Friday, January 20, 2006

Mumbaikar? What does it mean?

Bombay, Mumbai, Mumbaiyya, Mumbaikar... what is the cut off point? When do you stop being an outsider and become a Mumbaikar? When does Delhi, Kanpur, Nagpur, Kolkata stop mattering? Is it five years or 10? Or is it one year for some? Or are some people Mumbaikars before they even come here? In their state of mind, in their thinking... Are they just perfectly fitted to come here and gel with the masses that throb and throng this bustling metropolis? When do these people stop saying 'I live in Mumbai but I originally belong to ...' Are there some people who never have to say that at all?
I don't know. I don't think I totally fit in yet. If fitting in means becoming tolerant and insensitive to the muck and the traffic snarls and the huge health menace the open drains and the gutters pose, then I never want to fit in. Not in Mumbai, not anywhere else. If becoming immune to deaths by building collapses and immune to open spaces being sold to the highest bidder which choke the city's lungs means fitting in, then I never want to fit in. But yes if it means crusading for the city we live in, to make it a better more breathable place, then I would like to fit in. Unfortunately that isn't happening. Suhel Seth had written a huge piece in HT the other day while he was in Mumbai attending the Luxury Conference and I'm afraid, for once I have to agree with the man. I can't imagine anyone from Delhi coming here and not wanting to head right back in two days, if for nothing else but to just breathe in peace. To see green. Real green, not in a new fashion creation by Surily Goel, but in trees, in leaves, in the grass.
Yes I was miserable initially and I did miss Delhi and I did realise that how much ever I never prided myself on being a Delhiite (I still don't fully consider myself one, since I wasn't born there and didn't spend my formative years there) I think I definitely connect more to Delhi. For one, it's predominantly Punjabi so I understand the language, the culture, the habits, the people. unlike Mumbai where I don't understand Marathi and Gujarati but that won't stop people from speaking in the language when they spot a fellow being. Plus, Delhi has green spaces. On my drive to work I used to pass through the ridge and it was green. The areas around Connaught Place like Prithviraj Road are beautiful in the winter with all the trees in blossom. So is Chandigarh. The main sector 17 and 18 road, down from Sector 8 is just gorgeous. I think I would seriously be a happier person if I was closer to nature, because that's how I grew up. I am so missing having a dog these days that I think about it every day. This is the first time in my life that I don't have a pet. But a pet in Mumbai is like torture for the animal, and if you've ever loved animals, then you'll know that you don't just get a pet to make yourself happy.
Sometimes I really want to shift to a smaller town, like a Pune, which incidentally I've never even been to. So one won't have to travel two hours to meet a friend. Like Shobhaa De says. The other day she wrote in her Bombay Times column that she's stopped accepting invitations beyond Kemp's Corner (she lives in Cuffe Parade) and much as that sounds horribly snooty I can't help but agree with her. Because most people would accept and then just not show up; she has the courtesy to refuse it upfront. What is the point, I ask you, in getting ready and be stuck in traffic for over two hours? Surely you have to be a saint to arrive at a party in a good mood, knowing the return trip is going to take as long. But in Mumbai, that's a done thing. They all understand it, live with it and it's cool. But it's not cool for me, and that's not what I consider fun. Or a life.
Is this metro life? Opportunity yes, freedom yes, money yes, but also zero infrastructure, pathetic roads, jammed airports, traffic snarls, and absolutely no green. Quality of life isn't even worth a thought here.
It's already happening other parts of the world. I read in the paper the other day that a very rich group of urban elites in China have given up their jobs and their companies and moved to a faraway area which they have bought. They constructed houses, they grow their own fruits and vegetables and they live a self sufficient life. Sooner or later, more and more Indians are going to adopt this approach too. I can guarantee that urban elites are going to burn out sooner, seek a spiritual quest, and seek a better and healthier, less stressful life and opt to shift out of this sardines-packed life to a better place. If you have the money, buy yourself a plot of land in a smaller town or near it. It will not go waste.

14 Comments:

Blogger writer-in-egg-style said...

Vigyan Path, by the way, is the nicest road in Ch'garh. Nice enough to go roller-skating down, zipping along Leisure Valley (to be pronounced "laiyyar valley"... as in "someone who practices laa"), like the scenes from Riverdale, all the way to the P&H High Court and then the lake. Except that this city of "hariyaan jhaadiyaan te chittiyaan daadiyaan", like the scenes from Asterix and the Druid Conference, is supposed to be a post-modern work of art by a dude called Le Corbustier or somethin'. And it has its own hidden humour: there's no sector 13 coz somebody was superstitious (in Ch'garh !!) so they set the sectors so that all North-South pairs add up to 13 or a multiple thereof. Ikko gal.

