Tuesday, July 10, 2012

That is Bombay


There are no hoardings on the Bandra Worli Sealink. Nothing to remind you which tv series airs tonight. Nothing to remind you which bank offers the best fixed deposit rate, which mobile phone is the latest, who to call if you want to advertise. Which politician’s birthday it is and who is celebrating it.

There is no St. Michael’s Church on a Wednesday, a Siddhivinayak Temple on a Tuesday, a Mahim Dargah on a Friday. No devotees walking barefoot through the night struggling for a toe-hold, a minute of devotion, 100metres away from a God that will answer their prayers, listen to them, give them hope, give them happiness. No hoarding to remind them that Jesus loves us all. No Allah, no Ganesha. No, there are no Gods, no temples, no mosques, no churches on the Bandra Worli Sealink. There is no Ganesha Visarjan, no Moharram procession, no Urs, no Jain Paryushan processions, no Chaitya Bhoomi homage.

There are no street urchins at the signals to beg you for money. To display the wretchedness of their disfigured shapes, bodies, arms, legs, nakedness. And urge and beckon and cry and tap at your window for the loose change you refuse to part with because you know it’s all a scam. Bombay style. No mercy. No, there are no beggars on the Bandra Worli Sealink. To dodge between stationary cars at a signal on their tiny carts, spotting a Mercedes with an open window here, a kindly looking woman and her kids there.  And to beg just so they can eat their happy meals at the shop in Mahim that pulls cars in their direction to feed the hungry and get dua. No, there are no beggars on the Bandra Worli Sealink.

There are no pav-waalahs on their cycle laden with pavs on the Bandra Worli Sealink. Selling their pavs to the vada-pav stalls and the brun maska Iranis. On their cycle from stall to stall, from shop to shop. In between wiping their brows with the sweat it takes to earn a rupee, one single rupee, in this city. No, there are no pav-waalahs, no chai-waalahs, no coffee-waalahs with their extra milky coffees with cigarettes on the side catering to anyone, anyone on the street at 3am looking desperately for a chai-sutta. No, there are no cycles on the Bandra Worli Sealink.

There are no railway stations on the Bandra Worli Sealink. With an endless line of people swarming in to it in the morning, and gushing out of it in the evening. No buses, no rickshaws, no taxis. Full of people rushing to reach work on time so that their salaries aren’t cut, their bosses not angry, their musters filled on time. No crowds of people rushing back home to their loved ones with the vegetables cut in the local trains so that dinner is on time. There are no mothers rushing between cars so that their kids can reach school on time, their classes on time, their sports grounds on time. On time. In Bombay you have to be on time.

There are no shops on the Bandra Worli Sealink. On the road, encroaching on the footpath. Selling nighties, selling plastic toys, selling bags, food, newspapers, cold drinks. No shop-keepers sipping tea, talking to their neighbors, waiting for customers. No shops with a 50% sale.

No there is none of the above on the Bandra Worli Sealink. None of it. And much more that isn’t there. There is just one 6-7km long road to remind us that Bombay has made progress. To cut through the riff-raff, the traffic, the noise, the poverty, the religion, the grief, the sadness, the madness, the crowds. Just speeding cars that get bigger in size and faster in speed.

No, the Bandra Worli Sealink offers you a shortcut. A bypass, a diversion, cutting through the sea. A hop, skip and jump from Worli to Bandra or Bandra to Worli. In less than 5minutes, depending on your speed. Depending on your wallet. At a price. Because everything in Bombay comes at a price. Rs82.50 for a return ticket, Rs55 for a one-way, Rs2,750 for a monthly pass. For that much you skip it all and zip through. Silently, smoothly, without traffic, without signals. Without hoardings, without street urchins, without pav-waalahs, without shops, without trains, without churches, without mosques, without Gods, without people.

A 5-minute illusion that lands you back into the arms of this mad city. This mad city with its waves and waves of humanity and noise and dust and dirt and filth and disgust and despair and hope and happiness.  From that there is no getting away. For that is Bombay.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

O baby! Cho chweet!

