Of all the cities I have been for work, leisure or studies, Mumbai definitely is unique and has a different impact on everyone. It has its own way of welcoming strangers and quite strange in its approach towards that.
I remember the first time I came to Mumbai, I had no clue about the city neither the desire to know as I was a guest for a day. Now that I have spent five years, I see that I was lucky and very fortunate that the first time I came here I got to stay with my relatives at Breach Candy. That was really good luck, I feel today. The place is one of the most upmarket residential localities in Mumbai and has the nerve to make you feel that you are so small. As a student, I had come for an interview 12 years ago, to get admission in a reputed MBA college in suburbs. Suburbs was not a word in my dictionary then. I did not know how far or close was this suburb and what makes it the so called suburbs. There were pictures of the city in my mind and I had made up my mind to visit them in reality, but was wrong as I didn’t know where they were and how to go about explaining anyone where I wished to go. These were pictures that I had registered while watching Bollywood movies. Bollywood movies were the only gateway to know the city which was 1700 kms away from my small town in the East. I still feel, the way Bollywood created the hype of Switzerland, thanks to Yash Raj Films, the same way I had impressions of Bombay in my mind. For e.g. the scene where Mr. Bachan driving his motorbike sings the title song of Muqaddar Ka Sikander, my favourite song, in the 80’s. Others being the car chase scene’s of Mr. Bachan’s movies and many other movies on Marine Drive , the bungalow on Band Stand which now is owned by King Khan was a favourite, the Kabutar Khana of Parinda where Mr. Anupam Kher gets shot, the Juhu beach where several romantic songs have been picturized, the bungalow from where Mr. Bachan used to wave at the fans, the hospital where he was admitted post the accident in ‘Coolie’ and many more . But these impressions were very un-glamorous and not heavenly like the snow clad Alps.
I had planned to make my 24hrs stay the most memorable one but unfortunately 6 hrs of that went in only visiting Mr. Bachan’s bungalow at Juhu. But the ‘moment’ standing there at the bottom of his bungalow dreaming that he would come out and wave at me and I would make that one big impression for which he would call me in and I would tell him how big a fan I was, was the most dedicated and foolish dream I have ever seen. He never came out and I never got any chance to wave back at him and cast my spell.
The most interesting and cooperative citizen of Bombay (in those days) was my black – yellow cab driver who did not let me down. His patience and enthusiasm, both were like ice on my wounded heart. However he was upset when he realized that I was a visitor for a day and would be leaving back for home the next morning. I also came to realize that he was my neighbour from East Uttar Pradesh, quite close to my place in the adjoining state. And he very well empathized with my condition. He took on himself to show me the more generous monuments for which you did not have to wait endlessly for a two way communication. The Fountain, Kala Ghoda, Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel were a delight to some degree but I was still upset. This time the reason were the people, pardon me, hundreds of thousands of people. I was too amazed to see the overflowing population of the city and people were like the bricks on the wall. While they moved they did not respond. They were like robots walking the talk, in their busy minds. They were all going somewhere, precisely, and were only focused on their destination. They were not bothered by who was walking next to them or who passed by next to them. But a small disturbance in the equilibrium, would cause the people swarm like bees around the spot. I also realized that somehow people who were exiting the Victoria Terminus outnumbered the ones going in or was it an illusion. Where were all these people coming from?
By evening I had lost all my strength and curiosity to wander any further. So I was dropped off at Colaba in a cafe for a few beer shots. I didn’t realize that you are not supposed to go everywhere without knowing where you are going and what for. Every place has its own ambiance and loyalists. I happened to visit a small cafe in a lane behind the Taj and was shocked to be in odds with African nationals. They were the only people hanging around in the cafe and were really very loud. They seemed to know almost every waiter, manager and the menu. They were gulping beer as if it was going to be a dry day the next hour. I was too insignificant for them, both in size and space. I perched myself on the bar counter with little room for 360 degree view. For the next hour or so, I guess I learnt how to make few cocktails and mocktails while staring at the bar tender, but have never tried offering my unique talent to someone till date. I did not realize in the beer buzz coupled with new talent acquisition that it was past midnight and in some time I would have to leave for the station to catch my train and end this whole episode of adventure.
When I stepped out, I was overwhelmed to see the density of heads and legs in that one street, which was smoky and barbecued. The whole place smelt of non veg being cooked on coal and barbecue and people were hogging as if curfew was going to be imposed in the next hour. At first I didn’t notice the place where all this was coming from and kept wondering if I had intruded in some one’s street party. Never heard of such a concept, but in this city you could expect the unexpected. I cursed myself for filling on burger and fries in the cafe, which is the last thing I would like to have after drinking beer. But the smell was so penetrating that I could not resist the temptation and gave in to the delicious kebabs and rotis.
This treat at two hours past midnight took away all my sorrow. It completed the adventure and filled in the gaps of disappointment during the day.
I can say for sure that this was the first day in my life (at 19 years) that I was awake for 20 hours in the day. The remaining four hours had to be given to sleep, to a night, that left me sleepless as I couldn’t get over the whole experience of the day even when I was asleep.