I am in love…with the city of Mumbai. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact I hated Mumbai when I first set foot in this city. I found the humidity, the sheers numbers, and the filth very disgusting. But somehow I have fallen in love with this city. The madness of Mumbai cannot be experienced anywhere else and once you have lived in this city, you can never get over it.
The moment I was about to land in Mumbai, the first thing I saw from the aircraft was the slums. The slums went a big way towards forming my initial opinion. The traffic, the noise and the crowds didn’t help either. But when I started exploring the city, I noticed all these gorgeous Victorian buildings which are heritage sites. There’s such beauty in these old buildings that I just like to sit and stare at them for hours. These buildings give you a sense of peace and stability inspite of being surrounded by noise and crowds all the time.
Once I got past the initial difference in cuisines, I completely feel in love with the Pav cuisine. Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Misal Pav, Usal Pav, Bhajia Pav…amazing how Mumbaikars eat the humble pav in so many interesting ways. Bhelpuri, Sevpuri, paani puri and dahi vadas srved in Mumbai are different from anywhere else. They are simply much yummier in this city.
One thing I love most about this city is that you can be yourself and yet lose yourself in the crowd. If I go out in shorts, I don’t get stared at. If I wear a skirt, it is not taken to mean that I am cheap or available. If I walk alone from the station to my house at 10 PM, I do not have to worry about being chased by hooligans. I feel safe. My neighbor doesn’t care if I have friends staying over at my house after a party. She doesn’t ask about my marital/family status and I am happy about this.
I love going to Girgaum chowpati in the evenings. Just staring at the endless sea calms down my nerves. Watching those waves appear and disappear repeatedly somehow adds tranquility to the atmosphere. Then getting a little snack from the samos wala or chai wala on the beach is so great. It makes me happy that this city welcomes all enterprising people with outstretched arms. If you are ready to work hard, you can achieve anything in this city. A beggar boy can become a big man if he puts his mind to it. The city is full of opportunities.
The people of this city far exceeded my expectations in every way. When I was walking home from work on 26 July 2005, I knew my home was already flooded. But when someone handed me a cup of hot tea and a vada pav (on the road), I knew this city was home. The people may not know each other too well, but they are there for you in times of distress. My neighbors (whom I hardly knew) helped me put my house (and life) back in order after that fateful night ended.
Slowly, but surely, I fell in love with Mumbai….