The Marive Drive – One Of My Favourite Sites In the City
Mumbai, a city of dreams and dust, where everyday hundreds of people come with the hope of a better and bigger life. And surprisingly, the city adopts everyone. Last month when I came into the city, I was excited like never before. Come on! Finally I was in the tinsel town of dreams, drama, glamour, opportunities, and of course films. But soon not the reel but the reality hit me. There I was, a Kolkatan, first in life living far from family on my own, with no house in Mumbai, no friends, no idea of what is happening around. In between all these I had to join my organization ‘Arpan’, so there was no time to crib about all the nothingness but to be a part of the Darwinian game of “the survival of the fittest”. Honestly the game is scary, exciting and extremely difficult sometimes but somehow I managed to cross the initial levels of it.
Level 1: Mumbai trains – a nightmare
It is often said that if you survive Mumbai locals, you can survive anything in this universe. A dense network of crisscross metal rails and overhead electric lines, the Mumbai local has proven to be more than just a means of transport in this city, which one way to the other affects every Mumbaikar regardless of their ethnicity, caste, creed and even their economical strata. I remember I was very cool, the first day I got into the train from Virar. It was crowded but manageable. The problem started from the next station when more people kept on getting into it although there was no space inside. I genuinely thought something is wrong or special about this compartment that everyone was getting into this only. 15mins later, I was stuck in between hundreds of people with no hope of getting inside or outside. On that everyone started bashing on me for being unorganized, carrying the bag improperly and for being unable to understand their direction. It was after this day I literally started having anxiety thinking about the trains, specifically the crowd. Mumbai is home of millions of people with more of half of them on the streets most of the time. I used to feel suffocated around people. I just wanted to run away from this urban jungle. And finally I said to myself I don’t belong to the city!
Churchgate station – one of the busiest junction on the local route
Level 2: House hunting
The good thing is when you are an India Fellow – you become a part of a family of 96. Things would have been extremely difficult if my senior fellows didn’t help me with the initial accommodation here in Mumbai. But finally it was time to find a place for my own nearby my office. The search started with the Facebook pages. Almost every day after the office I used to go to see the flats alone. Some of the flats were good but too expensive, then there were tiny 1RK flats were 3 people lives together. During that time I have come across every breed of people starting from weird brokers, the religious roommate, strict vegetarians, creeps and then there was that guy who could talk to spirits. Literally I had enough of them.
Level 3: Monsoon the unsung raga
I have never been a monsoon person but incidentally I shifted in Mumbai during this season only. There is always a burden of carrying an umbrella, roads are muddy with all the garbage spread around and humid sweaty weather. But the natives never fail to romanticize the rain here with the pretext of ‘Mumbai Monsoon’, ‘Spirit Of Bombay’. It was still alright until the nightmare came into reality. That was 29th of August, a gloomy rainy day. With the weather forecast of flood everybody started heading to their houses from the office. I knew about the 2005 flood and was terrified with the probability of repetition of that. The roads literally became rivers with gallons of water flowing here and there, it was raining crazily, trains were deactivating, my phone got dead and there were thousands of people stuck with me in the station. For the moment the city stopped and so did my notion of surviving this natural calamity.
Flood in Mumbai – August 2017
Surprisingly I am still alive. Now after a month and a half in the city when I look back to those experiences I realize how each of those days reformed a better and fitter (for surviving) version of me. Now am not concerned about imaginary fears anymore because I know gradually everything will fall into place. Within 15 days after coming in the city I found a beautiful place for myself, which has a balcony with a swing! When it rains I often enjoy a cup of coffee standing there. Traveling by the trains doesn’t seem a nightmare anymore. It took me time but eventually I have understood this city has a rhythm and everybody learns how to dance to it. Slowly, I am also learning this light footed contemporary dance of living in here. Now I feel all over the city. The other day siting in marine drive I was looking at the sea, waves hitting the rocks, breeze caressing my hair. That is when even if you are surrounded by so many people, you feel lost for you forget everything else and you tend to enjoy being free, emancipated from all inhibitions and apprehensions, you learn how to let go of all the darkness!
‘Bhaiya’- I got back to my conscious with a mid-aged man calling me.
‘Aap bata sakte ho CST stations kis taraf parega?’
I gave the direction and realized it’s too late, so I should also head towards my home.
Walking along the promenade, looking at the diverse crowd, it felt weird how i am giving directions to people now, i can’t be considered as an outsider anymore but a part of this crowd itself.
And finally I realized, yes! I so belong to this city.
Good first month account Sudipta! I am glad, like all the other fellows before you, you have also chosen to like the city. I also am eagerly looking forward to your accounts of work and learning from Arpan – an area where the fellowship has not engaged much in the past. In that sense you will lead us into the sub-sector of child rights esp. at the face of abuse. About the writing, i like your style, its refreshing.