Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bindaas Bombay: sounds, smells and smiles

Bombay or more correctly Mumbai is a city with no limits.

For me Mumbai is as they show in Bollywood movies, plenty of Hindi movies from Gharaonda to Baaton Baaton Mein to Wake up Sid to Dhobi ghat have used Bombay as there canvas to tell a story and they have highlighted the sea, the nariman point, the hajiali, the malabar hills and also sometimes the extreme dingy small streets, the dirty ones, the wet ones and the unknown ones. But those slums depicted on the screen did not look bare.

Recently I stumbled upon R's mom blogs and on reading about her hectic, heavy duty yet chirpy daily life description, I found so much of the presence of city Mumbai and the caricature of its Buses, rickshaws (Auto - as we call them in Kolkata as we still have hand pulled rickshaws there) and over all about people of Mumbai in her blog.

Mumbai is very well written and described about, so what that I want to tell you today?
Well my own thoughts, right!

Mumbai or then it was Bombay - the city from where my father brought me two frocks when I was a kid. He told me about fantastic hotel Taj and how he was almost getting lost there. I was a mere 6-8 year old and was amazed on the thought that my father could also get lost! The frocks were wonderful from fine material and I cherished them a lot.

And then Mumbai was not there in my life any more, well some friends sometimes moved in there but that's it. Recently when we returned back to western ghats of India, Mumbai started taking part in our tours. Mumbai is the main metro city of western India, so it is also gateway of India for going out or to come inside.

Mumbai is the city to get visa's, many companies have head offices here, it is an educational centre so we coming here on several occasions. Well we don't really spend time it seeing this city. We come, finish our work and go back.

But still with all these one day trips, Mumbai, the economic capital of India started to unfold for me.
On my first trip all the bubbles of romanticism created by Bollywood got busted. The traffic jams, the trash heaps, the crowd and the humid weather - no, I could not find any method to its madness.

Then one day we could see Nariman point in between our trips to some office, and I immediately regained the romanticism, it is really a nice view, well built an maintained. I could realise the affection of Mumbaikars for it. But I will never exchange my small town girl status for only this much.

Just now I am staying here for few days, and this is yet another experience. First of a kind for me.
The roads are always blocked, whenever I am out there. Monsoon can make them worse. People are always in a hurry. It is a challenge for working class to come in time either because of traffic congestion or rains or some kind of accidents on the roads (third highest reasonof death in the whole while world).
Along with all these I must pen down my experiences with the Auto Wallahas - Indian Autos are slowly becoming an emblem of India just like the red phone booths or red double decker buses of London/England.

Day 1
I got help from another person, he called the Auto for me, came with me to the destination and told me about the twists and turns. In Europe I was provided with maps, any where I went and people would explain on drawing a map. But here this guy could not explain me like that and decided to accompany me. Good for me!

Day 2
I call them as Bhaiya (Invariably you call this to an Autowallah) as they are all men, and in India we make relationship with everyone, so all of us are bhaiya (brother), didi/ bahanji (sister), Bhabhi (sister-in-law), Uncle, Aunty or most probably Sir/Madam if you are in an educational or office set up.
So upon hearing me they made the gesture of stopping (but they just slow down a wee bit) and I had to shout my destination. They promptly and curtly said, "No".
After few such no's one decided to take me to the destination.
And on the way he told me that, outsiders should not come to Mumbai during monsoon as it becomes quite hard to deal with mumbai traffic and its monsoon all at once. I was little annoyed with the fact of outsider as I am an Indian after all.
But he followed the meter and took the right money from me.

Day 3
It was a bad day, raining heavily, I stood in three different stops, asked for Rickshaws, not a single one nodded yes. Then another girl much younger to me came to the stop, she asked me my route. We both were going on same route so we stood together and got a kind Rickshaw, who took us to our respective stops. We both in the mean time passed our phone numbers and talked a bit about our past and present. We both told the Rickshaw wallah that they are very unfriendly lot and it is not the way they should do business. The man did not take it personally and accepted the allegation and smiled.

Day 4
It was dry when I went out to hire a Rickshaw, I was dreading though, thinking of repetition of last day's cycle. But hey i was lucky! The first one I asked accepted my request and I reached home before time.
I told the Bhaiya, that I have won a lottery today. The Autowallah smiled and commented that everyone get lucky one day.

I very much started realising that why no body cares of filthy roads, and dump grounds in this city, no one even care about the road rules. To carry out each and every step of life in Mumbai needs lots of time, effort and negotiation, as for every one supply there are several demands and that does not leave much room in a person's life to think about other luxurious topics like environment, hygiene and road safety.
Ironically this is the story of the working class of Mumbai- a city which also houses some of the world's  richest people - they live in a different Mumbai - the green, clean and shining Mumbai - which as you can see, I did not get a chance to peep in.

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