Tuesday, December 29, 2009

From Dilli to Mumbai

I’m a Delhiite.
I’ve been told by some that I’m not at all like a Delhiite. (“You’re actually nice!” were the exact words)
But then again, some have said, that I’m the pakka spoilt South Delhi Chick. (of course, forgetting the fact that I no longer even live in South Delhi)
I’m not sure what a Delhiite is really supposed to be like. Spoilt, rude, dressed up?
Frankly, I don’t care. I love the city. How can one not? The amazing wide roads, the huge bungalows, spacious flats, the chilly winters, street food, Delhi University…I could go on and on. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. This post, surprising as it might be, is about Mumbai.
My summer internship was in Mumbai. This meant, that for the first time in my life, I was going to totally fend for myself, away from home, family, everyone, in a city I had barely even visited before. My salary, my headache to find a place to live, to figure out a way to eat, travel, everything. It was exciting, to say the least. And scary.
Weirdly, everyone expected me to hate Mumbai. Apparently being from Delhi, that is the expected code of behavior. After all, we’ve all been part of those endless futile discussions about which of the two cities is better. I was apprehensive, but definitely not in a mood to hate a city I may have to eventually spend my life in.
As it turned out, I didn’t hate Mumbai.
In fact, I loved it.
Fine, so I agree I did my share of cribbing (Why are the roads so narrow? I could get a huge house in Delhi for this much rent! The meter in the auto runs even when its stuck in a traffic jam! Damn…in this much time, I would’ve managed to cross the whole of Delhi!! I hate humidity! Oh god…I can only see heads in this local train… Wait, I wasn’t supposed to get off at this station, let me back on!!! And so on…). But then I think that much is expected.
But there were so many things I loved.
I loved meeting new people in office. I loved walking on the road and not having a zillion lewd comments thrown at me. I loved being able to wear whatever I wanted to, without feeling conscious. I loved the sea. I loved walking through cobbled streets like a tourist. I loved sitting in a local at midnight. I loved the city glowing alive in the dark.
I loved the life.
I loved Mumbai.
Perhaps, I loved it because I spent a cozy two months there. And perhaps if I were forced to travel in that local every day during peak hours, I wouldn’t remain such a fan of the city anymore. But none of that can change the two beautiful months I spent in Mumbai.
But now, sitting here at the laptop, I realized what truly makes me love Mumbai. It isn’t Marine Drive, the pav bhaji, or even the life. It was the people.
It was my friend, who welcomed me to his city and made me feel at home, when I was a complete stranger to the place. The friend who took me around everywhere, and tried to make me see the romantic side of the city. Needless to say he failed miserably at the latter. But I saw the city, and I loved it, simply because of him.
And it doesn’t stop there.
While my personal experience might have been great because of one person, I realized another reason why I hold that city in such high regard.
It’s Mumbaikars’ passion.
They love the city. Not just love, in fact, they’re crazy about it.
Filmy and romantic, some might call it, but they are. Amazingly so.
I think it was their obsession for their city which really drew me to it, which made me want to see it, and understand it.
I did.


This is not an emotion I would ever like to admit to.
I’m not claiming to be one of those strong people who aren’t scared of anything. Of course I’m scared, of more things than one. For God’s sake, I’m even scared of the dark. But there is a difference between that, and what I’m feeling right now.
This emotion has hit me only recently. It had been a good year. With loads of extremely good things happening. I achieved what I wanted, I slogged for what I believed in, and I managed to do what I had set out for in the first place. And yet, in its own twisted way, each and every one of those things turned on me and took it all away.
The achievement is still there. The feeling of exhilaration, missing.
So please, someone, tell me, why should I still believe?
In age old sayings, like hard work pays off?
In my own personal choices?
In myself?
Why should I still work hard towards achieving what I want, when each day I manage to do something worse, and am continuously reminded of all that has gone wrong?
Yes, pessimistic post, but I can’t help it. If I was a pessimist before, I don’t even know how to describe my current disposition.
And worse still, I think I’ve started feeling it. Every second, minute and hour of the day…
As cowardly as it sounds…

The Journey

Heading back home, finally.
I think that’s the excuse I’ll always use to explain the idiotic dumbness I displayed today. How else is it humanly possible for a person to be absent minded enough to forget to print the train tickets? Not misplace, not forget in the hostel, but simply forget to print the ticket?!
After showing my heroic stunt of booking my own train ticket, independent of all other Delhi-goers, preparing myself to travel in RAC, and travelling alone in a train, I of course undid it all by being plain stupid.
So, euphoria is the excuse.
As I watched the train slowly start to chug out of the station, I looked at the passengers around me. I was quite pleased. No noisy aunties, no burpy uncles, and most thankfully, no bratty and crying kids around. Everyone seemed to be pretty young, a newly married couple, a guy who was probably from a nearby B-School, and a serene uncle checking his mail on his laptop.
Laptop…internet…email…I mailed the ticket to myself…e-ticket…TICKET!!
And that’s when it hit me, that I had managed to do everything, and they were simply going to throw me off the train anyway. I’m not proud to admit this, since I’m usually not the type, but this time I visibly panicked. I know this because I could feel it. And also because the uncle in front of me realized that something was wrong.
So while I was talking exceptionally fast on the phone to a friend aboard the same train, and causing two people to hyperventilate at the same time, he simply looked at me, smiled and said, “Relax.”
I stopped and looked at him, something about his expression made me cut the phone and actually sit down.
“Never panic. You have your PNR number and I-card. Relax. It’s not a big deal, it can be managed.”
I did relax, a bit.
As it turned out, I was let off with a fine of Rs.50. I still had my seat, on my train, heading back home, finally.
“Whatever happens, you should never panic.” He started. I could sense some gyaan coming my way. But he had helped to really relax me, and so the least I could do was listen. So I smiled and nodded.
“Whenever something goes wrong – Stop, Think, Go.”
Hmm.. More smiles and nods. But he was making sense. I shouldn’t have panicked. Very uncharacteristic of a future manager.
And then we talked more. A lot more. It wasn’t really a conversation. He talked and I listened. The never talk to strangers rule was being kept aside for the time being.
Now this is a time in my life when I have ample number of things to worry about. With placements right around the corner, and the economy not exactly in its rosiest mood, there was definitely one huge thing to worry about. Personal life, friends, family are perennial things on a persons mind anyway.
And then he told me his story. Which suddenly made all my worries look embarrassingly miniscule. And it made me listen to him even more.
It’s funny how context can suddenly change everything.
Here was a man full of clichés, literally. Every second line was a cliché. Ladies first…Do your best, he’ll do rest… But the clichés didn’t sound bad anymore. They actually made perfect sense for once. Just because he was saying it, because he had lived them.
I got into bed, knowing that this had been an important train ride. Also knowing myself, realizing that I would forget its importance pretty soon. Maybe that’s why I was suddenly compelled to write again. In memory of a few words, which made perfect sense.
“Mere jeevan ki chaabi mere haath mein hai.”
Whatever happens, never let anyone, be it your parents, friends, husband, anyone, control your life. Keep the key of your life closely guarded with yourself, and it’ll all be alright.
Sounds silly right? But at the time it didn’t. It made perfect sense.
He mentioned in between that even if you believe in God, it doesn’t mean he’ll come down himself to help you. But he will send someone. “Like I helped you when you were panicking.”
I smiled.
I don’t think he realized how much he’d actually helped me.