Salaam Bombay!


 
As we are yet again reminded of the horror of 26/11, it’s time to remember why Bombay or Mumbai as it is now called, is so special and will always be. No matter how inclined you are to judging it harshly with the usual indictments of ‘too congested’, ‘too crowded’, ‘too fast paced’ etc. Mumbai warms your heart like an urchin with the melting eyes and a trusting smile whom you want to pick up and hug.

You walk the streets and you belong. You go out for a stroll and you are swept away in the tide of things happening around you. People  are busy walking on the sea face, the Marine drive (with its enchanting ‘Queen’s Necklace’) chatting, greeting each other, shopping, jogging, eating or … standing in queues for the latest movie! Roadside eateries, coffee shops, hotels are all brimming over with clientele.

The bhutta wallah, the bhelpuri guy, the ‘go gola’ chap (the modernised version of Kala Khatta and other coloured ice candy!), the van man with the herbal juices, the Frankie vendor, the man selling the enticing cone of hot peanuts are all doing brisk business. And aren’t their hands full!

Mumbai facililitates fun. ‘Go live your life’, it says, ‘I am there! Not to worry!’ Can one ignore such an appeal?

Walking down on Diwali eve into the little galli behind the famous Hill Road in Bandra (with the Bollywood stars’ homes just a stones throw away) I discover a whole new world. Not a mall, nor a departmental store in sight. I breathe a sigh of relief.  I look around me at the rows upon rows of cubby hole shops jostling with each other for attention. You have to step with careful focus or you might walk into the shop next to the one that you intend to.

There is loud music playing, twinkling fairy lights dance to the light breeze, the sweet shops are spilling over with freshly made ‘Mithai’, clothes shops are choc a bloc, even the innerwear  shop has its share of clientele ( this fellow surprises me with his linguistic skills as he does quick acrobatic switches between Hindi, Marathi, English, Urdu and to top it all Tamil.)

I  stand with my mouth agape taking in the sheer energy and laughter and chatter.
On my way back home I remain thoughtful both due to the immeasurable joy that I have experienced and the several questions that have emerged as to whether we do any justice at all to this other world, richly deserving in some of the opportunities which we so casually take for granted.

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