I didn’t think I had much of an ego when I first came to Mumbai 5 years ago. But apparently I did. It was painfully made clear in my first bus bone-crushing experience followed almost immediately by my trying-to-get-into-a-local-but-can’t that Mumbai has no place for the superfluous, much less the ego.
At first it will hit you smack in the face because unknowingly you’ve been taught in other parts of the country and that everyone has their ‘place’. After the initial shock and hurt has had time to subside you will soon revel in the ego-less-ness of the city. You will smile at the fisherwomen on your train, help a little girl find a seat as she prepares for her test at school, rub shoulders with the woman with 5 diamond rings who throws celeb names like nobody’s business.
There is a classless-ness that the local train and therefore Mumbai displays. It will free you. Unknowingly. It will free your mind from the needless pressure of constantly and subconsciously classifying everyone around you.
I have often wondered what makes people in Mumbai disregard this class divide and just get on with their lives. And the answer to that is simple. In Mumbai struggle cuts across all classes. There is a fight, a struggle for everything and irrespective of your class or place in life, there is an implicit understanding that everyone is just trying to make the best of things and striving towards their dreams. There is struggle for housing. For space. Struggle to get to work. To board that local train and then another to get off it. There is jostling. Mumbai is as much an assault on the senses as it is a delight. And it spares no one. The struggle in Mumbai doesn’t discriminate.
Never before have I witnessed this sense of mutual understanding of purposeful struggle. This mutual understanding while wading towards a dream almost-within-reach is what makes a stranger quickly make way for you as a you board a moving local and makes women smile at each other and silently nod a ‘it’s really bad today no?’ even as their bodies are tossed around in the sweaty local coaches.
Mumbai, may you always have a dream to chase and not a moment to spare for judging fellow dreamers.
Mumbai teaches you many things. Not so much about the city, but about yourself.
As I prepare to leave Mumbai I feel a sense of loss. I’ll miss the locals, the sea but most of all I’ll miss the person that Mumbai made me.
As a tribute to the city that has given me so much I will be writing about the ways in which Mumbai has enriched me.
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