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A world of waves

My first memory of Mumbai goes back to when I was in class 9th and came here with my parents. Crowded roads, jam-packed buses, pollution and finally dirty beaches – I instinctively disliked Mumbai. I remember having made a statement soon after that I would never live in Mumbai. But life took its toll. . . . . . .
My next rendezvous with Mumbai was when I was in my second year of engineering and had to go to Pune from Bhilai via Mumbai. I spent around 4 hours on the Kalyan station – morning 4:00 AM to 9:00AM. And I confess I was terrified. Had never faced such a large crowd; the fact that the station buzzed like a fest at the wee hours of the morning was more than I could digest. I saw people all dressed up for office when I expected them to be in their cozy beds. I had quite a lot of luggage with me; had heard a lot about thefts and conmen of Mumbai; so had to move around all 5 platforms (for tickets etc) with my entire luggage. And then as my train approached, I was all prepared to board when the crowd broke loose and the scene was just short of a stampede. I pushed through the crowd and managed to get in, only to realize that my pocket had been picked. I somehow struggled ‘out’ of the train. Once again I trod all along the station to get a new ticket. I fortunately had enough money in my bags to get me to Pune. That was another my experiences with Mumbai which further determined my stance not to ever live here.
But then finally I found myself at the Dadar station when I had to visit this city for my NITIE interview. When I put my first step in the city of Mumbai, the exit of Dadar station impressed me – the Laxminarayan temple and the avenue stretching in front of me. This is just another city, I thought, for no reason I have felt bad about it. I boarded a bus to Andheri (didn’t know about 25Ltd then) and from Andheri went to NITIE. It was a long journey for me – the longest intra-city journey in my memories then.
And when I joined NITIE, I hardly found myself ‘living’ Mumbai. We used to be in the campus for days; in fact my visit to Dadar, the first time after joining was when I was to board a train to Bhopal. My metrics were thus - L&T was near to me, Chandivili was distant and Saki Naka?? My God!! That was a place veeeery far away.
God!! How could I be so ignorant? My ignorance was short-lived; and I was posted with the Aditya Birla Group with an office in Worli for my summers. I was going to rediscover Mumbai in the next 2 months. . . . .

The best and shortest route to Worli is via Dadar. You take a 25Ltd from NITIE to Dadar and then any of the select buses to Worli. The time spent? At least 2 hours and if you happen to board anything but 25Ltd, then you are bound to take at least 2.5 hours. The fun was that 25Ltd has a frequency of once in 20 minutes; and God forbid if it gets stuck up in traffic; the delays can be as large as 1 hour. It was during these two moths when I walked with the common men of Mumbai, traveled with them, and even ate like them, I realized Mumbai. On a typical day I used to leave my office at around 8:00PM, reach Dadar, grab a Vada Pav, run behind my bus, board it with a Vada Pav in one hand and my folder/bag in the other, eat that thing standing in the bus, and be on the lookout for a seat to get empty so that you pounce upon it asap, doze off as soon as you get a seat, wake up at NITIE by when its already 10:00. On days when I did not have to run behind my bus, I had to wait for 15-45 minutes on the bus stop for it. In fact I read almost the whole of “Jack-straight from the Gut” on the Dadar bus-stop.
After this entire struggle I have come to like this place, or rather I have learnt to live with it, in spite of it. I get psychological-nausea when I see a bus, or have to board one, nevertheless I can now endure a long bus journey. I can identify with the troubles of returning drenched in sweat at 1:30 n your room only to wash clothes and have a bath to somehow grab a sleep for the day – nevertheless I CAN stay awake for 2 days continuously and yet do a full day’s work on the next.
Yesterday we went to Gorai beach. While drowning myself in the sea waves, experiencing the power of the ocean, I realized that there is a similarity between Mumbai and the ocean that surrounds it. Mumbai life is as ordered and as disordered as the waves in the sea. Just as all sea waves move towards the shore, Mumbai moves in one direction every morning and in the opposite at night. And there is as much turbulence inside these unidirectional waves, as is in the lives of ‘Mumbaikars’.

I don’t know whether I will stay in Mumbai in future (I hope I don’t) – but the struggle that Mumbai has taught me is a great gift that will stay with me all my life. I can say for sure that bus travels, long distances, local trains, and most importantly large crowds will never again scare me . . . . . . . .


  1. 186 aur 184 ke journeys ke baare me bhi likh de....25, 186 aur 184..yahi 3 bade bus hain naa apne Vihar Sarovar Sthanak se....


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