It’s been exactly two years… And I remember each and every day spent on this mass of land amidst the stinky sea! The career was sorted out, I didn’t come here to wander the streets for a job. That’s not my story. But this city has a separate struggle chapter planned for each and every one of us, yes, if yours hasn’t started stay tuned! Anyways, let’s be clear on this- I am not going to paint a rosy picture of the marine drive or the vada pavs or the monsoon that has no element of romance to it. I would have loved these had I come with a return ticket! I am not going to be the guy who betrayed you or swept you to anger with a ‘Reasons I Hate Mumbai‘ title and then create a bubbly video of ‘We all make Mumbai beautiful’. No, not at all!
Not that I don’t like this city. The city brims with opportunities and trust me , if you fiddle and get to the point of stubbornness it has, you get the money and you get the jobs, since that’s usually what our youth judges things with! I am the youth too, and the problem with me is- a free culture, liberties to stay out late at night, the right to friend and unfriend anyone at any point of time, unlimited alcohol and the alluring virtual gender equality doesn’t convince me to pose a blind eye to what the city truly is. After spending two years in the city where houses are stacked one above the other, with little guarantee of standing like that for years, I chose to play the rewind button and let the tape of my lessons shout out loud.
I sit back today and contemplate on what the city of my dreams taught me, a girl next door, safe in the cocoon of her tier two city, amidst the warmth and arms of her family. When that girl steps in a city so culturally different and demanding, it is not all about roses and sunshine. Sunsets at marine drive, disc parties with a friend circle that keeps changing, the kulhad chais and bun muskas, street shopping at the colourful Colaba market and endless quirky cafes, that’s not the city I spend my weekdays at. The weekdays had their own chapters and I would like to write about them rather than exaggerate the weekend fantasy that comes post those five days.
Here’s what the ‘City Of Dreams’ taught me-
Work Life Balance- WTF Is That?
Yes, the day here starts with a whining morning, where almost every one of us thinks twice before going to work. Good morning comes with a very basic question- What the hell am I doing with my life! But no, dreams win and we get up chasing the unknown through the crowded locals and metros, making way to the office. Our work takes up our whole day and meals are just a formality, Salaries credit and debit in an instant and I am still not sure if banks have some magic programme that works wonders. We don’t live here to earn, we are here to spend so that we can survive!
Days where you can look out of the window with a mug of coffee or relax and read are so rare that they call for an Instagram post! If by chance we manage to save some from our pockets and end up in Goa for cheap beer- yes our life is happening! Our biggest dread is the day our landlord might want the house back and happiness means getting a seat in the local!Yes, life is beautiful here!
Work Or Love? Choice Is Yours
Ever wondered why most of the people we meet are either happily single or sadly married? And the ones who actually do have someone in life are usually whining and cribbing for their love has no time to breathe in! Bosses are always on our head, deadlines ruin our dates and mismatch of holidays is the perfect breeding ground for arguments. Yes, you might have an evening with popcorns and bhutta at marine drive in the monsoon, but seriously? Hallelujah for those who keep the cupid around through Whatsapp and Skype! I am sure it’s all lovey dovey for there is screen between you two, and that my friend is the key to your relationship!
Being Honest Never Takes You Anywhere
If you think calling in sick would get you a leave, forget it. Lying is an art in this city and you have to be a pro at it if you want one day of bliss. Make as many excuses as you can for being late to work! Applying for a leave is like preparing for a false case! You have no idea what question your boss might pop on you! And if you think being hospitalised is going to be a serious issue for them? Well, they didn’t make a call because they assume you are chilling in Goa! Hypocrisy, betrayal and the art of lying is all what you learn here. You learn to smile when you’re crying inside, you learn to fake a fever for a holiday and you learn to keep the hospital bills in your inbox, just in case.
It’s All About Manipulation
From convincing an autowala to drop you in exchange of money to your watchman to let you shift at midnight because you don’t have an off to your colleagues to let you take an early off for an appointment to the HR people when you’re looking for a job change, this city is all about manipulation. You play the game with your Bai, the broker, the sabziwalas, the government officials if god forbids you have to lodge an FIR for your lost phone, manipulation here is the key to success. The city gives you no mercy if you take the truthful lane. Even if you have a nervous breakdown and need an off to go home, do not forget to manipulate the story! If you’re planning to get married, start manipulating for your boss might ask for your wedding card as a proof!
Friends Come And Go
While half of this city’s youth is gaga over the ‘Friends’ series, there is nothing as Friends here. Friendship in this city is transitory! It changes with your room mates, project team and your workplace. Friends in this city are made as per the Mumbai local lines, they change when you switch flats from central to western line! There is no point in getting attached for a couple of beers is what friendship means here. People are so much programmed to behave as USB’s willingly attaching and detaching, that there is no scope of long term relations here. It is all about the moment, enjoy it and move on.
Deep Down We All Are Suffering
The colleague who is always chirpy, your rude office boy, your boss who is the devil on this planet for you, the lady who just shouted at another in the local- all of them are fighting their demons here. The city takes so much toll on your daily struggle to survive, to breathe and to keep oneself alive enough for another day. All the people that I have met have been two versions of themselves- the usual ones and the ones that pop after a few bottles of wine! Deep down we all all hiding and fighting our demons within. That’s the truth about this city. And that taught me to never make things any more uncomfortable for the people around me.
Outings Make Your Life Happening
There is one sole mantra that this city works on- work your ass off for five days, dance and drink through the weekend and post a Monday Morning picture the next week! If you’re found on your couch in your PJ’s watching a movie all alone, you are in fact depressed! If your Facebook and Instagram do not have atleast one weekend post or a picture, you might be termed as a boring homo sapien!
Get Used To Things
If there is one thing this city swears by- it’s getting used to things. From dangerously overcrowded locals to dirty stations to an embarrassingly low metro coverage to overflowing roads in monsoons to packed up colonies to criminally expensive property rates- the city accepts all of it under one label- Mumbai! They would buy umbrellas, invest in waterproof outfits to bags to what not, walk through the flooded roads but not once has this city understood the need to get a sewage system good enough to save us from the annual rains. Why? Because we should get used to it!
In the last 25 years, I never worried about growing old or losing the year that just went by. Mumbai taught me how time is my biggest enemy. From the first alarm bell to the final alarm that I set back in the night, all we do is chase time like there’s no tomorrow. Unknowingly, Mumbai pushes you to run behind the metro that would come back again, because seconds matter here. I don’t know how running for the train, risking your legs and life would get people a promotion, but yes, people here are always on the run. They run when they’re going to work and they run when they’re coming back too!
Dreams are costly
The city of dreams has taken many to the zeniths of success and trampled even more to the deepest of trenches. Dreams might get fulfilled, but they are costly, sometimes too extravagant to be handled. They cost us our personal space, relationships, family, time , youth and sometimes the soul that we were born with. I have unlearnt values, learnt to lie and grasped tricks on the path of my struggle through this city. Knowingly or unknowingly, at such a young age, I am convinced that even when I reach the top (which I will), the deal would not be worth it!
Yes, it’s been two years since I met Mumbai, the city where I landed with a lot of dreams. But each day as I wake up and start again, I lose one dream from my basket and bargain for another with another. And I know all of us are doing the same. I wish I get the power and strength to leave the pel mel of this seemingly gorgeous city and take my unfulfilled dreams back home, for home doesn’t cost me myself.