Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan!!

I have always wondered about the city I live in. Nothing profound, mind you; just about why it is that I am always happy to come back here even after one of the best vacations possible. And it’s not necessarily because MOST (so that my out-of-town loved ones don’t feel let down) of the people dear to me are from here. Mumbai – with all its squalor and filth is still one of its kinds. This is my version of it – uncensored.

Note for the reader:
· The comments below are solely my opinion and people do not necessarily have to subscribe to it.
· The intention is not to belittle any other city / town anywhere in the country. In fact, I am of the firm opinion that every place has its own pros and cons and usually with the right attitude one does find that pros outweigh the cons.

Things I hate about Mumbai
1. The vast divide between the haves and the have-nots.

2. The fact that this divide is ever widening.

3. The abounding dirt, filth and the general apathy towards it.

4. The omnipresent ditches and bad roads that are present every 20 meters you move ahead (if you’re lucky) along with enough flying dust to fill your stomach at least for 1 meal.

5. That commuting to and from the workplace takes up almost one fourth of a typical working day.

6. The amazing pace at which the once-upon-a-time abundant open spaces and greenery are disappearing from the landscape.

7. The ever increasing prices of houses – one has to really forgo a lot in order to buy his dream home.

8. The sheer number of people who die everyday just in road /rail accidents.

9. The “throw-it-where-you-please” attitude reflected in most people when it comes to waste be it paper, vegetable / fruit peels or any other rubbish. Not only are they shameless but they even have the nerve to argue with someone pointing it out to them.

10. How bribery and corruption exists at every level – it’s pathetic that some people would want extra money to do the very thing that they are paid a salary for!

Now for the more pleasant bit:
Things I love about Mumbai
1. The warmth and helping nature of the Mumbaikar – one can never feel lost or helpless in Mumbai, there will always be a helping hand (pun un-intended).

2. How one can satiate hunger pangs starting from the ubiquitous and humble “zunka bhakar” (Rs. 2.00 only) and “vada pav” (Rs. 3.50 to Rs. 4.00 only) to the mid-range Udupi hotels that serve mouth-watering South Indian snacks along with a smattering of “Punjabi” dishes with their own signature style and then on to the high-end pricy restaurants and 5 to 7 star hotels with their menu of world cuisines. In fact, it can be safely said Mumbai has something for EVERYBODY!

3. The way Mumbai is buzzing even at 3 am in the morning. I guess many of us have been addicted to Phantom comics when we were younger: there was this saying in those, “It is said that under the Phantom’s regime, a lady fully decked with jewels from head to foot could safely move around the deep woods even in the dead of night!” Well, though not as far-fetched as that but Mumbai is certainly safe for a woman even at the oddest hours possible for the most part.

4. One of the best public transport systems in India in terms of both roads and rail that in spite of the ever increasing load on them is still equipped to cater to Mumbaikars and ferry them in thousands to and fro countless times each day with hardly a hitch. An added advantage is the ease of navigating from one place to another.

5. The abundance of really good seats of learning in Mumbai – it has some of the best institutes for almost every branch of education possible. And this is not counting the numerous colleges that boast of some of the most amazing “crowds” possible. Sigh!!! Now I’m getting nostalgic.

6. The fact that if one looks hard enough, there is nothing one cannot find in Mumbai – from foreign chocolates to books to clothing brands to spices to musical instruments to medicines to……….whew….am breathless now.

7. The lovely beaches that line the Mumbai coastline right from the famed “Queen’s Necklace” at Marine Drive right uptil the brown sands of Gorai beach at Borivli / Bhayandar.

8. That it is the true land of opportunities where an individual by dint of sheer hard work and initiative can make it big in his own right – just like in the movies!!!

9. The feel of the city – vibrant, alive, buzzing, exciting, modern, traditional all at the same time. If you ever get the chance, stand for some time outside the Eros cinema hall at Churchgate and soak in the atmosphere, you’ll know where I’m coming from. You could perform the same exercise outside Borivli railway station for all you please and still come away with the same experience.

10. The way people behaved during last year’s torrential rains and the flooding that followed – stories of courage, humanity, camaraderie and spirit that are alive even today (directly compared to what happened in New Orleans post Katrina). Keep it up, Mumbai!

11. The number of festivals / occasions that are celebrated in Mumbai with the same amount of joyousness, fun, gaiety – where else can you find New Year’s eve, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chathurthi, Diwali, Id and Christmas all coming up one after the other and people from all communities and walks of life participating in the festivity with the same vigour and commitment?!

12. In spite of being a heavily criticized lot for a whole lot of reasons, the Mumbai Police is ranked as one the world’s top police agencies.

13. The cheerfulness that prevails (for the most part) in the packed local train where a push here and a shove there are the name of the game.

14. That I get to stand up and sing our National Anthem proudly at the beginning of every movie show in all the cinema halls of Mumbai – we don’t get to do it enough otherwise.

15. Mumbai’s accepting nature – one does not have to think “log kya kahenge” about anything and everything, everybody is left to themselves with passing judgment for judgment’s sake.

16. The home to Bollywood – need I say more?

17. Its history – it’s amazing to know that when it started out Mumbai was a group of 7 islands and formed part of the kingdom of Emperor Ashoka (I did not know the Ashoka part myself till recently!).

18. Its proximity to beautiful locations like Matheran, Lonavla, Mahableshwar and not counting the scores of clean beaches and azure trek spots near the outskirts.

19. Its rains – the city gets a life of its own during the monsoons. Its feels great just to sit at home with a cup of hot tea or even be out wandering around town drenched and soaking in the sights of rain washed Mumbai.

20. Last but not the least, this is the commercial capital of the country – it simply feels good to be where the action is.

Obviously, I could go on and on but for the sake of the reader and my sore fingers I’ll desist. Though I did not know it then, the points I like about my city are exactly 2 times those points I don’t like. Does that mean I like my city twice as much as the things about it I don’t? No, I actually love Mumbai many more times than that. There are many other things about it that make it my Mumbai – things that I may not be able to express adequately here. But I hope this list of mine gives more people reasons to start developing a liking for this great old lady!!

I don’t know if I’m supposed to do this but anyway here goes: Anybody who reads this post is hereby tagged to do a similar post on their own hometown. Other Mumbaikars are excused because I might have eaten into their list already. But of course, if they want to add to the list they are most welcome to do so. Am awaiting comments. Go Mumbai!!!!!!