Mumbai: The city I love

Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian:

Mumbai The Indigo is only a five minutes' walk from the Taj Mahal hotel. In the past 12 hours, I have been watching pictures of the Taj taken from different angles: trapped guests leaning out of windows; the top storey burning; swathes of smoke covering the majestic dome. I have also seen pictures of two very young men with AK 47 rifles, one of them in a T-shirt with Versace printed on it in large letters. People, including my wife calling from India, have mentioned 9/11 and New York, and I suppose there is a comparable degree of strangeness – combined with the inevitable sense of having been betrayed and outwitted – in these attacks. The comparison also possibly arises from the joy-loving nature of both cities, capitalism and the new world order after the collapse of the Soviet Union having transformed them both decisively – New York into the world's first city, Bombay into India's great metropolis.

My parents moved to Bombay from Calcutta in 1965, when I was an infant – they stayed at the Taj for two weeks while the company found them a flat. This was the beginning of Calcutta's decline, companies and professionals fleeing labour trouble, and relocating at this optimistic seaside metropolis in western India. It was a charmed life – from at least two of the flats we lived in when my father was finance director and then chief executive of Britannia Biscuits, flats in Malabar Hill and Cuffe Parade, the city's two richest localities, you could see a skyline that, with its lissom, tall buildings (Bombay is the only Indian city to have had an obsessive romance with the vertical, the skyscraper), approximated Manhattan in some ways; in its sunniness, its palm trees, its disguised but obvious carnality, it echoed what we knew of California from films; and the gothic buildings were remnants of the old history that had first brought together these seven fishing islands.

More here.