I am a Mumbaikar. Through and through. So heat and humidity, pollution and noise..bring it on. Crowds are most welcome. I guess with India progressing at such a demonic rate, crowds, noise and other forms of pollution are a given in most cities. There is something about Mumbai, though. Be it the roadside food vendors, or the oft complained about but most adored train service, this city is so embedded in our DNA that it has an effect, or rather a controlling interest in our daily lives.
No matter where we are.
New York City is an amazing place, and to a Mumbaikar, life in NYC is finding a mistress who looks like your wife, but is more attractive for the sheer thrill of a new catch. Having said that, all it does is seem like a shadow of the city of dreams. They call NYC the city that never sleeps, but I call Bombay the city that breathes. It breathes and has a heartbeat and a pulse, which is resonant with every instinct we possess. It is more than a dwelling, or even a place of fun. It is a feeling, which is so organic to our being that, it has a vitality that even NYC pales in comparison to.
The mornings in Bombay were philosophical. It was truly a city where people came with little, and it absorbed them, lovingly and without condition. The morning symbolized, no wait, it inspired, no no wait some more, it engendered hope. I have been through a lot in my life, ok not a lot but it always seemed like a lot when it happened to me. The Mumbai morning, however, bleached me with the sunrays, scolding me for my negative thoughts, showing me the less fortunate but more determined: The paper boy who grew up parallel to me, who distributed papers and fresh flowers to pay for his admission in a municipality like school, the maidservant whose children starved literally, but she never came to work with anything but a smile, were my teachers in the meaning of determination. They have raised the bar so high and set such an example for me: an example I am doing a lousy job living up to.
Anything can happen in this city. This was the city torn asunder by four strategically placed bombs in trains of the western railway, and the same city which was humbled by a deluge we like to know as 26/7. This was the same city declared by Reader’s Digest as the “rudest city in the world.” And you know what, we are guilty as charged.
To hell with politeness, we have no time in Mumbai. The 7:30am bus, if missed meant that I would miss my 8:11am train, which made me cranky for my 9:30am class, because I have just taken a crowded train exchanging little beads with of perspiration with total strangers. If someone met me on the warpath at such a time, they would be predisposed to thinking we are the rude inhabitants of a city.
I love Bombay, unconditionally and truly, right from Gateway of India to Thane Creek (read large gutter), right from Marine Drive to the rat infested Dadar station, right from yakking obese ladies forming the video of the video-coach that we fought to get into to the fat sweaty paper reader with enough oil in his hair to solve the world’s energy problems.
I miss Bombay, more than anything else, and I am going there soon. I hope it accepts me, with grudging love and some anger quite akin to the wife who forgives her adulterous but penitent husband.