As all my friends move into matrimony and kid-bearing and generally ‘settling down’, they acquire the other trappings of yuppies – investments! One of my friends thinks that real estate is the best option. So I accompanied her on a ‘window-shopping’ spree, scouting the city for the perfect place of land that she could call her own.

We ended up at Vasai Road. Yes, it has a station of its own on the Western line. What’s more, with the number of overhead bridges with twists and turns and forks, I thought we might have landed up in some future version of Mumbai without the crowds.

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With all the snobbery of a middle-class suburbanite I always thought Vasai Road was a part of the ‘outskirts of Mumbai area’, this idea being accompanied by a vague image of dirt roads, cows and fields. Here’s what I found:

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While the more fashionable addresses in Mumbai showcase their matchbox flats with parking for..oh, bicycles…we were taken around mini-townships with gardens, schools, walkways and even bungalows and penthouses. The roads were not all in great condition but well, can any part of Mumbai boast of these? At least there were trees! And broad roads!

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As the city is progressively gobbled up by commercial buildings, living spaces seem to be moving furthur north to keep up with affordability. Obviously these will probably go the same way as Powai and Malad, getting congested and over-infested with the mall-culture. But for the time being Vasai Road proves to be a lovely haven of refuge from a maddening city.

On the other hand, the commute just might kill you if you work furthur south (which you most probably do considering I haven’t heard of too many offices in the Vasai area). The train ride was sheer madness, even by my hardened train-traveller standards. We had a good 25-minute wait for the train taking us back into terra firma. And by the time the train pulled up, the crowd was 20-deep to the door. It was another half an hour before we wriggled out, swearing off the adventure and taking an auto-rickshaw instead. The Mumbai autos with meters, I mean. My dread of the train was matched only by my first shock at having to travel in a Vasai Road auto-rickshaw without a meter! That’s a crime by Mumbai standards but ah, well we aren’t in Mumbai anymore are we? Not with those lovely roads and open skies, we aren’t!

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I visited some friends at their fashionable south Mumbai address recently. Besides braving traffic snarls, congestions and pollution, we spent a good bit driving around looking for parking space. And then finally we had to get down and walk, party finery et al on a broken dog-path (not cow-path because there wasn’t room for any creature bigger than the solitary stray dog I almost fell over). When we finally got there, the house turned out to be a miniscule cubbyhole that seemed even tinier with the guests. And we had a great view of the peeling paint and cracked walls of the building opposite. Of note, the only reason my friends could afford to live in this ‘premium space’ was that their family had owned the flat for generations. Almost grotesque it is then that we continue to place a hellish value on…well, hell.

I guess if you don’t have to travel around too much, if you are a recluse who likes trees and open skies and broad roads, Vasai Road could be the place for you. The city’s madness is only about an hour away….by unmetered auto-rickshaws and crowded trains!

Or if you just need to get away from the madness every once in awhile and find some greenery and open skies, leave the metered madness of Mumbai behind and take a ride north-ward. My friends have invested there and it is to be hoped that their investment will pay off duly early enough for me to have my weekend getaway..before the rest of city discovers it and converges on it.

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And finally, this may not be Oz after all, considering that it has an entry on Wikipedia! .

2 thoughts on “Toto, I don’t think we are in Mumbai anymore!”

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