3. Mumbai – Urban Spectacles? Urban Horror. Whose fault to blame?

1. Kinetic City Now

2.Special growth and evolution under colonization – dramatic urbanization

3. Urban Spectacles? Urban Horror. Whose fault to blame?

4. Cleaning up the mess and attempts that failed

5. More plans and conclusion


Division of race

Cross one street and you are suddenly plunged in the native town. In your nostrils is the smell of the east…the decoration henceforth is its people. The windows are frames for women, the streets become wedges of men –Stevens, Charm of Bombay, 82-83

While the nucleus of the European population lived in the south, Indians were clustered north of the old fortified town with the east-west line of Churchgate Street demarcating the boundary between the natives and the foreigners. This basic division persisted even after the fort wall came down in 1862. Over time however class came to mute racial divisions wealthy Indian merchants and industrialists built houses in European areas. Broad avenues and spacious houses set in gardens characterized the European areas, where elite Indians also build grand bungalows.  No Europeans lived in the native quarters which were crowed and mixed used neighborhoods.

Urban Spectacles? Urban Horror. Whose fault to blame?

There are two sides of this colonial city. Turn your attention to the mill districts and you are greeted with degradation. Land was abundant in the city but neither the capitalists nor colonial authorities were willing to spend enough money to build inexpensive and adequate transportation. This forced workers to live close to work where land was at a premium. And the slums were born when landlords recklessly erected the slums and tenements hoping to earn profits with little investments. The chawl, a Marathi word meaning ‘room or house fronted by a corridor’ was the defining emblem of the overcrowded working-class space.

The jam-packed chawl became a symbol of Bombay’s working class space.

Was it the British to be blamed? The colonial officials recognized the inhuman conditions, but they did not see that industrialization has resulted in this. The economic relations that British power imposed rendered the precarious mill industry critically dependent on the exploitation of cheap labor.

As a result in developing a colonial outpost and a hub in the colonial exploitation of Indian resources, Bombay had acquired the façade of a European city. Spatial pattern differences are not uncommon in colonial cities, and as one moved from the space of the rulers to that occupied by the ruled, the population density and urban forms changed, the very logic of colonial power required interactions, blurred boundaries and scrambled spatial pattern. The birth of two cities, the wealthy one belongs to the natives, well organized, widened roads, clean and grand; this is the start of the ‘formal city’ we see today; the chawls or mud shanties erected by workers who summoned traditions to manage the conditions of urban modernity in response to housing and labor conditions of the modern city; that is the start of the informal city we see today.


Bombay Harbour
Bombay Harbour
plan to develop the backbay
plan to develop the backbay

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