Monday, July 25, 2011

Mumbai - A city unparalleled in its magnanimity

"Magnanimity - kind and generous, especially to someone that you have defeated"

Mumbai, a city of dreams to most Indians, a city that has been catapulted onto the World imagination thanks to its slums, the crowds in its local trains, its monsoons, bollywood movies and of late, bomb blasts! A city whose resilience and fighting spirit finds mention often in different contexts - when I set foot in it, I felt the thrill that only adventure and excitement can provoke. 

"Nobody judges you here. You can do whatever you want!", my friend remarked when we were in Juhu beach. Her remark would, perhaps, best sum up the perception that an outsider would get as he lands in this city. Swarming with busy people, it is a city that deludes one into believing that the whole of humanity, especially in this particular mass of land, is constantly on the run - running in all directions imaginable! Indeed, if one just waits in a corner and starts observing people in the city, one can feel one's pulse start to throb.

11.45 PM, Friday night, Dadar railway station: We were in the Churchgate - Virar fast local. The train had not even come to a complete stop and people were trying to get in jostling each other. Such is the spirit of the city that only the strongest survive. Either the weak slowly reconcile themselves to a hopeless existence or simply give up too soon. The city is unforgiving and ruthless to people whose will is fragile. Sometimes, it is magnanimous and lets the weak eke out a living relegating them to footpaths and pavements, leaving them to the mercy of the natural elements during monsoons and just about extending a protecting arm. 

Pali Hill, Bandra (W) - home for the rich and the affluent. BMWs and Skodas glide across the lanes in all their splendor. A few kilometres away on the way to Mahim railway station, there is poverty in all its gruesome form - children crawling on pavements and mothers trying to make rotis. Families living under flyovers and men cleaning themselves with hardly any privacy - some sights that I would carry with me. 

Mumbai is a city that defies even the most fertile imagination. As another of my friends said, sometimes it just doesn't care. It tramples over people's souls and revels in delight even as they struggle. When everyday life is hard, it bestows in mankind a strange nature - one that is a little more caring. Thanks to this spirit, the people of the city have taken it upon themselves to resist what they perceive as the city's might. They think that if in some manner or the other, they don't care for each other, the beast that the city is, it shall swallow them up. Hence one comes across people who go out of their way to help strangers. 

It is an everyday battle here - between this beast and humanity and it is this battle that is intriguing to a stranger. He is drawn to it like a magnet and the clever beast, with its lure of promises, continuously devours humanity, slowly, but surely. Mumbai is a city waiting to explode but shall never explode; it is a tightrope walk in which the person treading the rope always appears to lose, but manages to triumph in the end! The man on the rope is either very shrewd in his manoeuvrings, but on the other hand, the rope might just be teasing him without his knowing!