A few things that make Mumbai the “wonderful” city that it is:
1) Its roads:
Try imagining a smooth road ... a really smoooooth road.
Who am I kidding? If you’re a pakka Mumbaikar (and u most probably are), a road so smooth and so free of potholes is almost difficult to imagine! (Considering of course the very significant fact that u happen to be a well traveled resident of this city.) Because even deep down in the subconscious realm of your imagination, you’d know almost immediately that u are either deep asleep and dreaming (certainly not in your car!) or that you're not actually on a road. The potholes of this city, the scowling, paan chewing traffic police, the urchins selling flowers and knick knacks of the most unimaginable kind, the ubiquitous you-know- who’s at every signal peremptorily forcing blessings down your reluctant throat and the very- eager- to –make- its- presence- felt sound of blaring horns are all so quintessentially ‘Mumbai’ that we’d probably feel deprived without them!
2) Its fauna:
Think hard and try and remember the last time u were almost run down by a cow/buffalo/ox or the last time u almost stepped on the tail of a peacefully snoring dog/cat or the last time you almost stepped into a pile of generously proportioned of you- know-what donated by one of the above mentioned species (or their kin … how on earth could anybody tell who really left it behind to polka dot our otherwise drab streets?). Think really really hard and assuming you've taken your time to ponder and recapitulate I’d say not more than a week. See! And people tell us we haven’t enough animals in the city. I say we collect all these animals in a menagerie of sorts, hypothetically of course, and I’m pretty darned sure we could put the animal -head count of the best zoos in the world to shame. So the next time someone accuses you of insensitivity or bigotry towards animals, just throw this paragraph in their face (that, if nothing else, should be punishment enough!)
3) The suburban trains:
All those of you bus travelers must have your own wonderful stories to share, but the train-frequenter that I am, all I can rave about is our local trains. The thrill of travelling in a 26 seater that seats 32 and serves as standing/hanging support for another 20 –40 (or even more!) can beat hurtling down even the raciest of roller coasters! Seriously, the trains bring some outstanding bravery and foolhardiness out of the most timorous and shriveled of human beings. What else makes it possible for women over 40 to fight their way into already overflowing compartments? What else could account for men travelling on the roofs of trains in the peak hours of evening (trust me from up there, the evening sky seems anything but beautiful)? And in a much lighter vein, I've always wondered if acquiring a lean mean figure was in fact a lean mean task. As I realize after four years of train travel, it is actually pretty simple. Here’s a brief overview of the procedure (my views are strictly confined to the ladies compartment). First, select a train in the right direction and at a time closest to peak hours. Actually that’s about it. The other women in the crowd (inexplicably!) see to it that u are pushed into and out of the compartment. It’s a guaranteed weight loss course. Lose an mm for every ride. Saves time, money and effort (others make it possible to contract by pushing u further into yourself (literally!) so u just stand still and let them do their job!)
Besides, the swarming crowd inside teaches you
a) Gymnastics: How to stand inclined at anywhere between 45 –90 degrees to the horizontal, how to escape stampeding feet encased in pencil heels, how to hang on to the train using a single handlebar with a single hand, and what’s better, it’s all free!
b) Vocabulary: Remember that phrase about “girls being nice and full of sugar and spice”? Well I’d suggest we put the sugar away, atleast while in the train. Because I've heard well-dressed and seemingly decent women hurl the choicest and most unheard of abuses at each other in a wide range of languages. So there u have it! A language class and a live entertainment show all rolled in one! And we haven’t even included the fisherwomen yet!
Now give me another mode of transport that offers anything as impressive!!
There’s so much more I could write about. From the smoky fumes that fill the void in our lives (or lungs as you may prefer to call them) to the colorful chemicals that add color (and a lot more I’m sure) to the very boring clean colorless water in the city. About people who take the line “Mumbai is my home” so seriously as to treat it as their very own bathroom! About people who are so generous as to bless the city with a generous helping of wrappers, papers et al (the contents of which they’ve previously consumed).
Then, of course, there’s that thing they call the silver lining to every dark cloud. But I’ll just save that for the optimists.