To Mumbai, Back and Forth. Circulatory Urbanism Photo Essay. Photos by Ishan Tankha Text by Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove

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1 To Mumbai, Back and Forth Circulatory Urbanism Photo Essay Photos by Ishan Tankha Text by Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove This photo essay is an extract from a study by the Institute of Urbanology. The project was commissioned by the Mobile Lives Forum, a research institute created by SNCF to prepare for and build the mobility transition. The Konkan Coast is a narrow strip of western coastline that extends from just north of Mumbai to Mangalore in the south. It is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west and a range of high hills, known as the Western Ghats, to the east. The Konkan stretches for 700 kilometers across three states Maharastra, Goa, and Karnataka and is culturally connected by the Konkani language. This entire strip of land is linked by the Konkan railway network, built over the last thirty years, but which started functioning at full capacity only twenty years ago. A goods train stationed near Roha, enroute to Ratnagiri. Goods trains earn more revenue on the Konkan railway and subsidize expenses on passenger services. Mumbai is connected to several circulatory movements across the sub-continent, lubricated by a cheap and extensive railway network. The Konkan railway is a special chapter in this story and illuminates the idea of circulatory urbanism in a particular way. It connects Mumbai to many other places, especially small rural towns, making these linkages integral to the existence and functioning of the megapolis.

2 Around Roha, a station close to Mumbai. The Konkan railway changed the way people relate to the metropolis, giving them more creative choices about travelling to the city, even though commuting traffic is still very high. Around Chiplun Station. Stations have become hubs from where people travel to nearby villages and markets. Buses, bicycles, and auto rickshaws facilitate these movements.

3 Crowded buses show how much the urban system all over the region needs to be buttressed by transport infrastructure built to meet the needs of dispersed, networked habitats. The lush landscape through which the Konkan trains pass can be deceptive. The landscape is full of habitats which have their own transport needs, as the crowded buses in the previous image reveal.

4 Forests, industrial zones, and agrarian activities co- exist for now. This may change rapidly if the standard logic of urbanization, which encourages concentration and segregation, is applied to the region. A family returning home to Ratnagiri, where they have an ancestral house. The small chawl in which they live in

5 Mumbai is umbilically connected to this home. Mumbai landscapes slowly unfolding in Ratnagiri. Residents of Mumbai who cannot stay in their ancestral homes anymore accustomed to new comfort levels and aspirations are energizing a real estate economy in the image they are comfortable with. All along the Konkan Coast, open fields and lush landscapes are overrun with such high- rise aspirations.

6 The end of the journey: a monsoon- textured evening and travelers leaving the station at Ratnagiri. Circulatory urbanism refers to the pendular movement of people in India between rural and urban areas, facilitated socially by extended families and physically by railway and road networks. It provides a framework for understanding urbanization in India that goes beyond a one-way channel of migration to the Indian megapolis. Circulatory urbanism suggests that, in many parts of the world, especially India, urbanization processes reveal an uneven pattern in which rural and urban spaces morph into complex cross-referential and integrated spaces. The urban village in the city and the urbane village in the country are reflections of each other. They are connected by the movement of people from one to the other. Ratnagiri is a district on the Konkan Coast from which a large section of Mumbai s working-class population historically originated. At one point, they dominated the industrial textile mills; today, they shape a significant portion of the city s cultural identity especially through their presence in the city's large homegrown settlements, widely referred to as slums. They have brought a distinctive village character to the neighborhoods where they live in Mumbai. And back in their hometowns, they have brought money and their aspirations to recreate the urban lifestyle they can t afford in the city. Everyone contributes at his or her level to the speculative urbanization of small towns in India. Mumbai seems to float all along the coast with a particular presence in the Konkan. In this town, one sees plenty of second homes that look like Mumbai s suburban buildings, with flats and speculative rates to match. Mumbai residents re-invest in these homes to keep their connections with their hometowns intact, but in greater comfort than what their traditional homes could provide. Such an urban migratory flow, familiar to anyone looking at rural-urban migration patterns anywhere in the country, reveals how integral interregional transport systems are for urban life in India, keeping people firmly connected to a diverse set of spaces and places.

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9 These maps shows the movements of about 400 people coming and going from six different stations. They provide an alternative reading of urban systems, which transcend both classic urban-rural divides and other well-established definitions of the city. They show where the journeys of train-users start and where they end. They make the degree of interconnection between small towns and the country at large apparent. A town such as Chiplun, for instance, is by no means connected only to Mumbai or Ratnagiri, or to Konkan at large. Circulatory urbanism doesn't have to be defined as the movement between any two places, say Mumbai and Chiplun. Rather, a locality emerges at the point of convergence of many journeys connecting it to other places, near and far. The railways allowed a family to exist as a functioning unit even while being separated by thousands of miles, since members could always return for important family or community occasions. They maintained a sense of connection by facilitating cheap to-and-fro movement and by giving a choice for someone to stay behind as much as it gave someone else the chance to leave the village and work in the city. The Konkan region was not connected by trains to Mumbai until around just twenty years ago. Mumbai's connections with the region had, for more than a hundred years, been nourished by sea-based transport. The movements to and fro between Mumbai and the rest of the region existed even without the facility of the railways, underlying the fact that other variables made this system possible.

10 Walking home from the station is quite common usually because the last mile is expensive, given the distance from the station to the main town. This is certainly true of Chiplun and Ratnagiri. The relationship between city and village is not unidirectional, but rather a dynamic, constant, two-sided exchange. The relationship of migrants to their hometowns does not fade away with distance. Long-distance trains are always full not only those trains that come from the villages to the city, but also those that go from Mumbai back to the villages. People come and go with surprising frequency. They take their earnings from the city and invest in their ancestral homes and villages. Many tight-knit families have members living in two places at the same time; city dwellers often go back seasonally to work in the fields of their native villages. Fresh migrants to the city keep close emotional and economic relationships with those they left behind. Affordable means of communication, especially the mobile phone, have only made this easier in the last couple of decades. Migration from Ratnagiri to Mumbai is cyclical: people have, for a long time, kept coming back every year. They were deeply entrenched in the local agricultural practices, which needed them for a few months annually. They went to Mumbai mainly in the remaining time to supplement their incomes. Leather workers, once considered to be low-caste, were one of the largest groups of migrants from this region. Ratnagiri s residents today speak of their connections with Mumbai against the backdrop of this history. The railways did not open the world up it was already open to them via shipping and, later, bus networks that reached remote locations. What the railways do represent is the modernizing of mobility systems in the region. The trains also do something more: while the steamers had been like private vessels through the no-man s-land of the sea, safe from the gaze of the hinterland, the trains brought the whole sub-continent to their passengers doorsteps, with people from elsewhere starting to look for jobs in Ratnagiri.

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