Bombay – The Ephemeral City

(Above Photo by Emil Otto Hoppé – )

For me, Bombay (And let’s not be cynical and try to correct everyone into calling it another name), is more than a city. It is a feeling. Having been born and brought up here, the feeling for me is liberating, and at the same time disparaging, withering and sort of disconnecting with the rest of the country—or the world. For the city may have stacked up on all of its statistics and may have earned tag lines a plenty, there are a lot of contradictions I find within this city and somehow, these inconsistencies make it exciting, thrilling and give it the “dreaminess” of it all.

By Tarun Bhatia

S. Y. B. Pharm

I’ll start off with what truly runs this place, runs in this place and runs through this place, because if it didn’t, paraplegia would run down the spines of its people and “life” would not be intact; The Bombay Local. One second you’re standing on the dilapidated platform floor, the next you’re fighting off the worse kind of germs, right in the mouth of the train. There is the smart phone and there is the “I-have-no-phone”: In the same compartment of the same train. And ironically, that’s what I believe signifies this city, the privileged and the under privileged are all tied by the same thread.

While Gothic architecture may adorn the pillars and buildings of SoBo (NOT SoMu!), the entire history of etymology goes back a long way in the history of Bombay. There are roads that are named after “God-knows-which-activist” and most of them have a western, English name too, probably derived from a long time ago, and those of us who are haughty culturists still prefer to call them by the latter (Check: Half of Bandra and SoBo!)

Bombay is an alpha global city, and there is a very thin line that divides Bombay and Mumbai Metropolitan Region. For those of us who have inhabited this place since birth, this mustn’t come as a shock. The essence of this city eventually lies in its people and demographics may fool you into believing that 12,478,447 is a number to be afraid of, I believe that this number, if  targeted in the right vein, if channelized toward the right direction can make all of the difference this country really needs.

Having spoken about the name of this city right at the beginning, I’d like to categorically state that there is a big reason why people still call it Bombay and not Mumbai. Leaving aside all of the “undemocratic forcefulness of tongue” that was put forth by a certain group of radical so-called statesmen, the name “Bombay” emits an active sense of appeal, magic and in the true sense of the tagline makes it the “City of Dreams”, for some people who lived during the not-so-populous times when there used to be a tram that glided through the streets of this city, the idea of “Bombay” seemed to click like the ideas of “Berlin”, “Los Angeles”, “London” click with the people nowadays. Point to note here, these are Bombay’s sister cities.

And changing the name of the city could not have been the direct orders from the Goddess in the skies, reports show that the city lost some of its international appeal in the years that followed its renaming. And I, in no way mean this in a patronizing manner: When it was “Bombay”, the city struck the cords of traditionalism, sort of synonymous to the ideal Bollywood classic. When it became “Mumbai” it had an urban, chaotic, modern, dreamy appeal.

Lastly, Bombay was cleaner, Mumbai is getting away from it, Bombay was cheap, Mumbai is downright expensive, Bombayites went with the flow, Mumbaikars are intolerant. Some things that changed and therefore were missed in the times that followed include, the shout of the neighborhood vegetable vendor which got replaced by “No Hawkers” signage, the marble bearing paradises of libraries which are now replaced by bookstores that don’t have what you want to read and if they do, they rip you off, the Fiat: Object of every Bollywood filmmaker’s desire that got replaced by vehicles that are valued at a one followed by a great many zeroes. This list can continue but what’s important is that beyond a doubt, Bombay/Mumbai is eventually made of people, you and me, everyone and we must continue to be a part of it and not apart from it, as cases arising in the city currently bend toward the latter.


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