Mumbai is a place where you either make it or you don’t. Especially if you are not born in the Mumbai mud.
I had the adventure of breathing the Mumbai air for about 3 years and believe me when I say that I still have not found a match for the life I spent there.
The city is fast, full of people, begins before the crack of dawn and who knows when it sleeps. Apart from all the skyscrapers, gap between the rich and poor, constantly running mela’s and chai tapri’s and road-filled lights at night, the city has experiences to offer that push you and pull you back just to get you started for a new day.
In my time there, I’ve had to build up guards and break down my walls for daily survivals. Being in the media field, my timings were always off. This helped me make friends in the most unique ways. Like when I had to leave early in the morning – I would often travel in the locals with the fisher-women with their salty stories and at times when I would travel back in the dead of the nights, I made a friend of a different kind. She; trapped in a mans body would tell stories of a world that I had never been introduced to and keep me company through the entire journey. Some of my now closest friends were introduced to me by the auto-walla’s and at the bidi stands.
Money was always tight but that rarely stopped us from having fun. Just that instead of going to all the good places, we went to cheap pubs, reached places with local transports, learnt how to cook, lived with people with different personalities in 1Rk apartments, did road side shopping – made it cool and SURVIVED!
Mumbai is sweaty, hot and when it rains, I’m pretty sure cats & dogs is a very small metaphor I can use – it rains elephants and giraffes. The Monsoons are amazingly beautiful or amazingly disastrous or both together in one day. At one point I found myself admiring the clouds and enjoying the pitter-patter and the next minute I was stuck in an over crowded train in the middle of the track that was unable to move due to the flood caused on the track.
You are constantly living in the fast lane and have no space or time to look back and ponder on ‘what-if’s’. If you want to stay in the game, either you move with the crowd or stay ahead of them. Competition in the working world is brutal and working in Mumbai made that very obvious to me. I had to constantly prove myself and make sure that the others were reminded of why I was working there.
During off days when I was done with cleaning and buying supplies, I would often just get on to random buses and trains and go where ever they would lead. Even on the same traveled road I would find new things that added to the charm of the city. I got lost in the crowds, in the market areas, in red light areas , in IT parks, dusty old buildings built by the British, mega shopping areas, beach sides with rolling waves & in the chowls that I never knew existed, and somehow used to find myself back at home un-rattled or maybe just a bit .
There were people everywhere at any point of time. At times I used to think that if only all of them would stop moving even for just a minute…the city would would know what silence meant.
Its been a few years since I left Mumbai but a piece of my heart still stays back in those misty narrow lanes and the encounters I faced.