Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ten Cities 9) Mumbai

Becket, December 26, 2012

Transportation maps are often terrific diagrams to understand the structure of the city.  With the enormous precision of satellite data and other contemporary technology, current maps have lost the reductive abstraction that makes earlier ones such valuable documents for urban analysis, but the little maps issued by subway, train or bus companies are still a sort of an X-ray view of the city.

Take for example a rail map of Mumbai.  It depicts the geography of the city with great clarity: an elongated peninsula tapering to the south and barely connected to the mainland.  Really an island.  Actually, Bombay (before the nationalist Shiv Sena government change the name of the city in 1995) was a collection of seven islands that got connected in the late 18th and early 19th century.  The lower tip of the peninsula, where the train lines run parallel and close to each other, is Mumbai City proper.  To the north is the Mumbai Suburban District where the Western  and Central lines began to separate, leaving a large triangular area in the middle.  The southernmost portion of that area is the famous Dharavi slum; then to the north, the Sanjay Gandhi National Par with its Vihar and Tulsi lakes.  The Central line eventually turns east and crosses Thane Creet to Navi Mumbai, the new districts developed after 1970.

Of course, the map tells you nothing about the dramatic, brutal overcrowding of the trains.  But that's another story.

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