Reasons To Love Mumbai 2012

January 2, 2012 8:41 am by

Illustration by Sameer Kulavoor.

It’s easy enough to drum up a dozen reasons to hate Mumbai—there are the potholed roads, the corrupt bureaucrats, the inept municipal corporation, the filth, the crumbling infrastructure and the general lack of humanity. For every person who champions the famous Mumbai “spirit”, there are two others who will denounce our apathy. So when we set ourself the task of coming up with what we hope will be the first in a yearly package of “Reasons To Love Mumbai” stories, we were dismayed at how greatly the reasons to hate seemed to outweigh reasons to love. The year 2011 dealt hard blows to our city’s image as a secure, cosmopolitan and open-minded haven for people all over India. We saw serial bomb blasts, the vicious murders of Ruben Fernandes and Keenan Santos, rapes and scams, to say nothing of our increasingly tarnished reputation as the country’s safest city for women. In light of such horror and atrocity, we wanted our reasons to love to buck the usual cliches of “dabbawallahs, Mumbai spirit, vada pao” that are usually flung around when it comes to singing our virtues. Instead, we wanted to focus on the little celebrated, the less known, the small pleasures and acts of cheer that made 2011 a year to love as much a year to loathe. We have a matchmaker who helps the disabled find true love, a community basketball team championing future athletes, the elderly men and women who continue to work well into their 90s, and a celebration of our national park, our train vendors and auto-rickshawallahs who make our daily lives that much easier. Mumbai Fables author Gyan Prakash has penned a reflective essay on “train therapy”. And lastly, we have a compilation of your reasons to love this marvelous city, which includes tributes from historians, novelists, musicians, chefs, editors and you, our readers.

Your Reasons To Love
Gyan Prakash Gets Some Train Therapy
Because We Have Our Own NBA
Because South Mumbai Has Life In It Yet
Because We Have A Full-Blown Forest In Our Midst
Because the Safest Place In the City Is A Thieves’ Market
Because Our Matchmakers Don’t Discriminate
Because You Can Eat Like A King On A Pauper’s Salary
Because the Meter Goes Down
Because We Can Date Back At Least One Thing To 65 Million Years Ago
Because of This
Because We Have Our Own Classical Music Gharana
Because Our Trains Double Up As Shopping Malls
Because We Invented the Sizzler
Because Our Metal Is Badass
Because Age Is Just A Number Here

Because Writers Find Poetry Even In the City’s Ugliness

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Comments (6)

  1. Noor Mayal |

    Just posted Raja Sen’s response to my FB wall. He nailed it.

  2. Veena Venugopal,

    What a kickass piece of write up!

  3. Veena Venugopal |

    It’s a bit of a contradiction that while everyone hates the fact that Mumbai is so crowded, there are as many reasons to love the city as there are people in it. I am a first generation Mumbai-ite, now in exile. When people ask me where I am from, I don’t have to think before answering Mumbai. Yet, I didn’t grow up in the city and don’t have the nostalgia of Parsi Dairy ice-cream and tonga rides in Colaba to hang on to. That doesn’t make me a legitimate Mumbai-ite, self-certified legitimate Mumbai-ites tell me. But I have an apartment there, and to my mind, choosing to be a Mumbai-ite carries as much cred as being born a Mumbai-ite does. Because, really, the first reason to love Mumbai is that it is the only place where the misfits fit.
    I first visited Mumbai as a 15-year old, during the holidays after my 10th standard examination. I stayed with an aunt and uncle in Andheri-east. My cousin, who worked four jobs – as an economics lecturer in a college in Matunga, an RJ for AIR FM, a publicist for a hospitality chain and a French tutor took me around the city. While initiating me to the city, she would tell me Rule no. 1, never face away from the tracks while waiting for the train. Rule number 1, get in the rickshaw and then tell him where you want to go. Similarly, she also referred to all her jobs as Job number 1. I suppose in Mumbai, if you start enumerating, you could quickly go insane in the sheer magnitude of things. Only in Mumbai need you be the juggler whose focus is not on the four balls in the air, but the one you need to catch. Reason number 1 to love Mumbai then, is that you get about four times of living out of it. You simply count that as one so as not to terrify yourself.
    A decade or so later, I was working in Mumbai as a journalist writing on the stock market. I remember going to Geoffrey’s to chat with an investment banker. Two beers later, his leg rubbed against mine and when I looked up he said, “should we get a room upstairs?” Reason number 1 to love Mumbai is that it surrenders unashamedly to the now. Perhaps it’s because the city does not have seasons. In Delhi, where I now live, any plan is dissected so you can find the best time. Shall we go and have kebabs in the hole in the wall al-kauser? No, that’s best done in winter? Let’s head to the mountains? Oh no, we should leave that for summer. Mumbai has no such excuses. Both the investment banker and I knew there was some chemistry there. In Delhi there would have been more beers, some dinner with friends, meeting with old school mates and new bosses and then if everything seems to fit, a proposition. In Mumbai, you cut the crap and get to the point. Feel like something? Let’s do it now.
    I suspect it’s the cultural baggage, but to a small town person, raised on Sunday evening Hindi movies on Doordarshan in the 1980s, where usually the city itself is the challenge that needs to be overcome, just finding your way around the city is a victory. Last year, I visited Berlin for the first time. On my third day there, I took the train by myself around midnight. I remember striding confidently through the huge and enormously confusing Alexanderplatz station and finding my way to the right platform to switch trains. “I’ve conquered Berlin,” I thought to myself triumphantly. But when I roam through the alleys of Fort and direct my friends through dark lanes to my shortcut to Strand or Jimmy Boy, I find myself thinking “I’ve conquered myself.” Reason number 1 to love Mumbai is that formidable as the city is, in navigating it you find the easiest route to the survivor inside you.
    The filth in Mumbai is endemic and sadly, enduring. Yet, I found that if you looked at the person who spat a liter of betel juice at your foot and shake your head disappointedly, he has the shame to look away and perhaps resent his action for a minute. In Delhi, I was waiting at the toll gate when a head popped out of the gigantic BMW on the lane to my right and a thick stream of spit and paan masala dribbled out. I did my disappointed head shake. The man looked away only to pull a gun out and brandish it at me. He pointed at my tiny car and then expansively at his own. Cackling he turned away shaking his disappointedly at me. “Know your place,” was the message. Everywhere in the world, in one way or the other, you have to know your place. Reason number 1 to love Mumbai is that even as you know there is no space in the city, you are certain that you will find your place in it. All of it.

  4. zaf |

    Can you send me a high res of that image? Its awesome!

  5. Dilip |

    Could identify myself with Mumbai fully with all it’s challanges. Love the city:) Rang De Mumbai!! OR am I coming from the right area of the city? well still love it. tussion Nahi Leneka Baap!!!