Until recently I thought Mumbai was a peninsula. It was a day of revelation when I realized it is actually an island – the Mumbai City and the Suburban Mumbai are actually surrounded by water from all sides and connected to the Indian mainland only through road and rail bridges. And today, another geographical truth hit me. There is a river running through Mumbai – it originates in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and after traveling 18 kilometers through the heart of Suburban Mumbai, it joins the Arabian Sea at Mahim Bay, near the now-famous Bandra-Worli Sea Link. I realized today that the filthy, stinking ‘naala’ that we cross while traveling on the local train between Mahim and Bandra is actually what has remained of the same river – Mithi – its name all but a misnomer today.
These recent discoveries about Mumbai are like discovering some essential truths about your beloved after being in the relationship for three years. And then you start looking at her, and at yourself, with a different and enhanced perspective.
So I’m thankful to a friend of mine who invited me for the screening of her documentary film on the Mithi River. ‘Making the Sewer a River Again: Why Mumbai Must Reclaim its Mithi’ is a small but hard-hitting film on the sad state of the river. Most of it is like a horror story, like most discussions involving man’s misadventures with nature. And you sit through it captivated and tensed, especially if you love nature, and more so, if you love Mumbai. But it ends with a hope, that if we work towards reclaiming the river, we can actually have an 18-kilometer long stretch of river-park corridor, with water fountains, pedestrian bridges, cycling-tracks, amusement centres, concert halls for performing arts, and even roadside shopping stalls. It can be one beautiful site of tourist attraction, like Venice, and a river will run through Mumbai again.
What can we do at this stage to help this ambitious initiative? It is simple. Just watch the film by clicking here. And forward the link to as many as you can. If you love Mumbai as much as I do, you’ll find this simple exercise extremely fulfilling.