(Above Photo by Michael Rubenstein – http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/mumbai-modern-photos-traveler/ )
I am no future Bollywood star that just arrived in the city of dreams; I am also not one of those hundreds of villagers and “small towners”, who come looking for better opportunities in this colossal place for a city, every day. I am just an engineering student (that too chemical!). But to tell you the truth, Mumbai has failed to disappoint me.
By Ishira Munshi
T.Y. B. Tech
When I first arrived, the sight of dense slums and equally packed buildings wasn’t really that welcoming! I had doubts whether this place had any more space left for a new-comer. And I am sure that those aspiring bollywood actors and hundreds of villagers would have come with similar reservations in mind, but sooner than expected, the enthusiastic sea-waves striking the sea shore at Nariman point were going to wash it all off.
The first thing that strikes any newbie about Mumbai is of course the- local trains! For any sleeping beauty, it is the very first and the loudest possible alarm, asking to wake up and take a step ahead, or be left behind forever. It tells you to be organized and disciplined yet be “fast and furious”, to grab the opportunity at hand or to let go, because nobody [including the train of course!] is going to wait for you for more than 4 seconds [ the case is different if your boarding station is the first one].
What is most heartening to experience is that in moving crowds flurrying like swarms of bees, you can politely pick out any one of the easy-going bees and ask for help, and more importantly, the bee- without stinging- will give you the directions in an equally polite manner.
Yes, I accept the city has a population of more than what can be possibly handled, but the organizational machinery of local trains, or in fact management skills of the famous “dabba-wallahs” is a remarkable answer to all such questions. Moreover, it reinforces the belief that where there is a will, there has got to be a way!
I can only guess that King John II of Portugal must be deeply repenting in heaven [or perhaps in hell!] about giving away the port city of Bombay as dowry when he gave his daughter’s hand in marriage to Charles II of England, for Mumbai- as it is known today- must be more economically valuable than the dowry of 1000 such daughters of his. On looking hard, [oh well it is not that hard to figure!] I have come to find that apart from geographical advantage, what makes Mumbai really special [financially rich, that is] is the work- centered attitude of its people. Life literally does not stop anywhere around here.
Like everywhere, Mumbai unfortunately, also has a class divide. But, fortunately, the lower stratum of the society here has a certain dignity about it which is evident here and hard to find in any other part of the country. Even the maid here commands a certain respect, which I do agree- is very much due, but this trait is uniquely Mumbai’s [it is worth a patent, I am sure!]
If any foreigner really wants to see India on fast forward mode, he or she has got to come and see Mumbai. The cosmopolitan feature offers the hue of all cultures on one single platter. Idli-sambhar, wada-paav, daal and rice, khamand and dhokla and damb biryani together make a very scrumptious meal- all what our country has to offer at one single place!
Last but not least; the ever-evolving city has evolved me in the process. Mumbai has a fascinating energy that can absorb you, passersby never bother to look at you, but there’s still a sense of warmth and connect. You can walk into an upscale eatery in chappals and you won’t be stared at, Mumbaikars can ride the roughness of Kurla and bear the madness of South Bombay’s night life. The city teaches one to be more organized and self-reliant, to make one’s own comfortable place in a stuffy world full of people.
So, as The Mumbadevi smiles upon the city and blesses it with harmony and prosperity, as the noise of the local trains and the horns of the BEST buses blow in synchrony with the rhythm of all Mumbaikars’ beating hearts and as I find that my own is gradually joining the chorus to make a beautiful song, I come to find what Mumbai means to me. It magically becomes what I perceive it to be and so does it become what my friend thinks it is. And this is how, Mumbai lives on..
Indeed yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan