Maazi Mumbai – Footnotes from the City of Dreams

You never truly understand the essence of the ‘Big City’ life unless you have dared to live it. Find out what it is for a ‘non-mumbaikkar’ to live the ‘Mumbaikkar’ moment.

_________________________________________

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

22 years of being cocooned. Finally it was time for the little butterfly to fly away and live the life she was born to live.

For those of you who believe Mumbai is the city of dreams, I would say- you are right. But most of the time, your dreams take longer to fulfill than expected. Three weeks in this city, and I have already begun to understand the essence of life in  India’s financial capital. RACE, TIME, MONEY. No Mumbaikar dares to go against these three elements. The city never sleeps. Cab drivers drive all night if need be. Food stalls function till every customer is satisfied. Street shops start trading as soon as the sun rises. Nothing stops them from earning their daily bread.

My life, unlike many others, is a combination of contrasts. After spending nearly 10 hours a day in an air-conditioned office, the change is lifestyle is rather surprising. From working in building with clean hallways, lifts and cafeterias, to the one BHK that I call home. Like all my neighbours, I took cook, clean and take care of a house. And at the end of each task, I wonder how the other women in my building do the same and are still exteremely content. For I felt that at each stage, the journey towards happiness appeared harder than before.

This journey towards being content and happy is best understood by merely observing the lives of the city’s businessmen. I was absolutely awed by the way in which shops, street stalls, bakeries, furniture dealers even food stalls served customers late into the night. I would often strike a conversation with these people to learn more about their lives and understand their secrets to good business. So far, this is what  I have learnt:

  1. Smile, serve, be honest but do business
  2. Determine you level of  inter-personal communication
  3. Work hard and work smart. Never do either.
  4. These lessons are not taught by many J-schools or established educational
  5. institutions. Thus, life out here is all about the experience you take, relish and apply.

This city does have a lot to offer. Be it the middle class or the billionaires. Mumbai does have its own charm. The tales of any resident of the city are quite similar but the twists vary drastically. If work expects one to travel many kilometres via the local suburbs, then one must. For the journey assures you the life Mumbai promises- the life of the rat race, money and the clock.

__________________________

40 minutes=40 life times

Hey! Come to Bhandup.. these were the brilliant words uttered by my engineering friend. My buddy, an engineer from Bhandup, Mumbai convinced me that the trip to his side of the city would be a cake walk. ” “Take a  train from Curry Road to Bhandup, it is only a 40 minute journey, ” he said.

40 minutes of travel is consider close by Mumbai standards.So, after spending only two weeks in the city of dreams, I decided to venture out as Mumbaikar and travel by the local suburbs. At first, it seemed fine, till a herd of women decided to rush into the ladies compartment. Complaints, abuses and cat fights were apparently typical of any journey by the local suburb. What was better was that even the non-Marathi speaking crowd followed every word that was yelled out at them, and would respond appropriately. A bit of Geography now- Bhandup is almost 10 stations away from Curry Road. Each station is extremely packed with cranky and tired working men and women. With each passing station, the crowd in any local suburb multiplies by 50 (atleast!). In other words, you are lucky to have two functional lungs by the time you reach your desired destination.

My journey had become alot more interesting when a fellow passenger began giving me lessons of “train travel.” She said ; “dheere dheera aage chalte jaao. Nahi tho uttarna mushkil hoga,” In other words, I had to keep getting closer to the door of the compartment else I would never get a chance to get out of the train. At one point of the journey, she advised me to stay-put, and not move. I noticed how even women draped in saris would hang out of the train just so that they could avoid the next train that arrives at the station. The journey was long. And had given me an opportunity to interact with one or two frequent travellers. Interestingly, neither of them were worried about the women who hung out of the train. All they had to say was Unko aadat hai.. meaning- they were used to it. I did however, manage to get a glimpse of a few greener areas of the city as we moved away from the more crowded business hubs. On reaching Bhandup I decided to jump out of the train, take a few deep breaths and then proceed towards the busy streets. I ran out of the platform like an aimless pigeon; trying hard to convince myself that I had made my first 40 minute train journey by the suburb.

