Mumbai street life — the city at its best! Shopkeepers trading from their booths and stalls, the street market, with fresh produce, cheap jeans and pan scrubbers, has most things we’d need. Living close to the street and sometimes on it, are the poorer sections of society. Living in neighbourly communities, they seem to have inherited ways to co-exist, and make few demands on those sharing their circumstances.
Here you see spotless clean, often well-dressed, and fit young people emerging from their street-side homes; joining similarly attired inhabitants of the more organised and larger
and the folk from the slum rehabilitation flats. Yes, there are those worse off, leading lives of despair, but these appear a minority among those leading free-ranging lives on and close to the streets.
Through these streets also come the daily journeys of the city’s middle class; also citizens but with such different lives. They seem proud of the ‘boxed’ lives they lead. For them, the morning starts with a boxed dawn in their boxed-gated community. Out of their bed in a new high-rise, they enter another box, the lift that takes them down. In the basement, they get into their mobile box and travel to work. The streets pass by, but they hardly notice, as their small-boxed communication devices have them in action even before arrival at their workplace.
The end of the journey sees a drive into another box, another basement. Out of the car, into the lift-box and up to the office-box, and the chores of the day. All this is repeated in the evening as they return to home-box, often to an evening in front of another communications box, their plasma viewing system.
Much concern has been shown about the effects on chickens by making them spend lives in boxes, factory farming they say. Much has been said for the free-range chicken that leads an interesting healthy life, even if a rather short one to meet the needs of the human food menu. Here in Mumbai, we have factory-style living and free-range living; but here it is a large section of the human race that aspires to the factory-style. Whatever is going wrong?
Middle class lives interact with the free-range people, as their cars are slowed down by the traffic-calming gully cricketers, large numbers of people walking on the roads rather than pavements — and the occasional small herd of cows bringing peace and tranquility (apart from the car horns), as they meander from their daily routine. This street life is the city at its best! Yet the car-box people, they complain. Yes, they complain. Oh, how they complain! This street life slows their boxed progress to their next box. These battery-farmed humans are losing the meaning of living. Will they ever see the light?