Sunday, December 16, 2007


Mumbhai (read here) reflected on the ‘Sounds of Mumbai’. The ‘shady night life’ of the city formed the basis of Mumbhai – 2 (read here). It is almost three years now since I made Mumbai my second home. That in itself is a good enough reason to write the third episode of Mumbhai series. But this city is so well chronicled; researched and written about that it becomes all the more difficult to write something original about it.

Also till now I have managed to resist the temptation of reading Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found and other books of the same ilk. Its not that I don’t like reading books, but somehow the books written about this city are as costly as it is to live in this city. So I am incapable of getting inspired by them (euphemism for lifting ideas) to write anything really brilliant. The next best thing was to write some rundown versions of my own and read them over and over again. Mumbhai Version 3.0 is about shift in my dwelling from Andheri to Ghatkopar. It is about the historical divide between haves and have nots. It is about the disparity between living and surviving. It is about the gulf between the celebration of Bombay in a Yash Chopra movie and the harsh portrayal of Mumbai in an Anurag Kashyap film.

My employer provided me with a pleasant apartment in Ghatkopar. I was more than happy to shift from the tiny hole I had put up in last two years paying through my nose. The icing on the cake was that in the company provided flat I would be sharing my room with no one else while that tiny hole had four people cramped in it, all arms and legs. Remember almost every Mumbaikar is a contortionist. But good things never come without riders! Isn’t it?

The flat was good. Though frugal but nicely done up. But the reality dawns upon you the moment you step out of it. The area reminds me of a tehsil in Fatehpur U.P. It doesn’t even remotely resemble the perceived Mumbai. Only the pollution levels are same. There are more trucks than cars. Thatched roof shops, wares like utensils and steel trunks on sale, dimly lit outlets in the night and vegetable carts remind me of some village fair I saw when I used to sell tractors.

Now when someone asks me about my place of stay, I generally spurt out Chembur instead of Ghatkopar. It sounds little more livable place for a human. And I also don’t forget to mention that I stayed in Juhu-Vile Parle-Andheri belt for two years. So shifting to Ghatkopar, the first casualty is your self esteem. Funny, but true! The scorn on any listener’s face at the mere mention of Ghatkopar is good enough to tell you that your address in Mumbai is part of your identity, so it better be good. By the way, Chembur is also no better than district head quarters of Rae Bareilly. Truly speaking, all those who know her would agree, that Richa Kar wouldn’t have stayed here for more than a day. I mean for her Mumbai is Bandra and Bandra is Mumbai.

I have to travel to Chembur to get my brand of soap, toothpaste and breads. The marketing guys are so clear about their target segments. One can find only Lifebuoy and Lux for soaps in the nearby grocery shops. Skimmed milk and brown bread sound like alien words to the shop owners. So when I asked at a shop for some sprouts few days back, the guy’s eyeballs just popped out. There are only two restaurants nearby, where you can get a Vegetarian Pepperoni Pizza. It happens only in India! Well the great thing that has happened because of this is that I have learned some cooking.

Transportation is another issue. No Autowallah agrees to come to Ghatkopar from anywhere. So generally Zaki (my colleague) uses coercion to get home and we all follow suit. There is no direct train or bus from here to anywhere. So while others devise route optimization strategies, I do with uncomfortable and costly cabs.

Well there are so many other things out here which for once and all will establish the fact that Mumbai has at least 9876 Socio Economic Classes. Few of them are based upon your address and not on Income, Education and Profession. So PAT was right SEC is an obsolete concept. I would shift back to Andheri; the moment company takes back this perk. Till then I would be over the hill (Ghat Ke Upar).