And it came to an end two and a half months ago, my nine and a half month long stay in the city of Bombay! Bombay, the city where for the first time in my life I experienced social and financial independence, the city where I had my first job after college, the city (cosmopolitan that is) which gave me exposure to various cultures as a much required relief from homogeneous Ahmedabad.
I remember that cold Sunday morning on 6th January last year when I finally escaped orthodox Ahmedabad and arrived with 2 heavy bags at Borivali station, caught a local train to Andheri and then an auto rickshaw to my hotel; the first few days at work, what some call the honeymoon phase and the hunt for apartments in Gujjuland Ghatkopar where ridiculous conditions were put by flat owners that one can’t eat non veg food and drink alcohol in the house, and if caught indulging in these ‘vices’, the deposit will be confiscated (at this stage I gave up my search for a house in Ghatkopar for I had just escaped this tyranny in Ahmedabad and I didn’t want to be willingly caught into this again), but luckily through a contact I found an apartment in Andheri itself, quite close to my workplace at Hiranandani.
The weekends were where I got to experience Bombay on my skin. The mornings at Juhu beach, numerous evenings at Prithvi Theater (their mocha shake is to die for) to experience the vibrant theater scene of Bombay (since January I’ve watched mere two movies in cinema halls but watched about a dozen plays at Prithvi, NCPA and Sophia auditorium), the Sunday outings to gather material for this blog; then there were these occasional solitary night walks at Marine Drives where I spent some rainy afternoons too, the occasional evenings at Bandra fort, the moments of envy for the lucky people living on Malabar Hill, the Saturday lunches at Lebanese Point in Lokhandwala, and how can I forget those rainy nights at Mohammed Ali road during Ramadan and the chaos of old Bombay.
I’m lucky that I got to experience almost the entire city – ranging from the slums of Dharavi to upscale Cuffe Parade – and glad that I took back so many memories attached with this city.
I experienced all the seasons this city had to offer during my stay, but the best part were the rains, everyone including me hates them during weekdays for they pose problems during commute – especially for those travelling by trains – resulting in potholed roads and pathetic traffic. But when it pours in Bombay, it pours with full force; I’ve rarely seen it rain with such intensity as in Bombay. Initially I used to limit my movements during weekends because of the rains but then I realized that I have no choice, for it rains for 4 months in Bombay and I can’t sit holed up at home and ruin my weekends.
I remember the first rains of 2013 in Bombay, it was a Sunday evening and I was at Cumbala Hill, in a taxi, going from Sophia Auditorium after watching a play towards home. The first drops of rain… it was depressing – the gloomy weather (for I’m not a rain person) – yet compelling me to rejoice… Then happened the rainy afternoons at Marine Drives and Bandra Fort, the most beautiful sights you can ever see in Bombay are here during the rains.
The thing I liked the most about Bombay was its local trains. As I didn’t have to commute to work in peak hours using this mean, I didn’t develop the feeling of detestation as many Bombayites harbor, and I’m glad about it. I loved travelling in Bombay’s local trains; the sound of the trains was like music to my ears. Apart from being the most quick and convenient means of commute in the city, the trains were relatively vacant during the weekends which added to my ease in exploring the city. I realize the significance of them now after moving to Bangalore where public transport is at its worst and where auto rickshaws never go by the meter. I love how the trains commute till the wee hours and start their operations early in the morning after only a 2-3 hour break. This was of great help when after a late night stand-up comedy act or a drunk night out downtown, I could be assured of the train running which would take me back home and also the BEST buses in which I have traveled as late as 1:30 AM. Again I would say that I realize the significance of this all after having moved to Bangalore (where I had to book a cab even to go to Sunburn Arena, and bloody Ola Cabs didn’t even turn up at the end leaving me stranded at the venue 30 kms from home post 11 PM). Bombay was always alive and buzzing with life.
Anyway, in my last month in the city, I decided that I had to take a peak hour commute in Bombay’s public transport to really experience this city, and I did it. On a Monday morning, during the peak hours I boarded a bus from Saki Naka – with barely enough space to place your feet – towards Andheri station. Again from there I caught an extremely crowded train downtown and what an experience it was in the second class bogie. So what happens in Bombay’s local trains is that at every halt, a swarm of people get out and many get in the train which is already packed to its brim. Still magically space is created within the bogie to accommodate people getting in from every halt. It was a crazy ride, people getting in a group, talking to each other loudly in Bambaiya Hindi, out of nowhere the music of the ‘Bhajan Mandli’ starts playing and many add in the chorus. I enjoyed it for I knew that it was only one time I was doing it, but I can only imagine the plight of the people who have to commute daily. But then, this is how they make their rides bearable…
In all, Bombay was extremely kind to me (unlike Ahmedabad). I lived my life to the fullest here, made quite a few friends at work and outside. So if you ask me, what do I think of Bombay? I love it. I love the chaos, the traffic, the way people drive, the rains, the slums, the noise, the smell, the optimism, the nightlife, Marine Drives, Malabar Hill, Mohammed Ali Road, Juhu beach, Prithvi Theatre, Churchgate Station, British architecture, Mondegar, Colaba, auto rickshaws that go point by the meter, the local trains and most importantly its unmatched live theater scene.
As I was flying to Bangalore on an early morning flight at the end of October, I saw Bombay from above, it was shining bright, and all the good times I spent in the city flashed by my eyes. That was it; my stint in Bombay was coming to an end. Though Bombay is not the kind of city I would like to call home, with its traffic and ridiculously expensive real estate (until of course I get filthy rich), but this city has its own charm and that’s what makes me love it to the core. No matter where I stay, Bombay will always be my favorite city in India, no questions asked.
So cheers to Bombay, my muse, my whore…
PS – Now that I have moved to Bangalore since two and a half months, I thought I would post this today, when year ago on this day I set foot in Bombay to start this new innings of my life.
And this doesn’t mean the end of my Wandering Through Bombay series, couple of more posts coming soon over there…