It certainly wasn’t mine. I came here with a lot of expectations; I’m leaving with quite a bit of realization. In the past, I had lived in Bangalore and I really “lived” that city. I worked hard, I had fun with friends, I took solitary walks to clear my head, enjoyed the weather, weekend treks to explore, had a cute little spinster’s pad and friends around to sprinkle fun times. In short… I had my dreams intact. The Cosmo girl, as I thought of myself… who always lives “the” life.
Then, one fine day, I landed in Mumbai… with a job in India’s largest pharma company. Phew! I thought, “There’s no stopping me. I am riding the wave. I shall be the one in a sharp suit, spouting big words in the conference room and drinking sangria after work with friends.” Now, when I think of that…
“LOCO” is one word that comes to mind. *poker face*
Mumbai is not a city; it is a person with varied moods. Extreme moods; scary moods! The city that has a pulse so strong and fast that sometimes I felt I would be killed if I don’t match my pulse to it. If you don’t go in the flow, the city will forget you.
Life in Mumbai looks and sounds fascinating but for the most part, it is like Facebook where everyone is depressed yet showing off their “#bestest” moments.
I didn’t comprehend the phrase “rat race” until I took a local train during peak hours. And people here are always running, scurrying, hustling… I have no clue why. They jump on running trains, the jump off running trains with no value for one’s life. I remember being amused hearing the announcement at one of the stations requesting passengers to value their lives and not climb on the top of the train. THAT happens?!! I looked at Neel, my husband, who nodded with a sigh and a wry smile.
Whether it be the train, the local market queues, the seats at a food court or work, people will rush past you. The auto I travelled to work had three minor accidents in a month; I literally had my heart on my sleeve! But in most of these accidents, I realized they ill-mouth each other at the most, no one has time to assess the damage or brawls (that’s a plus side of living here!). It was amusing actually.
I was being told that Mumbaikars are known for their large hearts and for being humane. They go out of their way to help others. Actually, it’s not completely untrue. The people are the only reasons that made the city liveable. They talk to strangers without hesitation, they make friends easily. They will happily tell you about their lives if they aren’t busy scurrying for the 10:55 Fast Local.
Then, there was the sea to drown your sorrow. Usually, in Bangalore, alcohol would have been preferred (Pub City et al) but with the high taxes on alcohol in Mumbai, the sea has to suffice. Just look far at the horizon, don’t look at the water close up… god knows, you may find a condom gently waving hello at you with the waves.
When you are in Mumbai, you are in the midst of action; but your life becomes a vicious circle of frustration, bits of happiness, despair and a certain solidarity that the person sitting next to you on the train shares the same slice of life like you do.
Mumbai did teach me of where I stand in this world. If you ever want to feel your worth, stand in Dadar station during peak hours for 5minutes. This small act may even propel you to think profoundly about population, pollution, human behavior and deep shit.
This city definitely has a lot to offer but many, in their hustle, doesn’t realize how much the city takes from them. I am aware of the realities of my nation but in Mumbai do you truly feel the scalding heat of the wealth gap between the premium rich and the poor.
It is a city that so many people write about, rave about. They come here to fulfill their dreams, some make the city their own, some crushes their dreams on their own. Some lose hope, becomes despair and others try to fill their pockets of sorrow with another bottle of beer.
I came to Mumbai in December 2013 and I’m leaving the city in November 2014. Eleven months is nowhere enough to know Mumbai; but then again, a life-time is not enough to know Mumbai. If you try to find too many of life’s answers in Mumbai, the city might make you mad.
The parity between the city’s rich and poor is so enormous that you truly feel like a scumbag; you do! Mumbai is still a city with a lot of heart but it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted; and I, for one, nearly broke down a couple of times in the last eleven months. (Hence, the running away… A, true coward knows when to run!)
Of course, I shall visit Mumbai often, but like a Bollywood superstar who looks good only from far, spend too much time with him/her and the charm is lost; so does Mumbai (to me) looks good only from far. Spend a day in this city and it lures you with all its infinite possibilities; settle here for a few months and you are left screaming in frustration.
My love affair with this city was a life-long infatuation that resulted in a short fling. I hope someday I feel infatuated by it again; then, I shall come and say hello to it again… but until then. Bye-bye, Bombay.
Pune…!!! So excited to see you!