Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What has Mumbai turned us into?

The city that never sleeps. 
I am so proud at times to call myself a Mumbaikar! And then there are times that I am so ashamed to be a part of this city. As much as I wish to run and hide and take shelter in a far-flung lesser developed city that might just not provide me the lifestyle of Mumbai, but the city will at least have a heart. 
A heart that moves. A heart that sees the pain in people's eyes. A heart that reacts. 

I travel daily by the lifeline of the city; the Mumbai locals. I get off at one of the busiest stations of the city; Dadar. Here, apart from dirt and narrow lanes, you will find crowd. Crowd that walks/runs and does not even stop for a second if they brush you, squeeze you, or even push you down to the ground. At times I think they are clueless of where they are going and are merely running to be a part of the race. Be a part of the pace of the city. Oh yes, I love fast pace. I always, always, maintain that. 
But what if this fast pace is eluding me from noticing and observing the finer nuances of life? 
Oh no, I never stop to smell the rose petals at the Dadar Flower market; I do not get time to bargain with the lemon seller who is standing with a beautiful display of that sweet yellow-colored produce; I do not get time to buy the fresh green leafy vegetables that are available at every corner of the road and on the entire road. Yes, that is how much fast paced my life is. Or has become. True that for every Mumbaikar on the road. 

Today was one of those days. During the morning rush hour one does not find non-regular travellers in the train. And yet I saw a lady and her son of around 9 years travelling. It has to be something urgent, I thought. It turned out that the son was mentally challenged; she was taking him to see a doctor at Bombay Central, and basically they were from Delhi. She boarded the first class compartment, which is never empty during the rush hour. Oh, it is empty only for those ladies who are ready to put their lives on stake, or rather bones and bruises, to manage to get that coveted seat. You see how important it is to go to work comfortably. They would do anything that will get them that seat. Push you, pull your hair, drag you behind; yes, just about anything. And after they have got that priced possession; they enter their la-la land and forget that people exist. So these very group of ladies; who travel till Churchgate and were seated so comfortably did not even bother to ask the mother of that child a seat. The kid kept on troubling her; he was mute - so all he had to show off his anger or uncomfortable feeling were angry shrieks or wails. Poor mother was trying her best to keep him under control, but he was really acting weird. Then she told people around that he is generally well behaving; probably the crowd is scaring him off. Yes, some ladies tried making that kid quiet. I offered him a choclate, which he threw away at a dozing lady - that was actually funny. But mark my words, there was no one in that compartment who was ready to get up and offer that lady a god damn SEAT!! Nah, I do not get seats; I always reach the train at the last minute, and manage to get in somehow. I wish I had got a seat. Some ladies offered to take the boy in their lap for a while, or provided him an inch of space by shifting their huge asses and spread to a minimum bit, but no, that was not enough. Why could not someone just get up and take care of that poor mother? She was being totally harrassed by the crowd. She was being pushed by the crowd. She was carrying so much of luggage. And yet, no one cared! Yes, Welcome to Mumbai!!! The city that never sleeps!

Two days ago while returning from work, I spotted a weak and frail man lying on the road. His clothes were dirty black, torn, his hair were all messed up; flies were running around his body. He gave an immediate picture of a homeless drunk guy. A dog was sniffing him and almost licking him. Was he dead? Or was he hurt? Or had he fallen down due to weakness? Did I care? Did I do a thing? Did the thousands of people noticing him do a thing? Did anyone do a thing? He was very near to where my office is...so I saw the scene twice. An hour or so had passed and yet no one cared to do anything. I inquired the shopkeeper nearby so as to what has happened to him. He replied, "Madam, kya pata? Idar koi dekhta nahin hain. Police ka chakkar ho jayega." (No one cares. No one sees all this. It will lead to police trouble). He further adviced me not to care and rather keep moving on. Yes, I moved on. Cos you see a minute of delay would have made me miss my train; the train that I try to catch everyday. Oh yes, that train is very important to me. It makes me reach home on time; I get a seat if I am lucky; and might as well meet a good friend in that train. Yes, Welcome to Mumbai!!

The city that has stolen my humanity out of me. The city that does not sleep, does not care, does not cry, does not try. All are here just to be a part of this developed, living hand-to-mouth existence. No one wishes to stop. And stare at the beautiful sky above. Or smell the wonderful grass beneath. Even if they wish to, time kidar hain ? Where is the time? We are like robots, moving on with everything and anything that bears upon us. 

In Shantaram, there is a line that says, "I dont know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it." Yes, this is how Mumbaikars have become. No terrorist attack or bomb blasts stops us from going to work the other day; not cos we are strong, but because we have been there done that so many times, that now nothing can make us what we were. A normal human being. In no rush. 

Thank you Mumbai! 

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