I am born and brought up in Mumbai, and although I have visited many cities I haven’t really lived in another city for a long time. This is going to be my last week here because I’m moving to Bangalore for my studies. (Or should I say Bengaluru? I have been pretty careful not to say Bombay). And having visited Bangalore multiple times, I must say that I quite like it. Its definitely a much more modern and easy going city. But Mumbai is my first love! And I thought that it would be nice to write out my final goodbye.
There is something very unique about this city. And not in the ambigious way its usually described-“the city of dreams”, “cacophony of vibrant colours” and the thousands of other vague phrases. These phrases actually don’t mean anything unless you’re part of a committee that is printing out tourist leaflets for Bombay. (I just had to say Bombay. It describes the city much better than Mumbai) These phrases that often describe the city are not specific, and I like specifics.
Any other city compared to Mumbai feels lifeless. Even at 3 am you’ll find restaurants fully open in the suburbs with puffs of cigarette smoke coming out. Try ordering a plate of chicken, and even if they are out of chicken, they’ll find an egg somewhere, get it hatched and deliver your plate of food. In the midst of this you’ll call them at least once asking them how much more time it will take for the order and they will give you their usual rehearsed reply,’ ladka nikal gaya hai, ata hi hoga!’
Most people would say that there is no time to breathe in Mumbai. I say, Mumbai is about the joy of being able to find the time to breathe in the midst of all the chaos. The past couple of years is when I actually explored the city, because I travelled from one one end of the city to the other end to go to college. I cribbed about it plenty when it was happening. But now that I’m leaving, I am going to miss the old-world charms of Churchgate, the chaos of the suburbs and even the local trains! I remember the times I bunked a lecture to hang out with my friends at Oxford , to drink iced tea at The J, to sit and enjoy the glorious view from Marine drive, to go and just smell the books at Kitab Khana or just walk down to the station, hop on to train and sleep for an hour on my way home.
Its definitely a hectic city. You get up early and rush out of your house with shampoo dripping off your hair because you need to catch a train. You push through the hundred other sweaty bodies in front of you to get a seat. If you do end up getting a seat then you are lucky. Once you’re in the train you’ll notice that there is a smell inside the train. Oh! I could write a whole book about that smell! It is the mixture of sweet smelling cologne, the cigarette which the homeless guy who spent the previous night in the train smoked and many more things. And although getting through the train journey itself might feel like an accomplishment, the real accomplishment is when you go to office/college and still get work done. The day never really comes to an end. The people might sleep, but the streetlights continue to glow because the city very rarely sleeps. Even the tribes in India have a more organised existence than us. And the disarray only grows when the monsoon arrives! Talking about the USP of Mumbai that is the monsoons, I must say that I am not actually a big fan. Don’t take it personally Mumbai, its not you, its me. I don’t like monsoons anywhere. Just the idea of water falling from the sky and having to use an umbrella to protect myself from it, but still returning home with wet hair and muddy clothes does not really excite me. But like anyone else in the city, I like to sit next to the window with a cup of tea, watch the rains pour and update my Facebook status to, ‘Loving the Bombay rains.’ Even though I secretly hate it.
Inside the city, there is a notion of safety that we take for granted. You can walk on the streets without fear. Don’t get me wrong, the facilities and government functioning in the city is as bad as it is in the other cities. But the people are always ready to help. I can’t count the number of times I trusted the Rickshaw driver when I was unsure about the way. This I am being told I can’t do anywhere else.
There are so many people who end up helping you for no reason. So thank you to the lady who helped me fix my slipper when it broke, the lady who got up and gave me her seat in the train when I was not well, the girl next to me in the train who woke me up at Churchgate because I had fallen asleep, the lady who shared her umbrella with me because mine was broken and the list goes on for hours! These are some of the moments when you breathe in the midst of all the shambles. If you live here for some time you’ll know that there are many such moments when you take a breath of fresh air. Like when the smell of the ocean at Marine Drive makes you daydream, when you are returning home early and the train is empty or when you sit at the station waiting for the train to arrive. These moments give you time to breathe, but they don’t take away the mayhem, they only intensify it. Clearly, the word ‘peaceful’ couldn’t be further away from Mumbai. Whether it is the Kalaghoda festival or the line at the taxi stand, there are people everywhere. The only thing that dooms the city is floods! Only floods can stop the otherwise unstoppable commotion and bring the city to a standstill.
I don’t know if its healthy to live such a chaotic and hectic life and not be as worn out as you should be. But its the only way of life I know. I don’t know if I love the city, because I haven’t really lived anywhere else to be able to compare. But I know that I got used to it, I know that it became comfortable and I know that I am going to miss it. I would probably like a little bit of peace more than the chaos. So Bangalore might be the city I fall in love with, but Bombay will always be home.