Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mumbai : Passing Dhobi Ghaat and some more - I

Off late i have been pretty intrigued by the "different" trailer Aamir Khan's new movie "Dhobi Ghaat (Mumbai Diaries)" has showcased. In retrospection, I have been in the city of dreams since the last 4 years. And yes i have my diary of thoughts about Mumbai. I guess not only me, everybody, who's a part of the city or has been a part of this city, has thoughts and memories about the maximum city, some expressed in words, some etched in memories, something wonderful, something ugly, but yes, experiences that are a part of our lives, and will forever be etched as a part of us.

I "basically" come from Orissa (interviewers like me can have a lot of fun with what i just wrote), and I studied in Pune for a bit. Hence i never had an inkling of a thought how this was going to be. How Mumbai was going to be. And yes, i never wanted to be here in the first place. The interviewer who selected me at campus, might have thought else-wise and thats how i landed up here. I came to Mumbai late in Jan 2007, to figure out my accommodation first before i moved base. Armed with numbers of several P.Gs and a few brokers and with the smallest possible idea of geography in this city, i made my way here. And that is when realisation struck. And badly !! The city appeared huge, wanting to engulf me in an ominous manner. Every stranger i met seemed to know i do not belong here and spoke with an air which made me suspicious if he/she was trying to con me. The black n yellow cab drivers were faster than their meters, the brokers appeared to be land sharks and the sweet 50+ aunties managing Paying Guest accommodations no where appeared to be as kind, as i thought they might be.

"Yeh Mumbai hai Mumbai..yahan time ka matlab hai paisa !!" A then-recently seen movie, had this dialogue. I was on the path of realisation. Why didn't Pune prepare me for this ? Why wasn't this a part of the costly B-school education i underwent ??  Any ways, miracles do happen. The city made me do something i could never have otherwise. Pull a fast one. Yeah... my FIRST CRIME !! Managed to note a cell number from a broker's cell phone, upside down, break away for a minute and manage a conversation in English in front of the broker. The cell number belonged to a guy, who was ready to share his 1 room kitchen space with another guy. Managed to strike a deal with the guy, managed to save brokerage money (which looked huge back then) and managed to sideline the broker.

Thats how i moved in to Mumbai. It seems incredible now. I was possibly lucky. My roomie turned out to be a fashion designing chap, in his second year at college. This gentleman was queer to say the least. I had to bear up with odd activities of seeing a guy shaving his legs, wearing capris, strange temporary tattoo designs, apply kajal in his eyes and speak with a language-fucking accent. The first time he invited me to go shop with him, we went to a mall and he insisted at the beauty section to have the latest lip gloss be applied on his lips. I was scandalized and maybe my face still gave nothing away, but i was terrorized with how i am about to coop with this human. Well, it took time, a bit of it. What however turned out later was that i had the place all to myself. My distinguished roomie, was out, most of the time, sometimes at college, sometimes at functions and fashion parties and a lot more time back home in his native place in Maharashtra.

The place i resided those days was in Mahalaxmi, yes as close to "town/south mumbai" as you could call it and yet affordable. And yes I passed through the "Dhobi Ghaat" almost every day during my daily commute to office.After getting down at Churchgate station, i needed to hire a shared-cab which took me straight to my office building, but not before giving a splendid view of a stretch of the famous marine drive, that we get to see in select movies.  I worked at Nariman Point, the poshest office area in all of Mumbai, and with one of the leading Financial Services companies in India. Work was good, colleagues were great and supportive and my professional life was off to a good start.

I had received my tuitions well about boarding local trains in Mumbai. The key was to stand amidst the crowd waiting to board. They did the rest. They pushed you in a queue and within moments of restlessness and armpits and sweat and cursing, you found yourself in the train !! Okay, it might not be as fancy as i just made it sound, but what the hell ?? These are my memories and i had a jolly good time in the mumbai locals, so many people have such negative opinions about. The perspective always has to be clear if you want to enjoy yourself, and in this case there was no point complaining complaining about the crowd while you yourself forming the crowd in the first place !!

I remember after my first day in office, going up to marine drive, standing upon the pavement, which majorly witnessed joggers or love-lorn couples or few lonely souls. I dropped my bag, and tried opening my arms wide, as if to engulf the sea before me, to embrace the city and to say it out to myself - "I have arrived". It was quite a filmy moment, and i wont forget it ever. Especially the reactions i got from people around me. Two sets of couples were looking at me with puzzled expressions, a rag picker with contempt, and an old uncle, who just smiled while passing by.

View of Mumbai from the 18th Floor BSE Building, clicked on my cell cam
Living in town (South Mumbai) was a boon, as i realised much later. There was so much to do, so much to see and the city opened its arms to you, be it when I took a quiet walk across the stretch at Haji Ali or sped off in a cab from the famous J.J flyover after a night of partying in Town. The streets of Colaba, which always had something to offer to everybody, Gateway, which was flocked by tourists all the time and the old cinema halls which still managed to retain the old world charm. I used to aimlessly wander in town, after office, without a bit of fear, without any worldly burdens on my head and without any deadlines. If there is something in Mumbai i miss, i miss those moments !! The foodie in me was satisfied by Delhi Durbar, Cafe Noorani, the  midnight buffets at Marine Plaza and the small eating joints that we stumbled across.Special mention here for - Bachelor's, the best ice-cream joint i'd been to. The pirated DvDs we siphoned off the streets in Fort, was serious cinema and for crying red murder here, but i still will, coz' this treasure, will not be available at any tom,dick and planet-m store !!

"Town had action, town had soul
the sea breezes, the skylines and the watering holes..
Town had a lot of me, and a little bit of you...
and lo behold we passed off a year and two !!!"

To be continued.........


  1. Super cool.. Very well written.. I could actually visualize most of the stuff.. You forgot to mention about your "gatekeeper" at Rangari Heights ;-)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Amazingly expressed!!! Indeed, 4 years of interaction with the city in these few well-crafted words is admirable. Guess, I will be waiting for the continual, coz I know there are more words to expressed, more unspoken tid-bits about the yea...rs that have passed!!

    Again, superb as always! I do love your writing Soumya!

  4. do i get a small part in this narrative?? :P

  5. @cinderella - thanks..as usual :D
    @Rg - yeah..that bit got left out
    @indrani - thanks for your kind words
    @kingpin - you do absolutely !! in the next part !!

  6. @Bro Everything is best but the Worst part of this blog is "To Be Continued" -)

  7. @Shyama - will finish soon bro !!