Based on a travel by Ajith Aravind
Haven’t we seen a number of books which have depicted Mumbai in a beautiful way? Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games and probably the best amongst the lot being Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram. The similarities to all these books were its links to the underworld.
These books forced Roy to visit Mumbai-The City of Dreams. He visited in September 2011.
‘Crowded’ that’s what came to his mind when he reached. Surprisingly Roy didn’t find any beauty at all in Mumbai or probably because he didn’t care enough to notice it.
He found hope on the face of every Mumbaikar as this city has much to offer. How true is it? He isn’t sure. Roy found it rather tough to cope up with the congestion. He was totally in awe of the crowds in the buses, trains, malls and the footpath. The one thing he realized was that the transport system in Mumbai is way better than the other metropolitans.
The humidity was taking a toll on him. With the amount he perspired he felt like a person tarring the roads with the sun shining right above his head. Travel to Mumbai would have been incomplete if he hadn’t taken the train. The local train. He took a rickshaw, got down at Andheri station, paid the meter fare and was rather taken aback by the long queue on a Wednesday afternoon at the ticket counter. He got his tickets. With just 7 minutes in his hand he had to push through the flowing crowd but missed the train. He couldn’t gather enough courage to catch a running train, had it been a bus, he would have done it with ease.
In like 15 minutes time the next train arrived. Roy boarded it. It was a huge compartment. The train got full within 5 seconds. The compartment was filthy. He got a mixture of smells. With the sun burning at 45 degrees, the stink of sweat hit his nostrils hard. He rather sensed the smell of people chewing gutkha much more better. Roy rather felt like puking when he saw people sitting on the floor and leaning on the gutkha stained walls.
And after like 8 stations, the mother of all stations arrived. Dadar. Roy had to get down. He was right in the middle. He was obviously far from the gutkha painted walls but a bit too far from the exit as well. The train halted for 10 seconds. Roy missed his station. He had no other option but to get down at the other station. Roy had to go through the entire ticket procedure again. He reached Dadar with an aweful amount of time wasted. He had to return to Pune in the evening. His main intention was to visit Dharavi and have a look at the famed Kamathipura but he was in no mood for that just because of the humidity.
He sat on one of the benches and kept looking at the vigour the Mumbaikars had. He was blown away by their determination. Eunuchs, urchins, dabbawallas all of them had an optimistic look on their face.
He realized that no matter who bombs or attacks Mumbai, it has the courage to break away all its shackles and emerge unscathed again.
The City of Dreams lives.
It moves. It sweats. It’s bombed. It still lives.
Roy’s handkerchief couldn’t survive Mumbai. He bid the kerchief off in a dustbin at the Dadar Railway Station. With that he bid off the sweat, the stink and probably a dream or two and boarded the train back to his hometown, Pune.
It’s waiting. Mumbai is waiting rather living to fulfill his dreams. All of our dreams.