Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Life between 430am and 1130pm..!

This is the story of Me and a parallel story of most of my fellow citizens in Mumbai… I could have named it ‘life in Mumbai’ or ‘Mumbai 360 degrees’ or 'Mumbai local', but this title is more personal as i try to reflect the lives of many through my story…

Since I live in a suburb of Mumbai and have to go to college in the heart of the city, my day begins as early as 430. Most people here (working class) live in suburbs and outskirts of the city. Since housing and cost of living in the town (Downtown Mumbai is referred to as Town) is far beyond the means of many, they have no option but to live in far corners and suburbs. Many find the suburbs more comfortable, as they are new and better developed. As in my case, my dad has got a business of transportation and has his office in New Mumbai (transport sector is shifting base from Mumbai to New Mumbai), so we live here in the newest city of India (Not official).

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Local Trains form the most important aspect of Mumbai

Well, I start my travel at around 530, taking 549 from Panvel (place where I live) to CST (formerly VT.) The train is relaxingly filled or I should put, it is relaxingly empty (least in first class). Most of my co-travellers are senior (in age) corporate employees who are nearing their retirement. Now, the reason why they travel so far is because they had invested in homes here (New Mumbai) and since they are retiring soon, they prefer to stay in their new OWN HOMES (I put this in CAPS ‘cause owning a home in Mumbai is a distant dream). For a humble student like me, it is the worst part to wake up that early (430!! That’s pretty too early). But, I’m not alone, there are many like me who travel for 4 FOUR hours to attend 3 three hours of college (that’s really ironical).

Now, it’s not that New Mumbai has no colleges (it has few of the best in state), but when you get admitted to colleges like the one I’m in, you can certainly take the pain. It’s like if you get a chance in Harvard, you’d certainly skip Ohio.

Most travel least an hour to reach to their places of work, study, whatever and in transit (local train) most follow the same routine, maximum sleep (including me), a quarter pray (with pocket sized books and beads) and the remaining read their newspapers. It’s pretty interesting to see people sleeping in trains, trust me, it’s the best sleep of the day, with the continuous rocking of the bogies, it seems one can sleep endlessly. Sleeping, in Mumbai’s locals (suburban trains are generally referred as locals), is not the only interesting thing you’ll see. It’s just the one thing; the other is making train mates. Train mates (my term) are friends who become friends ‘cause they are co-travellers for a very long time. Now what’s special in that, people make friends with people who they meet regularly, special are their activities. Train mates indulge in many weird things, Singing popular songs in chorus (it sometimes cause fights) then playing Cards and sometimes betting too. It reflects how people in Mumbai try to do maximum in their limited resources (time, place and money).

As of me, I simply sleep, or occasionally study (students like me study only when they have their exams). I get down at VT at around 710 (it usually takes 1hr. 20 mins. for the train to reach VT).
VT, it’s the best place for an artist who seek art (VT is the best built train station in the world, acc. to me), for poets, authors and documentary makers, who seek humanity and life as their subjects, journalists as there are million things happening in VT and nearby areas every day, shoppers as there are a million vendors outside VT, foodies, as VT has some amazing Vada Pav and other local and continental food joints. VT is a place for everyone except for those who hate crowd. VT sees endless humanity coming in and going out every day.

Lectures are always boring and most people who work complain the same too. But as students, we’ve a little flexibility, we can bunk. Why most people find their work boring? The answer is the SYSTEM. The education system is antique in the university (throughout India) and the work culture in private sector is very demanding. It isn’t the case with the government employees ( why.? it's not discussed here).

My college ends at around 1030, after which the actual Mumbai college life starts. College life in Mumbai is more hyped than any other places I have been to. The reason could be, life in Mumbai is very scaled. By scaled I mean, running in very tight schedule until you retire. So students try to make use of their college time as much as they can ‘cause there’s no time for next 35 years.

I won’t discuss the college life in this post. So, I’ll jump back to my journey (back home). While returning, it’s around 12 and sometimes or even late. That’s the time when the school children either return to their homes (morning batches) or go to school (day batches). Since the morning rush hour is over, I get to travel easy again. It’s usually irritating to travel with school (government) children, they are too loud and cheeky. The fact that railways (railway is government entity) allow every school children (until 10th grade) to travel in first class (super expensive otherwise) without ticket (this is the way in which government is promoting child education for the poor masses) it welcomes all the hooligans to have a gala. Not that I’m class biased, no, but who likes urchins shouting on their faces, least I don’t.

My day doesn’t end here as for the other Mumbaites. I usually go for tutorials (though not necessary, but that’s one place you really can study). While others have their meal breaks. Meal brake is very famous (especially after The Dabba wallas won the Sigma Six) here. People in Mumbai hate when they have to skip their meal breaks, especially in government offices. Government offices are practically shut during that time, let it be judiciary or even public hospitals. Work is suspended, however important, for that couple of hours. This is again a feature unique to Mumbai.

Its evening and I’m done with my tutorials. It’s time for the college assignments. While I’m doing my assignments, people are returning back to their homes. This time it’s the rush hour and the locals are jam packed (still an inferior adjective). Roads are jam packed too. It’s a struggle to get back to home, people fight this battle six days a week.

Night time and I join my fellow citizens with the same routine. Dinner and TV is the most common combination in every Mumbai home. It’s 8 and the TV starts (though they could be on before that). After a long dinner (though actual eating is done in very less time), I usually prepare for the next day. So do the other men and women. Housewives prepare the menu for the next day, while students pack their bags (it’s a common routine of every Indian school student), men fix and ready their files. And thus my day ends, usually with a chat on phone.

The day ends, and most of the citizens have spent almost 16 hours working… well, if you see, I’ve done nothing but four things 1) travel, 2) college, 3) travel again and 4) tutorials (including my own studies). Same is the case with most of my fellow citizens. Life is folded in this circle. It’s such an interesting mix, but not personally productive. I’d like to sometime compare the lifestyles of a Mumbaite with maybe a New Yorker. Our lives are always bound and controlled with very little free spaces (time). We hardly move out of our circles. But then, when you see it from the top (as in like from outside), it’s the fu*king most interesting and entertaining. That’s why there are numerous movies and plays casting Mumbai in their backgrounds.

Then there comes the most beloved day, the Sunday. Sundays mean sleeping, eating and again sleeping, grabbing a movie (mostly on TVs as cinemas are full and people are tired to move out of their houses), and sleeping again. I’d a text message from a close friend on Sunday, it was “deep sigh..! Another Sunday gone…. Please God, when I wake up let it be Sunday afternoon..!” lol…

Well., it is just an overview of mine and my fellow citizen’s life in this Megacity - Mumbai… it has many more colours and shades. A lot of fights, quarrels, love, laughter, despair, complains and many more things are part of everybody's everyday. But then as they say, Yeh hai Mumbai meri Jaan..! People love this city as it gives them a dream, a dream to prosper, grow and retire in peace. Happily ever after.! This dream is nothing less than a fairy tale, some realise it, some try until they realise and some never realise it at all. This mix bag of dreams, cultures, languages and PEOPLE, is the city of Mumbai.