22 July, 2009

The bridges less trodden

Mumbai:
It was not long ago that I drove down the much awaited sea-link in Mumbai. It was Saturday and one of the first 5 toll free days. I drove with my friends with Michael Jackson rocking the stereo and a munching a hot makka under the rained Mumbai. The link was packed and the traffic was jammed for kilometres before the link began. The rich and the poor had come to get the first glimpse of the much talked about link. Some for the first-time feel, some for the free ride. We drove silently, watching the sea, our beloved city, people in the adjacent cars, with Michael Jackson creating a mood. I saw the beautiful design the cables made as we drove below them, I saw the waves crashing on the pillars – standing tall defying the current of the sea, and the sense of celebration on the whole. I was filled with awe and admiration. Above the cables I saw the heavens pouring.

Mumbai had a new skyline and for the first time I saw how it looked with the buildings tall and short rising at the shore. I had heard a lot of criticism about the link – it has taken so long, they have used cheap material, it is not cleverly planned, there will be lots of accidents, cars will fly into the sea, etc. But I was strong in my conviction that this is indeed the conquest of man over nature and it is first of its kind in India. In a city where thousands throng in search of opportunities, the city was making space for all. With the sea-link, the time to travel between two distant ends of Mumbai was 10 mins against the 45-minutes it took earlier. And many traffic-ridden souls will reach their destinations with a little less time spent amidst exhaust fumes. I was filled with pride for our government and the strides it was planning to take. Never mind they never kept the promised date, but at least now I was driving on the sea-link which I was dreaming to do long ago. Never mind that only half of it is ready, while the other half stands abandoned on the side, like an overwhelming task ahead. Never mind the politics that followed, and the crores that will surely have gone into various pockets due to which it is still incomplete. Never mind all this, at least I have my sea-link now and I can travel faster.


Days later, my pride-for-government-bubble burst. I read in the papers that the metro bridge in Delhi collapsed, and the bridge of a Mumbai metro line caved in. There are various reasons being told – it was the rains, it was the construction, it was this or it was that. As usual the blame game began.

As a citizen I feel completely deceived. Perhaps someone will think twice before going on these nature-defying conquests of mankind. Simply because our nation is not ready to conquest nature. When our transport minister is still planning to connect various cities and towns, perhaps such awe-inspiring triumphs are perhaps too ambitious.

There is some noise over this. We will read the newspapers, perhaps march outside the ministry, the ministry will promise an inquiry perhaps, and the next day we will continue to take the path (bridge) less trodden. Until one day when some of us will dive into the space between heaven and earth and disappear into oblivion.

But we will live on. As we always have.

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