Disclaimer: This is just another article on Bombay.
Yes, I know, this subject has been done to death (actually come to think of it, the phrase 'done to death' has in itself been done to death). But there must a reason this city is constantly written about, photographed and raved about. The strange thing is, I don't think we really understand that reason- not just the readers/observers but even the producers, the ones who choose to flesh out the city in words or clicks and here-in lies the beauty of Bombay- the underlying beauty that ensures our preference for the city despite our hatred for it on all practical subjects. Why is it that we are so unabashed about our disgust for the traffic situation, the long distance travelling, the dirt, the slime, the slums, et all but at the very same time seduced by the glam city.
It's a city of dreams, I was told. It's a city of reality, I am told now. I cannot argue with either. So I agree with both the statements and continue to be bewildered. I can't say I've never mocked the romanticism of Bombay. I'd sit back with that look of disdain and insult the idealism that is associated with living here. But, I guess I rendered the cynical me speechless the day I started a label on this blog titled Bombay. I've never done that for any other city, now have I?
So, a couple of days back, on my insisting him to come visit us here, a friend's father asked me, "What is it about Bombay, that you'll like so much? Isn't Bombay just an illusion?". This statement was repeated by me to an audience comprising of 'immigrants' into the city from all across the country. Everyone laughed, shook their heads and acknowledged the friend's father to be something little short of genius and then almost equally dramatically reclined into an introspective silence repeating the question to themselves in their heads. A large part of that introspection was of course because of the supposed poverty that we like to believe ourselves to be in.. But, let me not digress. A write-up on this situational urban poverty is due- but another time.
Ever since I started my second stint with the city, I have woken up to a new personal hazard almost every day. I don't know if that's to do with the city though- I seem to be quite hazardous for my own good. But it does not make me want to move out of the city. I thought when I moved here that I will absorb the 'art and culture' that Bombay is so shamelessly pompous about. I haven't been to a single art gallery in the 3 months that I've been here and the only play i went for had an acquaintance as a part of the cast and the entry was free. I thought I'd become a 'fully- party-girl' since this city never sleeps. I still hate clubbing as much as I always did. But I've been busy. More importantly, I've been moving. It's this very sense of movement that one can't help but associate with this place. It's a feeling one can loathe at times, but a feeling that seeps into your system and ensures that you find every other god darn city bloody slow.
The sharp contrast that is usually noticeable only to an outsider is the inherent laziness in the young college goers as opposed to commoner- the taxi driver or the worker whose eyes speak struggle. The point is, it's all about survival here. It can be unnerving to some, but I think it can bring out the best or the worst in you- this constant need to prove your own worth, not only to others (honestly they're so caught up in the same thing themselves, there is a chance they don't give a damn about what you're worth) but to yourself. I know i say all this because am an outsider into this culture, this struggle. But it's only as an outsider that one really sees the essence of the city. This sounds extremely fancy, I know and one might even call me presumptuous but there is some truth in it. When you're an insider and one of the people, you're so in it that your vision can be blinded, biased and rather myopic. Observations from a periphery are often more wholesome. The so called comman man of the city walks fast and straight and his eyes are usually bloodshot with a mixture of anger, fatigue and ambition. The average college-goer or what we could call this 'new generation' is relatively lazy, bollywood-ised and a tad bit reluctant because of the luxury of choice that they're blessed with. I know this could be said about the country at large. But, if you look closely, it's only extremely obvious about the city. It's an interesting contrast- the quick paced movement that is associated with the local railway station and the rather luxurious stroll on the Marine Drive. Almost at once, the city transforms itself from being your dreaded P.T. instructor to lazy art class with one slight difference- there's no lunch break. Oh, there is never a break, if you live in Bombay. You're always moving. If you choose to not move, you'll either be pushed ahead or pushed aside. But remember, there are so many people who've been pushed aside that even in that herd, you'll keep moving. Slower maybe, but you're always moving. And you're always asking yourself, "can you keep up with the pace?".
I think my bias towards Bombay comes largely out of my amusement by it. Despite the usual humdrum and everyday fatigue, not a day goes by without a crazy story to go to sleep thinking about or a ridiculous new discovery of the extremity of human behaviour and not to forget, my own stupidity. There's just so much that amazes me everyday and so much more that amuses me, I feel like a toddler who's discovering the power of the five senses. When you're so busy being in awe of your environment and en-wrapped by it's sheer magnitude, there's no time or space left to be angry or objective.
But there is a reason it's overrated- standing on one end of the city staring into the Arabian sea and facing your back to one of the world's most expensive commercial estates and reminding yourself, you're just another little dot that without the magnifying glass, is just another part of the long straight line. Will the dot opt out and cause the line to break? But to cause the break, the dot needs to be erased or move backward or forward into the sea. Is it even important to break the line?
So, you smile to yourself , shake your head at the ridiculous introspection, blame it on the sea or your new life and rush to catch the next local home. Poetic reflections near the sea, don't pay the exorbitant rent even ordinary dots need to shell out. We're all a part of the bigger line, you see. The line that's always moving.