My Love Affair with Mumbai – The City that Never Sleeps
The city awakes, even before it can fall asleep. By the time the late night owls return back to their nests at dawn, the commuters who have to travel for hours to reach their work places are up and running about, trying to get everything done hastily so they can catch the daily local.
They wake up, mostly even before the crack of dawn, in order to cook, clean, preen themselves and have enough time to take the bus to the station instead of splurging their hard-earned money on the costly rickshaw ride that would deprive them of some precious notes. Armed with books to read and a playlist to nod to, they embark on a journey that would gobble up to three to four productive hours of their day. That’s what each morning in Mumbai looks like for the working class! That’s where I learnt one of the first lessons about Mumbai – if you ever need to get anywhere, set aside at least an hour for just one way travel.
My tryst with the much loved city of Mumbai began three years back, when I decided to pursue a degree in Mass Media from one of its reputed colleges. Eighteen at that time, my expectations knew no bounds. High on life and drunk on excitement, I entered the city to begin a new chapter. Little did I know at the time about the overwhelming and yet mixed emotions I’d develop towards the city over the next three years I spent there.
If anything, living in Mumbai is like toeing a thin rope. You need to keep running – keep up with the fast-paced life. The minute you fumble, you’re bound to fall. At other times, it’s about flowing with the current. All you need to do is push yourself bang into the middle of the throng waiting to board a local during the rush hours – you’re bound to be carried along. Be careful, for the same surge may even push you out even before the train chugs out!
But most of all, I feel, life in Mumbai is like eating hot kebabs just off the grill. The kebabs look amazing, and you can’t wait to eat them. Be cautioned, for if you eat them too early, you’re bound to get burnt. A tad too late and they’re too cold to relish the true flavors. From what I can tell, life in Mumbai is all about right timing and literally everyone is scrambling around trying to make their time count.
Despite my short rendezvous with the city of dreams, I can tell you this one thing for sure. By the time I reached my final year, I had fallen in love with the chaos and fast-paced scheme of things. A prospect of a routine without pace seemed impossibly dull. That was when I realized why the flashing city of Mumbai has constantly captured the fancy of millions of dreamers each year. The hope of becoming the next Shahrukh Khan is what keeps those vulnerable and fragile dreams alive. And it is this hope that gives them the courage to roam the streets homeless, to compromise on the basics, and do the odd jobs just to be able to earn their daily meals. These wistful inhabitants are the ones that add the soul to the city that never sleeps.
Leaving the ever-growing throng of dreamers aside, I found another category of people who constantly migrate to the city from various parts of the country in pursuit of a better life. They leave behind their families, just to earn a little extra to send back home each month, living in tiny, cramped and dingy cupboard sized lodgings, a far cry from their airy homes back in their villages, and provide basic labor – most essential for the city to survive. These are the ones who are happy driving their black and yellow Padminis or autos, the ones who cook, serve and wait tables at the numerous restaurants the city prides itself on, the ones who sweep, swab and look after the kids of the affluent, the ones who drive and manage the BEST buses and the local trains, ensuring that the city functioned like clockwork day after day, regardless of sun or even the unforgiving and yet beautiful Mumbai monsoons.
Despite the glamorous celebrities who might serve as ambassadors to the city, I feel it is this selfless lot who are the true heroes of the city. While the ones on the covers might be the face of Mumbai, these are the ones who define the true soul of the city.
I’ll back soon Mumbai – right back into your feisty embrace.
Latest posts by Merryl Fernandes (see all)
- My Love Affair with Mumbai – The City that Never Sleeps - November 19, 2014