Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mumbai!!!

I often see people cribbing about traffic jams in Pune and I always wonder why they do so? I do not see any traffic jams in the city – just a few vehicles moving at a slow pace. Mind you, they are still moving.
The moment someone cribs about it, I retort back by saying, “You want to know what traffic jams mean? Go visit Mumbai”.
It is an exercise I do my self. For one reason or the other, I do visit Mumbai 2-3 times a year and every time I thank my stars that I am no longer staying in the city.
I remember the first time I drove down to Mumbai from Pune. From my place to Eastern Express highway, approximately 135 kilometers, I took little more than two and half-hours. To reach my destination in Kandivali from there, all of 30 kilometers, it took me lesser time – just a little lesser than two and half-hours. If one adds the knee pain since I just could not take my foot off the clutch and the headache I got because of driving in traffic, I would have happily bargained latter half of my journey with going back to my home from eastern express highway.
Mumbai has speed. The speed at which my four years just past by was extraordinary but the speed at which I aged eight years in those four years was equally unimaginable. It is the speed at which life feels to get real slow while you are in the moment. It is the speed at which every moment looks such a distant past immediately after is has gone by.  It is the speed at which people run after getting down at the last station to reach their respective destination. It is the speed at which one has to run so that he/she can beat others in a race for survival. The city has speed.
Mumbai, the city of dreams as they say. Mumbai, the city that never sleeps as I used to say. Mumbai, “the city is famous for its Mumbai spirit” is what everyone says in every crisis-situation. “Mumbai spirit” means that people go on with their business no matter what. I wonder if they have an option. I wonder if anywhere else in the world, business stops irrespective of the situation.
People in India have normally two kinds of dream – first to shift to Mumbai in hope to have better opportunities in life and once they shift, they dream about moving out of Mumbai to have a life.
I am one of the rarest of rare species to have made both these dreams come true. This month I would be completing two years of moving out of Mumbai and celebrate, I will. Yet, I can still not forget those four years that I spent in the city.
Mumbai humbles you. No matter how much money you make, you will always find a few making more than what you do. No matter how screwed up life you claim to be living, you will always find a few living in worst situations. The city is a perfect example of everything in life being relative and you turn out to be a rat who is running a race for the reasons he may not always know. It does make you feel, “Why the hell I am doing all this” and attain the feeling of Nirvana.
Mumbai has a fantastic way of defining your financial status. It is all about the location you live in. On western lines, the distance travelled from Virar towards Churchgate is directly proportional to the richness of those who live in respective areas on the way. There will be exceptions but regressing the data points will give a straight line at 45 degrees. I am sure the story would not be too different on harbor or central line. 
In Mumbai, life is a lot if not all about stations.  
People start from down north and dream of making it to south. Some manage to do it, most give up at some stations mid-way. Some bachelors start somewhere in down south but marriage and family throw them back to north. Finally the reality settles in and bites you. It bites you real bad.
I can also sum up my life pretty much similarly. First time I became father, I was just getting off the train at Churchgate station. When my second son was born, I was getting down from the train at Borivali station. Somewhere in between, at Malad station, I heard of India winning the T20 world cup. Only major event in my life that I can recall to not to be shuttling between the stations was India winning the 50 overs world cup – it was on a Saturday and I was at home.
While us, the so-called outsiders, always cribbed about the pains of staying in the city, our “Mumbaikar” friends could not understand what the fuss all about was. For them, it was the way of life. For some of them, it was the only way of life. They had grown up like this.
I could never understand the ease at which they took that kind of life. For me, I could never come to terms with it. Once I saw a man lifting his infant to make him touch the hanging handles, or whatever they are called, in a local train and I thought, “Oh, so this how these people get so comfortable in this life – by starting early?”
Having said that, to all its cons, the city lures you. It has its charm. Mumbai is India’s, if not world’s, biggest futures market. Everyone stays there in hope for a better future – a future no other city can offer and people do not mind accepting a not so good present in hope for a better future. 
I have stayed in eight cities and seen a few more but nowhere I have not seen people with more professional attitude than those who live in Mumbai – the ones a common-man deals in day-to-day life. Well, everyone stays there to make ends meet and they do not want to divulge from their objective. Maybe they cannot afford to. The competition in a free market ensures honesty of business and men running it. Oh yes, there is a price tag on access to this free market and if you are willing to pay it, you may not find a city better than Mumbai to live in.
Am I happy that I do not have to deal with the pain of living in Mumbai? Yes I am.
Do I miss Mumbai for its charm? Yes I do.
Like most of the things in life, this also comes with different shades of grey. I do not think anything in life other than my beard could be seen in distinct black and white. Oh yes, few hair in my beard are white and this whitewash started in Mumbai. 

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