It’s the 30th of December, and there are easily about 40 posts I had left to write, things I had mapped out that I wanted to share. Ultimately, these aren’t posts that I’ve been able to sit down and write. I’ve procrastinated my writing so much. While running the risk of sounding like a broken gramophone record, I think that I can safely say this year has been a bit of a breather in terms of my writing – I’ve learnt that if I do writing bit-part/whenever I feel like it – I’ll never feel like it. This is who I am as a person. Writing, for me, needs commitment, and that’s something I’ll work toward in 2019. [more on this later]
Anyway, it struck me that a large part of the things I had to share all come out of my experiences living and breathing the air that is Bombay/Mumbai. So it was far easier to club together those 40 thoughts and create a singular piece which articulated everything on my mind. This is that post.
I think there’s something in Bombay’s water that gets people moving, relentlessly. Or something in the air that prevents people from staying still. If you’re standing in one place for more than 10 seconds, somebody will ensure you move ahead. Somehow. They may shove you from the back, shove you from the side, or spit, right in your direction, but Bombay, the city – it’ll make you move. Always.
The height of this is the local. Taking the local was something I wanted to do the first day I got to Bombay, and I had a friend explain the entire system to me. It’s easy to understand, cheap, accessible (from literally anywhere), and timely. It’s rare to have a local train delayed, and even if so, the delay won’t kill you. The people might.
The trains have a charm about them. People get work done on the local, whether it’s wrapping up deals they had left at the close of day in the office, or whether it’s cutting vegetables up. They catch up, or slow down – depending on what time of day it is. The smell and sound of it, however, can kill you. People are crazy on the local. People fight for every square inch of space, and people shove armpits in your face if you don’t move.
Another experience is the kaali-peelis. You’re lucky if you get one to go where you’d like it to go. You’re luckier if nobody else shares the kaali-peeli with you (only in terms of comfort), and you’re luckiest if the driver actually knows the way. In terms of priciness, I think Bombay kaali-peeli drivers are right up there with Bengaluru auto-drivers. Which makes me wonder what a rap battle between the two would look like. Oh my God, somebody please make this happen. The insults will be amazing.
Or maybe they’ll stare at each other for 1 minute, contemplating whether they want to go to a particular destination, and then say sorry, or look away and move.
You never know.
Bombay is, in that sense an experience.
The work culture is crazy as well. It’s pretty much impossible to escape. I can’t really detail what kind of work I did when I was in the city – but safe to say, it involved transactions with large sums of money. But that’s the thing – I don’t think the quantum of money defines the kind of work culture and lifestyle you lead.
I think it’s the city itself. There’s definitely something that drives people to wake up every morning and forge ahead for themselves. It’s very rare to see people not motivated by something – whether money, or otherwise. But it gets them to move. And try to be better in whatever it is they do – every single day.
And we can judge people for it – we can judge them for their motivations and their aspirations. We can critique society – for example, for giving rise to capitalist ambitions, and a desire to possess wealth.
But what I don’t think you should be allowed to judge negatively is that a person has found something that motivates them – which is rare, and what’s rarer – is that they’ve started working hard toward using that motivation to make their desires come true.
That’s what Bombay looks like to me. It’s just a place where people seem to find what they want. And I think that might be down to the city itself – because it wears you down so much, that you’re forced, by circumstance, to understand what on Earth it is you’d like to do.
The other side of Bombay is the food and Marine Drive, but there’s enough that’s written about that. And basically I ate a lot and loved everything I ate. I spent a bunch of time (in my second month there) with my friends, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
All in all, I’ve had a 10/10 experience in Bombay. I’d recommend going there for a while. And not visiting. But staying.
It’ll change a lot about how you look at things.