My return journey by the suburb turned out to be a contrast to the onward journey. For there were fewer passengers, many empty seats and less activity. I must say, that I will never forgive my friend for suggesting this idea to a new soul in the city. Nonetheless, I am grateful for him to have created this opportunity for me to experience the Aamchi Mumbaiya experience. WOW!

______________________

When greenary shocks you

I was invited to spend the day with a few friends of the family residing nearly an hour from my locality. ( an hour by train, of course!). Having travelled precious via the local suburbs, I decided to use the opportunity to fullest and understand the nuances of suburban travel in the city of dreams.

I had boarded a train at half past seven from one of the busiest train stations in the city-Dadar. The journey to my destination – Kalyan was approximately one hour. So I decided to catch up on the many hours of sleep that I had missed during the journey. Half an hour later, I looked around and I had noticed vast expanses of lush green fields, and hill tops covered with trees. At first, I was astounded by the beauty of the place, fo it was a visual treat indeed. But as soon as I began noticing more hill tops covered with vegetation, a chill began to run through my veins. “Next Station Kalyan-” this was the annoncement I eard on the train. Only to realise later on that it was not “Kalayan” but “Kalwa.”  It was then I began to panic and had chosen to get off the train at Mumbra. The journey between Mumbra an Kalyan would take approximately 20 minutes via the suburbs. And so I decided to walk on towards the entrance of the station, have a glance of the map and then board the next train to Kalyan. Atlast! I did reach my destination.

Located in the Thane district of Maharashtra, Kalyan was quite different from other townships. Unlike some of Mumbai’s business hubs, this place appeared to have the same charm as that of my hometown. It also appeared to be a lot more greener and less time bound unlike Mumbai. Thereby, more welcoming than the mad rush in Mumbai. My friend’s neighbourhood, was so quiet and serene. I would say it was the apt environment for an afternoon snooze, especially after three consecutive days of night duty.

It was a pleasure spending time my friends; I confess I have fallen in love with that part of country. Apart from being treated like family and making many new friends, I had the good fortune to learn more about the way of life in yet another part of the state of Maharashtra.

While returning from Kalyan, I was reminded of  my days as a student; when I would crave for a life that never lets you breathe. Today, when I live the life that I crave for,  I realise that perhaps there is no harm if one wishes to take things slowly and introspect upon the life they choose to lead.

__________________________________

Where work is worship

It was supposed to have been a divine moment. And thus, I set out on a short journey to seek a place of worship. My journey led me to the famous Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Mumbai. Situated at a junction located close to the Dadar Railway station, the temple invites devotees from different parts of the country to offer their prayers to Lord Ganesh. However, for a typical middle class southern Indian, such as myself, the experience at the temple was rather dismal. Could this be the result of chaos and confusion in the normal lives of the city’s many residents? Or is it the lack of architectural wonders that failed to create the ideal ambience for worship?

Temples have always been symbolic of devotion and peace. To some a visit to a temple is a mere ritual, while to some others it is an essential part of their lives. It is interesting to notice how different people follow different forms of worship. While the temple’s priest performs the various rituals in temples situated in southern India, it is believed that temples in the other parts of the country encourage devotees to performa the rituals themselves. Then again, whatever be the form/method of worship, it is the power of prayer that people seek to acquire. The power that assures one a sense of satisfaction, peace and strength to tackle the challenges they face everyday.

There are various aspects that draw people to a temple. To some, it is the construction and the architectural history. To some others it is the nostalgic memories of childhood. Some visit a temple for the mere joy of tasting the holy offerings or prasadam. For many reasons, the joy of visiting a temple seems to be diminishing by the day. A place was so serene is now the  most dreaded spot to be. Everybody, including the security guards and the priests are in a hurry. It appears that the rat race has hit the arena of worship as well. With the endless pushing loud calls to make way for the other devotees, the purpose behind the temple visit is often left untold.

