Mumbai, fastest city in India and one of the fastest in the world where nobody has time for anybody. Swarm of people chugging in life line-local trains in the city that never sleeps or maximum city!! A city that fascinates many through its countless emotions. Which better way to view the city through the eyes and emotions of someone, born, bred and brought up in the city? When I requested my dear friend, Zinal, to do a guest post, she readily agreed and here I present her as my guest blogger. Feel free to board the local train steered by Zinal as she takes us on a guided journey on Mumbai.
Mumbai born Zinal Bhadra lives in New Zealand with her hubby. She has grown up in Maximum City and believes in giving her two cents at All Things Wordly. She can be found at http://zinalbhadra.wordpress.com where she regularly blogs. Zinal is a published author and has to her credit a book, She is not an MBA. Make sure you give her a big shout on her creative space
Guest Blog post
Mumbai BY Zinal Bhadra
When Vishal requested me to do a guest post for him, “What is the topic,” I asked? ‘Bombay’ is all he said.
I was born and brought up in Mumbai. I have lived all my life in Mumbai. How difficult could it be, I thought. I was wrong. Considering how big and complex a city Mumbai is, it is not easy to pen down my thoughts in few simple words. And having lived there all my life, my views and opinions, could sometimes be bigoted. Can you blame me? Aren’t we all allowed to be a tad bit partial to the city we grew up in?
When I first came to Wellington, about a year back, I remember it was a Sunday. I was waiting at the airport to be picked up by my husband, excited and nervous at the same time. It was a new country, it was a new city, and I didn’t know what to expect. And my only basis of comparison was of course, Mumbai.
As soon as I stepped out of the airport, cool breeze kissed my face, giving me a small shiver. “Welcome to windy Wellington,” said the husband. We settled in the car, and I quickly busied myself peering out of the window, not wanting to miss my first glance of this new city. As he drove me home through the city, I remember asking him, “Where are all the people? Isn’t it a Sunday?” The city was stranded, hardly any soul in sight. It was only 3.00 pm and all the shops already had their shutters down. It wasn’t a very welcoming sight.
‘It is Sunday,’ said he. He had been living in New Zealand for a few years now and he obviously knew what Sundays were like here. Sundays meant staying at home, nursing your hangover from the previous night, resting in, lazing around, having your own barbeque going on in the garden and soaking up the sun, if there was any.
‘Exactly, it’s a Sunday,’ said I, having only lived in Mumbai before, and imagining Sunday to be the day where people go out with their families (because it’s the only holiday people back home usually get), queue up the restaurants, crowd the malls, shop for the week, catch a movie and so on.
Here, the city sleeps on Sunday, the restaurants and café look empty and forlorn. As opposed to Mumbai, where the city seems to be in a festive mood, lively and buzzing; and you’d see restaurants and eateries making crisp business.
It felt weird umm yes, weird. That’s the correct word. This was the point of stark differentiation no. 1, and I braced myself for many more that were sure to come.
I like big cities. I like the buzz. I like the atmosphere that they provide. I like the anonymity that they bring in. What can I say? I have grown up in a crowded place like Mumbai, where something is always going on. I like the illusion of the fast life that big cities conjure. I had gotten used to the crowd, to the jostling, to the long queues, to the competition, to the sheer depth and variety in food, the movies, the festivals, the celebrations…in short to life in Mumbai.
And what else would you expect? The population of Mumbai alone is about 15 million (probably more); obviously you’d see a lot of people everywhere you go.
And population of whole New Zealand? 4.5 million
And Wellington alone? 0.2 million only.
Need I say more?
Wellington is a cute, little compact city with the best of both worlds. It has gleaming towers on one hand, and it has vast expanses of greens, lawns, gardens, and gorgeous blue and green sea on the other hand. It is big enough to get everything that you’d like and small enough to reach from Point A to Point B under thirty minutes. It has groups, societies, museums, and all kinds of infrastructure that you’d need to keep yourself busy. And most importantly, its people are warm, smiling, friendly, helpful and good natured. It scores a perfect 10 on that count. Nifty little city with amazing bunch of people who call it their home. And I do love this place after all. I might whine and complain, I might feel lonely at times, but I still absolutely love this city. It offers me a lot of other things that Mumbai doesn’t. It offers me conveniences that I didn’t think were possible. And who said you can’t love more than one city?
But home is where heart is. And my heart is in Mumbai. I miss Mumbai sorely. I love Mumbai in spite of all its problems just like a mother would love her child without any conditions. I am partial. I grew up there. I am blinded by my love for the city. And I have learnt to love it with all its shortcomings.
And you really don’t need me to tell you the zillion problems that face Mumbai at the moment. You already know its sometimes-sorry state of affairs from all the news that it makes. You read about it everywhere. I have nothing new to add to it and my two cents are not going to make a difference. Like you, I too know that it can do with a sea of improvements. But I am confident it will get there. It is inching towards that goal very slowly. And I ask which city is perfect? Okay, may be Singapore. But its intimidating-ly perfect. And militant. And we don’t want Mumbai to be like that, do we?
So what is it about Mumbai that I like so much? It is my family. I miss them enough to want to pack my bags and show up there tomorrow. I miss my friends. The friends that you make in school and college are the friends that stay in your life, probably the longest. Clichéd but true. And all of those amazing people obviously haven’t moved with me to Wellington. That is a hole which no new friends here are able to fill. Then comes the food. The sheer variety of food that you’d find in Mumbai is mind boggling. Not just the desi variety but amazingly good videsi variety also, tantalizing and teasing your taste buds. All kinds of cuisines. And a heaven for vegetarians. Living in Mumbai, I never thought how challenging it could be to get a good variety of decent vegetarian food outside Mumbai or India. The convenience of having house help, the ease of getting whatever you desire even at midnight, the movies, the FM, the joy of wearing summer clothes, the mangoes, amazing and productive work opportunities, the rain, the wada pav, the festivals and celebrations, Diwali and Christmas, the markets, the shopping and so much more.
Here, when I hear the word Mumbai, my ears immediately perk up. When I hear people criticizing and generalizing their views about India and Mumbai, I do feel a little defensive even if they are right sometimes. Like I said before, I know there are many areas where it can improve. I have complained too when I lived there. But now I feel like saying, give it a break. It is house to 15 million people. It has a right to make a few mistakes. It is the sheer numbers though that makes it stand out. A city that is home to millions would naturally have a few thousand (or may be more) rotten asses. That doesn’t make everyone bad.
With this post, I want people to once again remember what this city once stood for. Liberalization and modernization, freedom of thought and expression, a gateway to good life. Don’t give up on it just as yet. I believe it still has a lot of potential. It may have slipped a bit from its former glory in the recent times, but it has always stood united in adversity. And if you look at the cultural diversity that is Mumbai, a few slip ups here and there are natural. People have learnt to tolerate and co-habit. People celebrate Diwali, Eid and Christmas with equal fervor. That is the only reason why this place functions.
Let’s give it a chance. Deep within we all know what needs to change and improve. And on this visit home, I could sense that the wheels of change have slowly started churning. And I am sure, they will pick up pace soon. Till then, just give it your love.
Personally, it was great to come back home after a year. It felt surreal, like a dream. I had longed to be back for months and when I was finally there, time seemed to be galloping. It was over too soon. On my way back, I couldn’t help feel a little nostalgic.