Mumbai Diaries X

June 14, 2011

Predictabilities and clichés may not make a good copy, but they are certainly inevitable in life.  As my affair with the magical city nears its climax, all of them occur to me. Even being constantly aware of the limited time could not help avoid the feeling of belongingness. And at the end, so many things are found which should have been done, so many places which should have been visited, so many experiences, just felt. But no amount of time would do that, as at any end, the ‘should have’s ‘remain. Even the residents of this city cannot claim to not have any; such is the infiniteness of its dimensions, both real and the virtual. In fact, in many cases, the residents are far less curious and aware of the city. Moreover, somehow most of the people you ever happen to have conversation with, actually are either new in the city or are here for a limited time. Hence as long as it is, be it merry!

What else it could be, once the clouds descend in this city so famous for its rains, some reasons being poetic and romantic, while some not so pleasing. So after a hot and humid May, the first few drops and all the romanticism surrounding the Mumbai rains (thanks to the movies) veers for expression. So many love stories have found a culmination in these waters. So I take the first local, to the Marine Drive. But playing the trick, the waters soon deceive the land as I am barely midway. So I change tracks and reach a suburban mall to serve my hunger, with some of the choicest and costliest foods. Yeah, sometimes one does move towards the belief involving the whole metro lifestyle being fake, flimsy and fragile; with money being an excuse for each and everything, but sometimes it just seems natural. One can’t be, or maybe shouldn’t be judgmental about it. Interesting observation though is the increasing number of fat and obese people you see in places, especially in the food courts. Not just kids, but even young people, guys and girls, which reminds of the reports about people being so in the developed nations like the USA. Maybe these are the signs of development (Certainly not good ones). Not that these are the only ones. The shops themselves present a whole range of the society. From the oh so talked about spas (so many kinds!) to a ‘theme party’ shop to a dog products shop to a shop for the new born babies; all spell comfort no doubt, but also over-indulgence! A Colgate advertisement being shot at a coffee shop attracts the attention of people, but lack of any attractive face restricts the crowd. A leading daily organized online gaming event occupies half of the ground floor, with kids and youngsters, mostly guys, throbbing to occupy a computer. A new dance based reality show being promoted, with most of the production house people present and inviting people to dance impromptu to their music, and giving presents, gathers a lot of attention, and performers. The absence of the main celebrity judge, a dancing superstar is made up by his 3D projection dancing along with the people. Quite eye catching actually, well, anything involving a certain Hrithik Roshan is!

It is about a week later, and I am changing the local from western line to central line at Dadar for CST, when the clouds descend. As the platform 8 local moves, in a few seconds, the rains gain all their passion, and by the time it passes through Parel, the surroundings already appear wet and watery. As it starts after a brief halt at the Byculla station, a stream of water from somewhere on the ceiling rushes into the coach from the gates, much to the trouble of passengers, and the gates are closed. I step out of the CST station, and the view is all that for which Mumbai rains stand for- beautiful, picturesque, unreal and straight out of a bollywood flick. The grand and gothic CST structure basks in its full and wet glory in the rains, and the statue at the top points towards the source of all the waters. The roads are all wet, though thankfully there is not much water logging except a bit on the sides, and you see people everywhere running around, with and without their umbrellas. The wide roads have even got cleaner, so have the buildings around, and even the vehicles bask in the new found shine. Yet nothing has stopped. The rickshaws, cabbies, buses everything goes on uninterrupted. The vada pav, bhajiya, sugarcane juice and the cutting ‘chahaa’ (tea) stalls attract even more people, while some naughty souls just play getting wild in the waters. Its 20 minutes past 12 noon, and I am already late for the movie at Sterling Cinemas, where my friend is already inside the multiplex. Searching for the cinema, I run across a number of people, stumbling at times on the wet pavements, and enter the cinema premises, only later to realize that it was not Sterling but Empire cinema. Mumbai has number of such cinema halls which are quite old. A part of the lore and culture of this city, and though now most of them have been converted into a multiplex, the old world charm, the look remains. Sterling, Empire, Eros, Gaity being some of them.

