Lost in Mumbai

Here is a post about my recent trip to Mumbai.

26th January : 6 30 pm, I was waiting at Bindaas park at IIT Madras, for my friend to arrive. In an hours time, the Sukhwinder singh concert was about to begin. The concert started at 8 and went on till 11 pm in the night after which, we decided to saunter around the IIT woods in the moonlight. It was half past 12 when i reached home, and then decided to pack my baggage for the Mumbai trip. It was half past 2, when I finished packing my baggage and 3 when I went to bed, only to be woken up at 3 3 0 am by my father and had to rush to do my ablutions half asleep.

I originally planned to drive down to the airport in my bike, but given the fact that my Bike insurance papers and RC book have never seen me, my father decided to play it safe, by dropping me in the car.

I reached the airport at 4 55 am and as I was walking after the security check, there came an announcement that shook me out of my stupor "AIR DECCAN FLIGHT DN 613 is ready for departure" , I waited for the announcer to say it again, as I stared in disbelief. The ticket said 5 25 am, but it was just 5 05 am, Could the heavens be falling? How on earth can an Air Deccan flight leave 20 minutes early?

I rushed with gay abandon across the airport only to be sent back by the guard near the security check, as I didn’t have an Air Deccan tag on my bag. I grumbled and after realizing that my antics would not let the man pass the security heck barrier, I ran back to the Air Deccan counter and got the damn tags. The guard allowed me and the next blockade came when the Air Deccan transport vehicle left just before I reached the front door. Pipped at the post was I? I thought was the last passenger to enter the flight, but given Air Deccan's improper flight advancement, there were 20 other passengers who felt the same, whom I spotted while I was waiting for the next Air deccan Pick up bus.

Eventually the pick up vehicle came and I strode like a colossus inside the plane to see images of Koyambedu (Asia's biggest sabzi mandi(vegetable market) in Chennai) on the flight. DN 613 was jam packed with people and resembled a town bus. I searched for empty seats amidst the din, and finally found one near two 50 plus aunties. I struggled my way in, as the poor lady near me was a little too fat for the seat, so I had to jump over her with my legs.

I just about managed to sit in a folded position, as my legs were jostling for space with the hand baggage’s of the women near me. I just closed my eyes in disgust and when I opened it the flight was 30 minutes into the journey and 12800 metres high, as the voice message echoed its way to my ears. I had a few cookies, Lehar Namkeen, and a Cheese sandwich for pre breakfast at this unearthly hour of 6 am.

I reached Mumbai at 7 30 am, and saw a few known quizzing folks whom I had met a few years back.I spent some time with them searching for my luggage that came in the conveyor belt. As soon as I came out the airport, all of a sudden from now where the taxi walahs made me an instant celebrity, by asking me where I wanted to go? I have my relatives in Airoli and since they leave for work in the morning, I didn’t want to trouble my grandfathers brother who stays there. Airoli was a good 50-60 kilometres from Santa Cruz, and I was in no mood to just while away my time there going home. Keshav also suggested that its better to go in the evening to Airoli, as it was tough to go to Airoli and be back in the city within a few hours.

I decided to take a tour of the city as this was the weekend, and the trains would not be as full as it would be on weekdays. I took a cab from the airport to Vile Parle station, and boarded a train going to Church gate.

This is the Vile Parle station, as I walked down the steps. The train was not crowded and I even found a place to sit in the trains(an achievement by itself). I was lulled into sleep by the movements of the train and woke up at Churchgate. I was told by folks that a morning walk on Marine drive is great,so I quickly walked up from the Churchgate station and turned right and quickly reached the marine drive, the portion of the road right between the Brabbourne stadium(CCI) and the Wankhede stadium.

I spent an hour walking on the side path of Marine drive listening to my walkman. The sky was overcast and it was only past 11 am, that shades of the sun's rays pierced Mumbai. I had my breakfast and lunch at a place called Satkar, right opposite to the Church gate station , on the side of the ambassador revolving restaurant.

After lunch , I took the train to Dadar and changed the railway line and purchased a ticket to Bandra where I was to meet Kaveeta Kaul, a person closely associated with the tinsel world(also a Sulekha Blogger). We met at Lucky's, a famous Biriyani joint at Bandra. We then took a rickshaw and went to Paali road( wrong spelling ?? ) and finally went to "Creps joint" a food hangout owned by the film star Dino Morea. Kaveeta and I spoke a lot on our lives, palmistry, tinsel town talk, Mumbai trains and the falsity of life that accompanies some people. She suggested me to taste a dish called Creps, which looked like a cross between an olive pizza and a butter naan, but a tasty dish though. After a few hours at Carter road, we decided to end the meeting, as I had to head home to Navi Mumbai and she to see 'Blood Diamond'.

At 6 45 in the evening, I bid Kaveeta goodbye, after she saw me off at Bandra, and proceeded to take my train to Dadar. At Dadar, I had the first taste of Mumbai train blues. I had to miss 5 connecting trains as the crowd was maddening. People were fighting for dear life in those 15 seconds the train stopped there. Hands, legs and shoulders were the instruments used in the attack. I was standing gaping at the ferocity that was used in the trains. This gaping look lasted till the 6th train came my way.

