Mumbai’s burgeoning population and its geographical setting gives it a unique physical landscape – one in which there is a constant negotiation between its people and their environment.
There are masses of built form spread throughout its 600-odd square kilometres, from the dense urban fabric of the inner-city neighbourhoods, to the rigorous monotony of residential housing blocks.
Yet new structures continue to rise each day, their skeletal concrete-work silhouetting against the setting sun.
The city’s legendary juxtaposition carries on, with luxury housing towers overseeing indigenous villages, fishermen’s boats and their daily-catch. In one case, the two are separated by a creek, one of the city’s many water bodies.
Being a former island, water is a constant factor in the city, and also the source of its deepest vulnerability. The ecosystem of Mumbai’s lakes, rivers and catchment areas may have been tamed, but the lashing waves along the western coast and looming monsoon clouds over the skyline remind one of just how helpless the city can feel.
Meanwhile, in the newer parts of the city, highways and speed-demons cut across what were once large swathes of mangroves. Towers rise by the banks of these new-age borders, which all but cut off the residents from ever tangibly interacting with the land that they inhabit.
However, while landing at the airport late at night, the division between people, structures and land fades out. The entire city seems to dissolve away, leaving behind only a mass of blurred lights.
By Kunal Bhatia