Delhi has space of another sort... one can stop by along Lodhi Road, walk about, and marvel in relief (as people probably did half a millennium before Le Corbustier etc)

How to be a Mumbaikar? Give it the dash it lacks, and be hugged for it.

20 January, 2006  
Blogger Ferocious Killer Kat said...

As they say, the beauty of mumbai lies in its chaos :)

21 January, 2006  
Anonymous roxanne said...

i see stickers saying "13" in stylised script on car windows in delhi and other parts of north india. what is that? assumed its a lucky charm

21 January, 2006  
Blogger Yours Truly...Conman said...

Eeehaaaaa... to this post.
But I have one small little thing to say, something I wud have probably never agreed with say about a year ago... never.
Delhi's beautiful... See... I ain't talking about lifestyle, or mentality here.
I am talking about a place geographically.
And Delhi and Mumbai cannot be said in the same breath when you talk about better looking cities.
Delhi's far prettier. Chandigarh, dead, but even more prettier - not a single encroachment there, each and every building is of the same damn height. It's gorgeous.
But what I'm tryin to say her, which I was saying I wudn't agree with a year ago, is that there ARE FAR better places than Delhi or Mumbai put together. So why exactly are we still stuck there.
Life isn't a rehearsal. You got just one take... one life.
Move out. Live in a cleaner, better place... or travel. How long are you gonna stay in a dirty city and try and "get used to it"?
Why not move out and see, work and live in a better place? So what if it's out of India?

22 January, 2006  
Blogger GSB said...

Hey Roxanne: I don't know why cars have the number 13? I haven't come across it myself because 13 is usually considered an unlucky number. But if someone has an answer, please help.

And hey conman: I completely agree. Living in a cleaner place, whether in India or abroad, is a good idea. I think everyone should do it at some point.

24 January, 2006  
Blogger Selma Mirza said...

weeeeeeeeeee. kunsjoi is here too :-)

nice blog you have here, i will keep coming back for sure.

i wonder too, when will people stop saying where their parents are from, and say where they come from instead....

26 January, 2006  
Blogger Selma Mirza said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

26 January, 2006  
Anonymous wombat said...

we all come from the womb

28 January, 2006  
Blogger ME said...

can understand u. myself too a pucca delhite and still very much in love with the city and it's spaces. However, albeit the dirt and muck Mumbai too is beautiful in it's own way. More opportunity and a different culture altogether. I too made a choice to experiment??? and live in a smaller town about 6 months ago. It does teach you a lot. for one th worldview of those who live in a small place is differnt and one ends up counting the benefits that one has had living in a big city. Somewhere in between I confronted this notion of small town/big town dichotomy. One staying in a smll town is considered inferior to the one staying in a big town! Don't know why is that considering that most small towns are like big cities. (Malls and all...)The third point is that once a big towner always one! I do miss the hustle bustle and the bliss of losing oneself in the crowds of big cities.

28 January, 2006  
Blogger Selma Mirza said...

Thank you for sharing your views about Indian-ness on my blog....

I think you are a power-blogger :-)

01 February, 2006  
Anonymous roxanne said...

metro cities in India can no more manage crowding and traffic, they are bursting. the future is in satellite cities and smaller places that are habitable by global standards. Gurgaon is where all Fortune 500 companies are going (100 of 180 present in India have HQ there by one count printed in the paper), but i agree with you that they will have to go to Pune, Chandigarh and other places that are nice (liveable by standards of Toronto or Montreal) and also have education facilities of the desired level and so human resource capability as well

02 February, 2006  
Blogger Packan said...

Mumbai certainly has a vibe and a "life" that no other city has...

11 February, 2006  
Blogger Kusum Rohra said...

I am yet to understand what is it about mumbai that is so addictive. I travel a crazy 4 hours daily for work (it doesn't bother me, i read listen to music, observer people around), have been suffering from dust allergy at such a young age (three sleepless nights of coughing)

To see a moive, shop, or be with friends i travell more time then i spend with them.But still Mumbai is Mumbai. I can't live without it.Given all its flaws people have to be crazy to like this place :) so there it is, I like this place because I am crazy :)

21 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, all delhites...stop bickering about mumbai, the dirt, the traffic the marathi and the gujrati...simply because all of you just come to mumbai and manage to increase the population which the original reason for making mumbai what you think is...no one invited you to live in mumbai and you have a choice to go wherever u please. But when you see the attitude of the delhites and the insecurity in the city...all the population from Bihar, UP...espacially DELHI runs here to make our city dirty. Please reconsider and go back to where you really belong and enjoy the open spaces and the lovely Punjabi and thankfully you will leave us to a cleaner Mumbai with less population to feed. The roads might me empltier too!!!! And yeah, not to forget the admissions in our medical and engineering college that will be more available to real mumbaikars who love the city...

31 August, 2006  

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