So, it is already a year since I moved to Mumbai. The city of dreams; the city that never sleeps; the Maximum city – the cliches never get old, they just continue to get better and seem truer as you get to know the city closer, with each passing day. Though I have known it since precisely 12 years (2011 Jan, when I first set my feet here as a dreamy almost-out-of-college boy), the last 12 months have again made me realize that apart from my home-town Varanasi, if there is any other place where I would want to live & have a life, it is here. So here are my top 12 reasons from last 12 months, for falling in love with this city, all over again.
Bollywood: If you live, breathe and think ‘Bollywood’, there is no way you can’t get starry-eyed of the mecca of Hindi film industry. Every corner & anecdote has a filmy connection here and of course the easy accessibility to the stars and their world is a never-ending charm. The highlight for me has to be attending the promotional event of Darlings, with the amazing Alia Bhatt & Shefali Shah talking live in front of me. (And not so high-light would be the visit to the Film city, which turned out to be a damp squib.
Marine drive: When I am asked if I am a sea person or mountains person, I just say – I am a Marine drive person. No matter how many times you visit, at whichever time you visit, the charm of the place is never too much. The sea is perhaps what gives this city its strongest vibes and personality trait. From the little glimpses of the infinite blueness of the sea to the majestic aura of the Bandra-Worli Sea link, the Arabian City undoubtedly lends a lot of its dreaminess to the city.
Vada pao For someone who grew up (and still is growing) on a staple diet of bread and aloo, there is nothing better than the Bombay street food – hands down a complete winner over its Delhi counterparts. Potato, fried and in many variants along with the Pao, and there is no looking back. Otherwise as well, the fine dine scene in Mumbai is also quite superior with lavish celebrity owned restaurants and pubs with exotic cuisines.
Opportunities: Well, ever since my ‘job location’ changed to Mumbai – that has been the happiest and most fulfilling phase of my career. Yes, I know it may not be the just the city (i) but it can’t be just a coincidence that in the city of dreams I found the opportunity of my dreams?
People I really don’t believe in branding people to places but maybe this is an exception? The spirit of freedom, fun & gentle carelessness that I see in the Mumbai folks is, to say the least – accepting, welcoming and charming. From quirky landlords who won’t rent you the place unless you take their late mom’s bed to typical So Bo resident who has never stepped into Mohammad Ali Road (as they fear being kidnapped) – they are as colorful and genuine as they get.
Freedom A casual afternoon playing cards, an evening with loud music, soft conversations, fun gossips and banters – all buoyant with the lightness of the ‘spirit’ and the interesting company; and you don’t need more reasons to love the city. Freedom in Mumbai doesn’t only mean that the city is literally active and buzzing with people round the clock, but also reflects in the open mindset and hearts in accepting you as you are, almost!
Mountains What no one prepares you before coming to the city is the fact that you’ll see mountains much more often than the sea! Casually springing up here & there, the small hills – sometimes with full green cover, sometimes covered with slums are a part of the landscape of the city. My favorite is of course the one overlooking my house – the first view that I wake up to everyday!
House If there is one materialistic dream that I have – it is to have a fancy sea-facing house in the town! While that remains, I love the house we got here – complete opposite of what one would expect from Mumbai – a lavish 2 storied house with a backyard, little garden, terrace and amidst plenty of greenery, overlooking a forest and right next to the Film City! So for all the jokes about houses in Mumbai being small – can’t relate to them happily!
Drive I learnt driving in the Covid lockdown in Varanasi, but the thrill of driving in a metro city which massive roads, flyovers (and also traffic) was something which I have experienced only in Mumbai. The charm of driving along the sea-side, along the mountains and all the while being on the big bad city roads is just something else. Though nothing beats (still) the thrilling drive on the Bandra-Worli Sea link specially in the night with the sizzling Worli sky-line glittering in the background.
Local With a couple of lines functional, and rest of the lines creeping up slowly across the city, Mumbai ‘Metro’ is soon to take its full shape and enter the popular culture – but will it be able to replace the iconic place of the Mumbai local? That seems tough. The fast pace which picks up suddenly from a slow start, the chase against time of the passengers to board on time, the push & shove in the train to settle in a comfortable spot- sometimes resisted by fellow passengers sometimes them coming together to support each other and eventually, more often than not, everyone reaching their destination safely and on time – nothing embodies the true spirit of Mumbai more than the local train. My favorite local train moment of last year is definitely the ride with Shlok, which he loved as much I did my first.
Diversity Right after landing in Mumbai, the first cab we took, the driver was from, where else but Varanasi! While that made us chuckle and take it as a hint that the city was going to be our second home – over next few months I realized it is nothing but the beautiful picture of diversity that this city presents. Simply speaking – if you meet a group of people in Mumbai it is more than likely that you will perhaps have representation from all states, religion, languages and even ideologies. Thanks to that, I have learnt about many new customs, tasted new food from lunch boxes of colleagues, discussed various views & opinions and definitely learnt to be more inclusive & accepting.
Hill-stations The Mumbai to Pune drive on the expressway is without doubts the most beautiful drive that I have done – thanks to the mesmerizing views of the western ghats, hills, tunnels and the clouds overflowing through all of them. There is no dearth of pretty little hill stations around Mumbai for a quick weekend getaway. Not just the very popular Lonavala Khandala Matheran, but there are a lot of subtle quaint options as well, like Igatpuri – which we absolutely loved.
I have always believed that you start belonging to a city when you don’t need google maps or even the road signs to guide you to your destination. Today as I drove back from Marine drive to my place, my phone battery & I , both didn’t feel exhausted. Off to the next list of adventures & experiences in the city!