December 06, 2020
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From SoBo To CoBo

Living in a luxury high-rise building in Lower Parel is a dream come true. It's also a nightmare.

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From SoBo To CoBo
From SoBo To CoBo

I spent the first 22 years of my life in South Bombay. The next 22 in New Bombay. Now, I have shifted back to 'town' and find the sheher ka naksha completely changed.

SoBo used to be the most civilised part of the city. Because, you see there was some kind of town planning in British times.

However, one can't hope to live in that SoBo since there is no new development. Hence the new SoBo is CoBo (Central Bombay) — the Confused Bombay coming up on erstwhile mill land.

Builders are selling fancy apartments on the city's 'Golden Mile'. In case you are wondering where this is — I am referring to the super-congested, pothole-ridden stretch called Senapati Bapat Road.

On this pagdandi, someone is building the 'world's tallest residential tower'. I hope they provide bungee-jumping cords to residents, for smooth access to the nearest railway station, or motorable road.

The situation is not very different on nearby NM Joshi Marg. This is where I currently live, in a fancy high-rise apartment building. This area is called 'Jacob Circle' (after some long-forgotten British Army General).

We know it as Mahalaxmi Saat Rasta —  slow-burn in traffic hell. Two kilometres on this stretch can easily take 30 minutes.  You could probably walk faster than you drive but… there is no footpath.

At the very end of the journey, you will get a brief burst of speed. This is when you arrive at your multi-storey parking garage and drive up a kilometre into the sky. At 15 km per hour.
You are finally ready to enter your apartment with a 'breathtaking view' of Mumbai.  Meaning road, buildings, under-construction buildings and a distant, very slim view of sea meeting sky.

You may be delighted to see some leafy green trees from your balcony and make a mental note to 'visit the park'. Alas, you will discover that is the Jewish kabristan. Right next to Arthur Road Jail — reserved for special guests of the state.

From your sky-deck you can (theoretically) stare into the eyes of your next door neighbour. But you've never actually seen this person. The only indication of life is their wifi network .

This is a luxury apartment complex with many fancy fittings. The builder has thoughtfully installed air-conditioners but no ceiling fans. Because after all, that's kind of downmarket.

The apartment is brand new but do not expect everything to work. This includes the high-speed elevators — one will be perpetually out of order and the others over-worked. Please use this time to order groceries on your mobile phone.

Yes, 'home delivery' is the only way to maintain your sanity in CoBo. There is no kirana shop or vegetable vendor right next door. You may as well start your own e-commerce venture and get your buildingwallahs to sign up.

Who knows — you might get funded for a few million dollars.

Then, you can buy another luxury apartment in a new high-rise building. The one coming up right in front of your window.  Or soon, you will get a bird's eye view of somebody's living room. And their sookhte hue underwear-banian.

Because we are Indians. We are like that only.

Rashmi Bansal is a best-selling author.

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