Meandering through Mumbai #DAY1

I’m really excited about this blog post so here goes!

My friends and I are working on this little filming project of our own. Well, we’ve been planning it for a while and only actually began working on it today. The three of us live in Mumbai, India and that’s what our video will be about, broadly.

Today was Day 1 of our field work and it was great! It certainly exceeded my expectations. Primarily because I’ve lived in mumbai for only two years and have never really gone around exploring it like every other Mumbaikar probably has. Sure, I’ve read all about it in books such as Gregory Roberts’ Shantaram  and seen it too from the windows of my car. But none of it has been as revolutionary as today.

We got down at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) at 7.30 AM in the morning. Honestly, I expected a certain amount of bustling but that wasn’t the case. People were rushing in numerous directions, oblivious of each other’s presence but there was no mad chaos, per se. Turns out, Central Mumbai roads are actually much more crowded as compared to those of South Bombay, particularly Fort.
But then again, it’s Bombay; there are people regardless of where and when you go.

We walked out of CST, admiring the architecture and the nostalgic feel of the area for the hundredth time, losing ourselves to time and space of those around us. It always fascinates me to think of all the lives that pass by me at a station or on the road. They come and go with no acknowledgement from either side; only a brief brush of the shoulders or  give and take of directions once in a while. It’s both, overwhelming and sad, in ways.

For the next two and a half hours we strolled around in Fort, watching the city become what it’s most known for. The transition of energy was drastic. We found ourselves in the middle of a world that was about to begin its day filled with unstoppable vigour and a passion for survival.

We came across an old man and his stall of old coins and notes that, apparently, belonged to the British Raj. (Obviously, most of them were fake but hey, it was quite fascinating nonetheless and a joy to look at!) He was wearing a hat, chewing paan and reading a newspaper with the classiest “don’t know, don’t care” look on his face. It was fascinating!

On one of the footpaths, in an attempt to catch some breakfast, I approached an old lady who was sitting with a basket full of bananas. I began our conversation with a cheerful “Namastey Auntyji” to which her face lit up like diwali lights.! And I’m not even apoligising. It really did! Even after I bought two bananas from her, she kept insisting on me sitting there with her and having the bananas. I’m not sure why, but I suddenly felt like it could have been my grandmother speaking to me.
I sat with her for a while, interacted a bit and bid goodbye to a passing moment.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Thereafter, we walked towards Marine Drive and Chowpatty. Let me just say, it was a bloody long walk! I don’t even know how long that stretch is but it surely exceeded 3 kms. With an average Bombay amount of humidity in the air, the water was as still as a lifeless heart. I have never seen the water so still. When you live in Central, you barely ever end up visiting Marine Drive during the day, especially when it’s not even raining.

Chowpatty, too, was lifeless. The usual “chowpatty” and the celebration gathers only in the evening and we were clearly a little too early for that.
Thereon we walked around a little more, fed our growling stomachs and headed back to CST and then home.

On the way to CST we initiated a short lived conversation with the taxi driver who had been driving taxis since 1981. When asked about which bombay he liked more, he was clear about his answer, “Mujhe ’81 ka bombay zyada pasand hai. Tab traffic bhi kam tha.” (I like the Bombay of ’81 better. The traffic then was lesser.)
Which wasn’t all that surprising because each one of us is always smitten by the past of the present. But it did get me thinking about how we’ve come to associate the traffic jams in Mumbai with the identity of bombay and here is this man feeling the exact opposite.

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