The below mentioned views and opinions are not directly the author’s. They are the observed facts and any resemblance to person living or dead is purely coincidental.
Mumbai. The slush…the poverty…the ever-increasing number of rickshaws, taxis…the list just goes on. Don’t forget to add the alarming rise in population and the sprawling out of the ‘bhajiwalas’ onto the roads. And what about the traffic problems and the ‘haathapaayi’ to get into a local train? Yes, it surely is a part of life in Mumbai. But isn’t this impression of Mumbai, superficial? Is this all what Mumbai is all about? Don’t you think we are forgetting to mention all the spice which is the essence of Mumbai? An outsider will never know what it is to be a ‘Mumbaikar’. Too bad. They have simply no idea what they are missing.
Mumbaikars are a species all by themselves. They represent all strata of society and the various categories of people, be it the celeb world, the common man, the slum-dwellers or even the underworld. All of these spell Mumbai. The city is totally incomplete without the amalgamation of its constituent classes.
Mumbaikars are not prim and proper. Actually, one can even go as far as saying, they are hip and happening people. The love to party, they love to watch movies, they absolutely love to eat. Anything sells in Mumbai, as long as you know how to market it. Once you know your way around this race of suspicious people, the rest is easy. Just win their confidence, and watch things happen smoothly!
Well, what is it about Mumbai that attracts so many? Although Mumbai seems to be this big mass of confusion, crowd, dirt, and lots of other things, people still want to be a part of Mumbai. So, what is it that makes people come here by the herds, and once here, don’t want to detach themselves from the place? No, it can’t just be just the jobs. It can’t be just the better opportunities and higher standard of living. Somehow, there is certain attraction to Mumbai that differentiate her from the rest. Be it the locals, the hangouts, the means of transport, the fascination to live dangerously, anything. Yep. Mumbai caters to all of these and more.
Mumbaikars like to do things differently. They like a little order in their normal affairs. They like it when their traffic’s a little orderly, and when the rickshaws and cabs run according to the meter, which is not the case with other cities. That’s why; you find a lot of haggling if the rickshaw driver charges a passenger even a rupee more than the actual fare. The standard excuse of “Meter kharab hai.” doesn't normally fool a citizen of Mumbai. He counters the driver’s argument with a “Toh phir jitney paise de raha hun, utna chup chap lo. Varna ek rupaiya bhi nahi milega.”
However, piss of a Mumbaikar, and get ready to be bombarded with a volley of the choicest swear words. All Mumbaikars seem to be well-trained in the field of swearing. However, in the recent years, it has been observed my many wives, sisters and daughters, that their husbands, brothers and fathers (respectively) use their choicest swear words while driving. Also, at such times, language is also not a major barrier. A normally English-speaking person jumps into Hindi when he gets into the groove to swear (Saale chutiya, for e.g.), while a north-Indian seems well versed in Marathi swearwords (Tujhya aaila, for one). So, coming back to what I said, I don’t know whether its drivers who make good gaali-givers or gaali-givers who make good drivers. On the other hand, don’t get me wrong. I would never mean that swear words are used by vehicle drivers exclusively. No way. What’s a train journey without some swearing? And I proudly would like to mention here that gender equality is prevalent in local trains. Saali kutti! Utar ja train se nahi to bahar phek doongi! being the attacking lines in the ladies’ compartment, while Saali soovar, baap ke ghar se layi hai kya train? Harami kahiki! Being the counter defenses. However, the language is more colorful in a gents’ compartment. Bhosdike saale ch**t! Kab se bol raha hun zara sa udhar ho, lekin nahi! Chutiye ko mere pair pe hi khade rehna hai..! Do note that the examples provided above are the mildest in their category. You just do not realise how time flies, if you are witness to a fight in a train or a part of it... Kya karen bhai, yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan!
Most ‘educated’ Mumbaikars don’t vote, but politics seems to be the favourite topic of discussion. Woh Lalu Prasad!?! Rail Minister ho gaya hai bhadwaa. Tab se toh aur hi chadh gaya hai, chadhiyal kahin ka! are a few excerpts from the discussion. Politics and older Mumbaikars seem to be inseparable. They feel something’s amiss, if they do not read the daily newspaper. What happens at 10, Janpath affects lives in Mumbai to a great extent. This is the typical Mumbaikar. Whimsical, but likeable, nevertheless.
Cricket! A religion which all Mumbaikars seem to follow. An epidemic of cricket-fever hits Mumbai, especially during an Indo-Pak match. Roads are deserted, shops are closed, leaves taken from offices and colleges bunked. Every TV set is occupied by telecasts of the match, and the viewers are more into the game than the actual players. “Arey Sachin, dekh ke khela kar yaar!” and “Rahul, full toss hai, four mar! Abey FOUR MAAR NA!” is some of the ‘friendly’ advice supplied by the viewers. Hmm…it is so simple to be out playing in the sun, but difficult to be sitting at home, with a bag of chips and watching the match! We understand, totally!
Mumbai is really floored by good food. A new restaurant opens every other day, but it is as well-received as any other. Mumbaikars love to eat out. They are connoisseurs of good food and are fond of anything from a tasty vada pav to fancy Thai cuisine. Never is a restaurant found empty, be it morning, noon or night, or a weekday or Sunday. Mumbai does full justice to its restaurants and dhabas.
Mumbai has never been frivolous. It has a lot of substance. It has had its share of terrorist activities. What about the riots of 1992, and the recent bomb blasts in the trains and the bomb blasts at the Gateway? In short, nothing keeps a Mumbaikar down. He will fear for his life, fear for his family, but still go about his routine. Be it a bomb blast, a Tsunami wave with its epicenter at Bandra or even Bin Laden threatening Mumbai personally, a Mumbaikar will try and forget about his dreadful past and begin every new day with a freshwave of enthusiasm. How, people ask, do Mumbaikars happen to be so cold about the happenings around them? The answer’s easy. Mumbaikars are simply practical. They do not worry about things beyond their control. Sitting at home after a bomb blast is not what a Mumbaikar would do. He would watch news bulletins on all news channels possible, and express his fear of tomorrow within the four walls of the house. But the next day, a Mumbaikar would wake up to a new day and go about his chores as if nothing happened the previous day. After all, paapi pet ka sawaal jo theheraa!
All-in-all, everything in Mumbai goes. Be it a bomb-scare, an earthquake or floods. Nothing can keep a Mumbaikar’s spirit down. He takes each day as it comes and lives for the present. And I’m glad to be a part of this city. As someone rightly said, “The city never sleeps!”