Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mumbai: The City That Never Sleeps

Mumbai has always boasted that it is the City That Never Sleeps. The city has been a witness of torrential rains, terrorist attacks, bomb-blasts etc. and none of these have succeeded in deterring the brave spirits of the Mumbaikars and their never-say-die attitude.

Having lived in Kolkata and Bangalore for seventeen years and three years respectively, where everything shuts before 1:00 a.m. and the roads are absolutely desolated with no one in sight, Mumbai was a welcome change as being a city buzzing with activity even late at night past 2:30 a.m. I think I am one of the fortunate ones who has never been chased by the police for being present at Marine Drive in the dark hours of the night.

Every time I am out at night, the ink-coloured skies of the city seem to be sparkling with the painted dreams of the people it inhabits. No matter how late it is, I have never found myself alone in the city - people are always present, be it taxi-drivers, food-vendors or people, like me, just strolling around.

Saturday was the first time I experienced the city shutting down owing to the death of Shiv Sena visionary, Bal Thackeray. It took my friend, Sanika, and I almost 2 hours to reach home. We had to resort to walking on foot since taxis and autos refused passengers. One auto-wala who did agree to drop us to the nearest station gave up half-way when other auto-drivers coming from the opposite direction approached us with their shattered windows and warned us that autos carrying passengers were being pelted with stones and the drivers were being charged with sticks. Trains were relatively empty, mainly because people had no means of reaching the station. While the passing away of a great political leader is indeed a tragic loss for many, it is not right, in my opinion, to force people to mourn his death by bringing the entire city to a stand-still. The city witnessed an eerie silence on the day of his funeral with thousands of his followers gathered at Shivaji Park while the rest of the Mumbaikars were stuck indoors on a weekend. Shops were closed. Restaurants were shut. Even chemists were not open. I was one of the more unfortunate ones: having just returned from Kolkata, my house was not stocked with any groceries and to make matters worse, my building ran out of water supply on Sunday. So, I was subjected to be under house-arrest with no food and no water just because the person who people claim had made Mumbai safe for women and everyone else was gone; and therefore it was not safe to venture out of the house for anyone! Am I the only one who sees the irony of this? In spite of all this, one cannot say that the city was entirely shut with trains still functioning normally.

Although it is the 'City That Never Sleeps', according to me, Mumbaikars are always in a state of perpetual slumber. Have you ever gone even one night without sleep? If yes, you will agree with me when I say that whenever you are sleep-deprived, you tend to be very indifferent the next day. You feel cranky. You do not wish to really talk to anyone. You just want to get done with your work and you want people to leave you alone. If someone is talking to you about their woes, you do not desire to listen to them; you keep wishing that they go away. This is how I normally act when I have not had my beauty sleep and I like to believe that everyone behaves the same way...It is because of this I say that while Mumbai is full of people who never sleep, it hardly has people who are wide awake...People in Mumbai are always on the move, desperate to reach their destination without caring much about fellow-travellers. I have a friend who always claims that in Mumbai you can do anything you like, wear whatever you want - people, here, will not stare at you! There are times when I find myself wondering if that is really a good thing...People in Mumbai do not have time for even giving another person a second glance - they are too self-absorbed and caught up in their own lives...The people, here, are just disconnected from one another and from the other person's reality. They are just interested in ensuring that their life moves forward...My friends often accuse me of being rather sensitive and advice me to be wary of strangers but unfortunately (or fortunately), I just cannot become a Mumbaikar in that aspect despite my love for the city.

People from Kolkata may be termed as 'nosy' or 'interfering' if you wish to see them through those eyes but by their very nature, people in Kolkata are helpful. Several cars sped past us on the Saturday we were stranded on the roads...If it was Kolkata, many cars (I am not saying all of them) would have stopped and offered a lift to some of the people on the roads. When I suggested that we ask someone for a lift, my friend found even that suggestion preposterous!

Death is a natural event. What surprised me is that the natural death of an important figure brought the city to a complete halt when the untimely deaths of several commoners could do nothing to stop the city from bustling with activity! The city of Mumbai finally fell asleep this weekend; unfortunately, the amount of sleep it needs to compensate for being up since several decades was, most probably, not enough.

On Monday, everything seemed to be going back to normal. Even Dadar, the hot-spot of the Shiv Sainiks, returned to its state of regular functioning. This is Mumbai. This is the City of Dreams. There are times when people may occasionally doze away but Mumbaikars will only rest when they sleep in eternal peace. After all, they are living in the City That Never Sleeps...

39 comments:

  1. Divya, I am so happy to hear those lovely words about the "City of Joy" - no place like Kolkata. It is one of the best places to grow up and live in. About Mumbai, where I have lived for two years, I can say that it is a very cold city. It is a city that is very business like and without any personal attachments to anyone. Ofcourse tell that to any Mumbaikar and they will be up in arms to defend this city. Agree, it is a safe city for women but it is a city withou a soul unlike Kolkata where it is the complete opposite- when people are nosy they also care. My parents left me alone in the care of neighbours at Kolkata for a week when my grandfather died. I never missed them- my neighbours were so kind.. Anyway, each one has an experience of a city. I was really sorry to hear about how you were left stranded and alone at home. And about your other concerns.. I would say - please exercise caution when you blog. We live in different and difficult times.

