Monday, January 18, 2010

Mumbai - First Impressions!!

Recently I moved to Mumbai - the maximum city- - the financial capital of India, the land of bollywood, and one among the many who come in daily to realize their dreams or to make this city their home. Yet I came for neither - only for a change. But the city commands respect unlike other cities. You cannot treat it as a mistress wherein you try to simply come, enjoy and go. The city does not tolerate people flirting with it. You need to imbibe all the characters that a mumbaikar is famous for. You must be madly in love with it to be able to understand its intricacies. And then alone you can admire the beauty within. To put in perspective the city has the unenviable responsibility to support 14 mn people with people still pouring in on a daily basis. So it has set its rules which may cause one to declare that it is impossible to live. Yet when you love it madly, you will learn to live by its rules. After all there are millions living by it. Some of the rules that I have learnt so far are

  1. You are never an outsider here. No matter what any political parties say - People never treat you as an outsider probably because most of them are outsiders themselves at some point of the time and they all have faced the frustrations, the push from behind in queues if you are taking time. Possibly this may be the reason why terrorists found it easier to attack it. Yet this very nature helped people during the riots, floods, and attacks itself and it has metamorphosed into the undying mumbai spirit.
  2. Mumbai lives in its sub-urban trains. So many lives revolve around the sub-urban trains, that if on a fine morning, they stopped working; entire mumbai will come to a standstill. It’s the place where, so much happens yet few realize its significance. Just glancing around a compartment, one can find innumerable stories - somebody has just lost a soccer match, somebody has made money on the stock markets, a fresh graduate on his first day of job, looking nervous, a couple lost in themselves that the forget the constant jerks and push from other people, someone crying, someone smiling, someone sleeping, some catching up the daily news. There are so many different stories yet intertwined in one single compartment on a small journey. Next station comes and some stories break apart while some others join in to become part of our story for that small 10-15 mins. It’s fascinating that the entire cycle goes on and on. Yet we think our lives are different when many of us have shared so many small moments together.
  3. You are never alone here. I came to Mumbai thinking of breaking this rule by renting out a single Room-Kitchen for self only. Yet city has its rules. Along with me there are a million other creatures giving me company for various activities that I thought I would have to do alone. For example, there are pigeons every morning to wake me up. Then there is almost transparent mal-nourished lizard - which can only be spotted due to its green veins - or are they its veins? Anyways I have told the lizard to keep a check on other creatures. So we are now having a symbiotic relationship. The rest of the creatures are the smaller ones, whom you can only see when they move. Fortunately there are no cockroaches. A creature even crawled out from under the keyboard of the laptop this morning. Honest.
  4. The railways have also done one more thing. It has divided the city into East and West, at least the western line. (Other lines, I have not yet explored). Very few buses and almost no auto-rickshaws go between east and west. You can only bridge the divide by walking over the railway line. This ensures trains do become an integral part of your life, no matter if you don't want it to. The city is stubborn here.
  5. Talking of auto-rickshaws, I have lived in 3 major cities apart from my home in ahmeadabad (it’s a mega-city after all)and rajkot which is more of a town than city.

Ahmedabad - You can negotiate anything - Mind you, the auto-guys are suave negotiators who given a chance, can negotiate and bring consensus to all the climate and trade talks happening around the world. So watch the deal you are getting.
Pune - You need to be mathematically sharp as you have to do calculations before the meter goes up by one point. After all it is being touted as the Oxford of the East, so expectations are higher. Again the basic rates differ by 1 or 2 rupee depending on the auto-guy. So you also need to be aware of both cases rates beforehand else you know what - the meter goes up.
Chennai - Auto-guys are the smartest here. They charge based on the following points:
  • The distance from the current location
  • The expected traffic on the route
  • Are there any policemen on that route - an extra charge if
  • No matter what happens - the return will have to be paid by the
    current passenger, as there is risk of not getting a passenger on the way back (
    must admit an excellent Risk mitigation strategy)
  • The social standing of the prospective passenger - IT guys are their
    favorite in spite of the recession
  • Finally how they feel.

Based on these factors and probably others, they execute a very complex algorithm in their brains and come out with a figure within a split-second of hearing their destination. Any rupee less than that is an insult to their mind-prowess and you would get an ear-shattering round of all the reasons mentioned above. They should be bankers or leading big corporations based on the number of parameters they evaluate to come to a decision; all of-course within the split-second.

Mumbai - Simple logic - Multiply by 10 and subtract by 1. That’s it. Business people don't want to waste their time doing silly calculations. They are more interested in credits and debits. - Here mumbai scores a point over other cities :)

This list is still incomplete. There are many others. Will provide them as I explore more of this fascinating city. Do post some rules that I may have missed in the comments section.
So that’s it folks..
Mumbai rocks - You just need to learn to rock to the city's tunes!