This blog post was featured in the “Around the Blog” section of the DNA newspaper published on July 230, 2012 (pg.6).
Mumbaikars, many of whom live in tiny flats with “caged windows”, optimise every inch of space that they have and then some more. I have seen these caged windows being used to store bicycles, for growing plants, for drying clothes… And I have great fun imagining the families living in such flats. A bicycle indicated school-going children, a tricycle indicated a toddler at home. If the bicycle/tricycle looked unused, then maybe the “children” had grown up. The clothes lines would help me weave even more colourful backgrounds to the families living behind those caged windows.
And then I came across these windows recently, and incidentally from the same building. It is said that a person’s desk is a reflection of his or her mind. If this logic were to be extended to families, what would the “caged windows” in the photograph be a reflection of?
Mumbai has indeed come a long way from the 1940s and the 1950s, when building residents were not allowed to dry their clothes in their road-facing windows or balconies or use it as a storage space. If residents were found doing it, they would be reprimanded and fined. Of course, it was also the time when the roads in Mumbai used to be washed every day. I know, it sounds unbelievable but it is true. I have a first hand account of these from my mother, who grew up in Mumbai.
I actually felt scared when I saw all the inflammable stuff in the caged windows. Are the families living in these flats hoarders or are they experts in hiding clutter from people visiting their houses? Or both. As for the family which has put the gas cylinder, I just don’t know what to say. I also wonder why the building society or the gas supplier or the municipal corporation not raised objections.
Hoarders or clutterers, these families definitely don’t care for the safety of their lives or that of others. And isn’t that quite like the city herself?
Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens.