To me, the Marol road that leads to Saki Naka stands for everything that I find wrong-headed about a liberalising India. The traffic is simply putrid. The road is horrible, plenty of potholes and stones waiting to be kicked up by a passing vehicle. On one side are stretches of unimaginable -- I don't know how to emphasize this enough -- filth. Piles of rotting garbage, yes, but also just black, oily mud. Some of it is due to the torrential rain of a few days ago, yes, but this road is always a mess.
Street vendors have laid out their wares in that filth, women in sarees and dresses step daintily through that filth, taxi- and auto- drivers and workshop men and electricians and all sorts of people work in that filth. All with cyclists and pedestrians flowing along, traffic piled up in gnarly messes at each signal.
And cheek-by-jowl with all of that, like some psychedelic fantasy, are a series of grandiose, gleaming glass buildings. HDFC, Crisil, DCB, a hotel. Pristine, precise structures, every bit as splashy as anything you'd find in the West; today one has a man hanging on a long rope and cleaning the glass.
And yet you step out of these buildings, through the gate and bingo! You're smack in the filth and chaos and sundry rubble.
How we manage to exist like this, with these great surreal contrasts, is a mystery to me. And on the Marol road, the mystery finds its greatest expression.
And it's along this Marol road that we crawl in a rickshaw, trying to reach a spot where a hill caved in. Eventually, we turn into a narrow lane, even more potholed if that's possible. A hundred yards along it, we come to a garbage pile so monstrous that it nearly blocks the way altogether. We edge past, really driving over whatever the rotting stuff is. And I'm acutely aware that when I come back out of here, I'm unlikely to be in a rickshaw and I'll have to walk over this stuff. (Which is just what happens, a few hours later).
The road twists and gets even narrower, and then suddenly we know the way ahead is only possible on foot. A helpful old man leads us through little alleys, and we catch glimpses of a hill on our left, and then we turn away from the hill onto a road again, then round a corner and another where the road turns into slippery monsoon-wet mud and I'm sorry yet again that I'm wearing sandals not shoes.
And this road is irony. Before last Tuesday, it didn't exist. When the hill fell, when some hundreds of huts were destroyed, the Municipality had to get great excavators and trucks in here to clear the debris. But this was a rabbit warren of houses and workshops, no way for these huge machines to come in.
So to reach the victims of a hill that smashed perhaps a hundred huts, to make a road for their equipment, the Municipality actually smashed another 40 or 50 huts. That's how this road that's just mud came to be.
There's a lesson in there somewhere. I think it has something to do with glass castles and filth on the Marol road.