Bombay they say is what you make of it. However, I think Bombay itself has a fairly humungous role to play in the making of its residents. Like one day, It takes you for a surprise with its monsoon downpour, the very next instant, leaves you suspended over salty seas to dry and drench with sweat. It takes you to the 23rd floor of the biggest corporate agency in India; it makes you walk as a part of the crowd while travelling in the locals. It’s the city where the elite cherish, the poor subsist and the rest are merely lost in the crowd.
It’s overwhelming. You can’t be in Bombay and not think about it in one way or other. Existence itself in Bombay engulfs you. You can’t be mentally present elsewhere while crossing the road in the insane traffic or while securing a seat in the overflooded locals. Nowhere else in the world can you find such a peacefully chaotic coexistence of the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. Neither any city has such faded lines of distinction between the two. The shack like seemingly wobbly brick and mortar structure by the side of the road is equipped with a LCD T.V, the penthouse owner of that majestic society down the posh Worli seaface lane is debt ridden down to his throat.
Despite this disarray, despite the grim realities of struggle in the city and the mad rush for the pursuit of power, money and endurance, there is humanity and compassion. Even in the hustle of the traffic and the mob of people, someone will come up to you and ask you if you’re lost and need help. Randomly some car driver would screech his car to a halt so that you can cross the road comfortably. Another stranger will put a protective arm around your fractured hand in the Local train and yet another will help you figure out the bus route for your destination.
I often wonder what makes Bombay dissimilar to the capital. No, you thought it wrong if you think it is the sea. It’s not even the sweat and the local trains which scuttle as the veins of the living immortal called Bombay. It’s the fortitude of its residents, the never say die attitude of its masses that splashes colour into its pale, mundanely rigorous black and white urban life. It’s undeniably legendary how Bombay bounced back after the terrorist attacks in 2011 in less than an hour as people scurried to work like any other day. Ramesh reminisces that the bomb blast happened a few metres away from his tender coconut stall. It’s been three years now, he hasn’t shifted a centimetre from his usual spot. The coconut that he sells me for an initially -overstated and persistently -bargained -now -decent price has its crust dried and stiff from outside, but the water inside is surprisingly sweet and thankfully refreshing in the scorching heat. Like Mumbaikars. Like this city.