Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Maximum City experience

Just onto the last few chapters of Suketu Mehta's fantastic portrayal of Bombay as the Maximum City and there has been more than 1 one time, that I have nearly had tears in my eyes reading about the city which I have lived in for at least 13 years, but never taken a great liking to.

Here are a few things that I do miss though (and I never have had a chance to do them ever in my life after leaving Mumbai):

a. Playing Holi - Holi in Mumbai is different from Holi in any other city, like Holi in Mathura or Holi in Delhi. The way I saw Holi was getting up early in the morning, filling in a bucket full of water balloons and taking charge of the building terrace. Virtually, every building terrace would turn into a combat zone with an army equipped with water balloons, coloured water and more water balloons. Only the strong survived the battle. One of my friends had probably the best arm in business, which gave us a good advantage over other teams. His throw caught people unawares and it was accurate 99.99% of the time. I remember him once wiping out a makeup off a girl's face standing in a window 3 storeys below in the diagonally opposite building...and that too without hurting her with the water balloon. After we finished with the combat bit, one of the adult folks would get some ice-cream or some chocolate, as if to announce our win.
Never ever had a chance to even fill a water balloon in the last 12 years.

b. Catching the train - My personal experience with trains was limited to only 2 years that I had to travel from Borivali to Andheri for junior college. Some might argue that this is one of the easiest journeys made on train, but the sheer adrenaline to catch a Virar fast at peak hour, instead of the Borivali-Andheri one was too much to give up on in those days. All that bravado of clinging on to one's life outside the door, other traveller's choicest comments over space. For example:
Person 1: "Chalo chalo andar chalo...bahut jagah hain"
Someone from inside: "Aare andar koi cricket nahi khel raha hain"
Person 1: "Chal bhai andar chal"
Person 2 from the other door of the compartment: "Aare udhar se logn andar aayenge to idhar se bahar girenge"
Even now, 12 years later, I still catch the train to work, but the excitement is long gone.

c. Living in apartments - This has a very different flavour to it then living in apartments anywhere else in the world (mind you, I haven't stayed in all those cities, but it has a nice ring to it). Our building (as most buildings in Mumbai are) had people from various religions, beliefs and even weirder walks of life. From retired Army people, to middle-class shift workers to small business owners, we had it all. People perennially complaining about broken water pumps/tanks, lack of any decent veggie patches around the building, about the lack of any space for kids to play...have seen it all. In spite of all shortcomings, the building stood as one when needed. We celebrated all festivals, from Christmas, to Id, to Baisakhi to Diwali. There were always some sweets or edible goodies (cakes, wafers etc) distributed in the building on some pretext or the other. We borrowed video-cassettes (those were the days!), magazines, even milk bottles from the neighbours and vice-versa, when the need arose.
The fantastic Punjabi family next door was virtually our family...we knew about their highs, lows, successes, failures, cribs and they about ours. Nothing was sacrosanct
Thankfully, I have been blessed with good neighbours all my life.

To be continued….