A city, a way of life

“Mumbai meri jaan”, it’s not just a phrase but it is for real. Bombay brought me back to life, a life I didn’t quite expect at one point but one that I love far too dearly today. It’s the place that taught me to love what I’m doing and think beyond doubts. When I look back to what I was before Bombay happened to me and then look at who I am today, I’ve grown and come a long way with no exaggeration.

Bombay in the east is pretty much like the West’s New York. It’s brilliant but crazy too. And there’s nothing in this World that I would trade for my life out here. There is no place that can give me what Bombay has given me. Yes, I’ve always wanted to travel around the world and visit those beautiful places. But they’re vacations that I long for. When it comes to finding my home, it’s right here.

Bombay, it is one chaotic destination. While many condemn its ways, there are many who know its true value. It may not be the cleanest place but it’s where gold lies. It’s one state that the entire nation depends on. And when you’re here, irrespective of the religion you belong to, the caste you hail from, the state you’re from, at the end of the day, together we’re all Bombayites – Mumbaikars like we call ourselves today. Look at an incident like 26/11 and you’ll know what it’s like to be a Bombayite. Not only is everyone there for one another but the city is back to its routine even before the sun rises.

I’ve often been asked whether I prefer Goa, my hometown or Bombay. How do you differentiate or choose between two homes? Native or not. It’s like choosing between your mother and your governess. They’re both equally dear and important to you.

There are a few things that people misunderstand or misinterpret about this wonderful state. No place is ever perfect right? But just because it’s a hub will thousands of people here, it’s easier to point fingers and go unnoticed.

Bombay is filled with too many people for one to stop and think and care about another. But that doesn’t make the people who live in this city cold. You call out to someone for help and you will have at least five hands out there to pick you up. The good part about this city is that you don’t have people poking in to your lives because they’re too busy managing their own, something that one should be doing anyway. Nevertheless, you meet someone once and you know them. That’s how relationships are built in Bombay. Best of friendships are seen in trains and at joggers’ parks. It may have more nuclear families than joint close knit ones but there’s still a lot of love. Back in Goa, travelling from the North to the South is such a big deal whereas here, people travel from one end to the other practically every day, it’s part of their routine and no one complains because in spite of the boundaries we’re still one big city.

This city may have its share of corruption and a lot of scope for you to be pushed around but when you look at it otherwise, it’s the very city that has provided many homes with food and shelter. You find people from different walks of life and that’s what teaches you to accommodate and adjust your lifestyle. You don’t have to be very rich or experience poverty to feel the true essence of Bombay. You just stand on a street at the peak hours and you’ll know what this city is made of. You have people yelling at one another and you have people standing up for each other simultaneously. You will see a lady travel in a Mercedes with her child looking in opposite directions and you will see a woman with a child in her hand begging for a mere rupee. You will see some youth partying till late nights and you will see some youth enjoying as they play “galli” cricket. While there are huge malls in the suburbs that attract crowds, there are street stalls that attract bigger crowds.

When you walk down a road in Bombay, it doesn’t matter whether you’re travelling by a BMW or a Maruti 800, you would rather travel by a taxi and rickshaw and argue with that driver for charging you an extra rupee. In Bombay, it’s not about getting the best cab but finding that seat in a crowded train or a bus filled with people hanging out of the doors.

I remember a friend once passing a remark, “I’m never stepping into Bombay, it stinks. It’s filled with slums.” Well, it may stink and may even be Asia’s largest slum area. But have you bothered looking in to that very area? Look at the number of people that live there and survive. Those very areas have most of the NGO’s that work for the underprivileged. Dharavi, a slum area, has more money than you and I can ever imagine or think of owning. You don’t judge or rate a city based on what it seems like, you must live there to know for sure. There are others who have said, it’s the hub for human trafficking, it’s a hub for drug abuse, it’s a hub for alcoholics. The facts of life are, where do these things not happen?

Hundreds flee to this city for jobs every day. Some see their dreams come true while for some it’s the end of those dreams but here, there’s room for another to come to life. You can spend an evening at a place like Marine Drive and you’ll know what it’s all about. The sun sets but it dawns the next morning, such is life here. Bangalore and Delhi may be cleaner places or maybe a boon for those seeking for employment but there’s no place like Bombay where you’ll feel at home in the first week itself. Bombay brings out the best in you. It gives you the confidence to live with your head held up high, it gives you the spirit to fight back, it gives you moments to feel happy about, and it gives you friends out of nowhere.

Where else will you find a market for stolen goods? Where else will you find the queen’s necklace in along a highway? Where else will you find branded apparel on the streets? Where else will you find the tastiest food at a cart around the corner? Where else will you find women fighting for a train seat like it’s a matter of life and death? Where else will you find the elite and the poor, walk beside each other? Where else will you find a packed restaurant post a terror attack right there? And there’s much more.

I moved from a place that’s filled with fun and frolic, an easy lifestyle and a chilled out atmosphere to a place like Bombay. And yes, I was scared as hell but Bombay took me in a jiffy and there’s been no turning back ever since. And even though I have friends who mock this place, I don’t wish to argue back but it’s a fact when I say, Bombay gives you wider horizons and it’s noticeable. Bombay makes you a person of substance, a person who can fend for herself, a person who is fun loving, a person who is grounded, a person who is social, a person is career oriented, a person who lives it up, a person who knows her values. And when people turn around and give me the, “Oh you’re from Bombay” look, I just smile. Knowing what’s on their mind, it’s pity. Promptly, I say, “Yes, I am.” I look at it this way, “What you see in others, most often is a reflection of yourself.” So if you think being a Bombayite implies a cheap character, I needn’t say anything further.

Life is tough here but it’s a journey you will forever endure. About three years of a fabulous experience, 36 months of growing from a child to a woman, 156 weeks of ups and downs, fights and friendships, 1095 days filled with memories – some crazy and some lazy and incalculable other moments that made account for the smiles and tears and joys and sorrows.

You may remove a person out of Bombay but you can’t remove being a Bombayite out of a person. And even though they say that if you’ve lived in Bombay, you can adjust anywhere else. Well, it’s true but when you live here you don’t want to live anywhere else. You want the “ganna” juice off the streets over a chilled coke at Macs. You want a hot a “Vada Pav” topped with a chilli over an expensive club sandwich. You want an iced “gola” over a Baskin & Robin’s ice cream. And this list of wants goes on.

Unless you live here, you will never know how beautiful this city really is. You will feel the buzz not just in the day but at nights too. From the gardens to the well done parks, from the chauls to the societies, from the street side stalls to the high end malls, from the historical buildings to the sky scraping towers, from the sea facing Oberoi’s to the food stalls along the beach, from dancing on the street to dancing at clubs. Everything about Bombay feels brilliant. Its smell, the traffic, the crowds, the chaos, the food, the local transport, the malls, the street shopping, the local bars, the clubs, the live bands, places like Marine Drive and Bandstand, Chowpatty, the rains, the winter, every bit of it is loved and valued.