Monday, March 7, 2011

The city of hope

What is about Mumbai that is so different from the rest of the cities in India? Is it just a worldly image created by Bollywood, or is it really, like the people of Mumbai keep referring to, a city of dreams? Earlier I used to dismiss the argument as a useless one since, I, for one, hated this city. Close to a year now and still the feeling has shifted only from intolerable to somewhat bearable… Mind you, there is nothing particularly wrong with Mumbai for it is very similar to most of the Indian metros that I have visited in the general aspects. But when I came here, I left behind a place full of memories….the city that has given me everything-my personality, strength, freedom and beyond all that, a bunch of friends that is irreplaceable.

Every day I encounter an argument with my colleagues, that usually takes the same pattern. A couple of us on one side defending my home turf that is Delhi and a bunch of others supporting Mumbai. (There are a few in support of other metros as well but they are a minority and generally lose out!!!) Though the argument is unfounded and baseless, it at least triggered a thought in the line of whether one of these two cities is actually better than the other. The love affair with Delhi is like a predictable story…a comfortable companion that you have grown up with, the city has a charm and a force about it that is so magnetic that it is a pride in calling yourself a tough-to-handle, “I don’t care” attitude Delhiite!!! This is an obvious side of the story. But the hatred for Mumbai…well, that is biased for sure! Biased from the mindset that a place that does not have your family and friends is unacceptable as a place worth living….

From the outside, Mumbai just looks like a crowded city, with an enormous cost of living, where the density of population is increasing at an astronomical speed given that a small village size of people get added to this city everyday. As a friend of mine pointed out to me today, it is a city that has welcomed so many strangers with outstretched arms, that has made so many dreams come alive and that teaches you how to be someone on your own. The people here do not care for their neighbours; well… they don’t even know who their neighbours are!!! Because everyone is so busy running after a wild goose chase, trying to make their destiny that it becomes a crime to waste your time on socializing, specially when there is no personal gain out of it!

But is all this the fault of Mumbai? Is this the Mumbai culture? Apparently not! Take a few steps back and look at the people running that frenzied race… They are the same kind of people as I am… the people who chose Mumbai to build a career in this city and while doing so left their beloved homes. All of us have a shared hatred for this city just because it’s not our home and we take the frustration out by not wanting to mix with the people whose only sin is apparently that they are not from your city!!! So, this culture of selfishness is built by the refugees who have come here. The real Mumbai still lives the same way as every other city. This city has actually been generous enough to allow the people from across the country to come here, get a life, learn to live, and then spoil its culture and reputation as well! This generosity is in turn being viewed as degradation of social norms!!!! What an irony that is….

Just take a walk along the Marine Drive at 2AM in the night looking at the lights that are often referred to as queen’s necklace… Just keep watching the waves that hit the rocks on the Nariman Point… Just stand near the Land’s end in Bandra and look at the sea link… And you would realize that it is indeed a city of hopes… At least I did!


  1. Hmmm. You make a discerning point about how our views of a city are based on what we do NOT have there - for example, as you pointed out, friends of childhood and obviously family - instead of what there is. :)

    I for one have always believed, even though inwardly I cringed at the thought of going to Mumbai (even when ex was around!), that Mumbai is a city of resilience... and a city of resilience is also one of hope, dreams etc because as far as I see - and I needn't tell you for you know me - there is no dreams coming true in life without endurance.

    Excellent post da. :) Made me recall my one late night at Marine Drive with Sharang. Made me recall our times there. Made me miss Bombay. For that and many other flashes that it created, thank you for this post!

  2. I have been so frustrated with this city myself and I thought that I owed Mumbai an apology for such a biased opinion... After all the city has given me some great memories (especially with you!!!) and hence this was a long overdue post!

    Thanks for the encouragement brother :)

  3. I am one of the millions of fans of this city called Mumbai and thus I take it as my personal duty to stand up for the city which is so giving. I believe this city requires its due credit. So I am ready to advocate this city this the last inch of its land.

    The very fact that you are standing at 2:00 am at a public place in this city brings me to the iteration of what this city has given you. FREEDOM. The freedom to lead your life on your terms with your rules in your style. It is something which not all places in this world give you.

    The other thing which comes bundled with freedom, which is a blessing but u consider it bain. That factor is PRIVACY. The people here do not care for their neighbors but when there is a train blast, thousands of people reach there to help before the ambulances arrive. It gives you a shoulder when you need and an empty room when you demand so.

    The people you find running in the frenzied race are also there to give you something by doing the crazy goose chase. It inspires and to an extent even mandates you to join the goose chase to provide you with what you had come to the city in the first place. Its called SUCCESS.

    And above all, there is one more thing that this city gives. The very fact that you are not astonished by this city is because you have still not got this gift from this City. That gift is the gift of LOVE. So go ahead and find this gift in the city and your opinion will surely change. And if you don't find it, I have an option for you...

    Fall in love with this CITY...

  4. Priyank: I appreciate all that you say about the city that Mumbai is! As my blog clearly says, there is nothing wrong with the city and it's the perception of the poeple who come here that has changed the reputation of Mumbai and portrayed it as something that it is not!!

    However, I understand your concern and I would be as much passionate if someone says a word against Delhi!!!

    Yeah and somewhere along the way the city has given me enough people to fall in love with :)

    Cheers to Mumbai for that!

  5. A city is nothing more than the people in it... So, I guess Mumbai has just improved itself after your above comment!!! :)

  6. Good post...owning up as soon as your views changed!! Mumbai will be glad!
    I do agree that Mumbai is a challenging place to live, fast and frenzied, prohibitive real estate prices, bad traffic etc...
    But that cannot take away what the city offers to everyone, as you and Priyank pointed out- opportunities, freedom, privacy, and most of all, options and the right to choose..
    Truly pointed out, even I feel a sense of hope when I stand at marine drive..even if traveling in locals is a pain, I do feel good about myself when I do that...makes me feel like a striving, confident, aspiring person..
    I think Delhi and Mumbai are both good cities in their own sense (and I love Delhi more), but that does not mean the other one is not special. And yes, as far as living away from friends and family is concerned, the world is too large a place to be divided by 500kms..I think we can bear with that...this realization based on my fresh experience! :P

  7. "the world is too large a place to be divided by 500kms" - Love this statement of yours!!! An optimist as you are, Really like the way you can find the best in the grimmest of situations. You are becoming more of an idol to me for your strength and positive energy!!

    Thanks Nik...