I first landed up in MIG Colony, Kalanagar, Bandra (East), Mumbai in the summer of 2006. I had just moved to Mumbai for my first job, and had heard lots of stories about the difficulty of finding accommodation in Mumbai. When my aunt’s friend told me that she had two rooms to let out in an apartment she owned in MIG Colony, I jumped. I didn’t bother taking a look at the house, or what it was like, or what the facilities were, and I jumped at it. And moved in.
For my first week in the house I positively thought it was spooked. I would hear strange noises, suddenly smell cigarette smoke though I didn’t smoke. There were lots of dark paintings on the walls (the house came furnished, and the landlady had kept one room for her family’s use), and I would imagine them coming to life and coming after me. I even remember taking a video of the house on my point-and-shoot camera and showing it to my folks in Bangalore, just to show them how lousy life was in Mumbai. And as if all this was not bad enough, the house was on the third floor of a building without a lift.
Soon enough my flatmate Brother Louie moved in, and life became better. There were times when we would lock each other out, or leave the key on the door itself (thus enraging the landlady), but things were better. There was this Maharashtrian restaurant called Amey close to where I stayed, where I would eat most of my dinners. The tea there was especially good. Then there would be fruit and vegetable vendors at the intersection closest to the house – and they would give coriander and curry leaves for free with vegetables. Louie found a guy to iron our clothes, and some others to deliver stuff home. But on Sundays I’d take the train and decamp to South Bombay, to just walk there.
And then things quickly went south. Work started getting bad. The monsoons arrived, and every day my worry would be if I would be able to get out of my apartment. Soon a point of inflection was reached. Ours was among the few houses in the colony whose balcony wasn’t barred. I remember standing there staring down, contemplating if I should jump. Then I decided I was much better off simply quitting my job. Two days later I literally ran away, with a one way ticket to Bangalore. I came back a week later, resigned, served notice and moved to Bangalore for good.
In the last one year I’ve had several opportunities to visit and live in MIG Colony. As you know, I’ve been freelancing as a management consultant for a while now, and one of my clients usually arranges accommodation for me at a guest house in Bandra East. Each time I’m here I want to just roam around the colony to see if it’s changed, and somehow never get to do it. It was only today, though, I managed to find the time.
Just before I moved back to Bangalore, my landlady had told me that there were plans to redevelop the area. All buildings were only four storeys high, a function of the time before elevators were commonplace, and also thanks to regulation given the proximity to the airport. However, with lifts having become common and the building height regulation also being relaxed, there was now scope to unlock the value in the unbuilt height of these buildings. All these four-storey apartments would be torn down soon, I was told, to be replaced by high rises. The owners had all agreed on this redevelopment, and I’m sure they had been adequately compensated.
I took a rather circuitous route back to my guest house this evening, after having finished off a fish thali at Highway Gomantak (one place I never visited during my stay here in 2006, since I was vegetarian then). The Bank of Maharashtra branch is still there – I remember looking at it in 2006 as a “useless” bank, since my SBI ATM card wouldn’t work there. A little down the road, Amey is also there, though now it seems like a little more jazzed up than earlier. In fact that road in MIG Colony (which also houses the MIG Cricket Club) has hardly changed in the last seven or more years.
However, that’s only one of the few things about this area that has remained constant in seven years. Redevelopment has started, and is in full swing. I’m writing this from a nine-storey building in this area, while there was no building taller than four back then. Near where I used to stay, there is an even larger complex coming up, and which looks like it’s near completion. Other old buildings still stand, but they have asbestos sheets around their compounds, indicating impending demolition. They look occupied, though.
The building in which I used to live still stands, though there is a board outside that indicates it is up for redevelopment soon. The bhelpuri stall just outside is still there, as are the vegetable vendors in the intersection nearby (who look more organized now, though). There are more tiny roadside stalls in this area now – I don’t remember these petty shops occupied by tailors, barbers and tea stalls.
It is interesting, interesting to visit a place you were once familiar with after a long time. It is interesting to see what still stands, and what has changed. The question is which surprises you more – that which has still stood or that which has changed.
I’ll end this post with a few pictures from 2006, which I took the day before I left for Bangalore for good. Incredibly, those pictures are there in this laptop – having traveled through several other computers I’ve owned.