In a land of contrasts, none can be more shocking than the transition from urban India to the countryside. In Mumbai especially there are no suburbs; high-rise apartments cram nearly every available plot on the flanks of Sanjay Ghandi National Park before the city peters out on the banks of Vasai creek. Beyond this, it seems, life exists in a surreal time-warp unaware of the urban nightmare and cosmopolitan smorgasbord of Mumbai. It is an existence tantalizingly pre-modern, romantic, peaceful and yet tragic.
Post-monsoon, and a healthy one at that, the rice fields glow a golden green and the jungle appears to swallow anything without a caretaker. Village life seems to buzz with an ancient rhythm and the realities of modern life become nearly irrelevant. But in this land of contrasts, where a single harvest failure can mean starvation, devastation, and relocation to the slums or sidewalks of Mumbai’s dirtiest districts, it’s not always quite so romantic. By mid-November the land will warm to a straw-color, accented by fading rice crops and evergreen jungle. By May, it will have burned to a crisp and the only thing keeping people hydrated will be a special type of coconut with jelly-like flesh.
By then the trade-offs of modern city life may not seem so glum. Perhaps that’s why Mumbai seems so much like an urban black hole, literally sucking all but the hardiest of humanity into its ever-more-dense core and leaving the countryside humming its ancient rhythm.