Bridges, said the author Jim West rather unoriginally, are metaphors for everything in life. The bridge is not just about getting back and forth between North and South. The bridge is about connecting our communities.
This is the story of two bridges in Mumbai, and the communities they had unintentional consequences on. One of the communities, the Koli village, has a history as old as the city, dating back to India’s British colonial time. The other one grew with the migrant labourers who arrived in the late 90s, in the wake of a flurry of roads and bridges being built for the city.
In both cases, the bridge had the ‘side effect’ of making an invisible group very visible. For all the wrong reasons.
This project is a work in progress. The city is full of such stories of invisibility. I have often felt that this invisibility is exactly what lets them thrive. I worked this one as part of an assignment for Terra.do, on how we think about Growth and Development in this century of Anthropocene and Climate Action. I was especially inspired by Kate Raworth's Doughnut Model. I suspect that were one to create a portrait of the Mumbai city, as per the model, we'd find a highly distended, stretched to its limits safe zone for Mumbai. Whether you visit it or live it, one wonders how does it all hold up?
The homo sapiens of Mumbai are also not just the most cooperative species on the planet, when it comes to living alongside those who are beyond our next of kin. It turns out that we pack ourselves so close that I wonder whose lives are we actually living? Our own or our neighbours?
But, back to the bridges.