The simplicity of life in hindsight
Some call it the city of dreams, the more passionate ones call it the city that beats with a million hearts, and those who work there, pride themselves on the fact that they’re working in the financial capital of India; they call it the cradle for their hopes and dreams, I call it Mumbai.
I’ve never actually been to Mumbai until yesterday, although there are those who claim to have seen me amble about the streets of Mumbai during the late 1990’s, that’s a story for another day though. My tryst with Mumbai this time was meant to be a short a one, I had some personal work to attend to, personal work that takes me to a part of Mumbai called Nariman Point. Nariman point is quite like a tiny matrix of streets lined with beautiful tall trees. The streets each have many high rising buildings, one after another like a picket fence. The streets are lined with small shops that cook everything from Bhel and Vadas to Sandwiches and Rice, you’ll find street peddlers and top executives eating right next to each other. Each completely oblivious to the others state of being. It’s almost like the rich, just got rich overnight and are still coming to terms with dealing with their new state of being.
It’s ironic that as soon as you step into Mumbai, you get a sense of a divide that seems to exist, a gaping divide. A divide between the rich and the poor, the downtrodden and the affluent, a divide that tends to dissolve as you as you navigate your way through the streets. You notice that the divide is not so much in Mumbai as it is in your head. You perceive the existence of a divide because of the extremes of conditions that seem to afflict different people in Mumbai, but for Mumbai it’s merely a circumstance, it’s merely a state of existence, it’s merely a situation that has risen as she has evolved. She knows that it’s what sets her apart, deep down she knows.
The longer I stayed in Mumbai, the more I began to draw comparisons with Chennai. You watch the events, the mechanics of the city, the people, and you can’t help but compare. But to do so, is unfair to both Chennai and Mumbai. Both are beautiful cities in their own right, and any comparison would be a tremendous disservice to both cities.
It was sad, when I had to catch my series of buses/trains/share taxis to get to the international airport, and finally bid farewell to a city that I hadn’t nearly seen enough of, but had seen enough to yearn for more. A city that redefined the horizons of a metropolis for me. A city that I believe is in some way entwined with my destiny, sometimes you just know.
A man on the flight back to Chennai asked me to explain Mumbai to him, to paint a picture of it in his head, to trigger the cerebral activity to come up with a Mumbai for his soul. I thought about this for a while, and just after we landed I told him – “One day, Beauty collided with the Grotesque, Passion collided with Rage, Peace with violence, affluent with the downtrodden, Humility with Pride, and the aftermath of all this is Mumbai.”