It has been a unique experience living in Mumbai (not that I am moving out, yet). It just struck me today that a lot of things that used to strike me as weird or convoluted actually make sense to me and some I can even relate to. Blame it on the dichotomy that living in Mumbai is. So, I compiled a list. Care to add to this?
Prior to Mumbai I never:
- felt the need for a locker in office. I fought to get one once I joined here. You do need a place to stash your just-in-case clothes for a sleepover at someone’s in the event of a riot/flood/rain/train strike/what-have-yous.
- wore flip-flops/sturdy shoes to office only to switch into my heels the minute I opened my locker. One twisted ankle and dozens of ladies scoring my feet with their heels have made me give up my heels on my way to and fro from office. That and the state of my both feet and high heels after a week of daily abuse on Mumbai streets and trains.
- understood the dark portends of 'too much rain'.
- realized how lucky I was to have two days off as the weekend.
- knew the existence and, indeed, the need of weekend getaways.
- realized how easy it is to take for granted the impromptu meet-ups with friends - you know, the 'hello-are-you-doing-nothing-right-now-too-?-then-lets-meet-up kind. It makes such a difference when say, friend lives in Mulund, you in Andheri and the place that you both really check out is in South Bombay.
- felt like a tiny, insignificant spec in the mind-boggling human mass that inhabits the earth.
- understood the grit it takes to wake up every morning, make the 2 hour commute to work, slog, commute back home in 2 hours, eat, watch telly for half an hour, sleep and get up to do this ad infinitum all the while fighting for a toehold on the train that takes you to the tiny box that you call office and back.
- lived in a city that is so awake all the time! Bangalore was a snooze fest. Pune was awesome but nowadays is only marginally better than Bangalore. In Mumbai, however, I don't get weirded out traveling alone even at 11. There are traffic jams here at 11 at night, for God's sake!
- understood the true meaning of customer service. Pune has its siestas, Bangalore its I-don't-need-your-business-but-since-you-are-in-my-shop-what-the-heck-ness, and Mumbai its home-delivery boys even for a humble kiraana shop which is open till 10. Even the fruit and vegetable vendors shut shop only after 11. I realize this is due the late hours the residents have to keep, but, seriously!!
- seen class differences blur like they do in Mumbai when it pours.
- seen total strangers bond over cheap baubles or an irate commuter like they do on Mumbai local trains.
- understood what a difference it makes to take a local train 3 minutes later than the usual one.
- realized how the mounds of garbage and filth that one passes by everyday, slowly become invisible.
- could comprehend how the can't-afford-to-stop-to-get-involved attitude lasts most of the year and suddenly transitions into helping hands during the monsoon.
- sympathized with Bombayites who complained that they found other cities boring. Am hoping that this 'boring/itchy' phase lasts only a short time when I move out of here.
- realized that people actually meant it when they said they were jealous of my one person cubicle. Ironically, I still have a one person cubicle. Yep, in Mumbai.
- could come to terms with how anyone could justify that changing trains, taking the foot-over (train tracks) bridges and catching the bus on the run is exercise.
- realized that when they claim to love of Mumbai in spite of everything they do/face, Mumbaikars mean it.
PS: My dream city (the city I want to settle down in) still remains Pune. It’s the city where I spent the first few heady years after college. Sigh. But, won’t embellish on Pune in this post; this one is about Mumbai.