the time has come that they disappear. That a good part of Mumbai is spared their agony is some relief!

4. BEST buses
No other city has such an iconic, well-oiled system running efficiently and more or less on time! The buses are by and large clean, the drivers, usually safe and the fares, reasonable.

5. Doctors
Sure, Delhi now has large, fancy, state-of-the-art corporate hospitals and is now the leader in liver transplants, etc., but when patients, including those living in Delhi are stuck after third or fourth opinions, Mumbai still is the last word in a large number of subspecialties. I am not sure how long this will last, but for the time being, we are the city to come to, if things get too complicated!
If you have other thoughts or points of relevance, let me know!


  • The weather – We in Mumbai do not have the extremes like in Delhi. The summers are terrible and the winters too can be terrible like I experienced on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    But Delhi has an all English FM channel which we in Mumbai sorely lack. Even Bangalore has one so how can we say we are cosmopolitan?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    I know. I am stuck at the airport because of the fog. The English FM channel issue is a real sad one.

  • First and foremost Safety for women! wouldn’t dare to step out after 7 alone in any locality in Delhi! Expect for Delhi’s food, gardens and roads, Mumbai rules in all respects!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Thought that Delhi had improved as far as safety for women is concerned. Hasn’t it?

  • shubhojit wrote:

    Dear Bhavin,
    I’ll veer away slightly from the topic proper, but very similar. I have been in Bengaluru over the last week & am just dying to get out (which I shall do so tomorrow).
    This is the first time I visited the city after 12 years. The airport is stunningly beautiful. The landscaped gardens as one drives out are truly breathtaking. But then, the hour long drive kills your enthusiasm.
    There is something about the local populace …they simply refuse to speak or understand Hindi, English or even Hinglish. Its time they were told that Kannada is not something everyone knows or will be aware of.
    The Metro is slick, unbelievably slick ….but try any other mode of transport …the auto for one …and all that they want to do is fleece you. There is a meter, but that’s just for show. I thought that being an outsider was the reason for this till I saw a local too being meted a similar treatment. To rise above the ordinary the city needs to have this looked into with due seriousness.
    Well, Mumbai, in short, despite the 1001 reasons one can find to degenerate it and despite my not being enamored by the SCMM (I left road running years ago!) Ranks way above on so many more issues that why even consider any other city ….

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Didn’t know Bangalore was that much of an issue! But then I am usually there for a day or two at the most.

  • Sriganesh wrote:

    I have lived in Madras, Calcutta and now live in Bombay. I prefer to call the cities that way as that is how I knew them as I grew up. Delhi is one place I hate, due to the way they treat women and the abnoxiuos language they use from Hindi, Punjabi and Haryanavi. God bless Bombay – they mess with Hindi. They say, “Saheb! Tera phone ayela hai!” but that is fine as they say it with full respect.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Beedu Sri, barabar bola.

  • Not at all! Just read in today’s papers about an American being molested in a Delhi five star. n this is no stray incident!

  • Having lived in both, each city has its own charm. Delhi with its lovely winters, great food, lovely architecture, panoramic gardens and one of the best public transport system in India. It also provides easy getaway to some very nice destinations that you can drive down.
    Mumbai gives you a sense of buzz, energy, speed that one gets used to. It’s more cosmopolitan, has many options for career or hobby that one wants to pursue. While you get cramped for space, the sea offers you a vast expanse of solitude that is refreshing.
    I have dear friends in both places who swear by their own and would never switch laoyalties for a kingdom!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Ratul, which is why it is a personal issue. So what else makes Mumbai better?

  • Congratulations! Bhavinbhai! About time!

    I am thrilled to see this new format to share comments like every astute & sophisticated writer like you should have.

    Your subject is highly personal, over which you have placed a disclaimer; however, it is the people/daily life one is accustomed to which makes the difference.

    Every place in the world has its own charm & shortcomings like every human being. Depends on what one likes or doesn’t. A personal preferance.

    You are right that we have the ocean in Mumbai & I would never trade it for Delhi for anything. I grew up near it since I was 5 & even being a student at Jai Hind College 1961-65 – Marine Drive is not just a Necklace – it is a serene part of us!

