I don't know if these are the finest travel writers around, but William Dalrymple, Pico Iyer and Bill Bryson get my motor running. Every time I travel, on a car or a bus or a train; to a city or a village; I wonder what they see that I can't see. How would Bryson describe the bumpy ride from my home to work? Would Iyer have anything to say about traffic conditions? I know Dalrymple would cringe (maybe he wouldn't) if he saw the architecture in Andheri, where I live.
Every morning security guards rise reluctantly (this is true of most buildings in Bombay) and half-salute, like they have to but don't really feel the need to, and grunt good morning. Outside, there are dogs that grow in number every week and, early in the mornings, they sleep beside each other, forming a circular mound. The dog population here, among cleared mangrove and materials used for construction, has exploded. I steer past them and valiantly avoid the worst parts of the cracked road, negotiating steep bumps on what is actually a trecherous trail. It wrecks hell on your suspension, your butt, your bones. The morning walkers who abound tread purposefully but carefully; there are open manholes and in any case, the landscape of the road changes regularly. Andheri is a suburb, an outpost that was once deemed too distant and derelict to visit. But in the past two years, a slow progress has been made: three sand paths have been replaced by concrete roads, yet the busiest route in the vicinity - a vicious street where shoppers, Mercedes cars, rickshaws, cows, buses and cement mixers weave and jam around each other - clings to...to what? It is a suburb shrouded in grey, built around straight lines and reflective windows. Taken in isolation, it's a town repentant for past decisions and clumsily keen on atonement.
How would those three have seen what I can now describe with my eyes shut?