“Mumbaiiii” just this one word is enough to personify the vibrant and electrifying spirit of this city. Call it Mumbai or call it Bombay or even call it Bambai just the name is enough to bring a sparkle to your eyes. Mumbai, with its “Always on the go” lifestyle will never fail to show you what dynamism is. “Static”, “Passive”, “Slow and Steady” are words just absent from the dictionary of this city and every person connected to it. This city never sleeps. Even at 3 am you can wander around Marine Lines and find hawkers selling you bhel and chaat. At 12 am, Dadar station is as crowded as the Delhi streets at 4 pm. At 5 am you can see people starting their day having small naps in the local trains while commuting to their destinations. EVERYONE and EVERYTHING is ACTIVE here.
This “Tinsel Town” has both a glamorous apeal as well as an inhumane side of poverty. It houses both the Malabar hills with residents ranging from film stars to politicians as well as Dharavi, the biggest slum of Asia, where life is worse than the worst. Just like the moon, it has a bright side as well as a dark side.
The city of dreams as often referred, like a magnet attracts people from not only all over the country, but all over the world. Diversity is the norm here. People from different age groups, different religions, with different purposes, with different dreams and aspirations come here to live their dream. Be it for business or job, vacation or a shopping spree or just to watch their favourite movie stars.
Exactly 1 year and 2 months ago, I came to this city. I got a job here and for the very first time in my life I was going to be living away from home. A variety of emotions filled me. Happiness, nervousness, excitement, tension, nostalgia and a sense of restlessness.
Everywhere I was advised how difficult life in Mumbai is. How we need to constantly keep on running to match our pace with this fast paced city or else we’ll be left behind. Right from local trains to the crowded streets everything was new for me.
In my early days here I was told “Yaha koi kisi k liye nahi rukta” (No one would stop for any one no matter what). It’s not because people here are insensitive or they don’t care. It’s simply because everyone is so much busy with their own lives and running to match their pace with the life here, they simply don’t have much time to look what others are doing or think what other are thinking. Except in local trains where your neighbours would peep into your phone while you’re trying to clear all the candies in candy crush.
Since I’m not so much used to travelling here, I usually get stuck when I try something different than the set routine. For example once while returning from my home town Ahmedabad to Mumbai, I got down at Boriwalli and had to catch an AC bus that would take me straight to my place. It was BEST AS 125. I waited for some 10 minutes and the bus didn’t arrive. And I saw a BEST bus no. 125. I got onto it. Little did I know both the busses had different routes and it took me 3 and a half hours to reach my place which the AC bus could have took me in an hour !
For the Non Mumbai readers, I’d like to explain that Mumbai topology is divided into 3 major lines – Western, Central and Harbour line. Dadar is the connecting junction for Western and Central line; and it’s densely crowded 24*7. Local trains that run on these lines are of two types : Slow trains, which halts at all intermittent stops and Fast trains, which halts only at major stations.
Every time I travelled from Central line and Western line, I noticed a common station : Matunga. To change from central to western, I would usually go to dadar and change the platform; which I usually fretted. At the back of my mind, I had thought next time onwards, I’m going to be smart and change right away from Matunga.
Now, again this time I was returning from Ahmedabad. It was early morning 5 am. I couldn’t wait for the busses as they would start at 7 am. I decided to catch the next local to Dadar and thereafter go to Central Railways. Everything was as per the plan. Until, I decided to act smart. I got down at Matunga, which was a station before Dadar. I had 2 bags with me full of stuff packed with love from my parents. Getting down, I asked a stall worker ” Bhaiya, central me jane k liye kaunsa platform hai ?” ( Which platform to take to get to Central Railways ?)
He looked at me for a moment as if I was an alien. I was confused and asked him again. And then he told me “Madam Central and Western ka Matunga dono alag station hai ! Central me Matunga station hai aur Western me Matunga Road. They are connected by a bridge but it’s currently under construction, so it’s not safe to use. You can get a taxi from outside.”
For those moments, I lost my senses. It scared me and made me shiver literally. It was 5.30 am and yet dark outside. I couldn’t dare walking out to catch a taxi. I didn’t know what to do now ! How to reach where I want to. Platforms were empty except a few odd people. I saw 2 guys starting at me from a distance which made me all the more nervous.
Just then, an elderly uncle came to me. He had heard my conversation with the stall guy and asked me : ” where do you want to go”. I told him my destination. He smiled. And told me, “Beta, you’ve told me, but make sure you don’t tell any one your destination. You never know who might follow you. Plus you have luggage with you. Which would show them you’re not a localite. Wait here for 15 minutes. The next train would come here which will take you to dadar. Behave confidently like a localite and don’t worry. You’ll reach safe.”
Those words brought so much comfort to me. I did exactly as that uncle told me. It worked.
It was a very small incident in a way. But in a way, it taught me 2 very important lessons :
1.) Kindness is everywhere. When God can’t be present, he sends over this guardian angels for us.
2.) If people can be kind to you, you also should reciprocate with love.
At times, give a standing lady with a kid your seat in the train. Treat your watchman with a tea when he helps you carrying your bags to your home. Go and sit at your neighbours place for some time after work and catch up with them. They will surely like your gesture. Buy biscuits for the street dogs and treat them. Smile at people you see everyday instead of walking around with a grumpy face.
Kindness is also like a boomerang. So bestow it freely and it will return to you many fold.