After reading the first three post on memories, food and books, you have probably concluded that I am an incorrigible nostalgia buff, yearning for the ‘good old days’ of the sixties and seventies.
But if there is aspect of our lives that has changed for the better it is traveling around Mumbai and more particularly in Bandra. Despite the overcrowding, double parking and the pot holes, we are better off today than we were forty years ago.
As I mentioned in ‘Growing up in Bandra’ when we first moved to Bandra, the road outside our building had not been tarred. Walking on that road was a nightmare, especially during the monsoon when you risked slipping and falling. Only a few years later, when more buildings were constructed along the road that the municipal authorities tarred the road.
To get around Bandra, in those days, you either had to walk or cycle, because though there was a bus service the frequency was around once in half an hour. And the bus traversed a long and circuitous route. So you sometimes reached your destination faster if you walked instead of waiting for a bus.
Initially, I used the school bus to get to school. But since we lived on the outskirts of Bandra, I was one of the last to be dropped in the evening. And as the long drive cut into my play time, I started skipping the bus on the return leg, instead walking home with my friends. Eventually, my parents got wise to this and discontinued the school bus.
Owning a bicycle, in those days, was a status symbol in school. And a racer cycle with gears and cable brakes was the envy of all. So, when I reached the secondary section, I started pestering my parents for a bicycle.
My dad did not directly refuse to buy me a bicycle. Instead he laid down a condition; if I got a first five rank in my class at the examination, he would buy me the bicycle. Being a sucker, I agreed when I should have known that this was never going to be.
Eventually, I realised that was being taken for a ride by my dad. So, using a gift from my godmother who was visiting us as seed capital augmented by my ‘savings’, a couple of years later, I bought a bicycle. If I recollect right, the bicycle cost around rupees seven hundred, which was quite a fortune in the sixties.
With the acquisition of the bicycle, every morning I joined the peloton at the start of what is today called Manuel Gonsalves Road, all heading towards the school. In the evenings, the peloton headed in the opposite direction.
Traveling out of Bandra to other parts of Mumbai or Bombay at it was then called was always a horrendous experience for me. As a consequence of an infrequent service, a bus would sometimes be so full that it would drive past a bus stop without stopping. Especially if no passenger needed to alight.
For some reason, my dad did not like to use the local train to move around the city. Of course, getting into a local train in Mumbai, then as well as now, requires a special skill set and is not for the faint hearted. It was only when I joined a college that was located in the city that I began to use the trains, which I believe is the life line of Mumbai.
As I mentioned earlier, traveling is one area where I am glad that things have changed. Today the bus services have improved phenomenally and with more people driving their own vehicles, the buses are no longer overcrowded. In addition, auto-rickshaws ply in the suburbs and make commuting quite easy. If fact, given the difficulty finding parking space, it sometimes makes sense to use an auto for shorter trips.
Also the government has invested in infrastructure like flyovers, subways and freeways all of which have made traveling around the city comparatively a happier experience. I know that many will still complain of the bottlenecks resulting in traffic jams or the lack of parking or the overcrowding of the local trains, but when I compare the present with the sixties and seventies, I’m not complaining.
I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.