Continuing the expat advice series, FT Residential focuses on Mumbai this time. We invite readers to participate in a short survey and share their tales from around the world and the lessons they learned.
In 2015, consultant Prasun Sengupta returned to Mumbai following five years in Kolkata. Here is his take on navigating the city’s notoriously choked roads.
My wife and I live in Gamdevi in south Mumbai. Essentially it consists of three quiet, tree-lined lanes between Tardeo — a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood — and the arterial Hughes Road. One of the reasons for choosing this area is that it is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, chemists and hospitals as well as public transport.
In Mumbai, distance is not proportional to driving time. Narrow roads connecting to main roads are often crowded during rush hour and can take up a disproportionate amount of your total driving time.
Driving, particularly for the uninitiated, is hazardous. New cars appear faster than new roads to accommodate them. Large cars and SUVs are now popular, as are “two-wheelers”, as motorcycles and scooters are known, whose riders treat traffic regulations more as suggestions.
You need at least one car with a driver, for which employers often provide an allowance. Check that public transport is available for your driver to get home if you are out late. Drivers usually work an 11 to 12-hour day before earning overtime.
Taxis are reasonably reliable. Auto-rickshaws, which operate in the suburbs, can overcharge or take a circuitous route. Uber and Ola, its Indian rival, are successful. However, GPS notwithstanding, younger drivers often don’t know south Mumbai so well.
Monsoons start in June and usually end in September. Check how your locality and connecting arterial roads are affected by heavy showers. Expect at least one huge downpour that disrupts the city for up to 48 hours in low-lying parts of the city.
Even modest rainfall can bring traffic to a crawl, so plan your appointments during the season accordingly.
What I wish I’d known before I moved: Don’t expect your neighbours to be friendly.
Photographs: Youssouf Cader/Dreamstime; Dinodia Photos/Alamy; Danita Delimont/Alamy
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