Everybody thinks Mumbai is a lovely, cosmopolitan place, perhaps the best place in India. Samanth Subramanian offers an interesting counterpoint. (Part of an article on the Breach Candy club which appeared in the Granta Magazine.)
I’ve never liked Mumbai. I lived there once, for six months in 2003, and fled, and when some of its residents talk to me about their fondness for the city, I think of them as hostages, victims of a classic case of Stockholm syndrome. Mumbai feels like some giant Malthusian experiment, its resources stretched thinner and thinner by its multiplying population, so that the city edges closer and closer to absolute collapse. It hasn’t collapsed yet, Mumbai’s admirers will point out. But lives within its periphery collapse every day, in brutal and tragic and unnecessary ways, severed from the kind of support and opportunity that a successful city should be able to offer them. Mumbai gears its resources unashamedly towards its wealthy. Its land and water go to them first, its best roads lead to their houses, and their lungs work most of the time in air conditioning, away from the smoggy outdoors. Everything can be grabbed by using money or influence, in a manner that is only a semantic shade away from outright theft.