A Phenomenon called Mumbai!

Mumbai’s charm, charisma and character have been the topic of several movies, blogs, Facebook and Instagram posts. In my 3 year stint at Mumbai, many people have asked me about the city, college, people, food, trains, monsoons, life etc. And at most times, I would give a short stereotyped answer just to avoid more questions that needed articulately penned down responses. However, little did I know that leaving the place would make me want to give my very own account of the much known Mumbai magic. Mumbai, often dubbed Mayanagari, is known to be the city of dreams. Therefore, it is no surprise that people from all over the country and abroad aspire to make it to the maximum city. I was one such aspirant who lived the dream.

When I was in school, my annual vacation included a standard Mumbai darshan, complete with a drive along the sea link, a walk along the Bandra Bandstand (trying to spot the Khans at their residences) and a compulsory trip to the Bombay Stock Exchange (gates). The atmosphere at each of these places is electric with excitement; it gives me the adrenaline rush to be there year after year. My lovely aunt and uncle would also excitedly take me around every year. So, on completion of school, I was more than thrilled to move to Mumbai.

Life in Mumbai is far too many things to provide an exhaustive list. For instance, waking up early and planning an entire day’s schedule in any city is difficult; but in Mumbai, it is doubly difficult, mainly because one has to provide for contingencies such as festivals like Bandra Fair, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Ganpati and Dahi Handi (which are more like street parties), the number of buffaloes that decide to strike a pose in the middle of the road, a 24-wheeled truck that could conk off and block peak-hour traffic at the busiest of roads etc.

Mumbai life, unique or peculiar, has enamored many people for a long time. Here are a few of my justifications:

1. Magnificent monsoon mayhem

Mumbai and its lovely monsoons is a match made in heaven. It feels like the word “monsoon” was created just so it could alliterate Mumbai. Monsoons are undoubtedly the best times- the time of the year that Marine Drive gets its beautiful haze, the sea link looks even prettier, and the skyline becomes better defined.

However, it is also the time that potholes and ceilings falling make an annual comeback. In times of torrential rains, the local trains, rightly known as the lifeline, bring the city to a halt. This is also the time when one experiences the ineffable bliss of getting ready for school, college or work and then realizing that it has to be a day off.

2. Gastronomic delights

Mumbai’s food scenario is lip-smacking delicious. Irani Cafes, Roadside sandwich and chaat corners, Vada Pav joints, Idli Dosa eateries, cuisine-specific gourmet restaurants with elaborate menus, bars and lounges that define the city’s nightlife, sophisticated patisseries to satiate the palate of seasoned dessert connoisseurs, all enjoy popularity and patronage alike.

Restaurants in Mumbai survive mostly on quality; food enthusiasts are ready to make their way through the most narrow and crowded gallis of Mumbai to have the Thali at Shree Thaker’s, the Falooda at Badshah’s etc. In fact, most people understand routes better when supplemented with the landmark of a popular eatery. For example, most people know where Kirti College is because of the Vada Pav Stall.

3. College Life

3 years of college were mostly fun-filled, with a few instances that still crack me up. In fact, college could be the subject of another entire blog. The highlights of college life include low attendance on regular days, 100% participation and attendance for fests and other special occasions, a cat in the examination hall, maximum focus during roll calls, hanging out during lectures (a few meters from college), group projects and presentations that clearly demonstrate lopsided effort, industrial visits, super friendly teachers and a diverse lot of students.

Diversity manifested itself not just in region, religion, abilities, behavior, socioeconomic class, language etc, but also pervaded through mentality. Some had the inherent drive to strive, the zeal to change the world, while some took life bindaas (no restraints). While some were devoted to academics, a few needed to get acquainted with the syllabus 2 days prior to the exam. After 3 years of college, I’ve come to realize that it is all a matter of one’s outlook, and each one’s perspective deserves appreciation.

4. Star-gazing

In my first few days at Mumbai, I stumbled upon N Chandrasekaran (CEO- TCS) at a South Indian Puja shop. I was astounded. My throat became dry, my brain stopped working; I was at a loss for words. So, as a defense mechanism, I started convincing myself that it can’t be him. Just when I mustered enough courage to say hello, I saw him being chauffeured in his luxury car. Therefore, I decided that I needed to be better prepared for the future. For all you know, I could bump into Mukesh Ambani or Sachin Tendulkar tomorrow. I learnt from my past; and so every time I went to a place that I thought was celebrity frequented, I would speak to myself (in a low tone) to ensure I could string words together. But, no celebs frequented anywhere I went for the next many months.

And then, Kareena Kapoor happened. Star struck for life! A blink of an eye, and she was rushed into her vanity van. In this sighting that lasted a few seconds, my hope of running into celebrities was reinforced. At times, though, I was way too hopeful. In fact, once, I tried to make a celebrity spotting happen, only to realize that he may not even be the celeb’s doppelganger.

5. Humans of Bombay

Much has been written about unity, diversity, resilience and fortitude that Mumbaikars exude. Also, most of them, themselves are vocal about their love for the city.

Something I found particularly heartening is the civility (except mornings in train stations) and friendliness with which people treat one another. Most people, in addition to their go-to group of friends, have exercise buddies, Ganpati friends (who meet once a year during the festival), train friends, bus friends etc. Even while performing routine mundane chores, there is a good chance of meeting dynamic people from diverse backgrounds.

Each one has a story to share, be it a taxi driver, a co-passenger in the train or a fruit seller. I am still not over the classic rags to riches story, a feat many Mumbaikars have accomplished.

If one wants to be inspired, there are almost always examples. What I am getting at is that, Mumbai is a city that has every reason to be proud of its demographic. Mumbai is more than just a place; it is a phenomenon that is ever-growing. Soak up…