“Maybe Mumbai is not so bad.” Before I could finish the thought, it was interrupted by howling wind and pouring rain, which drenched my thoughts as well. I moved to Mumbai in June 2019 to pursue higher studies at Xavier Institute of Communication (XIC). Since it was in South Bombay, I had to stay close by. The shift to Mumbai was difficult and new. I know complaining about the weather is a cliché. I despised everyone who whined about Mayanagri (aka Mumbai); wasn’t living in the city a dream for millions? But later when I waded through the rain and crossed the pools of sadness and irritation, I felt I might have been too harsh. I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, so all my life I have been trained for the brightest and sunniest days. This made monsoon my favourite season. When others were irked because of the rain, I taunted them and brought out the inner ‘romantic’ in me and said monsoon makes everything heartbreakingly beautiful. When I started living in Mumbai I realised I love rain in Hyderabad, because it stopped raining. But Mumbai is a sight when the sun finally comes out, the shades of the sun that the sky offers seem like a surprising reward.
I first visited Mumbai when I was 11 years old, and by then Mumbai was already the face of modern lifestyle. The loud noises and rushing cars scared me, and I clung to my mother’s hand for reassurance. The 23-year-old me is still scared of the rushing cars and tries not to die while crossing the road. This is the second time I’m away from home and just when you think it gets easier, it doesn’t. The food here also doesn’t make the missing home part easier. Hyderabad had spoilt me with flavoursome and spicy food, so my standards for food were pretty high, and Mumbai kept failing me. I am not a big fan of the vada pav or misal pav (staple Maharashtrian street food), and was very closed off to whatever else Mumbai had to offer. I optimistically looked out of my window with expectant eyes, waiting for my delivery guy to bring me a biryani that would satisfy my taste buds. But it’s never as good as the one I got at home.
The Sea, The Sky And The Solace
There was a dislike I was developing for the city that made me blind to every beautiful thing in it. Everything except the sea. I can be poetic and say that the waves crashing against Marine Drive have touched my soul, but that would be a lie. I haven’t found myself on its famous beaches but I have found the peace that every beach never fails to give. It is popularly known that any conversation after midnight becomes deep. But any conversation after midnight at Marine Drive is truly close to my heart. My friends and I considered Marine Drive holy ground where every problem could be solved. I also enjoyed Marine Drive in its silence and with my closest people around me. It gave me true happiness that only the sea can offer.
A Start To Something Good
Before I knew it, I had a favourite place and a favourite thing to do in Mumbai. I slowly explored other parts of Mumbai. Took the local train, was squished, and did not have the time of my life, but it was an experience. I had vada pav, misal pav, keema pav, and anda pav in Dadar, and relished every bite. I had kebabs in Colaba and was fairly impressed. I watched my first football match in the Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri and loved it. It was also my first time shouting cuss words in a stadium. I partied in Bandra, to the point of collapsing, but kept going. When I came back at 2 am, holding my heels in my hand, the people on the road did not look at me in a weird way. Mumbai roads might be dirty, but felt very safe.
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Mumbai Through My Eyes
I find Mumbai lanes very fascinating. On the outside, the city is modern, but even in posh places like South Bombay, the lanes remind me of a small town. A friend told me that Mumbai gives him the ‘hill station and small-town vibe’ and I was going to say no, but I looked around me and the small buildings, and the constant drizzle did remind me of the small town where I’d like to settle down at 60 and die peacefully. To add to that charm, Mumbai has people who are ready to help you, most of the time. Back at home, I lived in auto-rickshaws most of the time, but when I arrived in South Bombay I was shocked to see that there were no autos and I wondered how people lived like this. Now I miss having conversations with the kali peeli (local taxi) drivers. It was after I went to Andheri and Bandra that I released the breath I was holding and felt normal again.
Leaving Things Behind
It slowly felt like I was letting go of grudges and starting to enjoy the city. I had just found my ground but suddenly it was taken away. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our classes and graduation were cancelled. Our batch of 2019-20 did not have an official goodbye. I could not go to Marine Drive one last time. I could not eat things I loved and visit the bar we usually spent time in, one last time. I barely met any of my friends as everyone left in a hurry. I did not get my one last hug before life after XIC began. Now that I have the time to think back, I miss the part of my heart I left in Mumbai, but I never want it back. In that tiny part, I put every good and bad memory I had and would like to go back and visit it sometime. As the first rain in Hyderabad descended, I wished that it was Mumbai’s rain I felt on my skin. It feels like I was supposed to be there and however much I went against it, it felt right. It gets me thinking maybe Mumbai wasn’t so bad.