I have heard enough and more people speak of Mumbai with a fondness that I have found difficult to attach to any city – even my favorite delhi. And I cannot stop being puzzled at it now that I am here and experiencing its craziness first hand. What could someone possibly find alluring in a city that carries millions of people who gobble up your sense of identity as you hunt for walking space on the road? Or about a place where traffic deadloacks materialize in ten minutes but take hours to clear up?
And if the normal drama of everyday existence falls short, thousand different events come to rock the city from its mad pace into an even madder one. A week begins with incessant rains that engulf the excuse of roads that the city has, ends on a mindless riot by over-zealous members of a certain party – and leads to the next one into a series of bomb-blasts on its “lifeline” – the metro network.
And with each of this calamity, the city pauses, hesitates, suffers – and gets back on its feet again the next day. All mumbaikars show a brave face to the media or anyone who cares to listen, and dorn an exaggerated shrug of “life goes on..” And the whole world praises the exemplary spirit of Mumbai and its ability to brave all troubles.
Does this city really feel so good and confident? Is the Mumbai spirit really that strong? If it is, why does the smallest shower lead to frantic rush on the roads leading to deadlocks? Why do i see panic written large on the face of every passerby and my colleagues when they hear the news or when the clouds takeover? Why cant the average mumbaikar stop pretending and let the world know that he is as scared and as disturbed as every human elsewhere.
May be the pretense is what keeps the wheels rolling for this place, which an outsider like me finds crazy. May be you need the pretense to hold on to shreds of normalcy and not lose head as you struggle to find a foothold on a rushing train.