When I moved to Bombay at the tender age of eight, I gradually discovered it to be a city of striking paradoxes. I have grown accustomed to hearing the adage ‘Mumbai is the city, Bombay is the emotion’. It’s true. Bombay reveals what the City of Dreams keeps hidden. Bombay is the gamut of emotions I experience while quietly strolling across Bandstand, looking out at dappled brushstrokes on an aquamarine palette. It’s the frenzied honks of cars and auto-rickshaws and motorbikes at Sion Junction. It’s the pearly white shrouding the tops of Haji Ali on a full moon night. It’s the gales of water that soak the city to its bare bones, purging it of all its pretence of order; and it’s the sighing calm after, when the city emerges gasping and alive.
Alive; it’s always alive. There is a thrum in the air as I sit on Marine Drive, sprayed by the waves that crash relentlessly onto the rocks, as if to chastise them. It is there when the sea remains oblivious to the mad city rushing past; oblivious, also, to the ever-changing landscape. It is there when Virar Local screeches to a halt at Borivli. Amidst the slight shock and inertia, it is present, quivering.
Bombay is accelerated heartbeat; it can also be a gallery of peace. It is the city that grows on you. At first, the filth, the noise, and the sad excuse for infrastructure (that goes to hell during the monsoon) might be disheartening. But wait for the old waddling lady who feeds the dogs of her locality every single day of the year. Wait for the dabbawalla who delivers tiffin-boxes full of love and sweet nothings to offices stuffed higgledy-piggledy in a by-lane of Peddar Road. Wait for the group of fifty-something financial brokers calling you to join them in the general compartment to solve the sudoku in the Mumbai Mirror. Maybe then, the traffic stuck in potholes won’t seem so bad.
If you can live in Bombay, you can live anywhere in the world. It teaches you to be a survivor, like itself. When you catch the glittering skyline smiling down on you, you won’t recollect the horrors of 26/11. When you drive across the Bandra-Worli sea-link at 100 kmph, you won’t be reminded of the floods of 2005. Bombay has battle scars, like all great cities. But it is the city that never sleeps. It never dies down.
Vagabonding ft. Chai
Ramblings from the life of an insomniac Lit major living by Stevenson’s aphorism: “The great affair is to move”, and trying to make sense of life and its squiggles.