Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Mumbai one

Note: This is the last of my trips down memory lane India holiday in March 2006. I hope you enjoy it.

It was so long ago that I barely remember anything about my 4 short days in Mumbai. Blame it on procrastination (which I like to think of as a person, an opportune friend if you will)

The battle of which is better, Delhi or Mumbai, is something that has long been fought over by populations of each respective city. Each claims the charms of their city as unique and would gladly fight you over your differing opinion if they could. They each (mostly) claim would rather live in their city than anywhere else on the planet.

I’m not willing to get into it though I will admit to having strong feelings on the subject. And enough people have debated it both in the Blogworld and the realworld. I am a Delhi girl. Even after three years of college/ hostel living in faraway Manipal, one year of work experience in Chennai and four years of London living I still consider myself a Dilliwali.

I landed in Mumbai on a Friday evening, glad to be off the Deccan Air flight and missing my parents enormously. I was squashed into my window seat by a 6 foot something giant British cricket fan who had been separated from his fellow travellers by a row (blame free Ryan airstyle seating to match the prices). He spent a large part of the flight yelling across to them (statistics of the match they had just watched, arbit bits about accommodation, the heat and the next match) in the vein “Hey Rob…”, “Hey Justin…”. Each of these conversations also entailed him lifting his arms to wave or gesture. Leaving me to deal with the sweaty armpits and associated odours. The only saving grace was a loud Bengali guy who had the aisle seat, boxing in our cricket-loving friend, and talking to (or is that at?!) him nineteen to the dozen. Bong dude was too cool (I say that in some jest). He had on a T-shirt and cap that proudly displayed ‘Schlumberger’. He carried a knapsack and laptop bag that also proudly bore the same word and logo. He was like an advertisement for the company. So overdone infact that I am tempted to think he bought all that matching kit from somewhere (like ebay – they do sell EVERYthing) just to impress someone. He expounded on the greatness of Eden Garden, Sourav Ganguly and Calcutta in long and convoluted sentences’. Poor Britfan kept trying to cut him off by talking to his friends, pretending to doze off but Bong dudewas having none of it. He was determined to make the Britfan admit that it was terrible that Sourav, Eden and Calcutta had been ignored by the cricket scheduling people. If I remember accurately I think Britfan finally agreed to everything about 5 minutes before landing, beaten into submission by 2 hours of non-stop talking. Told you - my flights are never uninteresting!

Mumbai was humid and overcast, as expected. It’s brightly lit streets guiding humanity home after a long day of work. A doorbell broke the spell and left my brother-sister-&-mom-in-law completely shell shocked at my surprise arrival. R & T and father-in-law had kept the secret well.

Mumbai and I just do not agree. Normally I have a bout of illness when I’m at home (mainly for the mollycoddling efforts of my mum!) but this time although I ate tons of junk from the side of the road I did not fall ill for a second in Delhi. From the morning after my arrival in Mumbai and for the following 3 days I lived in extreme food poisoning hell. I couldn’t really eat out, do much shopping or meet friends – heck I could barely move from the weakness. I wandered into Crossword in Bandra, picked at my m-i-l’s birthday lunch in White Orchid and propped myself up for an afternoon of my best friends yakking. All worth it although I didn’t give any of these events the attention I should have. I am unhappy to report that I even had to go see a doctor who wanted me to go in for re-hydration treatment to hospital. Warded him off knowing that I had a plane to catch and got him to prescribe me with enough antibiotics to keep me standing.

In fact I looked so ill when I checked in (I could barely stand and the heat was not helping) that the check-in guy upgraded me. So I travelled back in comfort. My trip was short and precious. It was lovely to see V’s family although I wished I was in better health to enjoy it more. Next time…..

Coming back to the Mumbai –Delhi debate. I see the charms of Delhi mainly because it’s where I grew up. I also see its problem and faults. I love it just the same. I guess it’s just that for people in Mumbai. Love for the city where they grew up, feel most comfortable. Acceptance of its issues and an attempt to justify and correct them. What I don’t get is why it’s an extreme emotion. With most Mumbaikars I’ve ever met they claim to hate Delhi and the Delhiites seem to feel the same about Mumbai. I don’t particularly care for Mumbai but I certainly don’t hate it. I just can’t imagine ever living there.

My first ever trip there was when I began working in 1996. I was used to the Delhi way of life and I didn’t find Mumbai exciting or alluring. All the wonderful things people had hyped it up with seemed to be a mirage. I hear you say that maybe I was just hanging around with the wrong crowd. Maybe. But even subsequent trips have not changed my view. I have tons of fun in Mumbai but I think that’s more because of V’s family than the city itself. I think my biggest challenge is understanding, accepting and acclimatising to the weather because let’s face it both cities have traffic problems, endless crowds, great places to eat, filled shops, lists of stuff to do etc. I won’t defend my stance. Live with it. The things I must say for the Mumbaikars is that they have indomitable spirits and unwavering belief in themselves. The ‘can do’ attitude and endless pride is something inspirational. I'm still unconvinced about living there though.

I’ll be back in Mumbai on holiday quite soon I’m sure. I hope that by then my attitude is more positive and I find something loveable about the city. Any pointers?

Note: This was not a very focussed blog post. Deal with it.


  1. Dilliwali, that was quite something. Now now, Delhi is nice and so is Mumbai.

    And cheers to the bong dude. Lol!! Your flight trips are soooooooo interesting, while mine are more of dozing off and counting numbers backwards :(

    And Ryanair, they broke my suitcase.

  2. Anonymous4:39 AM

    same tug-of-war between the madrasis(or should i say chennai-ites) and the bangalorians!!!40in2006

  3. Yup. Wise decision to leave the debate aside :-) Nice writeup, especially the part about the flight.

  4. a vote for mumbai from me :-). nice post.

  5. Hi. Thanks for visiting. I am an Dilliwali who now lives in Mumbai. Neither is perfect. Delhi is a bit scary if you are a woman, while Mumbai feels safe even in the wee hours of the morning. On the other hand, Mumbai is claustrophopic and crowded and Delhi is more green and spacious.

    But I do worry about rasing my kid in Mumbai. I have friends who grew up here who never learnt to ride a bike...

  6. hey... I get the whole mumbai vs delhi debate a full on dilli kudi (not a true blue londoner)... I gotta side with my home city. It's greener, cleaner, better traffic and.. well home. more space. love bombay. love the party scene, hate the traffic, the fishy smell, the rush.. the madness.. I find peace in Delhi, in browsing thru a book store in khan market and a lazy coffee..mumbai is too hectic for that kinda ease. to me atleast. london too sometimes.