After the first class performance of certain mutants of Professor Xavier, we walk our way to a beautiful Churchgate station, the rain pouring all the time. The newly opened huge Planet M store there draws a lot of crowd, more so since it regularly plays hosts to some star performances.  A hot chicken barbeque roll at the Monginis Bakery later, we walk towards the Azaad maidan. The Fashion Street is arrived. My friend tells me, it’s the coolest (read cheapest) place in Bombay to get the most stylish clothes, footwears and accessories. Basically, it consists of about a hundred street side shops, where the vendors sell stuff, quote an astronomical price, but you quote just half of it, and eventually you get it! Somewhat reminds me of the Palika Bazar of Delhi, but the stuff here is all actually branded, and export rejects! So they might have minor unsuspecting flaw, but are branded. The heavy rains! The tall sky scrapers, the wide and clean roads, the trees all look mesmerizing in the waters. The cars, cabs and people peeking out of them to get a drop or two is oh just so bollywood, the latest in my memory being Life in a Metro, which has beautiful rainy visuals of this city. And even as the waters flow, a sweeper in raincoat is cleaning the roads along! That’s South Bombay for you. If only they would do that every where! I also feel the need of buying some foot wear as the idiot I am, had been wearing a sports shoe, which was now completely soaked with water and the wet socks and shoes wee quite an irritant for my feet. I buy a fancy pair of sandals at 150 (quoted 450) and then carry the shoes and socks in a bag. This becomes quite irksome, and I decide to just drop them somewhere, as they had already served there purpose for long. So I just leave the packet at a shop, and walk ahead. Only to find a man running after us after about 5 minutes- Sir, apne joote bhool gaye aap!   The honesty is definitely impressing, though stupid on our part, told him to keep it!

The Marine drive and the Nariman point had never looked more beautiful. Better than one could imagine. Better than Sid describes to Aisha. Better than beautiful. There is something about a mad sea, coupled with mad rains and ofcourse mad couples. The rain ignited passions were on a new high here, with so many couples ‘into’ each other without a care of the world, doing it behind the rocks, doing it behind the raincoats, doing it behind the umbrella, you actually feel like shouting, Go  get a room guys! But never mind, there is an unparalleled thrill, when the rains from above, mix with the high tides, and strong waves which jump above the boundary and wet you all over. The umbrellas are of least use with the strong winds tearing it upside down. The water of the rains mixes with the sea, and the outlines get blurred. The Malabar hills stretch looks hazy in the rain. The tall skyline of the city comes across as if watching with dreamy eyes. Kids, families, friends all play with the waters. Pizza at the Bay- the sea side pizzeria and bar is a hotspot, now and generally, with hot food, beer and people! After a little of all of these, as I come out picking up my umbrella from the stands, I realize it is broken! Hence after a little thought and encouragement from my friend, I quietly go in, and on the pretext of searching mine, I keep my broken one, and bring away somebody else’s not-broken umbrella! And walk for a minute before looking back again. Did I just steal an umbrella in SoBo? I think not.

And that’s the magic that Mumbai rains are. They just go on and on, for days. You may complain about the water logging. Yeah it is there. But, not to defend it, where is it not? We are all so used to it. The water causes problems mainly in the suburbs, SoBo is generally well managed. But whatever, as they say, beauty is all in the eyes. And it would really take a cynic to not see that here. Why just rains, but in everything about this city, you need an eye. Otherwise it is very easy to dismiss it as a dust bowl and all things wrong. But seriously, and not so proudly, these are some things which we are quite used to, so they can’t be that hard to bear. But look beyond that, and this is the city of dreams!

So what if I had to stand at the Borivali station for an hour and watch 6 locals pass so full of people that I couldn’t board them, and I had to take a cab ultimately. But then that being very pocket friendly and offering the great view of the wet and watery city, can’t be cribbed about. So what if as I reach the Dadar platform the local is already moving and I run as I never had, and catch the extended hand of a guy (sadly) to jump in, while a few coins from my back pocket fall down. But then the feeling that it gave, of accomplishment, of joy, is priceless. So what if as you watch a crippled beggar sliding himself on the road, and as another guy picks up a coin from his bowl, he stands and runs behind him. But then you remember the beggars back home, which keep nagging you irritatingly until you give them something. So what if in the people full local, as I carry my luggage, I forget to pick my umbrella from the stands. But then the people shout for you and throw it away for you from a moving train.

You might be alone, but could never be alone here. You might have a lot of people, but you could be very alone here. Such is the magnitude of everything here. It looks like the rains are never going to end. But my journey sure is. The Fashion street sandals succumbed to the waters in a couple of days. The I Luv Mumbai tee bought from the Elephanta caves is missing.

As I step in the airport, the image of the sky kissing towers in the pool of water on roadside blurs into oblivion as the water disrupts. The plane rises high; the city becomes smaller; and gradually vanishes from sight. But the dream has just got bigger. The screen plays-

Alvida, Alvida , Meri raahein kehti hain alvida…!

For the time being, I take that.  It can’t be the end!

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