Monday, November 17, 2008

Mumbai, My Jaan...

Well Mumbai has been in the news for the past few months, tarnishing the already ‘controversial’ reputation of the city. I say ‘controversial’ not because the city has a bad record or something (not that it hasn’t, but that’s another story…) but because any cosmopolitan city, anywhere in the world has a controversial side to it. It’s like the two sides of a coin, one of them may be undesirable yet we cannot do away with it. The media was on a rampage, what with the special bulletins, episodes, interviews on TV and cover stories, guest columns all about the city, it’s culture, multi-ethnic way of life, unemployment problems and it’s decline (how dare they use such words!!!). The survey that ranked Mumbai 17th in the list of emerging global economic cities was like namakh applied on the zakhm. As I read all this (yeah, I prefer reading to watching, you can’t trust the Indian news channels nowadays!!!) I was disappointed…no, irritated actually.

Why was I irritated you ask? Well, that would be the very first reaction of any to-the-core Mumbaikar. What’s that? Are you asking me how to become one? Well, I don’t know if there is any criteria for membership but I happen to be one by birth. I admit that I have been in and out of the country a few times in my life, but Mumbai has always been and will remain my hometown.

One of the newsprint material, a column by an eminent journalist (and he wasn’t the only one…) mocked the MNS and it’s supremo Raj Thackeray for disrupting the ‘Life in the Metro’ and the government for it’s failure in repressing the infamous campaign against North Indians in the state. And what’s more he even went as far enough to mock the city itself, claiming that the city’s grandeur had declined and the city had “lost it’s sheen” and that is what fuelled my irritation.

Well, I totally disagree. The other day, I visited the Lamington Road with a my buddies Hitesh and Sagar and what I experienced during that trip convinced me that Mumbai will remain the grand ‘City Of Dreams’ as long as it stands. What exactly did I experience? I experienced what every Mumbaikar experiences on his commute through the city and yet is ignorant of the significance of it all. We started off from the Thane Station caught a train to Dadar. Even though it was quite late in the afternoon the crowd didn’t seem any less than on peak hours. We got off at Dadar to have a snack and buy tickets to Grant Road Station, here Sagar pointed out at the framework that held up the ceiling and at the adjacent platforms explaining that all these were from the British era. We exited the station to relieve our empty, growling stomachs. In order to exit we made use of one the largest railway footbridges on the Central line (which again Sagar was kind enough to point out…). Not that I did not know that, in fact I have used the bridge more than often in the past, but the one thing that always makes me wonder and admire is the crowd passing over it. The crowd never ceases, people keep walking in and out through the various staircases branching out of the footbridge in perfect rhythm (or so it seems). The bridge is arbitrarily divided into two ‘lanes’ (by the people themselves, there are no dividers) for the crowd to move through in anti-parallel direction. The hum of the crowd-noise, the people from different backgrounds, regions, classes, colours walking in perfect rhythm; side by side, the little vibrations of the bridge (yes, it does vibrate and sway vertically due to the footsteps and rumbling of trains from below!!!) all this never ceases to fascinate me.

We then headed to the nearest mall complex and had bhel puri and chaat from a wayside stall just adjacent to it. They were two different worlds, standing side by side. The mall with all it’s flashy showrooms, branded stuff and chic restaurant with a view of the city skyline and the humble chaat stall with it’s low budget-fast food service. The funny part was most of the people at the chaat counter were the ones who had just exited the mall! The typical Mumbaikar – He will live in a 3 BHK flat, drive a car, earn a six figure amount and shop in a AC equipped mall but he will never forget the good ol’ bhelpuri ‘n’ chaat and will always have it from the wayside chaat stall, what irony!!!

We were in the train and off to Grant Road Station. We reached the station in about 10 minutes time, a short walk and we were there, on Lamington Road, a hardware/software buff’s paradise. Right from the smallest 3-pin plug to the latest high-speed gaming PC, you name it and it’s there. There was the usual hustle and bustle on the street, footpaths crowded with stalls full of you-ask-it-you-get-it stuff. We spent time enquiring about new PC pricelists and software CDs and after about 3-4 hours we turned our feet in the direction of our homes sweet homes.

The whole point is that Mumbai’s soul is made of its people. And nothing can steal away it’s grandeur as long as it’s people believe in it. The fact that not even a bomb blast nor a riot can discourage the people from going on with their daily routine for more than a day or two is only one of the many examples that tells us – The spirit of the city will remain undaunted, irrespective of the obstacles that come in the way of it’s daily functioning. I agree that the city could do with some improvement in it’s infrastructure, security and quality of living. But we accept the city as it is, improvement or no improvement. We enjoy the posh malls and the chaat stalls, the multiplexes and the natyagruhas alike and accept graciously whatever the city has to offer us. That’s Mumbai my Jaan!!!

P.S As my exams are gonna begin in the next couple of weeks, I am busy rubbing my ass off, studying for them. So please do understand my plight if I don't post more often.


All Talk and No Action said...

ur post captures every Mumbaikars feelings.

But maybe, now we need to "not overlook" the creaking infrastructure. Maybe we need to start "demanding" basic amenities we all are entitled to.

Being the highest tax paying state, shouldn't we deserve better roads, rail and other amenities?

Bangalore is already leading and showing us the way - they have groups and parties formed solely by citizens - these are actively functioning towards betterment of the city. Maybe we should follow suit.

ARJuna said...

You are right, actually we do need to demand the amenities that we rightfully deserve.
And a lot of action is happening in that direction.
However, in this particular post i wanted to express my anguish about the fact that people 'outside' Mumbai cannot label it as 'lacking granduer' because if we all join hands we can change Mumbai which means Mumbai has the potential.
It's not a 'blown out candle' as some people think.

All Talk and No Action said...

Your irritation is understandable. Yet, I don't think it' blown out. Rather, all of it is true.
Mumbai needs to work fast on its infra & other amenities.
We can't be lax after 61 years of independence !
If we wish to see Mumbai as a Financial Hub of South Asia, some place to reckon with, we need to work towards it.
Mere potential will not work. Results are required.
Implementation, not planning and policy, is the solution.
There are simple things that citizenry can do. No Govt. initiatives are reqd. Lets target those...and see where we can take Mumbai.

ARJuna said...

You are convincing as well as correct...the citizenry can do a LOT if all work together. Implementation is VERY necessary.
Security-Infra-Standard Of living are the 3 things that need desperate attention.
Kudos to you, your name does reflect your attitude.
Thank you for your opinion