The Mumbai Chronicles

Disclaimer : The events depicted in this write up are purely personal experiences and do not refer to any general public / organization in an offensive manner. Any misunderstanding resulting from this post is NOT to be taken up with the author!

Mid June 2010. Bangalore’s weather at its best.

It had been two months since I had started off the training for my IT job. I was coming to terms with tough times in my educational pursuits. I had flunked a lousy programming test, twice. For our convenience let me codename this test as Chimera [Pronounced Kai-may-ra. FYI, Chimera is a fire-breathing female monster with a lion’s head and a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail – Greek mythology. No specific reason to assign this name though, I can somewhat visualize it this way after having three attempts at that test!] I had two more attempts to go but keeping it till the last attempt would be teasing Chimera to shred my career and confidence to smithereens. I had two exams the coming week; one after the other, one of which was Chimera. On the training front, most of my batch mates had been allotted projects while I hadn’t even got an interview call! As I am used to weird things happening to me; I didn’t take this too seriously and kept giving every available manager I came across a mail/call implicitly showing my desperation to get into a project. With these things running on my mind; something else of a bigger magnitude, which would bring with it considerable solitude and a multitude of issues, was in store for me.

BAM!

One fine morning I get a mail confirming that I have been assigned to a project in Mumbai. No interview calls. No consent asked. Just a plain, irritatingly to-the-point, grotesque mail. Me and two others were given this project [out of which one exactly wanted Mumbai; the other person was finding someone else to swap with] All This, when all other batch mates were getting projects in Bangalore. After making many calls to the big-shots and the “big-shots” [hope you get the difference], I was left with two options; get a person to swap with me or get ready to pack. The big-shots were ready to help me out with the first option. However the “big-shots” seemed to think I was born to take up this assignment; and would be committing a colossal sin of epic proportions combined with treason to the company, if I declined this. Meanwhile I managed to behead Chimera [cleared the test] and successfully completed my training. The first option didn’t work out, although I tried my best. So, second option it was. A hardcore Bangalorean was forced to leave his city, his family, his home and come to Mumbai in search of better fortunes [for himself or for his recruiter or for both, time will tell]

I spent the last few days in Bangalore meeting people close to me and getting ready for the Mumbai episode of my life. Had immense help from mom in the packing phase, made things much easier. Taking my computer with me was inevitable because of 2 reasons –

1. It would rot without anyone using it

2. I would rot without using it. [The same applies to my bike too, but because of registration issues I had to leave it at Bangalore]

Keeping in mind my sanity, I packed the comp in the last minute [thanks to my cousin who turned things around in the nth hour]. This had to be done in the last minute as my ticket was confirmed in the penultimate minute, the previous night. Boarded my Indian Airlines flight from the Bengaluru International Airport with mixed feelings and nostalgia. The elderly air hostesses made sure that my attention towards these feelings wasn’t diverted to them.

On landing in Mumbai, I took my luggage [which I thought was mine obviously] and took a cab to my guest house, the temporary accommodation which was given by my company. While unloading the luggage at my guest house, I realised that I had flicked someone else’s suitcase; an exact replica of mine. What followed was a series of events which I can never forget or forgive myself for. Rushed back to the airport on the same cab. In the heat of this situation, the airport guards must have thought of me as a random terrorist. They took their time to allow me inside after verifying my identification and boarding pass. Although it was only 5 minutes, it seemed like eternity. [As if terrorists do not have their ID proofs at the ready! Doesn’t matter anyway, I am grateful to them for having letting me inside] Finally, I met the duty manager, apologized profusely and collected my luggage from his cabin. The other guy whose luggage I had taken was on his way to Mecca. I prayed the Gods I knew to give Allah the power to give the other guy strength to forgive me! As far as I was concerned, problem solved, as I had got back my suitcase. I thought to myself, “Great start at Mumbai! Not too bad an incident for a starter.” There was much more to be unlearned and relearned, which I didn’t quite know at that point of time.

Few facts of Mumbai that I have observed –

There are a few oaths taken by people here. [Please don’t ask me if it is in Marathi or Hindi, as I too do not know. My guess is Marathi, as the Shiv Senas rule here. Shall find out in some time]. Details are as follows.

a. Drivers of the BEST Buses [the local city bus] –

i. “I solemnly swear that I shall not stop in a bus stop at the right place“[as is common with other cities]

ii. What sets them apart from the others is this “I solemnly swear that I shall not halt at any stop for more than 5 seconds regardless of the bus being empty or the road being empty or passengers successfully boarding/alighting from the bus.

b. The average Mumbaikar – it is a known fact that an average human being sleeps for 25% of him lifetime. An average Mumbaikar sleeps lesser than an average human. It is almost like Mumbai never sleeps. There is ample activity even at 2 AM, as I noticed after one of my late night movie sprees. It is heartening to see young ladies move around late at night without facing much issues.

