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Historian J. Gerson da Cunha, writing in 1900, called Bombay "the Alexandria of India." Like the fashionable colonial outpost near the Suez Canal -- the so-called "highway to India" -- Bombay entered the 20th century as a particularly bright jewel in the crown of the British Empire.
Under the stewardship of the British East India Company, the transformation of Bombay (now Mumbai) from an archipelago of island fishing villages to commercial center was swift; roads and railways sprang up to connect the city to the rest of the subcontinent, and a massive engineering project to backfill the area between the city's seven constituent islands was completed in 1845. Almost entirely a British colonial creation, Bombay had become one of the most important seaports on the Arabian Sea by 1900.
Today, Mumbai is again in a period of flux. Besides being one of the world's most heavily populated cities and India's financial hub, the metropolis has seen its skyline transformed mightily in the last half-century. Its elegant Indo-Gothic and Victorian spires (seen above, circa 1930) are now dwarfed by massive colorless high-rises; and new architectural projects like the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link bridge, connecting Mumbai with a northern suburb, have remade the city as a cluttered urban jumble that da Cunha would hardly recognize.