Once Upon a Time in Upper Juhu


Once Upon a Time in Upper Juhu

There is an important thing anyone wanting to live in Mumbai should know – judging people for where they live is a full-time occupation. The townies, who do most of the judging, are the notorious snobs who think travelling for 45 minutes is as big an achievement as graduating from an ivy-league college. The suburban kids – or “NoBros” – have such a deep complex about their origins that they are 90 times more likely to get into a fight with you over a rickshaw. Deep in the eastern suburbs, in a place called Kanjurmarg, a new crop is emerging — the “NewLows” — courtesy Kanakia’s latest architectural wonder, Zen Garden, which is an ironic name, considering the eastern side of Mumbai is like the black hole in Interstellar — you pass through feeling like shit but come out on the other side relieved and thinking about loved ones. In the middle of all this mess sits posh Bandra where the people are pretty and houses have balconies, but tomatoes cost ₹100 a kilo.

If Bandra is the Queen of the suburbs, Lokhandwala is the earnest knight, Borivli the court jester, and Powai is the butt of all jokes that only has Goregaon to turn its nose on. And so we go, turning our noses down the line, until we’re finally at Pune, which might as well be Pluto.

Yes dear non-Mumbai reader, who heretofore believed that only Dilliwalas snooted at their Rajouri Garden and Jamuna Paar compatriots. This wholesale judging first showed up at dinner parties, then at stand-up comedy, and then it began to show up in real estate prices. Developers began renaming large tracts of wasteland capable of breeding up to 1,000 mosquitoes per human after the most-wanted neighbourhoods and making us pay in hard cash for our own stupidity.

First came Wadala, which was christened the “New Cuffe Parade”, despite sitting 15.6 kilometres away from it. The developers probably hoped that the gated complex’s “healing gardens”, poolside café, and “elegant party avenue” would ensure that nobody would care that New Cuffe Parade was redolent with the smell of open sewers and unlit roads that were overrun with potholes. What they cared about was living in Cuffe Parade and having a chance to sniff at vernac Dadar, something that might otherwise have taken five generations to achieve.

Amazed with this surprise success, other builders jumped in on the trend and threatened to introduce mayhem to this little turf war by confusing the shit out of people. The traffucked road between Juhu and Andheri became “Upper Juhu”, Thane got a Malabar Hill, Lower Parel became Upper Worli, Bhiwandi became the New BKC and the map of Mumbai became as confusing as the ending of Inception.

But it seems Indians everywhere are afflicted by the need to escape their immediate surroundings.

After every posh colony in Mumbai and surrounding areas had been used, real estate developers became more ambitious. If we can fool Bhiwandi into thinking it is BKC, why can’t we fool BKC into thinking it’s fucking Paris, they asked? So up came the tiniest Eiffel Tower known to mankind and lo and behold, Kanakia brought us the “Paris of Mumbai”. After BKC got Paris, Marol got the (one presumes, Amazon) Rainforest, Mahim got Miami, and Navi Mumbai got Bhumiraj Costa Rica. All of the world thus sat snugly in the armpit of the Big Sweat.

I wish I could say this malaise was restricted to Mumbai. But it seems Indians everywhere are afflicted by the need to escape their immediate surroundings. Cue, Monde de Provence and Malibu Towne in Gurgaon, Ibiza Town Surajkund, LondoNoida in… where else? There is a rat-a-tat profusion of Counties, Avenues, Fairs, Greens, and Rivieras in our cities, designed to make us forget the miseries of living with third-world problems like load-shedding and water shortage. Anywhere but here is good really, even if it is Aliens Space Station.

But all in all life is good. The real estate boys are swimming in moolah and the home-buyer is happy that he’s moved up in life even if he is now too poor to rub two pennies together. Let’s face it… Mumbai is the stinkiest, costliest, and most traffucked city in the world, and the only way to sometimes confront reality is to escape it totally. I won’t be surprised if they decide in a fit of inspiration to scrap the name Mumbai and rename the entire city the Manhattan of South Asia. We already have a smoggy skyline for it.

As for me, I’m putting my money down on a metal box bang in the middle of the trash in Deonar dumping ground. With any luck, the real estate bros will peg Deonar as the “Space Junk of Earth” and I will get to turn my nose up at Pluto.