I finally got a train to place my foot inside and I felt like jumping in joy as I had 16 square inches of place to myself while standing near the footboard. I slept standing all the way and woke up a few stations before Thane. As soon as Thane arrived, I saw people rushing outside, as if the train was on fire. I later saw that these people who ran, actually crossed the platform to catch the next train.

I never knew life was so competitive here. Crowds everywhere, queues everywhere, a mad helter skelter life.... and from Thane to Airoli, an auto guy badmouthed me and cheated me. I was in no mood to complain. All I wanted was to find my relatives place in Airoli, before I hit the sack. I found the place and settled for a modest dinner, before I slept like a log.


It was still dark outside.....more so the 5 am types....but hey this was not Chennai and was diametrically the opposite coast ...and Mumbai was still sleeping to the beats of a peaceful Sunday. It was 6 30 am, and still no signs of the morning sun, pervading through the glass windows lulling you to wake up.

I slept till 7 15 and then did a power ablution (the corporate terminology for doing something quickly for lack of time).I was to meet Ekta at 8 in the morning at Airoli Railway station. My aunt dropped me at the station, and a little distance away was a cute, chubby girl clad in denim all over. I gave it a guess, that it must be Ekta, having seen some pictures of hers on Orkut earlier.

Ekta it was, and it was so sweet of her to offer to take me around the city. We met up and decided to take a bus to Vashi and take the harbour line train to VT. The Airoli bus stand hardly had buses, and it took a little waiting an chatting at the station, before the bus came. During this ride, I learnt that Ekta was a Punjabi, settled in the Central-Western parts of India. Ekta calls it " bak bak" , but I really didnt find her loquacious, but a realy nice person who had a lot to share. Ekta enlivened the conversation by giving me a Dairy Milk Chocolate(surprising she doesn’t like chocolates)and speaking about her life in Mumbai and the Mumbai culture.

In a few minutes, we reached Vashi and helped ourselves to some Pav and idlis, at the railway station, after which we entered the Vashi station. The train that came was remarkably not-full, I as gleaming with joy, .as I had a few inches to park my legs. We resumed speaking about the folks we were to meet in an hour’s time at Nargis's place. The view of the Arabian Sea silhouetted across the din of the crowded Mumbai train, was an image I would have etched in my memory. Standing near the footboard with the whole blue ocean facing you can be quite an inspiring "Titanic feeling" , pretty similar to traveling on KR2(Konkan Railways).

As stations went by, my knowledge of Mumbai increased and so did the crowd inside the stations. The most populous city of India, despite its maddening rushes and crowds, had something that caught my attention. People here are really hardworking, say the cab drivers and never charge a penny extra. I was pleasantly shocked when I had to pay 27 rs for a 3 km ride. I have always paid in multiples of 10 in Chennai, and paid amounts for a ride from home to the station, which would be the 2nd class fare to Bangalore from Chennai :-). The hardworking culture inspires people entering the city also to respect the culture and move up the ladder. Not that other cities are radically different, but having lived in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, I somehow cant see this amount of honesty with the cab drivers.

Another thing with Mumbai, that I noticed was, that however maddening the rush might be for a person, he/she does stop to help you, if you have any questions as an outsider to the city. I was touched by the gestures of SUMBA as well as folks I met in Mumbai.

The best of all was the lack of a economic divide, amidst the citizens. However filthy rich, one may be, they still know about the local trains and don’t mind traveling in it. In any other city, it’s tough to observe a senior honcho rubbing shoulders with a paanwaala jostling for the proverbial inch space. Once in a train, all are equal.. the whole concept sounded really cool, as I have seen a few folks at work, who would make funny faces, if they heard I was traveling by train. The train or the bus is never an option for most senior folks that I know.

In Mumbai, no one seems to feel shy using the train, and that is a very modern society with little materialism attached to it, and it is this culture of Mumbai that impressed me a lot.

Once Ekta and I reached VT, she helped me buy a belt at one of the local shops in the underground subway. I got a 60% bargaining discount thanks to her. We then boarded a taxi and got underway to Colaba. In the taxi, Ekta played the city guide, telling me about a few places of interest during the short 10 minute journey, before we reached Nargis's place.

We received a warm hug and reception from Nargis and sat down in her plush hall. It was an extremely beautifully maintained house that Nargis had. I was in conversation with Mrmullinner who had lots of ideas of Sulekha Bloggers being stake holders in the company.Mrmulliner is a techie with Indian Railways, and was giving me some ideas on how sulekha can learn a few tricks to tackle Tilo.

