Swara Bhaskar on Bollywood Bole Toh: My ode to Mumbai
Mumbai has no time for your pointless problems, but she isn't heartless
I reached Mumbai by the August Kranti Rajdhani Express eight years ago, a spoilt privileged Lutyens Delhi kid, who had grown up on the comforts provided by indulgent parents in reasonably high ranking government jobs. Mumbai proved to be the 'one tight slap' of reality that awaited me. Mumbai and I got onto a pretty rough start — read, the local train!
My friend Lopa and I were at Andheri station armed with first class tickets to Churchgate but zero know-how about commuting on locals. We reached the platform and after some enquiry, found the spot where apparently the women's first class coach would stop. Turned out, it was just where the regular women's compartment stopped. As the train pulled in, a tidal wave of women surged into the mouth of the coach. Lopa and I got split — I froze on the platform, not sure whether to look for Lopa or the first class. My stupor broke three seconds later — with a hard whack with an umbrella on my elbow. I turned to find a large Auntyji glaring at me. "Ai wedi aahes kaa? Rastaa kashaalaa advitey?" She shoved me into the compartment and got in after me, muttering expletives in Marathi. Mumbai was the real-life version of The School Of Hard Knocks.
Chapter Two of Intro to Mumbai was titled Cooperative Housing Society. House after house, in our house-hunting days, Lopa and I were rejected by secretaries or chairmen of housing societies for either being working women, one of us being an aspiring actress, being single, seeming like we were familiar with the company of men or all of the above. I would invariably get into arguments with these self-righteous men, once even citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the right to freedom of movement and association! Needless to say, we didn't get a house in any of these societies and lived in a family friend's office for a month — until we found a building that had no 'society' yet!
I always felt like an 'outsider' to Mumbai – the kind that MNS inevitably targets as its sole campaign issue. However, as the years passed and I became one of the millions striving toward a dream in this glittering city of contradictions, I began to understand Mumbai a little better. Mumbai is that straight speaking no-nonsense girl you have the hots for, but don't have the guts to approach. Because Mumbai will say it as it is. "You're only one of a teeming million jacka**e*, get in line." Literally.
Mumbai has no time for your pointless problems. "I don't care if you scraped your knee because a rash driver hit you, get off the road and whine. You're causing a traffic jam."
Idon't know any other city that respects work and has a 'culture of labouring' like Mumbai. This is a city where bais, who work six houses a day, bring substitute bais with them when they come to ask for leave. A city where 16-year-olds start part-time jobs the same year they start partying. A city where a plumber has professionalism that can match that of a CEO.
Mumbai isn't heartless, she's just basic. She has to spend every minute making sure that she, bursting at her seams, doesn't implode! She has to ensure that her 18-million-odd inhabitants keep moving — getting from home to work to home, to work again to party to home. Because that's the cycle that ensures there's food on tables or thaalis, and rents are paid, EMIs are met, kids are sent to school, and the naive dreams that brought all us idiots to this city continue to be dreamt.
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