Mumbai seems to be a culturally challenged city. This microcosm of India seems to be segregated in to various sublets of concrete jungles if seen spatially, whether they are tin roofed slums of Dharavi or the skycrapers of South Mumbai affectionately labeled as ‘Town’. In a Times of India article on the 3th of August, 2012 has given a comparative which illustrates Mumbai’s cultural deficiency in terms of museums, art galleries and in general the building blocks of the architecture of culture.
In my humble understanding, for a culture of aesthetics and art to ferment, the basic ingredient is the luxury of time and space. In Mumbai, distance is not measured in distance but in terms of how much time will it take to reach a particular destination. No one has time to lazy away in order to ponder upon the higher order needs of culture. In Mumbai we have a cutting chai culture not cafe as in Paris or Coffee House on College Street in Kolkata for the proverbial ‘Adda’ or discussion-conversation with friends over a cuppa of ‘cha’ as in Bangla. The essence of culture is to appreciate and imbibe the the finer elements of life in to our daily existence. Culture cannot emerge from a pre-programmed algorithm. We out here in Mumbai live in our pre-programmed capsules. Creativity and Culture need apt spaces to nurture and evolve just like our smaller evolutionary cousins microbes in the correct pertidish with right micronutrients and atmospheric parameters.
Mumbai has been the emblematic merchant city: Dalal Street is the Temple of Mumbai just like Rabindra Sadan, the theater complex is in Kolkata. Dhirubhai is a demi God in Mumbai, contrast that by an Amartya Sen from Shantiniketan. The myths we believe in are a window in to the cultural crucible of thought of a city. In Mumbai, Politicians control Land, Education and Real Estate, and Culture is not the first priority for politicos from Western Maharashtra who prefer Sugar to Sahitya or Culture in Marathi. The Thackeray Family are more culturally inclined as they are a family of artists.
Culture sadly in Mumbai is sadly not given its space in the limelight as its migrant population is too busy surviving and Culture cannot be monetized as a stock on the stock markets. What Face Value does Culture have?