Mumbai Meri Jaan

I must admit it, I was a big skeptic myself. Many a time, I would hear a colleague or a friend say, “You must experience living in Mumbai atleast once.” I would remain indifferent, most of it in my opinion was media hype the city received by virtue of it being the entertainment and commercial capital.

With the city facing more disasters than most others in the country, it was only natural that the citizens would get more opportunities to help one another.I had an explanation for the so called ‘energy’ of the city too, with the city being shaped vertically, most of the time was spent traveling from North to South and hence Mumbaikars had no option but to be continuously on the move. This didn’t necessarily mean they were any more productive, I argued.

Ironic as life as is, 2 weeks ago I found myself landing in the Sivaji airport, 3 bags in my hand, my cousins to receive me and no permanent place to dock at. I was landing in the big city and soon the Mumbai Locals became my everyday companion. Soon I realized that on the face of it there seemed to be no mechanism which checked if a passenger has bought a ticket – moreso considering the crazy crowd I doubted if anyone would dare to check.

So there I was in the Andheri station at about 9 PM in the night, a 2nd class ticket in my hand. . The train was a little delayed for some reason; and soon it seemed as if half of Andheri was in the station all trying to get onto the train at the same point at which I was standing.

The train finally arrived and with it came the usual commotion of ‘Eh-Side’ and ‘Hai Sha’; my eyes now being a little more experienced quickly scanned the compartments, saw the first compartment that didn’t have stripes (Stripes denote first class) and jumped in. The compartment hardly had any crowd, wasn’t first class; maybe the city was kinder to newbies I thought.

As I settled in, I heard someone mutter ‘Handicapped’, ‘Handicapped’, it didn’t register; he then muttered it again. God oh mighty, it then dawned upon me, I was in the handicapped compartment;a quick look at the 2nd class compartment outside reminded me of the pile ups during tug of war games back in school, except here the ropes were people’s shirts and body parts. I had to make a quick decision, do I stay back in the handicapped compartment and run the risk of being caught or do I enter the tug of war round and actually become ‘handicapped’? Traveling in Mumbai would become a lot easier then.

I chose the former. As I waited around full of guilt, a few more dudes also got into the compartment. We made eye contact with one another and as I perceived it were visibly pleased with our smart coach selections. This must be the smart Mumbaikars refuge, I thought. About 2 mins later they came up to me and asked,” Bollo…Handicap Kahan hein tera?”. I was caught red-handed and believe me this is the first time I had ever transgressed on the Mumbai locals. He then removed a large rate card and gave me a list of options, like most things in Mumbai you even have a wide choice when it comes to fines. By a process of choice elimination, I chose the Rs.300 fine and then began my plea of blaming it on moving to the big city. My old Chennai visiting card also further strengthened my case and after 15 mins of schmmozing, the official in question kindly returned Rs.200 making it a 100 buck fine.

I was in awe, this was the first time I had even remotely gone out of line on the Mumbai local. Mumbaikars who I’ve recounted this to tell me that even with the maddening crowd and all the hustle and bustle, try side-stepping the law once and there is a very good chance you will get caught. My uncle tells me that they know whether a passenger is carrying a ticket or not by simply looking at his face.

Welcome to Mumbai. The only city where you will get both a shaving razor and a nail cutter at 1 AM in the morning; he might even deliver it home.

A fortnight of living in the big city later; I’ve come up with this list – You know when you are (new) in Mumbai when:

1. Most of your ‘friends’ in the city are also real estate brokers. Most of your other ‘friends’ in the city are potential room-mates.
2. You’ve over shot your first month budget within the first one week.
3. You have lived with atleast 3 sets of friends and family in different parts of the city.
4. Parts of your wardrobe are with each of them.
5. You argue with the auto driver over change and then realize that he was settling it in your favor. A rupee or two you soon realize has no value for him.
6. In the middle of the Mumbai rush hour, you randomly bump into an old school chum who you haven’t seen in a decade.
7. You’ve seen over 10 places to stay in; your budget has been revised upwards an equivalent number of times.
8. Folks back home ask you if you’ve met a bollywood star; you haven’t but 3 of your colleagues are their neighbors.
9. You later realize that anybody who lives in Bandra considers himself a neighbor of a Bollywood star.
10. You have a long discussion about the financial crisis with an absolute stranger on the train; while getting off at his stop, he tells you he just returned from Wall street. The chap sitting next to you now is the local paanwallah.

Perhaps this list can be added to; one thing however is beyond doubt. Like it or Lump it, Mumbai is Mumbai; a decision to make every minute, a helpful stranger on every road, good cheap food at every corner; excitement, energy and life. Maybe it’s because most in the city have come for a defined purpose and objective, maybe it’s because of it’s long history of being a hub of commerce or maybe because like New York or London; some cities just have a little more character and aura about them than others.

No song sums it up better than this one. Listen, learn and enjoy. My Mumbai journey has just begun.

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Comments
15 Responses to “Mumbai Meri Jaan”
  1. Vineet Pabreja says:

    So ironical – you pen this wonderful post in Delhi. Welcome to Mumbai !

  2. are you on a short trip? or relocating to Mumbai?

  3. Jasku says:

    Hey dude, good read after a long time, looks like ur having a ball out there!

    Looking forward to many such escapade’s!

  4. Sanna says:

    good one!
    welcome to mumbai sudhir!
    where u stayin btw? and wheres ur office?

  5. Badri says:

    Sudhir!

    I lived in this great city on 3 occasions and every time I would be amazed at the spirit of Mumbai. I vividly remember my first travel in suburban train from Dadar to Bandra as a visitor.

    Mumbai has no parallel! Thanks for making my trip down memory lane.

    Badri

  6. Sudhir says:

    Pabreja – Thank you very much. I blog in Mumbai cause I’m too busy finding an appartment in Mumbai…Not everyone can live in Bandra you see 🙂

  7. Sudhir says:

    Hi Shrinidhi – Moved to Mumbai and getting used to the new environ.

  8. Sudhir says:

    Singh is King…all is well. They are asking about you here dude… casting is on for Singh is King II

  9. sudhirsyal says:

    @ Sanna Hi Sanna… Thanks. Glad you liked it..staying in South Bom right now but should be finding a new place soon.

    @ Badri Thank you very much Badri. Glad this helped take you down memory lane. Hope to hear from you again..

  10. We are indeed touched to have read this blog and also respect your feelings and emotions attached to Mumbai

  11. Shreenu says:

    its Bombay…

  12. Sudhir says:

    @Mumbai Tour Guide

    Thank you. I’m honoured that you’ve taken time out to comment on my blog.

    @ Shreenu

    Thank you so much Shreenu darling. Let’s correct all the ‘Mumbai’s’ on the web and change them to ‘Bombay’.

  13. Ankur says:

    enjoyed reading. Once again you write well.

  14. suryakant shankar gujale says:

    please help me

  15. suryakant shankar gujale says:

    please help help help

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