June 05, 2000
Both sides of Mumbaiís coin
DID you know that domestic consumers in Mumbai pay less for water than in other places in the country? Apparently Mumbaikars pay Rs 3 per 1000 litres versus Rs 17 in Kerala, Rs 50 in Chennai and Rs 55 in Andhra Pradesh. At 35 paise plus 50 per cent sewerage charges, Delhi dips low while at a flat rate of Rs 65 a month, Bangalore is the costliest of all.
Despite the high price, accordingto K R Narayana Iyengar, chief engineer (maintenance) of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, 98 per cent of Bangloreans pay their water bills before the deadline, which is also the highest recovery rate in the country.
I gleaned this piece of information from the latest issue of the Bangalore Weekly, the newspaper that keeps an eye on happenings in the garden city. For a while, probably in the earlier part of the last decade, the media had gone on and on about the new pubs opening in Bangalore, the number of companies relocating there and how Bangalore would soon emerge as a hip rival to Mumbai.
A quick glance through the paper though reveals how misplaced that expectation was. The gap between the two cities is still clear and wide. Bangalore is a city where you can, even now, talk about the local library and expect everybody to be familiar with it. Where a shop on the prominent Brigade road is actually fined for littering and in three days as many as sixty people are arrested for jaywalking (in case you were wondering jaywalkers are defined as people who criss-cross the road with scant regard to road rules). The list of useful telephone numbers includes one for monkey catching and snake catching respectively.
is not to say that we in Mumbai do not have our own common experiences
and shared memories. Among the traditions that many Mumbaikars would identify
with the one I miss is the MRF rain day. Am I mistaken or has the company
dropped it from its advertising strategy? I no longer see ads predicting
a date for the onset of the monsoons. They never did get it right but
that was part of the fun counting the number of days by which it
was off. Perhaps jokes arent a great way to sell tyres but in our
current plight (freak showers/early monsoon?) itwould have given us something
to talk about.
On the net the discussion is much livelier. On a city-focused bulletin board I found messages going back and forth on the dirt (so bad that it would put off even a dog from the West to which someone had responded that foreigners who visited Mumbai were dirty hippies and a foreigner who identified himself as not a hippie observed that people with beautiful homes in Mumbai thought nothing of turning their backyards into rubbish dumps).
One gentleman had a long complaint against the BEST. The staff, he claimed, was rude, the service unpunctual and the air conditioned buses recently launched were crowded even though no standees were supposed to be permitted. His note provoked a flurry of angry responses. Someone pointed out that public transportation in the city had been stretched too far, it was time for private intervention. Someone else told the complainant to stop cribbing and take state transport buses. And a lady who had moved abroad from Mumbai felt citizens should be getting up and doing something about the citys problems instead of merely grumbling.
Apart from the more combative participants there were others who were merely seeking information: on when the flyovers would be completed, on accommodation in Malabar Hill, on sightseeing. A couple of more exacting souls wanted to know about places for romantic dining and places to buy sherwanis. Any suggestions?
The writer is former editor of Elle.