Friday, March 05, 2010

Bombay's greatest asset

It's been almost a week that I'm back to commuting 4 hours daily from Ambarnath to my office in Lower Parel.

The purpose is two pronged - one, I'd like to be the night watchman in my own house, since my parents are in Kolkata for my cousin's wedding. And two, it's not everyday that you get a sense of ownership of a 1BHK+Terrace flat, all to yourself.

The implications have been two pronged too. My meals have become irregular; the other night I drank half a litre of Maaza, before gobbling up three eggs (bad imitations of sunny sides up, they were like a solar eclipse, rather).

But I get more time to read. And peacefully too. Like I'm reading Vikram Chandra's beautifully written debut, Love and Longing in Bombay. The other day, I finished Sidin Vadukut's hilarious first novel Dork.

It's made me realise that for me, independence is perhaps the way forward. I'll work out the meals bit, but nothing beats the feeling of coming home to a house that's just your own and not being shared by another person.

That doesn't mean I'm a loner - I enjoy company and I have a good circle of friends who I hang out with - but coming home is a different thing. There are just certain things I want to do - read some chapters of a book, watch Arnab Goswami on Times Now, observe Telebrands post mid-night and - hold your breath - tune into some of the daily soap operas to find out what the nation is watching. (Don't belch. When you're in a business about consumers, you've gotta be familiar with what's tickling them.)

Still, this same independence can be a happy and non-stressful one when it is close to office. Four hours stolen from my every day in the form of a nightmarish train ride home - that is one compromise I'm unwilling to make for long.

But living alone in Bombay is fucking expensive. Unless, if you're an RJ or a model, or you have a 'white collar' job.

Shit. I must shift to Bangalore. Life's unbelievably cheaper, or so I hear. Some friends there share a bungalow for a monthly rent of Rs 11,000. We pay the same rent for 225 sq ft flat in Lower Parel.

But then, well. Bombay is Bombay.

This has been my chronic dilemma over the last two-three years. Want to shift out of Bombay, but can't think of a life outside Bombay and living with people who are not Mumbai-kars.

So maybe it's true when they say, "It's all about the people. It's all about the people."

Bombay is a city that is all about its people. It's own charms are too diffused and inflated beyond it deserves. I think those charms died in the 1950s, when the Parsis were the face of Bombay. That was some life, some charisma, some style to this city.

Since the 1960s, Bombay conjures up images of partisan politics and saffron armies, the mills and the landowners, considering the real estate El Dorado that it's become. The soul of the city is therefore, only it's people and its they who make the city tick.

There's a reason why Bombay is the commercial capital of India. So much business comes here, purely because this city has the resources to pull it off. Whether these are ill-fed resources or not, is a different question. And by now, you already know that they are ill-fed and do not enjoy a standard of living comparable to that, say, of a Chandigarh or New Delhi.

So then, here's to the people of this city. Bombay's greatest asset.