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    1. I have had good experiences with Mumbai too despite it being fast-paced and people being business-like...It makes a difference when you have good friends around :) Kolkata is very homely :) :) It is the place I would just like to run away when I want to get away from the madness of the city-life of Bombay...

      I know what you are talking about when you say to exercise caution while blogging but I am just keeping my fingers crossed - i know I will be safe :) :)

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  2. I do believe that Mumbai is a city where at many levels people are unconscious, for lack of a better word, if not deep in slumber. I myself am really circumspect about people helping out even if it is in a situation like Saturday's. During 26/7, I have heard of so many people helping out by providing food and water to those stranded. But a friend of mine who was stuck at Bandra station all night also told me the flipside - vendors were selling biscuit packets at much higher prices, hoarding Bisleri bottles, etc. Honestly, if I had a car, I would think twice about even offering a lift to someone I didn't know. It is a problem this inability to trust the unknown, but at times, also necessary.

    Like I said earlier, and not for the first time, Bombay turned into a North Korea. We have seen this, but after a really long time - the last time I remember seeing it was when I was in school and when the Sena-BJP alliance was in power. I don't like saying it, but the bandh is something that just had to happen. A lot of vandals (Sainiks or not) take advantage of the chaos and try vandalizing businesses, shops that they find open. Fortunately for these businesses at least, Sunday was a holiday, though retail establishments must have suffered.

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    1. I agree that the bandh was necessary in order to stop vandalism - bandhs happen in Kolkata too..it is the city of bandh but people who need medical attention and other emergency services are not stopped....

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    2. Come to think of it, people are getting arrested for commenting on Facebook or even 'liking' statuses. We're going to the dogs, we are!

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  3. With thisn kind of hardship and sufferings that people go through, how will one feel about the person who caused this!

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  4. You have highlighted the woes you went through well and am sure it must have been a difficult time!

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    1. It wasn't easy :) but I've faced even more difficult times ;)

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    2. Like when you were stranded in Chembur in the rains? :P

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  5. I liked this straight from the heart post Divya... I had also read on FB about people who were stranded because of that bandh!And the icing on the cake was the arrests on that FB status and likes :)



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    1. True! That was priceless - I still do not get how only she was singled out of the millions who posted similar statuses..it sounds more like someone taking up a case of personal vengeance against her in the light of Thackeray's death...

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  6. If you want to know who rules over you, take a look at who you are frightened of.... paraphrasing Voltaire.
    Taking a good, long, hard look at myself.

    Love you. With you...
    Mohini

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  7. Nice post Divya .. It has become a practice in our country to halt normal life if a political leader passes away ..

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  8. Life in metros is by and large very mechanical. I have never been to Kolkatta so I dont know. Mumbai never sleeps is true. But Gurgaon does.Only anti social elements are awake.

    I get very cranky if I am sleep deprived.

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    1. Ha!Ha! I don't know how fair it is to say that only 'anti-social elements' are the ones who are awake.....I am awfully cranky when sleep-deprived!!

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  9. Good u shared a nice post.
    Marine Drive is best to be at in the late hours...
    But these forced Bandhs are simply non-sense.. I can understand your plight.. In India people will do anything in the name of religion.. and to be true Bal Thackeray dint even deserve such mourning.

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    1. The people who gathered at his funeral showed that he was considered great by a large group of people...Bandhs are pointless and often inconvenient....I am glad you liked this post :)

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  10. Indeed a nice post! I am also from the SEO background and love to enjoy reading fresh posts on this subject. I would like to thank you for writing this post and now I am your regular reader as I have subscribed your blog in my RSS reader.

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  11. Talk about metros.. and Bangalore is one city that sleeps aftr 11. Never been to Mumbai and Kolkata but like every one I too know tht Mumbai never sleep. And I was surprised when I got to know about repercussion of Mr. Thakrey's death. It happens only in India.

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    1. Ha!Ha! Incredible India - as they say :) I've lived in Bangalore - I know how deserted it becomes post 11 pm...Kolkata has pockets where there is buzzing activity but in the real sense, it is Mumbai which is the city that never sleeps :)

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  12. siddhant kaushal5 December 2012 at 00:50

    i read it again n i love it.. i feel like putting up my songs also and making everyone read it.. ;)

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    1. Thanks Siddhant :) Save your songs instead of putting them up here :D :D Will help you from having to fight plagiarism :-P

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    2. siddhant kaushal7 December 2012 at 10:34

      That's exactly why i still havent put them up.. :)

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  13. divya superb writing....GOD LOVE U

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  14. good post...I come from Madurai, another city that never sleeps ;)

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  15. That's egjactly what I was thinking about death of bal thackery. These shiv sainiks fight over a cause but in the wrong way. Their fight hurts the innocent people the most. Someday, they will return to their senses, alas! I don't know how many house arrests you'll have to face till then:D
    And people are same everywhere, everybody's on the move. So, it's nothing special about Mumbai. Yes one thing that's not evident in bombay is ogling. Delhi is a safe haven for stalkers

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    1. Hahahaha!! In Mumbai, no one really ogles - we are too busy with our own lives to bother what the other person is up to - it is that trait about Mumbai that makes me love the place!

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