The Mumbai Effect

As I lugged around my trolley at Bandra Terminus, I wondered: have I exaggerated my love for Mumbai? Is my eagerness to move here misplaced?

It had been a little over a month since I graduated business school, and the waters of life had been inevitably calm. One might even call it a lull. When you have been conditioned to live with goals and deadlines, the sudden lack of them is baffling.

Ergo, the idea of attending the wedding of a close friend couldn’t have been more refreshing. A week of illness had plateaued this excitement, and I boarded my train to Mumbai still feeling fuzzy. A message issued in interest of public welfare: if you ever happen to be about to buy tickets to a certain Yuva Express, don’t. It’s 500 rupees cheaper than a Rajdhani, and rattles like a bus on a mud road. Add that, my health, and the unfortunate company of twenty loud teenagers: it is remarkable I didn’t scream out in frustration.

And so there I was, still shaken from my journey, doubting my Mumbai; my good old Mumbai. The humidity announced itself, ‘Remember me, bro?’ The clock was approaching half past nine in the morning, and I thought a good breakfast would knock back sense into me. I told the auto-driver to take me to Linking Road, which he heard as Hill Road. So when my longer-than-required trip ended, I asked for the fare.

“30 would be fine. It was my fault I misheard.” The meter read 40 Rs.

Both the admittance and the tone took me off guard. What was it that I felt, apart from the obvious appreciation of the importance of fairness to him?

The answer came to me an hour later, when I was buying a ticket for the local. An elderly bespectacled lady printed it for me, and replied my queries with a surprising earnestness. I thanked her, and she returned a warm smile. That feeling again.

And then I remembered. It was the Mumbai feeling. It took so long to remember, because I hadn’t felt it for a year. Long ago were the days where fairness and humility were a familiar aroma in the air. From that moment, it grew stronger every minute. Especially after I met my old friends, I could see the contrast from my life in B-school, in the pain my jaw felt from smiling and laughing. How could it not, when it hadn’t seen this much activity in a long time? The sickness in my body and mind went running for its life, because it knows a lost fight when it sees one. I am reminded of the strength Superman can only feel in the Sun. Every part of your body recognizes its home, embraces life around, and rejoices. When such is the resonance one feels, surprises are often in store. Like dancing unabashedly to the songs you profusely dislike, and enjoying the company of groups, without a drop of alcohol.

People ask me why, despite the crowds, rains and expenses, do you want to live there? This then would be my answer: the people make it all worth it, strangers and friends alike. Not everyone would agree of course, just as everyone doesn’t wear the same sized pants. But this is where I fit in.

It was all so effortless, and right. As the train departed from Mumbai, I smiled at my apprehension about the city three days ago. No shadow of doubt remains now. I know that moving to Mumbai a couple of months later, wouldn’t be a lot different than going home.

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