“Once you have lived in Mumbai, you won’t like it anywhere else” a bold statement made by a friend born and brought up in Mumbai. “That’s the beauty of Bombay” he continued. Bombay may have legally become Mumbai but it’s still Bombay in the hearts of the residents. Even I call it Bombay at times, I’ve only lived here for a year. I am not sure if my friend is right about not liking it anywhere else. I am only leaving Mumbai now so it remains to see. Living in Mumbai however, well that’s another story.
About a year ago I moved to Mumbai with hopes of becoming famous. My YouTube channel wasn’t doing very well so I thought working for a brand new digital OTT platform would give me the boost I need. After all it was under the umbrella of Network18, a media house owned by Reliance. If only I’d known that working in media could be really tough.
Mumbai, the city of dreams always felt like a nightmare to me.
Every now and then during college I’d take a connecting train via Mumbai to go home or back to Davangere and more often than not I’d be scammed. Overcharging for Taxi, lying about being in need and asking for money, fake charging for seat reservation, I’ve been through it all. I hated Mumbai and yet I came here. You have to fight your fears they say. I had the same intention.
After spending a year in this town, losing my wallet twice, getting stranded in rain, commuting through multiple modes of transport with other sweaty passengers and a shitty job later I can honestly say I haven’t fallen in love with this city, yet. But wishing good bye is just too hard for me.
Quite frankly there isn’t much to be impressed by Mumbai if you are working here. A daily commute to work in a train so full, even ants won’t have space to move. “You still have it easy” my colleagues would tell me as I travelled from Andheri, a sub urban station from where some trains actually start. If I was troubled even when having it ‘easy’, imagine the plight of those who have it ‘hard’.
The traffic is always bad, not most times, always bad during the day. I brought my motorcycle from Hyderabad. My roommate brought his Harley Davidson. I still commuted with local trains and he would still prefer metro or a share cab over taking out his bike. In the past 5 months that I have had my bike in town, it has run a mere 200 kilometres and most of it is just going within the 3 km radius to meet someone or to buy something.
I paid rent that was close to 50% of my salary.
Let’s address the white elephant in the room called Mumbai. Rentals. If you need a flat to stay, be prepared to part with a huge chunk of your salary. I paid rent that was close to 50% of my salary. You can’t even think of living luxuriously and in close proximity to office. That’s a combination so rare, you need to be earning in lakhs every month. Media doesn’t pay well. So imagine the plight of people who work in the industry.
Without Karan here, I’d have pulled my hair out
I wanted a big house, which is a dream too good to be true so I compromised on the kitchen and bathroom size and got an apartment with a big hall, a bed room and a small room that I planned to make into a studio. The room as of now is being used as the “laundry drying” room. I must say though having Karan in Mumbai and living with me was a relief, else I’d have pulled my hair out.
Sure people pay less rent and cram themselves in a tiny room. But I didn’t want that life. I would only like something if it is living upto my hopes. Over the course of next few months, tea became another reason to keep living in Mumbai. Not the sipping tea, but my friend tea.
My job sucked, I was promoted and then demoted, I lost my wallet, twice.
I made my peace with all of these and started to embrace the city. Thought to myself I can do this. I can survive Mumbai. Little did I know that Mumbai was going to be tougher than my worst nightmares. My job sucked, I was promoted and then demoted, I lost my wallet, twice, I was stranded in rain waist deep in the water and if all this wasn’t enough I almost went broke with a pile of debt that I am still paying off. And let’s not even talk about the numerous attempts by people to scam me.
Obviously some of these things are my fault, I can’t blame the city for it. That being said, I blame Mumbai because it all happened here. I believe the city you live in is an extension of your home. You may feel the safest in your house, but your town should come close to that too.
‘Spirit of Mumbai’ is a day dream people watch to avoid focusing on the real issues
Now, the worst. ‘The spirit of Mumbai’, the fancy phrase that resonates with the resilience and struggle of the people in town. The town that comes out in help to anyone in need. I love it. I love the spirit of Mumbai but if you need to show your spirit everyday, every week, every month, there is something wrong with your city, isn’t it? Mind you when I started writing this post, the Elphinstone Road stampede hadn’t happened yet. Another blow to the spirit.
“How can you tolerate this much incompetence?” I asked often.
“This is how it’s done here” came the reply.
“We should come together and fight it”
“But this is how it works”
“Don’t be like that, it is a bad behaviour”
“This is Mumbai and this is how we do things here’
These are just the few examples of answers I’d get everytime I sense something wrong and point it out. What good is the spirit of Mumbai in disasters if they make life miserable for everyone any other day?
“Leave, the management won’t care”, my boss said to me once
We are a populous country, there are thousands who’d kill for the work you do so no one cares about how you feel personally. “Leave, the management won’t care”, my boss had told me when I said, “I hate working here, but I like working with you so I am here”.
So what good is this city? The commute, the houses, the jobs, everything is shoddy. To add to the misery we have the so-called night life of Mumbai. ‘The city never sleeps’ I read somewhere about Mumbai. Ofcourse because the stags are roaming outside as the clubs and pubs won’t let them in.
Not having a girlfriend is a hindrance to your night life. Not having a wife is a problem in getting a good house in a nice and secure location. Sure, amazing city, I just love it.
The only good thing about Mumbai is the acceptance of the urban population. While the Sena is fighting to kick non Maharashtrians out of the state, the locals are welcoming all communities with open arms. It doesn’t end there. Where else in India would you find an openly gay couple holding hands and being cheesy romantic on public transport? Mumbai you win this round. I am proud to say that.
I also secretly wish to come back here soon
Either way as I wish good bye to this city, I also secretly wish to come back here soon. With the right amount of money I think I can fall in love with this town. My grandma grew up here and absolutely adored it, there has to be something that I am missing. My wish to come back is purely for the 2 most important people in my life who live in Mumbai. As I said before, these are the people who helped me survive Mumbai. Karan and Tea, you have no idea how grateful I am to you both.
My inner circle is really small, a total of 5 people. One lives in Dubai, another in Switzerland, one in Poland, and the other 2 in Mumbai. So I’d want to come back here for them and them only.
This is a good bye Mumbai, it is so hard to say good bye to you. Despite all of the faults, I have in my heart, a hope, that it will get better. I want to be part of the change that makes Mumbai likeable to me and others like me. I am leaving town, leaving my closest friends and that makes me sad. But I am hopping on a train for a new journey. With the hope this train brings me back a little stronger and prepared, I bid adieu to Mumbai, with a heavy heart.
Although I never mentioned them above but there was silver lining to the shitty job. Some of my colleagues were the best you can hope for. The passion and zeal for the new I saw in them, I wished I had. Sadly I couldn’t meet them after I quit the job, but I will be coming back to Mumbai from time to time. So let’s see. For now, I am preparing for the trip to Amritsar.