While today’s temples lack the artistic appeal of a place of worship, some of them do possess a great deal of cleanliness and offer its devotees a highly satisfactory experience. I compared my visit to the Siddhi Vinayak Temple with that of the Anegudde Temple located in the Udupi District. While both temples were constructed in the a rather modern fashion, the latter offered a greater deal of peace and comfort in terms of worship. If I must say so, the loud chatting, sale of souvenirs within the temple’s premises and the non-stop traffic did make the experience rather uncomfortable. Anegudde, on the other hand, was less crowded and the devotees seemed a lot more peaceful and co-operative. Not to forget the tasty prasadam.

This has raised many questions. True, the rapid-paced world of today has denied the scope of fascinating temple architecture. But does the rapid-paced world deny its people a chance to seek a place of worship? Why aren’t effective crowd control methods adopted? Who grants the people permission to sell idols of the lord inside the temple?

Perhaps, it is time to introspect and strive towards bringing back the lost charm of God’s little home.

______________________________________

Barabar hain na?

I believe the true culture of the city is best experienced at the chauls of the city. Most of the city’s middle class residents live in settlements consisting of a single room (which often doubles-up as a living room), semi-detached independent apartments. The arrangement is often referred to as a 1BHK. This environment does give one the sense of community. May be, that could be the primary reason why entering to another apartment unannounced is considered acceptable- even when the residents are dressed in their nightwear! Nevertheless, an arrangement like this is secure and does give one the freedom to approach anybody in times of grave need. But, the fight for survival continues even in this simple yet content lifestyle. Especially in terms of communication.

After all these years of trying to master the country’s official language, I realised that sometimes our most sincere efforts are destined to go down the drain! This is exactly how I felt the day I chose to strike a conversation with my neighbour. A Maharashtrian lady;  probably between her late twenties and early thirties. She, like most women on my floor, is a house wife. I still remember our first conversation. I was rumaging my bag for the house keys when I noticed her peeping out of her door. She smiled and I reciprocated. Before I knew it, she had invited me to her house and had served me a glass of water. What I found most astounding, was how similar we were in certain aspects. One such aspect was – the dire need for human company. Perhaps that is why she began talking to me about her family and her life. The only problem was my absolute inability to communicate in the local lingua franca- Marathi. In merely three weeks of work I had managed to say – kaai- meaning what? Kaahi naahi- which meant – nothing. And of course- thaamba- which meant stop. In other words, the conversation with my next door neighbour was indeed a mixture of jeberish and sign language. Times like these I honestly wished that the country had made the semiotics the official language and not Hindi.

Over a period of time, I learnt that Mumbai, in spite of all the commercialisation, feels strongly about its culture and language. It is amazing to see how quickly things progress by merely uttering a few words in the local dialect.

My encounter with my neighbour continues to have the same barriers. It gets interesting for the lady refuses to return to her apartment even after house mates (who incidentally speak Marathi) tried explaining to her about my inability to contribute to the conversations. Her expression of depression and despair do upset me, but there is precious little I could do.

I guess, I have yet another task ahead of me. I must learn Marathi!

__________________________________

TRAIN TALES!!

Unitl yesterday, Sunday was that day of the week that brought utmost dismay and misery. Ever since I began living the life of an independent working woman in the city of dreams, I have begun to value every Sunday that comes my way. This time, Sunday was more than a mere holiday. It was a day that brought out the travel bug in me. At quarter to eight, my friend and I had set out to visit the most significant landmark of Mumbai- the Gateway of India. The journey from Currey Road Station to the Chattrapathi Shivaji Terminus was not more than half an hour. What amazed me most was that the train was less packed and we were able to sit throughout the journey. On reaching our destination, we decided to hire a cab and travel towards the Gateway of India.

