Vishnu H Prasad : An Accidental Civil Servant

Mumbai v Bangalore: The starkness of Poverty

Mumbai v Bangalore is very hotly debated topic, especially amongst the IT crowd. There are a lot of differences between Bangalore and Mumbai. However, today a certain scene that I experienced came to my mind and hence this post.

When I was in Mumbai, after alighting at Lower Parel Station, I was walking towards Shanker Rao Naram Marg to meet with Lekshmy. I happened to buy a cone of peanuts from just outside the station. It had just rained a while ago, and hot peanuts seemed liked the perfect thing to make it a bit more entertaining.

However, as I was walking on the Lower Parel overbridge, a young boy (must be 5-6 years old), dressed in rags and covered with soot, ran up to me from behind and grubbed my legs. I turned around and looked down and suddenly saw this kid there. He simply stretched his hand and asked for peanuts. Now, if you are from somewhere else (outside India, that is) you will be overwhelmed by this. Beggars, and that too young ones, are a common sight in India that you start taking it for granted after some time.

I understood that he was asking me to share some peanuts. I gave him a handful and again started walking slowly nibbling on each nut. Someone again brushed my legs within seconds. It was the same kid. He stood there again, with outstretched hands. Now there was one more kid along with him. I looked over them and saw that there was a whole family living by the side of the fly-over in a make shift tent. A girl was rolling on the side walk with some damaged doll, which her parents must have found from some bin.

I did not know what to do. In fact, at the time, I felt there was nothing much I could do. If I were to call child services (or something similar) for every kid I found on the streets, probably that would be the only thing I would do. Besides, here the kids were not orphans. They had parents. Their mom was sitting besides the tent. It is just that they were really really poor. What could I, an aspiring civil servant at the time do? Nothing much.

I gave the entire cone to the kids and pulled out a 50 rupee note and gave it to them. I just turned around and walked. Whenever I think Mumbai, the picture of stark poverty along with high rise buildings always comes to my mind. Bangalore doesn’t throw up such a picture. It is not to say that Bangalore is free from this, but it is not as frequent sight as in Mumbai.

May be it is that Mumbai is more accommodating of both the poor and rich alike that we find more of them in Mumbai rather than Bangalore. It is a known fact that the average spending power is much higher in Bangalore when compared to Mumbai because of the higher middle class populace. In the Mumbai v Bangalore debate, I am not sure whether this presence of poverty gives points to Mumbai or Bangalore.

But during the next few months, Mumbai went on to become my favorite city amongst all the ones I have lived. With time, I hope to share it here.

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