Monday, June 18, 2012

A tale of two cities

It has been more than a decade since India's wealthiest state, Maharashtra, sought to purge a colonial legacy by rebranding its flagship city as Mumbai.  The receding of colonial empires and the fall of Soviet communism sprinkled new names across the world map.  If the outside world still wonders what to call it, it is because the city itself has no answer.  It's hard to find Bombay on the lips of a bureaucrat or the address of a parcel.  It is equally hard to catch a taxi driver or investment banker uttering Mumbai.  Bombay and Mumbai have become indicators of the city's kaleidoscopic diversity:  Mumbai is what you write, Bombay is what you say;  air tickets say Mumbai, but luggage tags read BOM.

Bombay is the city of seekers.  It has long attracted outsiders - merchants and migrants, Christians and Muslims, Indians from all over.  Bombay is open-armed and rootless.  Mumbai, by contrast, is the city of the rooted, of working-class Maharashtrians and of the political establishment they elect.  Mumbai is the commercial and financial capital of India.  The Bombay Stock Exchange is the oldest in Asia and the second largest in the world.  Mumbai is home to 40% of India's wealthiest business people, and real estate is more expensive than Manhattan.  The world's first billion dollar home was built in Mumbai.  On the other hand Dharavi is Asia's largest slum - home to over a million people.  Over half of the people of Mumbai live in slums, in one-room tenements.

Bollywood began in Mumbai in 1899, about a decade before Hollywood.  Bollywood makes 1,000 films a year, double that of Hollywood.

(text taken from Love Mumbai by Fiona Caulfield)

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