Sometimes an age is not enough to figure out a city. And if the city is Mumbai, some people say that a few million ages put together will still not give you a glimpse of what this city really is.
The first week, and this city actually slaps and shocks you. Coming to Bangalore (a few years back) was like being woken up with a splash of water. But the first week in Mumbai was like being dragged at 4 am and thrown into a pool of ice cold water. The day I heard the news that a plot of land near my temporary abode had sold off for INR 63000 Rs per square foot, it dawned upon me that in all these years that I’ve been on this planet, I am still not able to buy myself one square foot of land.
People say that about 6 foot space is all that a person needs in the end. But this is where we realize that while you are alive in Mumbai, you anyways have no land to call your own; but even when you die, you are still short of real estate. Perhaps this is what Lord Krishna meant when He said in the Gita “Tum kya laaye thhey, kya le jaaoge” (What did you bring and what will you take back?). In Mumbai, there’s nothing that’s your own, and thus, in perfect accordance with the rules of Bhagwad Gita, you can’t take anything with you either.
All across the world, we know that there exists a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. In Mumbai, these two opposite ends have learnt to coexist. Right next to a tall building, you will find a huge slum population. Both parties acutely and uncomfortably aware of the other’s existence. Their eyes surely meet everyday. Maybe after a few years, they even begin to smile at each other. But what is most striking is perhaps the resignation of everyone to their fates.
All I need in this city, is a Mercedes. And that’s because everyone here seems to have one. I wonder when I missed the bus.
And a loneliness that’s spreading around like a disease. People tend to multiply as they appear and disappear in huge swarms on any local train station here. And everyone is desolately lonely. One look at the disturbed people around you on a local train (i.e. people who are hanging for their dear lives in the locals), and you know that something has cracked inside the city. The veneer outside is perfect. Shining. Stain-resistant perhaps. But deeper down, those cracks in the mirror have started appearing...