Here’s a first from ‘Pages from my life’. A personal account of a rainy day in Mumbai. Whether you’re influential, not-so influential, rich, poor, otherwise, you cannot escape a natural calamity. An incident that brought every Mumbaikar at common ground and made them all equal. An incident that brings to light the incapability of the political system of the financial backbone of India.
How about being nicely cuddled up in bed, watching the rains pour down your window pane? Always a fabulous option over getting out of that bed, getting ready and making it to work amid the havoc. I am late any ways because I decided to spend 5 extra minutes in bed. Those 5 minutes got stretched to a whole half hour because on that blessed day the snooze alarm on my phone died out of battery. I am 2 minutes away from the bus stop and the clouds cast their spell again. I realise I have forgotten my umbrella at home between all the rush. I make a quick decision, get wet or get more late. I decide on the first. I enter an overcrowded bus and people look at me like, ‘Dude, have you saved your umbrella for the winter?’
The bus starts moving, at a pace that could give a snail some competition. I can’t do much, hence I wait and wait and wait. A 30 minute journey that takes over 40 minutes on that day. Ten minutes is a huge amount of time when you are running late. Finally relieved I have reached my stop, I get off and start walking. And what do I spot? The place looks alien. I have gotten off at the wrong stop. Really? Am I dreaming?… Look again. No point. ‘Have I to do this on a day like this?’ I look behind, my bus had just left. I make peace and take a rickshaw. The saga with the potholes continue, reminding me of that adventurous camel ride back in Rajasthan. So, after another 15 minutes or so, there I was, walking into my office, as my boss was stepping out. He greeted me, “Good morning… oh is it morning yet?”
And if that was not all, let me tell you, this would have still been an ordinary day knowing the space-struck creature that I am. But it was the monumental 26th of July, 2005. It wasn’t complete without a 3-hour long walk on my way home in waist-deep water.
Four years later, I don’t think I’ve changed so much. I’m still as much as a space cadet as I was then. I still get off at wrong stations now that I travel by train, put steel spoons in microwave, walk into glass doors and miss my home on my way home. ‘But where’s the water in Mumbai?’ Is building a freaking bridge over 9 years and then debating what the name should be a bigger concern than rain water harvesting? ‘The Joshis, the Deshmukhs, the Dutts, the Thakreys, are you guys planning to kill us either ways, if not through choked drains, then with the mere stench of human perspiration this time?’ Let me tell you, if you came out with a brilliant idea of a car pool, I have one for you. Save water, bathe with your opposition party member.
Welcome to Mumbai. A little tongue-in-cheek humour always does good for your soul. Or so I believe. Born and brought up in this city, I have never had reasons good enough to leave this place. With all the nuisance that surrounds it, I keep falling more in love. Come savour the city as I take you through it in a true local style.
The glitz and the glamour built safely around the ever mushrooming tin homes. A city where magic coincides with the horror of survival each day. The dreams and the struggles makes it feel like so many parallel worlds subsist within just one world. Almost like a story of tragedy laced with humble victories. Mumbai is all of that.
It’s hard to get over a city you once called home if you’ve stayed here and moved on. But what’s more difficult is making it big in a city that demands Rs. 2 crore for a 1 BHK home in the heart of downtown… beat that! Call it the irony of a Mumbaikar that remains imprinted on their faces from the time they break dance their way to work over a dozen pits the first thing in the morning. The race begins for them as they stuff themselves up in claustrophobic boxes, too small to accommodate half of the city, till they board it again the same way, back home. Sounds crazy?… Try it and you’ll discover it’s the most convenient way to get around the city and skip the madness on the roads. You can sure add a dose of adventure to your journey if you wish, by travelling ticket-less. Though it will hardly sound adventurous if on that blessed day you walk into our very enterprising TC. And let me warn you, the fine is quite heavy… enough to feed Mamta Banerjee for a good two days. And that’s apart from the fact that you need to travel with your heart in your mouth, eyeing every commuter with suspect. Suspicion is the first step to self defense I guess… amidst a rough figure of 2.2 lakh people using the same mode of transport as you, yeah right!
Chaotic, filthy, demanding, stressful, restless. A plethora of words to just describe this simple unfailing spirit. So, why would hundreds of people want to migrate to this city each day?
There are a few good reasons I can think of right now. Free entertainment for instance. One rickshaw guy overtakes a guy in a huge car and that’s it. Within minutes, you have full blown action, drama, music and the audience. Now, I wonder why our directors go all the way abroad to shoot our masala flicks?… I watch Dostana every day on my way to work. The faces keep changing, their tendencies don’t. Talk about being a citizen of free India?… Little wonder why Mr. Thakrey thinks U.P. and Mumbai are not part of the same country. But again those are thoughts from the man who has been instrumental in renaming ‘Bomb’ay as Mumbai, which hasn’t really made it blastproof, you know!
Now, there’s one thing every tourist looks forward to on their trip to Mumbai. The night life here. Few cities in a country ruled my moral ethos can really match up to this insomnia land. But I say, you should also check out another unique feature of this city as the sun goes down. Women decide to do a bit of their normal fitness regime by taking a stroll down the lanes. What’s interesting is their choice of attire here. Nighties! Find it funny?… They don’t? and they don’t seem to care if you do. That’s Mumbai for you. In your face, bindaas, addictive, toxic. A city you can’t do with and can’t seem to get enough of either.
Picture courtesy: Google