    I’d love to meet you sometimes! And you should have more space for the Comments which doesn’t cut me off!


  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Vikrambhai, I didn’t know there is a word limit on comments. Will check. I personally find Delhi a tough place…the people think differently.

  • Matungawalla wrote:

    My experience of Delhi is that the people are rude and have no respect for women.

    I love Aamchi Mumbai. In many ways Mumbai reminds me of NY City….fast paced and energetic. Love the Irani restaurants…Koolar in Matunga is one of the very few still surviving.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Koolar is good. Those mad Iranis are thankfully still pulling on.

  • Rahul Navalkar wrote:

    Let me put it this way…
    I was studying in Chennai for a fellowship 12 years ago. I didn’t understand the language and hated the food but I still felt safe and very much at home.
    But everytime I go to Delhi, I understand the language, love the food and the winters but feel unsafe and not at all at home.(I feel as though everyone is a thug trying to con you in some way)

    Bombay always comes out trumps.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Rahul…the unsafe feeling seems to be a common thread.

  • Hi Bhavin
    I think the place one grows up in always prevails in his/her assessment

    it is only a matter of time before this comments page turns into a mele’. I once read each of over 120 comments on a blog post about Metallica pulling out from Delhi, it was beyond entertaining!

    I will always root for Mumbai but I am open to other places. A couple of days visit can never be a fair assessment

    I have been to B’lore and Kolkata recently and could communicate satisfactorily in Hindi and English

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Punit…unlikely to turn into a melee. Well-moderated. But…what makes Mumbai unique?

  • Have just visited Delhi and Chennai.Have lived in Bangalore.If I were to put a character/s to the cities then it would be as follows:

    Bangalore – Dumb,it is yet to grow as a city.Is still a village in many respects.Obnoxious attitude.Please dont’t say great Weather.Quite tired of that

    Chennai – Conservative and hypocritical

    Delhi – Dangerous not just for women

    Kolkata – Really haven’t figured this one yet.Even my Bengali friends living in Mumbai just manage to smile when asked

    Mumbai – Hardworking,No Nonsense, Fun, The rest of India loves to hate her

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Gita…Kol is an interesting city. Safe and fun and yet…

  • P. Venkatraman wrote:

    Bhavin: Forget Delhi and Mumbai..how was your run? And what was your timing? Obviously you enjoyed it na 🙂


  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Venkat…had great fun. Finished in 2:37 my best time till date.

  • Hi there.I thought you did the full marathon But half is equally praiseworthy. Mumbai works, more or less which is why is a good place to be in

  • Only in Mumbai a Stranger gets right direction and help when lost, have not found this in any other city in India, and of course food is available any time of the day or night and last but not the least people accommodate and share as you see in trains and on road where all modes of transport co-exist.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Between 1 and 4 am getting food is an issue anywhere except in a 5-star coffee shop. Things changed after the 91-92 riots. But yes…it’s funny how people are always willing to help you with directions even when they don’t know themselves.

  • RAVI GADIYAR wrote:


    super write at the right time as usual.fantastic scenario description comparing both the cities.Cold mumbai forsighting ahead mumbai will have hot weather.Hopefully this should not happen,as summer in mumbai is warmer warmer and warmer.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Ravi…cold Mumbai is better than warm Mumbai any day.

  • Local train network is the most convenient,inexpensive and fast way,though extremely crowded, to travel across Mumbai which no other city can boast of.

  • look it all depends on where are you coming from, whats your consern and whafe,civil,t do you want..as for me, after the intial euphoria of the surface level things like gardens,metro,ocean,roads settles down, i want to be in a safe civil,livable city that has a heart and undoubtedly bombay has it all and more..delhi sucks, and does not even deserve to be compared to amchi mumbai folks…final words written in STONE …

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    That’s quite strong, but hey if that’s how you feel…

  • For your next column I’d love to read about the five changes we’d like to see in Mumbai! i already have my list ready… 🙂

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Not the very next, Aditi, but soon…but let’s start with your list.

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