Although I am a Kashmiri having my maternal side from Mumbai, I still take myself to be a Mumbaikar. As a resident of Mumbai who is currently jotting down experiences as lived firsthand, allow me to give you some tips that may be of much use if you ever decide to visit this city.
●ACCEPT THE POTHOLES AS YOUR OWN
A famous description of the city goes, ‘Yahaan kabhi raaston mein gaddhe nikalte hain, toh kabhi gaddhon mein se raaste.’ Especially in monsoon, you wil have a time of your life, trying to escape from mudpools and the splashes they create. Nobody would care about your brand new car or new shoes/ clothes. People drive over potholes n mudpools and splash the water on you in a whiff. There is little time to react or to escape. Rule’s simple- Jo nahi bardaasht karsakta woh na rahe. You can never be smarter than the motorists.
● HORN OK PLEASE
As soon as you get on the roads, you will hear honking vehicles. There are times when motorists honk even on an empty, clear road. Don’t be surprised, this is only habitual of them since they are so used to honking all day long. Some do it out of style, this tashan of theirs I tell you. Interestingly, even the horns have variety (Arey, Mumbai hai, bhai). From the monotonous honking of scooters, to the classy beep of Pulsars and Hero Hondas, to the nonstop sqeaking honking of rickshaw-walas and to the ultimate, musical long tunes of giant trucks and lorries… You name it, we have it all.
● PREPARE FOR UNEXPECTED RAINS
One of the most obvious times people visit Mumbai is during monsoons. It is amazing, hands down. But, the rains of Mumbai hold the capacity to rip your expensive umbrella into pieces that land up in places you won’t ever know; and the speeding winds blow into your coat and puff you up, making it difficult to proceed with your commute and you will be forced to abort your plans. I sometimes feel, the rains perhaps take our defense as a challenge to their might. No wonder, it often starts to pour heavily next time when we step out, “unarmed”. It is as if the rains would then boast, “Tell me now, who can save you from being drenched?” Haha, never play smart with the rains… or say, Mumbaikar rains in particular. *says in creepy voice*
On a better note, thora bheeg lene mein kya buraai hai? Forget your umbrellas at home, and step out with the sole intention of soaking in the rains. Believe me, it is out of personal experience I say, you just won’t feel like coming home. Kya bhai, Mumbai aaye aur baarish mein naa bheega toh kya Mumbai aaye?
● DISABLE YOUR OCD
Every dirty thing you happen to see, will be still better than the next dirty thing you see. Note, for you it is dirty, for them it is ‘normal’. Shush, do not dare to question the authorities on this. Why? Because nobody has time to listen to this ‘shit’. Yeap, that’s what it is considered as. Here, civilians care for whats theirs and ensure its safety. They manage on their own, no politicians are greater than the Mumbaikar spirit. Just like all over India, the condition of any government office would be disappointing. I remember going to a government-operated telephone service office.. its condition was equal to that of a farm. There would be cobwebs around every corner of ever room. The computers, if at all used, would be having the oldest operating system. The employees, again if any working, would be chitchatting and taking undue breaks. The sights you see will make you rethink if you’re at the right place or if at all you want to get the work done by them. Jab sarkari daftar ka yeh haal hai toh bas.. soch hi lo. But hey, whatever it is, it is still better than Delhi atleast. *smirk
You should know, this Delhi vs. Mumbai war is an epic.
● NEVER MESS WITH A RICKSHAW WALA
Autorickshaws are the lifeline of Mumbai residents. With all due respect, rickshaw pullers do the job of cabdrivers, but are considered superior to them. If ever there is a clash between these two clans, then the whole of Mumbai is to suffer for both clans get down to protests and dharnas and bandhs (curfews). In Mumbai, the rickshaw pullers ask you where you want to go, before letting you sit in their rickshaw, and then if they find it ok, they allow u to sit and finally drop you till your destination. They have a Union of their own, they have some rules which they adhere to, and they have conditions that their passengers have to follow. Yes, that’s how important they are. Baba, vat hai unka bhi, kya halwa samajhke rakhe ho kya?
● EXPECT CONTRAST WITHIN THE CITY
Mumbai is divided into 3 parts :
1) Central Suburbs (middle to low income area),
2) Westerns Suburbs (upper middle class area), and
3) South Mumbai (the posh area)
In the first, you may see blue plastic sheds over homes instead of proper ceilings, families in which every member is working (yes even children), makeshift houses and offices, children on the roads bereft of education. Inshort, much of survival than living. It is a sad state of theirs.
In the second, you may find some improvement. More schools, better infrastructure, more English-speaking people etc.
In the third, ah every sight is a sight to capture. Structrures from the time of the British, vintage designed libraries and roads, well maintained surroundings, big brand stores of refreshments and apparel to cater to the needs of the high class people who reside in this area. 5 star/ 7 star hotels and clubs, exceptional universities and other educational instituitions, well kept places of worship, high rise towers, beaches, etc. It is a completely different Mumbai you see. You may find it difficult to absorb the stark contrast in the lives of people living in these areas. The wellknown Taj Hotel, the Oberoi, the Gateway of India, a lot to visit. Beautiful and stunning, ever so.
Having written this long post, accept my emotion as I still feel there is more to write. Infact, just as any fellow Mumbaikar would agree, there is always more to Mumbai than what any writer could ever describe. Words and any space is limited. This city is amazing, with all its imperfections and setbacks, it is amazing. There is a subtle shade of beauty in almost every thing you see… even the buffaloes who come to herd on to grass on some builder’s unused property..haha there is humour and a unique sense in everything. Every thing is unmatched.
Mumbai.. the city of dreams, the city that never sleeps, the city of much more.
Every visit to this place is a visit to remember.