An outsider’s love at first sight – Mumbai

About the writer : Fawaz Jaleel is pursuing his Masters in Development at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. He completed his Bachelors in Journalism from Madras Christian College and interned in various organizations: NDTV-Hindu, Business Blogging Pvt. Ltd. and News Today. Currently he is doing an internship with Swasth India Pvt. Ltd., a healthcare organisation catering to the needs of the urban poor. 
As my first day in Mumbai comes to an end, here I am standing at Mohammed Rafi Chowk showcasing a silent protest against the legendary Rafi Sahib’s 1956 song that claimed,
“Kahin building, kahin traame, kahin motor, kahin mill,
Milta hain yahaan sab kuch , ek milta  nahi dil;
Insaan ka nahin kahin naam aur nishaan
Zara hat ke, zara bach ke, yeh hai Bombay meri jaan.”

Buildings, trams, motors and mills.
You get everything here except a heart
People don’t have a name or identity here
Keep away, keep safe , this is Bombay my dear.
At around 4:15 pm, I set my foot on Mumbai. A lot of Bollywood scenes went through my head in fast forward mode. I had just reached the city of double-decker buses, yummy street food, a fast-paced life, extravagant culture, jam-packed local trains that are a norm, romantic locations, diabolical traffic, a city that never sleeps etc., in short the city of dreams. I looked outside and saw people. I turned my head towards the right and then left, there were people, a lot of people. Now that’s population explosion! I’ve never felt the same in Kerala, Bangalore or even Chennai. Now I know the reason why everyone wants top be in Mumbai. If Mumbai alone were to break away from India, its population would still be greater than Australia’s.
Anyway, the human eye always finds what it wants and mine was quick enough to spot it. My heart skipped a beat and I felt as if someone was pulling me towards it . There at one corner engulfed by people was a shop that sold vada pav. Adding to it, there were samosas, pav bhaji and much more. I ate all of it to my heart’s content!
My new roommate said he’d reach the flat only by 7 pm and that left me stranded on the streets of Mumbai with three huge sacks that had everything including memories of my wonderful friends. Where there is a problem, there must be a solution! What followed was one of the most successful deals I have ever made in my life. After a fair amount of negotiation, an autowala promised to take me around the city (nearby places) for just Rs 150.  Now I had a place for my luggage while also exploring this astonishingly huge city.You cannot ask for a better start when the first two places you saw in Mumbai were the Hanuman Mandir in Dadar and a 350 year old Dargah in Mahim, the oldest of its kind in Mumbai. This was followed by the Khodadad Circle that was formerly known as Dadar TT (Dadar Tram Terminus) in an age when there used to be a tram service in Bombay. This site was an imposing colonial edifice just like Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus. Next in line was a Portugese Church, a spiritual center that is an architectural beauty. God is omnipresent, he is everywhere be it in church, mosque, temple or gurudwara. Before entering the church, a passerby told me, “Ask for anything with a pure heart and He will give it.”

After a while, we (I and Jatin bhai, the autowala) resumed our journey. Our chit-chat about Bombay continued. Jatin Bhai had come to Mumbai 23 years ago to receive his father’s body, who died in an accident. Ever since, Jatin Bhai is in Mumbai feeding his family and most importantly providing good education to his children. The places we visited might be low-profile compared to Mumbai’s status. But as they say, “Every wonderful story has a humble beginning.” Actually “they” didn’t say that, it’s one of those random things that just popped up in my head right now.
It was time to meet my flatmates and that put a halt to my journey for the time being. But technically my first day was not yet over; there was time till 4 PM the next day. I met my typical migrant Mumbaikar flatmates, and one word for them would be awesome. Not as Awesome as you, Somesh, if you ever read this. We went out for dinner and they took me around a few places in Andheri.
In Bangalore, waking up early was an occasional exercise just to ensure we have breakfast at least once a week. Despite crashing at 2 AM, I was up and steady by 5:30 in the morning. This was new, but something dragged me for a morning walk. Socks rolled up, sneakers on! I set out to burn some calories. I have a feeling that 90% of the gravitational force in India is concentrated in Mumbai. Scientifically impossible but this city just attracts you towards itself. There are three beautiful gardens near my place, one named after the brave Vijay Salaskar who sacrificed to save his fellow countrymen during the Mumbai attacks. After the unusual exercise, I made up my mind to cover the two much-hyped locations in Mumbai.
Every nature lover must have a journey along this natural bay.  A friend told me that if there is any reason she would come to Bombay that would be Marine Drive.  Lovers here, lovers there, lovers everywhere embracing each other with love, were taking long walks holding hands, staring at the sea probably imagining their long happy future or God knows what! Lined with palm trees, known as the ‘Queen’s Necklace’, this place is surreal. The breeze at the place is so refreshing that one just doesn’t want to leave.
An amphitheater placed above the ocean, Bandra Bandstand is also a lover’s paradise. The self-proclaimed ‘king of love”, Shahrukh Khan’s not-so-humble abode “Mannat”is located very close to this romantic location and probably serves as an inspiration for his successful romantic run in Bollywood. Wait! The not-so-romantic Salman Khan also lives nearby. Mumbai is filled with lovers embracing, kissing and holding each other.Hence Mumbai is not just the city of dreams but also the city of love. Anyway, here I am at Mohammed Rafi Chowk with my love , vada pav and a small message for Rafi Saheb,

Dear Rafi Saheb,
Yahaan dil hein, dilon mein pyaar bhi
Yahaan insaan ka naam hein aur voh kamaane ka dhariya bhi ,
Arey socho mat , daro mat . aayiye
Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan

This city has a heart filled with love
Here people have an identity earned by patience
Think not, F\fear not. Just come
This is Mumbai, my dear.
If  you enjoyed reading Fawaz’s article, do let him know through the comments. For those of you who will be interning in Mumbai this summer, read the Intern’s Guide to Mumbai. If you have already interned in Mumbai, help us make the guide better!

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2 thoughts on “An outsider’s love at first sight – Mumbai

  • June 16, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    This blog post is truly refreshing. I have gone to Mumbai several times and I always find time to go to Marine Drive. I love Vada Pavs too as you. I think Vada Pavs in Mumbai is like celebrities, everyone loves them.. no one minds!


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