Monday, September 01, 2008

Mumbais skyline

This post really is about the textile industry of Mumbai. As I read through Travels of a T shirt, it was this that came to my mind. The city of Mumbai is almost entirely missed in the story, but then it is the same as the two Manchesters - having said that, it is still a story to tell. The ebbs and flows of business.

Textiles were the happening thing in India many years back and the place where it was all happening was Bombay. Being a port city, with its humid weather and fairly abundant labour supply, Bombay was a godsend to the textile industry. The textile mills were the hub of the local economy - that churned cloth that was exported and locally consumed. Around it chawls came up and an entire economy evolved. See this place from one of the local skyscrapers and some of it is easily discernible. Indeed, it might not be wrong to say that if it were not for the port and the textile industry, Mumbai would have been something else...

Though there was the textile strike (here) which crippled the industry, it must be said that they were, really, fighting a losing battle against rising labour costs, increasing mechanization. Thanks to the strike, many workers lost their jobs the industry moved out of Bombay - scattered to other low cost centers across India (by which airconditioned looms were the norm - so the dependency on natural weather was gone) though, textiles never ruled the roost as they did in Bombay.

Today, in Mumbai, the textile mills are almost entirely slowly, but surely being replaced by swank offices, malls, apartment complexes - in a cycle of development that has been repeated across all textile centers across the world. Manchester US, Manchester UK.

Nothing to feel sorry about, it is a natural cycle of economic and technical development, but a tale nonetheless, to be told. And how, Mumbai, as the title of the chapter in the book is but a "sister in time" to the other cities where the industry faded into extinction.

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