As a kid, growing up in a small town in Haryana, Bombay, for me, as it was known then, was our equivalent of the Big Apple, with a fast paced life, glitz, glamour and money.
Somehow that romantic notion of the city lived on in my mind for years, as I grew up and moved from school to college and to my career.
I shifted to this city, in its new avataar, Mumbai, in 2004 and my friend, Abodh, made a profound statement "This city is like a sponge with an amazing capacity to absorb".
Historically, yes my friend's statement was true. The city was India's true melting pot, absorbing influences from all over the globe - whites, Armenians, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Iranians, Arabs, etc. The city was the best in India in terms of infrastructure, discipline and orderliness.
But in the last 6 years, I have seen the city bursting to its seams and its systems crumbling rapidly.
And today we woke up to the news that the Terminal 3 (T3), at Delhi's airport, is being inaugurated today by the Prime Minister. The T3 promises to be among the finest in the world, in the top league with Changi, Chep Lap Kok, Incheon and Dubai. On July 14, 2010, when the first flight, Air-India AI 102 from New York, docks up at an aerobridge at T3 at 1645IST, there promises to be a whole new "India" for our visitors from abroad to experience (first impressions, at least!).
But my city struggled in vain to get the squatters removed from the CSIA airport land for expanding, building a parallel runway to expand capacity, as against the present situation of two intersecting runways limiting traffic. It became a big political issue and high commands played spoilsport.
The situation at CSIA is abysmal today. The civil aviation minister has just warned that they would not be in a position to approve additional flights into CSIA. As if that bad news was not enough Air-India has announced it would be shifting its operational hub from CSIA to Delhi, which will be a major blow for CSIA and the city.
A new airport was proposed at Navi Mumbai. But we now hear that it's run into a red signal put up by Jairam Ramesh on environmental grounds. Haven't aiports internationally been built on reclaimed land, close to mangroves? Were planners at Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Hong Kong (Chep Lap Kok) and Osaka-Kansai fools to let that happen?
I am partial to aviation, which explains that long spiel.
But the situation is no different on other fronts. The suburban trains are choked. One wonders when the east-west connectivity will see light of the day. The Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro line is nowhere near completion. The Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road is not yet fully complete, so is the Santa Cruz Chembur Link. Grandiose plans for the Western Freeway hinge on the completion of a series of sealinks, which perhaps only my grandchildren will see 50 years from now. The Western Express Highway does not look like a highway at all, instead looks like some very often bombed street in Kabul, with potholes big enough to take in a Nano. The list of woes can go on and on.
I am now, seriously having doubts about this city retaining its numero-uno position as India's commercial capital.
People here often crib that Delhi gets all undue attention from the Union Government. If that's an unfair comparison with Delhi, let's take Hyderabad's example. The state government there positioned Hyderabad as a destination and put all its might behind infrastructure projects, a policy which had been followed by all governments till the Telangana issue hit them hard last year.
Sadly, the state government in Maharashtra been napping all these years.
If this goes on, my city of dreams will certainly go the Calcutta way, into decay, only to be lost in the sands of time.