India & Around, Living, Personal
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What Mumbai means to me

It did not deserve this surely.

Close on the heels of the furore of the monsoons, it now has another terrorist attack to deal with. If it gives in, it’s broken. If it goes about its business, it’s uncaring.

Sometimes, I think that it’s so unfair that a city that gives its residents so unselfishly, has to endure so much from some half crazed bunch of fools, who go about killing innocent people, for god knows what purpose. I can’t believe these people seriously think they’re sent to earth with a purpose to kill others. What kind of lunatics are they and what drives them? Not religion surely, because I don’t know any on earth that actually condones this kind of nonsensical, demented behaviour.

They say, it is hard to break the spirit of Mumbai, but surely it will take a beating after so many repeated attacks on it, some man made and some not.

When I got the news, my first though was of course, about all those who I left back in Mumbai and check about their safety.

But then I began to think about the city I left in 2004. I left it in a hurry. Like the city was stifling me and slowly killing my soul. It was what I believed at that point in time. I was going through my worst personal crisis and I extrapolated what I felt to the city. I hated everything about the place. I hated traveling by the crowded local trains, the crowded buses and I hated bumping into a million people every time I went to catch the train to work.

Reading time

But in the larger scheme of things, I had forgotten what I had learnt from the city. The spirit of independence and the fact that everyone can survive no matter what they do. I had forgotten all the good times I’d had. All the memories that were bundled into my five years that I was a Mumbaikar.

I landed sometime late 1997 and knew just a handful of people. It took me well over a year to get used to its pace of life and its culture, which was so alien to me after the slow laid back life I had lead so far. I hated taking the trains. Why is everyone always in a hurry I wondered often? And yet, I found out, if you ask for directions, more often than not, people will stop in the middle of the road and go out of the way to help you out.

I met a whole bunch of great people when I worked for It’s the only reason I stayed on for as long as I did. We had some great times when we were lodged in a small office in Grant Road, where I remember Suparn Verma (a now Bollywood writer/director) would bang his head every time he got up from his chair (the ceiling on the first floor was so low!). I had a little corner in the same floor and thankfully being 5 feet something saved me from the same fate!

We would have a stream of celebrities walking in and out of the tiny office for our live chats. I still remember Aishwarya Rai, whom we gawked at from the comfort of our first floor cubicles. And Sachin Tendulkar who had created quite a furore in the neighbourhood when he walked in. Aamir Khan, who got a lot of ‘he’s wearing shoes with heels’ comments from some of the jealous boys!

I remember moving to a slightly larger but nicer office in Fort, where we would go out to the Iranian restaurants in that area for long lunches. Or if we were feeling generous, fish at Apoorva. There was even time to grab a bit of shopping at Bombay Store. There was one time when we were all stranded in office when it rained all night. We played antakshri the whole night, some falling asleep on tables and some under them, even as we ordered fish from a place nearby (thankfully still open for business!). And then moving into a spanking new office in Mahim, where wonder of wonders, we even had a small gymnasium.

But what I am thankful for most to the city is for teaching me to stand on my own two feet. To take risks, to take decisions for myself, to start depending less on other people (cling less in other words!) and to go about building a life that I wanted (that I didn’t quite succeed is another story!).

On a quick one day trip to the city a month ago, it all came back to me. My first few years, testing the waters and trying to get a grip on life. The next few years, with some difficult times, but fun never the less. And the last 2 years, which had turned into a living hell, but more so due to my own making and unwillingness to take the next step.

The city though had always been a constant. Its roads, the flyovers, the big showy malls, the constant rattling of local trains passing by, the beautiful but crowded Bandra bandstand, the salty sea air that one gets a whiff off once in a while, the horribly smelly Mahim creek every time I went to work, the Central line, where people live on the tracks (well, nearly!)… where despite everything it remains a warm and welcoming city which takes you into its arms, no matter where you come from, where you’re going or what your intentions are.

Life by the tracks

So when I think about Mumbai, I know one thing for sure. It has done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment.

Mumbai Help
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