This is part one of a Mumbai series that I’ve planned. This one is to maybe help you see Mumbai through my eyes. The next part will be a conversation I had with somebody from Mumbai and their story. Do let me know in the comments section if you’d like that, and tell me stories about your city.
I’d heard about Mumbai a lot of times – about how the city never slept, about how it was filled with writers, singers, and actors and even the trees were musicians. There were no mornings, just late nights and super late nights. In the afternoon, the city buzzed constantly like an alarm clock. I’d heard about the insane traffic and crazy streets, about the gullies and the people who lived there. I stayed for seven days in this foreign city that had always sounded like home.
My first day in Mumbai was something out of a dream. I got off from my train and walked around a bit and looked at the the way the city was made. To my left, twenty shops selling food right next to each other. The walls splattered with uneven paint and dust and gravy stains. To my right, a busy street filled with too many cars and rickshaws and twenty more shops. I stood at the edge of the road and could hear the way different stories crashed and apologised and moved on. Words danced on everybody’s lips and they waited for no one to spill out. A bald man spoke to his wife (maybe) as he ate a vadapav, a 70-year-old woman giggled as her grandkids ran around her in circles in their school uniforms screaming ‘dadi, dadi’ (grandmother), a young couple held hands and blushed as they walked past me. The city was breathing and you could hear it.
You must be wondering why this crowded city with stained walls and traffic was something out of a dream for me. Well, everything from the way the people laughed to the the way the road was uneven and the smiles were broken made the city feel very real, and that’s what I’ve always dreamed of – a real city in a world that walks every day towards becoming a dream. I’ve always wanted my home to be a reality check and the uneven streets and blue skies fit the bill.
I noticed many weird things about Mumbai in the days I stayed there. If you looked closely enough, you could notice the gradient of light as it shifted from the headlights of cars to that of the windows of buildings at 3 a.m. On most days, even the sun didn’t try too hard to make sunsets look pretty because it knew that the people were too busy to look. But every now and then, it would turn a beautiful shade of red and everyone would look at the sky. If you took a rickshaw at the wrong time, the traffic would be so intense that even people who walked would overtake your vehicle – and in that way, Mumbai had a great sense of humour.
It is a city for artists. From empty cafes (rarely, though) to packed streets, it is a city that inspires art. In Mumbai, you can find trees that rustle in the right way to help you sing and skies so beautiful that they’re made only for canvases. You can find roads that rhyme perfectly and hearts that dance on the right beats.
I’ll talk more about Mumbai again but I’ll leave you with this: The streets, the houses, the hearts of Mumbai – they’re all too crowded and that feels wonderful.