I was dumbstruck at this wonderful work of architecture. More interestingly, I could feel the pulse of the surrounding environment that was once haunted by the misery of 26/11. I could sense the tension and wondered how anybody would have wanted to convert this fascinating site into a place of haunted dreams! We decided to walk along the road beside the sea until we reached our next destination- Theobroma. This  place was indeed heaven on earth – with its wide range of delicious mouth watering pasteries and made varieites of bread. After having spend over two hours in the southern part of Mumbai, we decided to head to Bhandup, merely for the love a long train ride and to visit another part of the city. The adventure had begun the moment I decided to board the “wrong” train to currey road station. Dozed and clueless of the train routes I was rather ignorant and chose not to enquire about the train and its route. As a result, I had travelled another hour, and was back at CST. I had rushed to the ticket counter to refresh my stock of tickets and had boarded the correct train which had eventually halted at Currey Road Station.

Absolutely tired and exhausted, I chose to keep the adventure aside and doze off before I set out on a new one. And before I could say- NO MORE, I set out on my last Sunday adventure. I chose to rush into a train heading towards the Dadar to see off my friend. Clueless to the geography of the station, the name of his train and off course the platform number, I began running from one end of the station to another in search of the train that was scheduled to leave in 10 minutes. I ran like I had never run in over four years. The train had merely started when I spotted my friend and his compartment. The DDLJ effect- as my friends would say, had indeed become a reality. Except I did not rush into the train.

Just when things were about to settle down, I board a train to return to my destined station. Only to discover that the next chapter of the train tales had only begun. For the train did not take me back home, instead it took to the station further away. This time, I choose to spend some more moeny and hired a cab back home.The journey was less tedious and I had an opportunity to be chauver driven in the city of dreams as well.

I have come to think that life in Mumbai is all about the time you make for things, and not about the time you have. All of us have experienced similar adventures at some point of time or the other. But the key to a Mumbaikkar’s life is to enjoy, relish and cherish each adventure as if all of them (no matter how repetitive) is a brand new experience. It is this spice and chaos in one’s life that lets one discover sides of themselves. I am sure the adventures did convince me of the person I am. Looks like I have a lot more to discover.

________________________________

Far far away….

A  hectic day at work, tiring train journey and lack of sleep. This is what the ‘happening’ city of Mumbai does to you. The adventure only gets better when you  adorn the attire of a nomad and continue moving aimlessly in search of  your dream home.. a place that can take your mind away from the hanky-panky of business, money, fame and power. A month and half in the city of dreams, and I have learnt to appreciate the concept of ‘far far away.’

I had recently shifted my residence, to a place located nearly half an hour away from Parel, by the local suburbs. Although the place is not as convenient as the previous accomodation ( Lower Parel, Mumbai), Chembur is a place with a charm of its own. For those of you who crave for a laid back life in the ‘happening’ city Chembur is the place to be. Sure, the area does remind me of any part of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, especially with a rather large number of Tamilians and Malayalis residing in the area. Not to mention, the town like feeling that does get me geared up evey morning. No wonder, people love being here.

“Chembur?” This was the reply I had received each time I was where I lived. At first, the thought of staying far away from my place of work did annoy me. But with every passing moment, I grew accustomed to travelling lost distances. And have gradually begun to enjoy the distance.

I have come to think that, distances do calm a person. It is this sense of dettachment that enables you to concentrate better and focus for the assigned period of time. Also, it gives you an opportunity to witness life. The long train rides also permit one to catch up on a few hours of sleep, socialise and probably even read an interesting book. Moreover, it is the peace of mind, heartand soul that makes all of it worth every penny. For it gives you the time to observe, experience, introspect and cherish all those precious moments of life. If I must say so, the distance does kick-in the socialising skills of a human being, making one feel a part of the crowd. (It is the best way to spend half an hour on a train!)

I would recommend any new resident in the city to stay at a comfortable residence, irrespective of its distance from your work place. For one should never miss out any opportunity to explore more.

