You either love big cities or you don’t… doesn’t feel too right… nah….let me try again…you either love Mumbai or you don’t. I love Mumbai. Yeah that’s it.
It was not easy living mind you. Filth strewn like no other city, I can only recall the description Gabriel Garcia Marquez used for the Caribbean in “Love in the time of Cholera”. Every where your eyes rest you are assaulted by nameless heads bobbing up and down in ocean of humanity. Local trains, pollution , humidity, traffic jams , flyover construction, hawkers, human feces, abject poverty, jaw dropping wealth, nameless people, star icons, overflowing drains, Arabian Sea, AIDS activists, theatre artists, eunuchs, writers and well the list can go on…..
Yet despite utter chaos there was a cosmic rule that ran as a common thread across souls…. Work hard and smile on… the city has so much of macabre to show, so why fret. There is an unspoken code of conduct …what earned you your bread is your god and god shall never be displeased. Everything in that city begins with worshipping your god and ends with the same and there are circles of entities that ensured that whatever you do, those gods must remain pleased and bless you….
The every morning auto rickshaw ride from Bandra to Malad was not easy. No sir. It was bumpy . It was arduous and took an hour everyday one way. I stopped complaining when I met a girl in one of the offices in Mindspace who came from Panvel every day. It took her two hours and a change of two buses and two trains one way. She woke up at 5 in the morning and slept at 12 at night. Such is Mumbai. She had dark circles around her eyes, a slight frame and though mere 23, her skin told a different story. What amazed me and made me celebrate the human resilience is her smile. Or the grit on every face that I saw in the local train which I took whenever to save time or the sudden urge to save 100 bucks.
Amidst the mechanical churn of life there is a continuous blossom of spring that gave hope and determination to every one. Why, that incident of a lady travelling in the train. No place to stand, she stood next to me in the all women coach. She got in from the Bandra station where I took my train from…When the train stopped at Khar , a small girl hawking odd ends got in. She droned on about her tidy basket of clips, bands, hair accessories and bindis. She soon drew closer to the door to get off at Andheri. But a sudden surge of women got her enmeshed amongst bodies and she let out a huge wail of helplessness and terror. I saw a sudden flash of a hand , that belonged to the same woman I had mentioned earlier, draw the girl close and pull her to have her ensconced safely between the woman’s body and the coach wall. She held on to the girl and in the next station, let her off personally before quickly getting in. I was touched and flummoxed at a Davidoff perfume wearing and Dior bag clutching woman to express humanity this way. Only when I said so, did she smile and said that managing finances in a big bank was not so special as managing little lives. I got to know her designation, that of a Vice President in HFDC and the fact that that morning her car broke down and a busy schedule pushed her to take the train..
It is hearty to know that neither capitalism has completely corroded the mind of some to hear just currency tellers counting money nor has communism made such minds sluggish by continual shouting matches. There are these unsung heroes that live their ordinary lives in extra ordinary way. Why isn’t it divine to just find a smile on a face when most brows furrow thinking of destiny’s next tricks and the plots in the mind to negate those.
The ode to beauty must go to such human beings who smile despite life’s everyday challenges. I salute the spirit of Mumbai and its precious thinking minds!!! Minds that really think!! People who don’t smile to impress someone but to express life’s virtue that has pain and happiness et al.