“Mumbai seems to be the new Blue City,” remarked a friend, tongue firmly in cheek, on a recent visit to the city her first during the monsoon. As our taxi crawled past stubborn traffic on pock-marked roads, blue tarpaulin sheets could be spotted dotting the cityscape with alarming regularity.

She wasn’t wrong entirely. Come the rains, and the city is dressed in blue, almost with clockwork precision. Call them eyesores or an embarrassment, but these waterproof wonder sheets serve as much needed protection (and shelter) for millions in the city.

The sheet presents itself as this temporary yet sturdy companion that withstands the incessant downpour, muck and everything else that the city throws at it for those four-five months; some watchers would love to connect it to the oh-so-eulogised Mumbai spirit, no?

It remains the go-to material when rain proof work is underway in our buildings commercial, residential, heritage, high-rise and even under-construction structures. They come to the rescue even during our daily commute: as makeshift doors for our autorickshaws.

This innovation, one must add, has almost always caught the fancy of many first-timers to the city. Each time one travels across long stretches of the city in one go, this feature, in a bizarre case of urban chemistry especially in a potpourri of a city like ours, emerges as the lone common element at times, covering rooftops and facades for kilometres on end.

So integral is the blue tarpaulin to the city that it even made fleeting appearances in the Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire and several other Hollywood movies that have used the Maximum City as part of
their setting.

Artists pay tribute to its urban vibrancy while photographers revel in its eye-catching appeal amid the dull, grey landscape. Poets and graphic novelists have used the ‘taad-patri’ as part of their creative process while tourists and visitors to the city both Indian and international are bemused by this grid-like patchwork that greets the eye from the sky.

Love it or loathe it, but this blue-toned indefatigable resistance to Mumbai’s unforgiving monsoon, year after year, flood after flood, is the stuff of urban legend.