_____________________________________________
BACK TO THE HABIT

It took me four years to realise that independence does not imply carefree and wishful lifestyles. And that no matter how hard we pray and desire for the ideal lifestyle, nothing can replace the life of a hosteler.

For those of you, who missed reading my fabulous tales about the city of Mumbai, I would like to say- Cheer up! For I am back with alot more adventures. This time the adventures shall take you through  the ‘filmy’ land of Andheri and to the other parts of Mumbai.

Yes, I have shifted residents yet again. And I must say, it takes a lot to be happy.  And I have no regrets about having to move away from the hustling and bustling of Parel as well as the tiny ‘township’ of Chembur.

Firstly I no longer stay in a house/flat in Andheri. Instead I am back to the hostel life I enjoy. A wonderful room with 2 friendly room mates. It is indeed a pleasure to base youself at a place that assures you two square meals, a cupboard, a bed and a potable rack.Sure bath time is an adventure in itself with atleast 30 women trying to occupy a bathroom for a minimum of 15 minutes every morning. But, the whole experience does have its own charm. I can honestly say that after two months of running a household, my new home is as close as I can get to heaven. And I am finally happy.

The train journey’s are much shorter than before. The crowds are alot more civilized. Now, I no longer pray for my life while travelling between office and hostel. Instead I hope for the comfortable journeys to be longer than expected. The new home has given me an opportunity to do all that I had loved doing. Including being a part of a choir. No matter how tired I am after the madness at work, the melodious christmas carols seem to drain the fatigue and gets me geared up for alot more activity.

Most of all, I now have friends and people who care. It is a pleasure to come back to a place where people greet you with a broad and precious smile and remind you that each of us are helping one another in this hard life. I realised how much I missed eating along with other people for about two whole months. And now, I look forward to every meal to make more friends and share a million laughs.

They say life does change for the better the moment you are calm and quiet at heart.All of a sudden, I am convinced that I am able to perform better and tolerate a lot more than I did initially. Making me feel like an achiever every single day.

____________________________________

Many moods of Mumbai

This is an attempt to showcase the many aspects of the city of dreams- Mumbai.  May this city continue to mesmerise everybody who dares to live the ultimate experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

________________________________________

Before I bid Adieu…

The last few weeks in the city of dreams. It is only now that I have begun to live the life of a ‘Mumbaikar.’ The never-ending train journeys across the city, the sight of street kids playing the most creative games, truly this year has been a life changing experience. And as I recall those first weeks in Mumbai, I can only say that I am not what I used to be.

There was a time when I would crave to meet my old friends from college every weekend. I would imagine myself driving a fancy jeep across the great state of Maharashtra. I dreamt of making all my dreams come true. A year later, this is what life has taught me.

I no longer believe in imposing myself upon someone or crave to be a part of somebody else’s life. For many a time being yourself and being broad minded is the best way to be. Happiness is not merely a state of mind. It is the end of a journey that helps you discover the real you. It is that moment when no matter how unfair the world might seem to be, you are at peace and are content with what you are blessed with. It takes a lot of courage to be ‘yourself’ and to be able to stand-up for the person you wish to be. But those who succeed in the battle of ‘self-actualisation’ are forever undefeated. After all, we decide upon the ways we choose to live and cherish each day.

Being open-does not mean discussing sex, scandals or even rumours in a public space. It is about being patient, allowing the other to voice their opinions on the a variety of issues including those mentioned above and yet not be judgmental. Then again, nobody is perfect.

This year has introduced me to some of the finest people in my life. We had started out as associates, then became friends and now, they are my new family. My friends cared for me like a sister sometimes like a daughter. I will always be grateful to them, for the endless telephonic conversations, the fancy meals, and granting me the freedom to visit their homes every time I missed my parents. And I will miss the affection and care they have showered upon me.

As I step into a new life, I only hope that this city surprises more aspiring individuals just like it had surprised a small town girl like me.

Advertisements