Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mumbai Chronicles: Ek Akela iss Sheher mein.

I am a firm believer in first impressions. Not that I don’t change my opinions about people, places and  things , but more often than not, my first impressions are also my long lasting ones.  For most Indian cities however, I find my first impressions are the most confused ones as well.  It is difficult to like or dislike any major city in India ,in toto. While liking some essential aspects in each one of them ,I cannot help wishing they were better in the rest. Kolkata, Lucknow , Delhi and Allahabad , all fall in this category. Before landing up in Mumbai , I had equal number of people warning me and envying my luck to be here. I find that both sides were right in someway. Now that I am one week old in the maximum city – Mumbai, I think it is time for me to note down my own first impressions. However confusing, exaggerated and contradictory, they, I trust,  truly  represent the city .
So, it was me versus the city most of the week. Me trying to decipher the city, me horrified by the parts of the city, me charmed by the old city and me trying to avoid the real city. If I have to define this city in just one adjective I think that would be – Gogetter.  Amazingly efficient and professional in everything it does, the city seems to have no place for the slow, the disorganised and the shoddy. The city is often praised that it houses both the have-nots and have-yachts side by side. Every posh area has a slum of it's own. I wonder what is so great about it? But then the business capital of the country can actually sell anything to its visitors- even its ugliness and dangers. When I first saw a sign for “Slum Tour” at a travel agent near the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel building , I found it funny...even weird . Why on earth anyone would want to visit the slums ? I realised later on that it is one of the most popular tours of the city, second only to “Terror attack Tour” .One has to grudgingly admit that this killer attitudeof the city  is indeed impressive . 

 Another image of the city is of that of the sea front . Though there are a number of Indian cities with far superior beaches and coasts , somehow Mumbai sea is famed and is considered a great point of interest . My earlier memory of  the sea in Mumbai is that of a garbage filled black water body with hordes of people around . This time however , I landed in the city at the time of high tides and get to see some breathtakingly beautiful sights of the Mumbai sea . Make no mistake, the garbage filled water is also true, perhaps more true than the other ,   but when you travel by the sea-link, the sea looks amazing . 

I think this is a trait similar to Kolkata , the city reveals itself only to a visitor who is willing to commit time and effort to like it. Only the worthy shall find the grail.  There are surprises and beauties hidden behind the veil of  fast paced crowded groups of people  and their businesslike approach . There is leisure, warmth and even comfort as well . 
It is a rare feast for the eyes to pass through the beautiful British buildings near Churchgate and Colaba . It is fascinating to discover the amazing eateries and bakeries of the city . It is also impressive that unlike Kolkata and Delhi, people travelling from suburbs reach their destination in time  despite travelling in unimaginably crowded local trains .

Talking of trains , one of the most familiar images of this city for every Indian of my generation, comes from mainstream Bollywood movies .  An oft repeated scene in these old  movies of my childhood  was of a simpleton village boy/small town  girl landing at Mumbai  train station (usually Victoria Terminus) and getting robbed or cheated on the first day. Another familiar situation is of this simpleton looking at the tall buildings of Mumbai with wide eyes . Well, the country has changed much since those days . Now many other cities have equally impressive skylines and well, cheats outside the railway stations . So what is now most characteristic of this city. My first impression says it is the attitude of “ minding my own business” in the people around here. Confident ,ambitious , flamboyant and yet straight , it is the spirit of the common people of the city which make the city so different from Delhi or Kolkata .

As for me , so far, I am partly dreading and partly looking forward to be in the city .  But then I have yet to discover the city  .Looking at the facts , I have yet to set up my house, sample the vada pav and witness the famous Mumbai monsoon . I get a feeling , that eventually I might fall in love with the city  but till that happens I am keeping my fingers crossed . This song , very aptly sums up my confused first impressions about the city of Mumbai -

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wonderful..... U have a passion for writing and u seems to be flowing in writing....there seems to be same feeling when one eats a very good pan (betel leaf) and wishes to have more some sort of feeling in the mouth... similar kind of thing I felt while reading the blog.... one cannot do except reading the ful