What’s to Love About the “Love Ghatkopar” or “I Love Mankhurd” Signs in Mumbai?

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What’s to Love About the “Love Ghatkopar” or “I Love Mankhurd” Signs in Mumbai?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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umbai’s “charm” has been spoken about so extensively, you’d almost expect a plane to the city to land on a yellow brick road. Instead, you land in the suburb of Andheri East, a place where – we’re sorry to report – all the munchkins lost their limbs in a horrific bridge collapse. Two hours of being stationary on a highway later, you’ll take in most of the bits and bobs that make up Mumbai – the rare all-pedestrian traffic jam, the literal trash mountain, and holes where metro pillars are yet to be inserted. Clearly, this is not one of those cities you’d save up money to travel to.

In fact, most locals would attest that an ideal day in Mumbai involves not leaving the house at all. To get a general idea of what these houses look like, peer through a microscope at a matchbox and you’re already overestimating. Now imagine you are left with no money in this matchbox, while the walls peel off because your neighbour flushed their toilet, and you’ll find the “charm” a little overbearing – pungent even.

One day, a genius team in Mumbai’s administration department decided: To hell with extended lunch breaks, something had to be done to bring the “charm” back to the city. A quick Google search later, the team took a page out of Anu Malik’s playbook and decided to just borrow from what every other big city was doing. Thus was born the wholesome “I Love Mumbai” sign and selfie point, a testament to Mumbai’s commitment to being a world-class city, like New York or Amsterdam. Finally, Mumbai will be known for something other than the world record for “most amount of river fit inside plastic”.

Modelled on the famous “I amsterdam” sign in the Netherlands and the iconic “I ❤️ NY” logo, the “I Love Bandra” or “I Love Mankhurd” sign is the latest addition to the list of the city’s tens of cultural hotspots. But it’s also one that has heads scratching, considering very few Mumbaikars tend to share this sentiment. Because for starters, selfie point is the top of a local train during rush hour when there’s no other place to sit.

In the last ten years, Mumbai has consistently been ranked as one of the worst cities in the world.

Plus, most of the middle-class spends too much time trying to navigate their way from office to home, a journey that could take anywhere between 20 to 200 minutes. Taking time out of your day to visit a neon sign would require some serious dedication to the city. A dedication that’s really hard to find… a dedication left behind like a stray chappal on the final destination of the Virar Fast.

In the last ten years, Mumbai has consistently been ranked as one of the worst cities in the world. In 2009, an ORC worldwide and Business Week survey included it in the list of 10 worst cities to work in. Problems then included: Pollution, disease and sanitation, infrastructure, political violence and repression, climate, medical facilities. Then in 2012, a Cities of Opportunity report called Mumbai the worst city to live in, for pretty much the same reasons as above. Earlier that year, it ranked 117th in a list of 140 cities in the Global Liveability Report. Closer to Dhaka than Amsterdam.

Now you didn’t think all the BMC would do when faced with such harsh criticism is make just one neon sign, did you? That would be foolish. They’ve actually gone a step ahead and installed several “I Love *Suburb*” signs all across the city. Screw you Amsterdam, with your singular sign and progressive climate policies, Mumbai’s got like 27 signs now, and we’re going to cut that Aarey forest down. There’s an “I Love Lokhandwala” sign lighting up a giant gutter in Andheri (the first “L” collapsed long ago, so it reads “Okhandwala”), an “I Love Juhu” sign illuminating the place where you will die in traffic, and a brand new sentence, never uttered before by any human, “Love Ghatkopar.”

It’s almost like the BMC is saying to us, “Cheer up, we’re only the fourth most-polluted city in the world.” Nevermind that trees are in violation of parking space rights and that parks are basically dust patches where millions of people play cricket together. At least you have these signs to admire – even if, at this point, they seem like a grotesque mockery of Mumbai’s “spirit”.

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