You see, says Mohammed Muslim Pathan as he walks around with me, you see, they want to make a Singapore of Bombay. That's why they are doing this. But that will be a Singapore only for VIPs. Not for poor people like us.
Something makes me stop as he says this. I want to look around to see if I can imagine this Bombay-as-Singapore of some future date.
I stand there in this moonscape, with the small clump of people who are walking with me, and do just that. Look around, all around. I see rubble. I see burned patches of ground. A destroyed and burned Hanuman temple, with the slightly charred idol of Hanuman lonely on a pile of bricks. Beyond, a raised pile of rubble that used to be a mosque. A cart with coloured drinks for sale in 2-liter Pepsi bottles. Scattered underfoot, a large collection of dry mango seeds. People everywhere, some sitting blankly, some picking through the debris, one offering me a battered formica-topped chair to sit on, another asking if she can bring me a drink. Dust and smoke in the air, through which I can see multi-storeyed middle-class blocks of flats in the middle distance.
I don't see Singapore.
Mohammed speaks again. You see, Dilip-bhai, our women go to those flats to wash dishes and clothes. Yet it's us they're getting rid of. Tell me, what will this Singapore be like?
I notice the two girls in a smashed hut nearby. They are washing dishes in a dirty brown liquid that, I must presume, once was water.
Yes Mohammed, what will this Singapore be like? What is this Bombay like, right now?