Thursday, September 9, 2010

yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan....

My family and I made a trip to Mumbai recently. Though this was my second trip to the city but the first one was made when I was a kid and then we had just a couple of days to ‘cover’ the city. We went to all the tourist spots that time – Hanging gardens, Gateway of India, Chowpatti and all such spots, hurrying from one corner of the city to another.

This trip was different in more than one ways – we had planned not to ‘cover’ much, we had also planned to hang out and about, just the way you do in Goa. We wanted to catch the city’s wavelength. Things went as planned and I would like to believe I was able to understand(even if a little) the city’s dynamics.

My husband has lived in Mumbai for some time and he’s in love with that place. This trip was more of nostalgia for him and curiosity for me. Mumbai is an odd vacation destination if I look at the choice of holiday destinations our peers or family members seem to choose. People choose hill stations like Sikkim, Nainital, etc. They choose lazy places like Goa or Kerela or they choose places of great historic importance like Agra. Many of our holidays have been to places like that based on different criteria but this time we chose Mumbai as a spot for our annual break. Most of the people who came to know about this destination seemed surprised at our choice and I can totally understand that. Why would someone living in a large metro city want to go to another large city for a vacation? Social visit/official visit/one night stop-over sounds fine but an entire vacation in a Mumbai in rainy season isn’t easily understandable. Anyways we went ahead, I had heard so many good things about Mumbai especially from my husband that I wanted to go there at least once.

Mumbai turned out to be quite close to what I had heard about it. It is everything that Hollywood/Bollywood movies tell us about it and even more. Being a hardcore Delhi girl I found myself comparing Delhi and Mumbai again and again. I believe this Delhi-Mumbai debate has been there since a very long time and is bound to remain for many centuries. This post isn’t about that at all. The more I saw of Mumbai I more I thought of Delhi as to how similar yet different these two places are. Being in Mumbai made me aware of thing that can be improved in Delhi to make it a better place and it also reminded me of the many blessings that Delhites have got as reward of being its citizens. This post is about it.

Great Things about Mumbai:

  • Great mix of people – On streets I could see Parsis, Marathis, Tamilians, Malayaalis, People from U.P, Biharis, Punjabis, North eastern, Foreigners(can’t say which countries they were from), etc. In a crowd that was coming out of the local train station, it was difficult to make out if one type was more dominant, everything seemed so evened out.
  • Always on the go attitude – People were always moving - come rain or shine.
  • Sense of security - I travelled on footrest of the local train at 11:30 in the night wearing a knee length dress. No nasty comments, no second glances and definitely did not hear any silly noises. Saw many girls travelling from work at the same hour in a very casual manner, could not see any fear on anxiety on their faces.
  • Fair priced public transport: To stress on this I’d just say that we took a taxi to go somewhere and the taxi fare was close to 12 rupees. I don’t see that happening even for a cycle rickshaw in Delhi leave apart an automotive mode of transport. Once our taxi fare was 39 rupees and after paying 40 bucks we started to get off when the taxi driver stopped us to payback 1Rs. I just cannot imagine that happening around here, where rickshaw, autowallahs or maybe cabbies have a great affinity for round figure fares that suit them.
  • Lack of pretentiousness: Yes, the Mumbai middle class was not pretending to be any other higher class. People were comfortable in their simple clothes and footwear and yet if you overheard their conversations you’d catch some intelligent stuff. It just seemed that people did not feel pressured to dress up while going to a shopping mall. Shopping jaane ka, saaman khareedne ka, dressing up kiss liye ? J So simple and practical. Here I don’t want to get into the details of what I think about Delhi middle class and their delusions about not being middle class, will do that maybe in another post.
  • Smooth traffic: there is a lot of traffic in Mumbai and it’s not that all people on roads are saints and always let the other guy pass. I did not see any ego contest on Mumbai roads for my entire vacation, and mind it we were on roads most of the time. If two guys rushed together for an empty spot on the road, it was understandable that only one would get it, so the guy who could not get it simply moved on, there were no display of anger or influence. Who cares and who has the time?!
  • People's pride in being Mumbaikars: Mumbaikars seemed to be so proud of their city and value its merits. They have insight to look into the depths and see the freedom and livelihood that the city has given them. It was so good to see that. If you’ve been to Mumbai you must know that if one wants to whine there is lots of stuff to whine about and blame the government for – like narrow and pothole ridden roads(the latter being a blessing of a long monsoon season every year), huge crowd everywhere, beggars at every redlight and even in streets, lack of sanitation in so many areas etc etc. If Delhi would have had even half of the problems that Mumbai has I can imagine that most of the population of the city would have consisted of whiners who just kept on whining.

Things about Delhi that Delhites should learn to value:

  • Broad and smooth roads
  • General level of sanitation in most of the city
  • Metro trains – AC, comfortable and clean and yet way cheaper than the Mumbai local.
  • Vicinity of middle class residential areas to areas of commercial importance.
  • Overall governance of the city – this has little to do with Mumbai, since Mumbai itself seemed pretty well governed, but when I go to smaller cities I always remember the kind of confidence the sight of a Delhi cop instills in me when in trouble. I don’t see that in eyes of people in such small cities. Wonder why we never value a cop’s efforts and the fact that he is working in a low salary and no appreciation situation.

I thought about it deeply and most of Delhi’s real troubles are people troubles. The traffic is bad, because people misbehave. The sense of security in women or otherwise is lacking again because people misbehave. The lack of pride is not because there aren’t are reasons to be proud, but because the people don’t have it in them to look at the bright side. The common wealth games are currently a common topic of government badgering. Granted we are not in a perfect situation, but what are people doing to salvage the situation. Are they volunteering for any service? None of the superstar whiners I know do much beyond using their throat and tongue to talk.

If you can’t help the situation don’t worsen it.

I love being in Delhi but I wish I had more reasons to love Delhites.

That’s all for now.

Salaam Mumbai!


  1. Very nicely written. After reading this post, i again fall in love with Mumbai. As a Gujju its another home for me.

  2. Thanks Komal. Yes, I saw so many Gujjus in Mumbai and they seemed pretty much at home.
    It's a great city. Undoubtedly!