I just spent the last week in Mumbai, or as the vintage people still call it: Bombay. Nothing new, I guess, every one does a trip to their home town every now and then, either visiting friends and relatives or coming down for work, or probably passing by during a stop over.
For me, it was a combination of both, visiting friends / relatives + work. The week sort of disappeared in no time, and before I knew it, a weekend on either side of the weekday had disappeared into oblivion and it was time to leave. A few friends / relatives visited, work done and before you could spell your name, the week was gone.
Nothing new, one would say, that happens every where. But what inspired me to write yet another post on Bombay, was that no matter how late of how many times you come in, the city never ceases to amaze you. The situations may be better or worse (and in many a case is worse than before), yet people go on about it mechanically.
It could start as early as what time the kids are up, to what time the bathroom might be free, as each one has their own deadlines. Breakfast for the kids prepared when dawn probably has not commenced, to running for the bus, and then starts the routine of the day. From catching a combination trip of bus / trains, with each ride depending on the accuracy of the decimal, it could be a from missing your bus at 8.11 impacting the catching of the 8.37 super fast train, leading to a wait until 9.17 for the next one, or rather catch a train that is not part of your routine. A train is a train is a train, one may say, but for an average Bombayite, it could very well be a matter of life and death. The daily groups, the people who catch a seat for you, your card buddies, to another set of bum chum pals, who wait for you at your destination station for the pool ride, huge impact!
The same goes at Lunch time. The arrival of the lunch box is at a fixed time which lands up exactly at 12.50 and the box could be picked up at 1.25 or 1.55 depending on the time frame you get. You HAVE to eat in that frame, else, your lunch box is picked up and returned home with the food, or you carry it back with you. The return journey home is equally taxing, all with precision style timings on the buses, cars, trains, the works. There is probably a bit of sojourn with friends post dinner, the TV soap operas, and off to bed for the same routine the next day.
Now, this is as one would say, a normal person’s life. But what I find interesting is that this life permeates to every one. Be it blue collar, white collar, red collar, every one is running. It is a race that one is trying to keep up with. You walk into a shop, every one is running, let alone the fact that there might be no one there. You ask a person for directions, he points out randomly in some direction and saunters off. You walk into a Bank, and you have a couple of questions, there is no time to answer your concerns. You speak softly and slowly trying, which may be your style, no one has the time to listen. You walk to a paan shop, ask for a paan. You may be the only customer, but still you wait for 10 minutes, as he would suddenly remember 10 things to be done, which a minute before you walked in, did not exist. Why, because he decides he is busy.
Surely, this is Bombay, the city that never sleeps. It runs 7 / 24 / 365 year after year. And at this pace, all that people do is run, run and run. Many never stop to take a breather in life, a pause, a moment to listen, a moment to see. If you do, you are free, and you don’t have work. If you talk big, be it numbers, places, or people, you are considered made. It is all about being one up than your neighbour, your office colleague or even the group that you move in.
I will no doubt visit Bombay again, as I did in the past (my older post: Bombay oh Bombay)after all that is home, but then I wonder. For all of us, who stay out of our home towns, out of such fast and vibrant cities, would we ever fit in. We become so used to the organized and quiet lifestyle, when we finally land up there, would we be the ugly ducklings? Would we ever survive the race, or drop dead long back?