So I have taken it upon myself to write, and the first sights around me are of lush greenery, the chirping of parrots, cooing of pigeons and the distant rumble of wind. No, I’m not sitting in a faraway land, inspiring myself to write, I am sitting in a fourth floor apartment in Khar, one of the many busy suburbs of Mumbai, with people all around preparing for the day’s work.
Having lived in interior Gujarat for a greater part of my life, the only form of vegetation I’m familiar with is cacti!! So when my parents moved to Mumbai, I expected it to be the same city from my childhood memories, the one with a lot of traffic and pollution, where it took us forever in a dusty black-and yellow taxi to get form Victoria Terminus to Kurla, and where we were warned about thieves and pick pockets every few steps.
I had a lot of people exclaiming “Wow! You are going to be a mumbaikar!! You’ll love it!” And I thought what is to love in a city so crowded
We finally moved to Mumbai, and set up home in the Khar-Bandra belt. The first thing my mom told me was, you know they shop with local grocers and not in the hypermarkets….and we knew we were going to like this place!
Here we were, in a place where neighbors still care who is moving in, children go to school on bicycles (well some of them :P) and the bhaji wala does not throw attitude at you! The amount of greenery around us, the friendly smile from strangers in a waiting room or at a doctor’s clinic, the way people actually wait for their turn and not push each other around are all a welcome change from other ‘cities’ in the country. During the recent demonetization drive, when news channels were going crazy about long queues, and stampedes everywhere, most mumbaikars were standing in perfect queues, not shouting, not complaining, just waiting their turns, offering water to others and allowing senior citizens to go first. Perhaps it’s the patience that comes from long commutes and hardships every day, or maybe it’s just that they are too pre-occupied to get into these quarrels! Patience I have realized is a quality ingrained in the residents of Mumbai.
Now, the greenery, no it doesn’t look like the hills and greens of the wester ghats, but it’s not all concrete either. Every house owner in an apartment has at least 1-2 plants in their balcony, be it the divine tulsi or the lucky bamboo. And if you are one of those people with an independent house in Bombay, you surely have at-least one tree in your compound. In bandra, these range from coconut palms to jackfruit trees!! These are not results of people suddenly waking up to environmental changes and conversation, this is just people who know how hot their city can get in the summers, and that these trees will give them the necessary respite in the form of shade and breeze. Adding to this are the various parks in every area, I live surrounded by at least 5 parks within a 2km radius of my house. All, well maintained places, with walking tracks and play areas for children and some even for pets. These complement the sea side promenades across the city quite well, and are a boon for the senior citizens here. Senior Citizens form quite a large portion of Mumbai’s populace close to 10% some newspapers say. And the city is really a haven for these people, while a granny in a smaller town/village would be confined to her house and the people there, a Mumbaikar granny can choose to take walks along the promenade, sit in her balcony and talk to neighbors or join one of the various laughter clubs and senior citizen clubs that are an engaging way to socialize and pass time. If u happen to be on Juhu beach on a Sunday morning, you will meet a large group of grannys and grandpas, all chatting about their families, bitching about the bahus, discussing modiji and his ways and then feeding each other with dhokla and ras-puri from their houses. These are simple meetings, but if you look closely, you realize that these are events that they have been looking forward to for the entire week, an outlet for all of their energies and emotions. The nariyal-pani wala at juhu beach who sells his nariyal pani to them every week, also arranges for plastic chairs/tables for them on the beach and sugarless tea for those who are diabetic. I don’t know if he charges separately for the chairs, but it’s sweet of him nonetheless.
Another thing that caught my attention, especially abt life in the Khar-Bandra region, is how they have a ‘guy’ for everything! You almost feel like Barney Stinson!! There is Bhaji Wala, Fruit Wala, Anda-Bread Wala, Nariyal Pani Wala, Phool Wala, Farsan Wala, Dabba Wala, Raddi Wala, Chappal-Repair Wala, Istri Wala, Garage Wala, Gym Wala, Pest Control Wala, even a Diagnostic Lab Wala! The entire ecosystem of home deliveries and services, made up mostly of good people (yeah, they are not trying to thug you all the time!) makes living in Mumbai that much easier.
Although these are services that are available in most cities in India today, what is different in Mumbai is you don’t have to trail the bai into every room as she cleans the house, the bhaji wala does not hide rotten tomatoes under the first 2-3 good ones and the Istri wala does not disappear right after you have given him 20 clothes for packing the next day. A lot of people can go to work, leaving their keys with the security guard, and let the bai come in and finish her chores in the day, because there is faith and trust, that the bai will not walk away with their TV/Fridge/Money. The city is full of people who came here looking for work, people who did not have a source of livelihood elsewhere and have found one here. These are people who value their livelihood far too much to want to cheat you. (Completely my opinion this one).
These qualities of the mumbaikars along with the oft mentioned awesome food, street shopping, the sea, rains and the mind blowing vada pav, are things that have gotten me to love Mumbai. Truly, as a gujarati saying goes:
Mumbai ma gayo etle Mumbai no thayo!!
Source: The Better India