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25 January 2014

Lessons from Mumbai....

For the past one year or so, I have been living in Mumbai.
Mumbai teaches you. It teaches you language, it teaches you new stuff. Here I am listing out the top 10 life lessons that Mumbai has taught me.
Lesson 1. You don't need space to live: The city is very congested. Wherever you go, there is space crunch. Three cars parked in the space of two with two bikes and a cycle in between, Aircraft like toilets in most of the buildings, literally 'Bumper to Bumper' traffic with two vehicles 'within an inch' of each other, steep and narrow stairs, small rooms doubling as kitchen, bathroom, bedroom... whatever. The concept of 'Studio Apartment' originated in Mumbai, I guess.
Lesson 2. No lane is narrow for a car: Every two way lane in Mumbai is lined with parked vehicles on either side of the lane with just enough space for just one car. However, you can see vehicles plying seamlessly on these lanes with honking of horns adding to the music in these lanes. The widest car out there can pass through the narrowest lanes with pedestrians occupying the space between ...(well, wherever space is available).
Lesson 3: Everyone can become a great driver: Mumbai builds confidence in you as a driver. You need to be very smart to get into the accidents. For one, the traffic hardly moves. Miles and miles of traffic jam is the norm and not the exception. Often times, it will take about an hour to cover 3 kilometers. Second, as a novice driver, whenever you have a doubt if you have enough space to navigate a very narrow stretch, you just wait. A couple of pedestrians are bound to come along. If you find them squeezing in between your car and the expected obstacle, that is a signal that there is enough space. If a Mumbai man stops in front of your vehicle, it is a signal that you also should stop. There is no space between your vehicle and the two vehicles on either side of the lane. That (Mumbai man stopping on his tracks) is a very rare occurrence, like lunar eclipse. Take the hint. There is no space there. If there was even a wee bit space, he would have squeezed himself there.
Like the ancient folks used the motion of moon and stars as a signal to navigate rough water, you can use Motion of Mumbai Man (called 'Mumbaikar') as a signal to navigate on Mumbai roads.
Lesson 4: You don't need solitude in life, ever: They are everywhere, crowds of people. And vehicles. And cows. And rikshaws. And hawkers. And public transport. And honking horns. Noise is all around you. The sound of frequent aircraft from above, millions of cars honking horns behind you, sound of 'Howzzaat' from cricket playing public on your left, celebratory drum beating from your front, blaring Marathi and hindi songs from your right...noise is everywhere in Mumbai. You have screaming Maliska and Rishi Kapoor and Rohit Vir in your car, and hawkers wanting to palm off their inferior products to you outside the car. Mumbai teaches you that silence is overrated and solitude is just hyperbole. 
Lesson 5: You need only six month out of a year and still get stuff done: Mumbai Rains? What can I say. This is the only thing that can stop Mumbai en masse. The rains are there for about 6 months in a year. Mumbaikar hibernates for six months during the rains. Rains teach me that you can cram one year's activity into 6 months and still get stuff done.
Lesson 6: You can survive on one mode of Public Transport: All those Taxis and autos and rikshaws and busses are passe. You do not need all these to survive. You just need one form of public transport, the Mumbai Local. You can spent your entire life on Mumbai Local. Mumbai  local is your day planner, your transporter, your newspaper, you stock broker all rolled in one. You can plan your day based on Mumbai Local Schedule, like 'I will get up when the first Borivli Slow starts, brush my teeth when it reaches Andheri, have breakfast when the Panvel fast leaves Vashi...'. You get the drift. You get your daily news and editorials in the Local, like 'Sachin scored 98 yesterday at Wankhade (Sachin is always scoring runs in Wankhade)' or 'Manmohan Singh had a lousy day (as if it were news !)' or 'Rajan is the new RBI Governor', like the regular newspaper. You also get information that Birlas are going to make a big announcement and you should by AB Nuvo, or TCS is going to make a bad quarter and it is time to sell stocks, or you should invest in SEP instead of SIP, straight from your stockbroker, the Mumbai Local.
Lesson 7: 'Home ownership' is overrated: All that saying about 'having your own home' is pure bull. No one owns a home in Mumbai. Like butterflies flitting from flower to flower, the people move from house to house every year in search of lower and lower rent. You can live your entire life in multiple rented apartments. You can pass your childhood in one RA, and spent the evenings of your life in a totally different RA. No questions asked.
Lesson 8: Appearances can be deceptive: Since everyone lives in rented apartments, the outside of the houses will look dirty and dilapidated. But inside is another story altogether. Inside the house it is pure unadulterated luxury. Floors are made of polished Italian marbles, imported directly from Rome. The walls are adorned with Hussains and Van Goghs and Rembrandts. The cutlery is made of gold and silver and the bathroom fittings are the most expensive exotic ones. In Mumbai, never judge a house by its looks..  
Lesson 9: Rest is overrated: Every one in Mumbai is always on the move. I believe that worker ants and Mumbaikers are the only species in the world that never take any rest. Some people move in the moving train, some in the moving cars and some are simply walking on the road. Every one has focus and determination in their eyes and all are in perpetual motion. Only time they stop is to signal to you that if you move your car another inch, it will end up scrapping two more cars. You do not need rest to perform at your peak potential
Final Lesson, lesson 10: The spirit: If you help others, others will help you: You can take your time off to help others and still get your stuff done. You can help an old woman cross the road and still make to that meeting. You can stop to push the jammed truck out of the road and ease the flow of traffic and still make it to Wankade to watch Sachin hit McGrath for a six (how ancient am I? Hello, McGrath retired long back). You can stop and inquire about the state of the accident victim and ensure that he is taken to hospital and still can make to the interview. You can park your car on the side, get out, roll your sleeves and help unclog the huge traffic pile up, you can shout and fight passionately one day and still remain friends the next day without even remembering the fracas of the previous day...
You can be positive, dynamic, professional and still be humane in Mumbai.


Team BlogAdda said...

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Destination Infinity said...

I like the energy the city infuses into me whenever I am there. When you notice the pace of people walking on Bandra station, you too walk fast. Somehow, I like that pace of Mumbai! Well written article :)

Destination Infinity

PS: Nah... Not even Sachin can hit Sixes of McGrath. The bowler is that good :)

Ram's Blogs... said...

Hello Rajesh @destination infinity

Thanks for your comments on my article. I also visited your blog, like a lot of others. You have some excellent content there. Keep up the good work...


Renuka said...

Good observation. I didn't know most of the stuff. :) But the rains last for four months, not six! And, everyone is on the move even when they are drenched!