The Lunch was a lovely spread that had me mouth watering and the Kheer was a perfect way to wash up the lunch inside the stomach. The meet started having mini meets where lots of conversations were going on, and I realised that Sulekha was literally an addiction for most of the folks here. Humor soon found its way into the meet, with Keshav, Pratishta and Naresh joining us. Keshav entertained us with his tales of lifting beer cans with a rope in Bandra, to which the bandra resident and my good friend, Buntys Banter evoked a suprising look. Pratishta gve an account of Saas Bahu converstaions over phone...and bridging the dilli-mumbai feelings. Mrmulinner's cute little daugher also joined in, and was hooked on to Nargis's dog(Forgot the dogs name). It was also good to know that we had 2 professional writers in the midst of us in the form of Annjana Jha and Nargis Natarajan, who have had their works published before.

It was sssssoooooooooo good being there, being a part of these lovely people's lives. but as good things need to come to an end... I bid goodbye around 1 45 in the afternoon, with Keshav and Mrmulliner helping me to a taxi.The whole meeting was lovely simply because the place and the people whom I met, because of the images I had of Mumbai that bollywwod had helped me arrive at, like the following flicks

Bombay to Goa

Baaton Baaton Bein




Munna Bhai series

Traffic signal (recently)

There was an air of conviviality and simplicity in an old world charm that had " there is no need to rush, we have a lot of time for aram chit chat" written all over it. Adding ghee to this lovely fire was warmth exuded by SUMBA and Mumbai in general.

All of this flooded my memories, as I asked the taxi to stop at Marine drive for a few minutes as I felt the pleasant air of the sea hitting me and the huge boulders below me. I then asked the driver to take me to a place called Matunga. In between this I also attended the information session of a SpanishBusinessSchool, so got dressed up all in coats and formal wear.

I reached Matunga after an hour's jouney and landed up at the temple/Mahal where the marriage was to be held. I go there and see that very few people were in the hall.I see a tall burly guy, who's asking a lot of questions to the boys in the hall.I assume he's the bride and ask him "Are You Deepak"? and Bingo it was.... We were meeting after 21 years.... We last played..when I was 3 years old, living in Hyderabad. He had since then passed out of IIT, spent 4 years at Infosys, and an MBA at ISB . I later learnt that my Project lead at Infy was his bosom friend... and Infy batchmate. I learnt that his to be wife i a few hours was an IIM-A passout. I just realised, I was in the "right" marriage, and my GMAT sores or CAT scores were hardly the stuff, I would want to showcase, in case I had to ask them any MBA related doubts.

My mother, had gone with a few relatives to some local sight seeing. It was a home coming for her, seeing Mumbai after 30 years. She had spent 14 years of her life in Mumbai, living in the Airforce quarters in Vile Parle.

The evening was spent going with a few folk at the marriage hall. I visited the beautiful Mahalakshmi Mandir and Prabha Devi beach. During the drive, I managed to get a view of Haji Ali and the famous ShivajiPark, where Tendulkar learnt his trade.

After too much of socialising, and lovely sumptous South Indian Tiffin, I decided to explore Mumbai by the night. I took the train from Matunga to VT,and I remember listening to a song 4 times , on various Radio stations in that one journey.(From Nishabd: " aa jaana " sung by Big B, I guess).The trains were as empty as Chennai, and I revelled in that excitement to have a compartment and a footboard to myself. I called up EKTA for directions and she helped me, by suggesting the Gateway of India and Planet M, for spending some time in solitude. I managed to also go to Tendulkars. I found the lighting very good, but the pricing was a little to high.I decided to invest the money in a movie at Regal Cinemas, which I would live to regret(SALAAM E ISHQ).

Overall the Mumbai trip was cool, and inspiring. Just a pity that I coud'nt see the dabbawallas of Mumbai to gain some perspective. Someday when I am done with an MBA, I just hope I land up with a job in this city. Not that I have anything against other cities, but I SIMPLY LOVE MUMBAI and am bowled over by the city, despite the the ballistic and maddening crowds.

Best Images of the trip

Dining at Carters road , Bandra with the evening sunset on view( was with Kaveeta )

Travelling on Harbour Line, across the Arabian sea.

Fighting to get an inch space to stand in te Mumbai Local trains

The Lovely meeting with SUMBA.

The evening walk along Marine Drive

The Bhelpuri at PrabhaDevi.
The Journey with EKTA from Vashi to Colaba

I have not put any pictures here as some of team SUMBA didnt want me to blog about them with their pictures on Sulekha. Folks who want to see the Mumbai pictures can check this online album

Just hope all you folks are still there....when I come visiting Mumbai next time around... (not immideately though ).


Hyderabadiz said...

PS. Apologies for cross posting. This is not spam.
Hello Hyderabadi Blogger:
We have a plan to unite all Hyderabadiz: Calling out to all Hyderabadi bloggers.
We are trying our best to gather as much as possbile (I mean the sound and the fury, show and tell, look and feel of our true colors).
Push, pull or try your best to bring more people join the event of uniting Hyderabadi Bloggers.
Best, MT and the Team of Hyderabadiz

Girish said...

Good to hear that u had a wonderful time in Mumbai...

Kartik Kannan said...

Thanks for yur comments Girish.Mumbai was a great experience...

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