The wheels of the plane kiss the tarmac on a late January evening and the runway lights zip past the window. The airhostess announces that it is 7:45 in the evening and the ‘outside temperature’ is 30 degrees Celsius. My fellow passengers on the flight from Bangalore groan (well, natural thing to do if you had found yourself less than two hours ago in an 18 degrees clime). But me? Ah, well I am in paradise. The announcement sounds like music to my ears and when I disembark from the plane to feel the warmth and humidity embrace me, it does feel like a warm welcome. I was home!
Well, I do think of Bombay as my foster home, in a weird sense of the term. I was born and brought up in Bangalore, but Bombay is where I grew… as a person, as an individual, as an entity. There has been much that has been said about Bombay – both generous appreciation as well as acrid criticism; but to me, its beauty and character lie in its duality.
Where else would one find stubborn slum dwellings jostling for space with snooty high-rises? Which other city would attract equally, such a huge influx of starry eyed B-school graduates and assiduous cab drivers from the heartlands? And where else would a roadside kebab stall stand alongside swanky nightclubs and woo the patrons with equal sanguinity at 1 in the morning.
That’s the thing about Bombay - it is a city of anomalies. But in the same breath, I would venture forth to say that this incongruity in itself is a testimony to the openness of the city; the willingness to give you a shot at making your mark, irrespective of who you are and where you’re from. It is after all (pardon me for using this cliché)... the City of Dreams!
But let me not be biased. There is an ugly side to this duality as well - ‘Micro-security in macro-uncertainty’ seems to be an unspoken tenet that rules the city. You can hop onto the local trains at twelve in the night and not worry about getting harassed or mugged; but sadly, you can’t be completely sure that it won’t blow up under your feet on your way to work. The narrowest alleys and the most crowded stations would permit you to pass through without being groped or grabbed by unsavoury elements but sometimes even the finest of five star facilities can’t guarantee that you return home unsullied by bullet holes.
Yet, year after year the wave of starry-eyed souls pouring into the city with certificates in their suitcases and dreams in their hearts continues to swell. And Bombay, being the generous city that she is, stands with her arms outstretched to give them all a warm, humid welcome home!