Although the sleep is less, I feel an average Mumbaikar wastes that time gained on spitting. Wherever you go, a spit follows, at any time of the day, at the most unexpected moment, at the most unexpected place. Here comes the oath “ I solemnly swear to spit to the best of my ability, as and when possible, wherever possible, as an ardent consumer of tobacco products irrespective of whether I am chewing it or not; and fuel the tobacco industry for future generations to savour”.

Be it from a bus moving at 20 kmph, a train moving at 60 kmph, or while innocently walking on a road; Mumbaikars never fail to spit. The “Stop Spitting, Stop TB” [Tuberculosis] boards do little to help. Ironically, some of these boards are used as canvases by our budding spit artists! [I wonder if it will become a sport in the future, we have an assured Olympic Gold medal on our hands]. It is hard to not appreciate the ubiquitous intricate graffiti formed as a result of these spits.

c. Trains –

A typical scene at the war front. I risked my life to take this pic!

i. “I solemnly swear to not stop at any station other than Kurla for more than 10 seconds.” This is quite understandable as spending an extra 5 seconds would hit the economy and the turn-around-time hard. With these kind of stoppage times, there is a train every 10-15 minutes at every major station, and the minimum ticket rate is about Rs.3. What’s the consequence if it increases by 5 more seconds? Am not too much of a math guy, please do the math yourself.

It is like a battlefield while entering or leaving a train. We have 10 seconds to allow the people to alight from the train and others to board the train! Sometimes one experience rushes from a past life of being an infantry soldier or a gladiator at these moments! Déjà vu, I would say.

d. The Rain God

Mumbai and rains are inspearable; atleast at this time of the year.

I hereby declare that I shall lash Mumbai with rains every day during the monsoon, as and when possible, to the best of my potential; and ensure that the people in Mumbai wade through atleast 2 inches of water at all times.

e. Another one on the average Mumbaikar, to end on a positive note. “I shall go about my business, undeterred, at any time of the day, even if it is raining like the world is going to end today.”

I’m still unravelling the mystery that is Mumbai, shall keep updating . . . .

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10 comments

  1. well the experience is interesting , thought provoking, fearful , but makes an interesting read!!!!!
    every place has its own pluses and minuses– go and ask a Mumbaiker — he will not like leave his place for any reason — i had a good laugh after reading the comments abt “spitting” and olympic gold medal — well ALL the BEST for a very “pleasant” stay for the rest of ur “Mumbai days”

  2. Oh im stunned by all the facts u have stated about Mumbai… but slowly the place will grow on u. I bet: either things will get better or ul start ignoring all the annoying stuff happening around u 🙂 but all the best for the days ahead

  3. paaru u stepped in2 mumbai nd u had sme1’s baggage.. cha.. u mst hav seen sme cute chic thr i m sure.. by the way gud post again.. nd mumbai is always a f***’n city no matter wat gud u describe

  4. nice post man!! i used to think my cuz was lying abt mumbai.. but after reading this.. m shivering in my boots 😛
    A city that never sleeps. A city that never allows anyone to sleep 😀

  5. @Malini – Thanks for your wishes. I need them all. 😀
    @Nikhil – Ya man. I keep finding out something new often. Shall update in some time.
    @Varsha – Thanks! Things will remain the same, but will look better as my mind gets used to prepare to stay in this place!
    @Anietha – Thanks! Fortunately or Unfortunately there weren’t any cute chicks competing to seek my attention. 😛 So far only 1 good thing : Mumbai never sleeps.
    @Puneeth – Thanks man! Super punch dialogue that is 🙂

  6. Hi, The oaths were quite interesting! Waiting for the sequel…. Mumbai is indeed a fascinating city. The local trains, dibbawallahs, monuments telling history are all wonders of the world. Only city in India that breathes life all 24 hours. The city doesnt seem to be growing old. Rather it is eternally growing young!!!!
    With all its flaws, many ppl will wholeheartedly tell “mumbai meri jaan” like Johnny Walker of the yesteryears.
    Hope you’ll take a liking to the city after the monsoons:)
    HJ

  7. Awesome post man! I just relish your style of writing!
    Unbelievably witty, Humourous , Informative and sometimes wry.
    Very well have you described your tryst with destiny, right from that ‘wicked’ mail to your continued quest in unlocking the Mumbai mystery!
    I have a totally unbiased opinion about Mumbai, but one thing is for sure: there’s really some magic in that city which has made it flourish into a super city!
    Anyway getting to know Mumbai through your window is amusing. Eagerly waiting for the updates on your Mumbai Chronicles.

  8. very nicely summarized! u still have a lot to explore over there, make sure u visit marine drive. ill be waiting for ur take on how mumbaikars celebrate their festivals. oh i just love aamchi mumbai!

  9. hi!..a good post as usual!!!ur way of using the language just enthralls me!!!eagerly waiting for ur next post on the same…!

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