Week 12 Journal

Question: Using Bombay as a case study what are the characteristics of an Asian city?

Bombay, which was one of the foremost Indian cities to “experience economic, technological and social changes”, has many of the characteristics of an Asian city (Patel,2003, 3). For example, as Patel rightly caught the essence of Bombay in these lines, “Though colonial capitalism fostered dependant economic development and unevenness in urban growth… Bombay represented what is possible despite odds” (p. 3). The unevenness of growth is a common trait to all Asian cities. Just like Bombay or Mumbai – as it is currently renamed, other Asian cities too are largely based on “services and flow of information with dispersed manufacturing located in specialized areas” (Patel 2003, p.12) to fuel its growth, with specific workers catering to varied specialized urban services typical to each city’s increasingly affluent middle-class population.

Work became spatially re-located in these specific pockets in Bombay, with concentration of high-volume and low-value manufacturing units getting relocated to the suburbs and nearby towns while the low-volume and high-value units came to be located in other centres as specialized categories of workplaces. Inequities in land ownership and housing have made land a much coveted commodity and real estate prices in Mumbai have increased manifold, and so have they in other Asian cities. Globalization has helped accentuate the disparities in classes and thus in Bombay and other cities of Asia housing has become a distant dream for many, signifying the two opposites that exist in one territory. The ‘urban duality’ is symbolized in the high rise buildings of Bombay with modern technology on one side, while on the other side, millions of the urban poor are not allowed any participation in the progress or prosperity ushered in by globalization, making them appear poorer when contrasted with the opulence and luxury of the sophistication displayed in the urban, globalized, technologically advanced and culturally transformed Mumbai and Asian cities.

What peculiar features of Bombay does Patel attribute to the growth of the Shiva Sena?

Sujata Patel’s (2003) work analyzes the rise and fall of the Shiva Sena with its colonial past, as also its resurrection in globalized Mumbai. The bifurcation Bombay state (1960) into Gujarathi speaking Gujarat and Marathi speaking Maharashtra developed the right conditions for the birth of Shiva Sena in 1966. At the time of its formation, it used language as its tool to project itself. It propelled itself into popularity by representing itself as the crusaders of political language within the region. With the economy of the state being controlled by non-Marathi speaking Gujarathis, and with the migration from the neighbouring states like UP, Bihar etc., and also the South, the Shiva Sena fought for the rights of the Marathis who migrated into Mumbai from Marathwada and other parts of Maharashtra. While the Gujarathis were into finance and other sectors, the Marathis were strong in textile manufacture – and organized sector. However, in the latter period of 1970s, fell from grace because, it was viewed as the upper-class supporter, and anti-Dalit; it was also seen as the stooge of the textile management power group; it became synonymous with dadagiri which is using muscle power.

However, in the 1995s the party resurrected itself on the platform of religion “Hindutva” as against the rising partisanship shown to Muslim and Christian minorities by the State. It organized extensive ‘aartis’ or cultural functions in which people from all classes and regions participated and developed a sort of community kinship; with this the Sena “adopts, interprets… negotiates the symbols that arouses responses in the city” (Patel 2003, p.24). This is how the Shiva Sena became the power behind the ruling political parties and grew in visibility in Mumbai.

What are the characteristics of cities in Southeast Asia?

According to Rimmer and Dick (2009) have studied some of the common features of Southeast Asian cities and state that the impact of Globalizations is “apparent in the exploding size of cities and the rising level of urbanization” (p.133). The transfer of technology and information has enabled geographical replication of spaces, including control of environment. Imported technologies to “the built environment” in internal transportation like elevators and escalators, internal communication in the form of telephones and computer networks, and heating ventilation and air-conditioning for temperature control and these feature have contributed to the increase in the number of high-rises in all Asian cities, with Taiwan and Malaysia holding the two tallest building structures in the world. Manila, Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok and not the least – Hongkong are good examples of this. Hongkong, state the authors, holds the distinction of housing the largest number of high-rises in the world.

In all Southeast Asian cities, buildings are “capital goods that are used as inputs in the production and consumption of goods and services” — they are in fact “derived demand” instruments, and are considered to be accelerators of growth and social transformation. All these cities display what is called as “dualistic” nature of urbanization which is the sharpened divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Pollution, and compromise on the issues like heating of the external environment to cool the ‘micro-environment’ within the high rises by using air-conditioning is another common feature of all the Asian cities. Transfer of motor technologies have ensured that congestion is another imperative part of these cities, as mentioned by Rimmer and Dick (2009).

What is the importance of technology and what social changes come about because of the urbanization of the population?

Technology transfer has led to the notion that climate and environment can be transformed with the help of technology at a price; this has been supported by other factors like market considerations, and commercial development like development of huge Shopping Malls in all these Asian cities with air-conditioning – allowing for more business to be transacted. This has also led to a steep increase in land prices, thereby depriving the poor any opportunity to own a house or dwelling. Technology transfer which a part of the Globalization, has deepened the divide between the rich and the poor, by enabling ‘exclusivity’ to those who can afford it. It is in another way the imposing of colonial elitist values, state the author, where in the colonial rulers have been replaced by the increasing numbers of rich and powerful middle-class natives of Southeast Asian cities. Side by side a class of the urban poor has also been created who live in slums and suffer from pangs of hunger and heat, accentuated due to pampering of the luxuries of the lavish rich urbanites.


Cities of Asia Readings: Sujata Patel, “Bombay and Mumbai: Identities, Politics and Populism”, in Sujata Patel and Jim Masselos (eds.), Bombay and Mumbai The City in Transition, (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 3-30.
Peter J. Rimmer and Howard Dick, The City in Southeast Asia, (Honolulu: The University of Hawai’i Press, 2009), pp. 131-154.