Deep said...

Superb. Totally loved the way you wrote it. Fantastic.

Schmmuck said...

Brilliant post sir. As always

satishkumar said...

'That is Bombay' truly our BOMBAY and we all still love it! Brilliant writeup. Cheers!

Sahil Jatana said...

These 5 mins are a dream. We all wish that these 5mins will last a while. Away from the madness. But then it's a dream. We all wake up. Snap back.

RJ said...

We get what we pay for. One way, Return or a Month's peace. We pay. We get a nice pleasant 5min ride and thence into the 'free' roller coaster of reality.

Nice read.

Atul Karmarkar said...

Have always loved your evocative style of writing. Time for that series of posts now, and the book too.

narendra shenoy said...

Just brilliant!

Sanjay Srivatsan said...

Amazing read.

akkiman said...

Excellent. In one post, you have said what is the complete Bombay experience.

Satish said...

Awesome post Never realised a seven minute journey could create an ensemble of memories for a bombayite

Anonymous said...

Excellent,amazing blog

vijay kutty said...

superb

Pranay Nigotiya said...

Fantastic post sir. In just 5mins you've shown the real Bombay and definitely an integral part of our lives where everyone is on their toes from morning to night. Honestly while reading your post I could remember instances which have happened with me related to places and people you mentioned. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hey B50,

I came upon your blog a while ago by accident and have been stalking/reading your blog and your twitter feed occasionally. A long time ago, I used to be a bombay native and was passionately in love with the city. Now with years of living abroad, the passion has faded but not completely died yet.. Whenever I visit India, I always visit Bombay for at least a day to soak in the experience even if I have no immediate family living there anymore.

I have to say, when I read your blog/twitter I get a twinge in my heart, like no other as it feels like you are voicing my thoughts..

Please free to delete this comment and no obligation to publish..

Dhiren Salian said...

I know I shave off just about 5 min, possibly 10 in peak traffic by using the sea link. But the joy, oh joy, in letting the car stretch her legs and my mind free of the distractions that constantly jump at you at every metre of the suburban journey make it worth the price. This kinda epitomise our struggles in Bombay. Once in a while, we look for the one thing that allows us to pop our head above all the muck for a deep, fresh breath before diving right back in.
Dhiren

Deepak Nopany said...

The last para was very good

Dilip D'Souza said...

Read it yest: fine observation, Mr BombayAddict!

Like Dhiren Salian, I find I enjoy driving through the city -- its sights, its sounds, all that you noted -- more than on the sealink. (Except in heavy rain it's kind of funky to be on the sealink). And even more of a pleasure is taking the trains.

But on another note, what this post has done is remind me of my sad neglect of my own blog. I shall make amends now. thanks.

Jayaram said...

Awesome write @b50. Liked it as always. The dream within a dream city like Mumbai. Inception :)

Ashwin said...

I started reading and before the first the second paragraph began, involuntarily I was reading it in Edward Norton's voice/character from 25th hour. Link to his monologue here: http://youtu.be/Fvb9MpiuiIU (F word warning).

Enjoyed the post!

Anonymous said...

Mumbai defined in simple & lucid way. Excellent write up. Just brightened my otherwise dull day at the office :-)

sunita dsouza said...

5 Mins of having the power of peace. Brilliantly written and so true.

@thescotchgirl

Robb said...

MUMBAI in short!!!

Anonymous said...

Forgot about abortion

Anonymous said...

Nice post!

Cheryllz chatter said...

Absolutely brilliant... I love the Bandra Sea-link for those few minutes of bliss. I also love the via-duct that starts from JJ Hospital and goes right upto Crawford. These a few of my favorite things in this maddening city that I've grown up in and that is home to me.

Parul Kanse said...

Super writing. As I cross Mahim almost everyday, could really connect with your writing.

Nayanabhiram Kalnad said...

Amazing, you have really captured the essence of Bombay. I left Bombay a while back and reading your posts & tweets brings back amazing memories. Hopefully one day you will write a book about Bombay.