The highs and lows of Mumbai roads

Apr 07, 2012, 06:13 IST | Rohan Joshi

Build the roads and the jobs will follow, someone once said. That someone was not from Mumbai. Because here, we say 'Build the roads, and then you can rebuild them next year because they'll be broken soon.' Mumbai has, beyond a doubt, the worst roads of any major city in this country.

Or possibly the world. There are people in Rwanda who are embarrassed by the state of Mumbai’s roads. Try this. Get into a car or a cab, and grab your laptop.Try writing something during your commute. Our roads are so bumpy, you’ll end up with a sentence that’s utter gibbueie03083jdncncn^8woggzzoº£¢nndffffuuuugk**&$.

There isn’t one stretch of good, unblemished road in Mumbai. Not one. Not one stretch where you can let go of the steering-wheel for five seconds (not that you should. Salman Khan, I’m looking at you) and expect your car to just travel straight without hitting a rough patch.

Marine Drive used to be a flat, beautiful surface. Now, some stretches of it are six feet below sea-level, and other bits give you altitude sickness. What’s worse is that all you have to do to go from one height to the other is switch lanes.

There are times I’ve been stuck in traffic at places only because the cars in front have slowed down just to navigate a treacherous (and completely random) scar in the road. I’ve been in potholes so deep that even James Cameron wouldn’t pilot a submersible into their depths.

There are points so low that even Ajit Agarkar’s career hasn’t sunk to them. Our roads are at that stage of awfulness where it’s almost impossible to contemplate any logical reason for anything to be that bad.

My opening argument is of course the one that explains almost everything in India; aliens replaced the Maharashtra government with clones in 1997. I kid, of course, even though it’d explain Prithviraj Chavan’s hair. But the truth is aliens would behave less oddly.

The next logical assumption is of course corruption, because well, we’re us. But there’s some patches where I begin to suspect nothing but utter incompetence. I’ve seen my four year-old nephew do craft projects more deft and competent than Mumbai’s roads.

Not a chance: Mumbai’s potholes are so deep that even Titanic director James Cameron wouldn’t pilot a submersible into their depths

And our city’s masters seem to have decided that old-fashioned asphalt and concrete-laying isn’t good enough. And so now we have ridiculous bits of road made of those odd polygonal interlocking tiles that have a life-expectancy of fourteen minutes, unless a car goes over them, in which case six seconds is all I can promise.

In a city where flat surfaces with no weak-points or joints barely survive, what chance do a bunch of tiles held together with nothing but cement and official apathy stand? This is Mumbai, not Legoland. Legoland doesn’t get a zillion inches of rainfall a year.

Which brings us to my favourite time of year for Mumbai’s roads; the monsoons. It doesn’t rain in Mumbai; the city’s water breaks. And our already-awful roads get even worse. Most are gone before the first drizzle is done. During the rains, the only difference between a Mumbai road and the dark side of the moon is gravity.

There’s a stretch near my house (Nepeansea Road) that was completely relaid and widened from two lanes to four all of three years ago. It was done at considerable expense, and took forever. It was gone barely a week into the monsoon.

If that’s not a travesty all by itself, here’s the fun part; the powers that be have now commissioned re-development of that road for (wait for it) 21 crore rupees, because it provides leads to the houses of important people like the chief minister, the governor, and Raju the bhelwala outside Hanging Gardens.

Somewhere in there is a very rich off-the-books public works official, and an RTI query or three waiting to happen. But like Santa Claus, the BMC will sweep in and fix everything. Except, just like Santa Claus, I’m pretty certain the BMC doesn’t really exist.  

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on

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