I am a very early riser, very early, and though I do not go for a morning walk, I spend some 15 minutes on the balcony watching the birth of a new day.
These mornings, I see the city gently covered in a muslin mist. And that is the point. Some people tell me, it is not mist, it is smog. I do not agree. I know mist when I see it, particularly when I feel it. And this is mist, the mist of Bombay that comes swimming across the sea and settles over the city.
I have noticed that there are a whole lot of people living and working in Bombay who see nothing right with the city. So mist becomes smog, it is dirty, it is polluting, it affects the lungs, hampers breathing, invalids the old, kills children. They are people who have never stood on the top of a high-rise and watched the city waking underneath them. It is a daily miracle, the false dawn, then the dawn, then the first sounds of life, the symphony of an entire population beginning a new day.
I am not talking of people who are forced, because of an uncaring government and its policies, to live in slums and tenements. They live in the smog created by the industries around them, and in dirty and inhuman conditions, and they have a right to complain. I am talking about the environmentalists, all of whom, without exception, reside in the best quarters of the city, travel exclusively on the best roads, and talk of the entire traffic system breaking down if there is a minor traffic jam on Marine Drive at 7 p.m.
I am all for people who are conscious of the city and keen on preserving its heritage and improving its environment. But a lot of these environmentalists, I find, much to my regret, are negative. They do not like industries which will provide jobs to people, because they pollute the atmosphere. They do not like high-rise buildings that will solve the accommodation problem, because the municipality they feel will not be able to service them. They do not like flyovers, because they are ugly.
They do not like an underground railway, because it will not solve anything. They do not like Ambanis upgrading Marine Drive, because it would be elitist, they do not like the reclamation of land and the growth of Nariman Point, because it is lopsided development. They do not want rickety old structures to be pulled down, because
anything constructed more than 50 years back is heritage. They do not want Bombay to grow, because it has grown enough. And they do not like mist, because it is smog.