“The things that you are passionate about are not random, they are calling you”- Anonymous.
If you are passionate about something in life, we cannot suppress that feeling as it will bounce back to your life no matter how you are busy. But what one really needs to do is not to let the passion and dreams die inside your heart; one must discover and nurture it. Writing has been my passion since my childhood. Even though, I do not write like Shakespeare, Frost or Wordsword, I have never stopped writing. Whenever I find any piece of paper and pen, I jot down my ideas and stories that comes to my mind. If you ask to my pens and papers, only they will tell you how much I am addicted to writing. My dairy is the witness to my passion. Like the lives of poets and writers, I also live in the world of imagination, full of wonders, mystery and awe which many people may consider as insane or out of the world. Once my literature teacher said in the class “The emotions and life of the writers and poet are so different from others that they will not cry when their near and dear one die but they will lament and pour out their emotions as they sees the morning dew slowly dying as the rays of the sun shine upon it. Talking about my story, it is said that Mumbai is the city of dreams for everyone, where one wish to visit and see the famous monuments like Gateway of India, Elephanta Caves, the architecture of the Chatrapati Shivaji Station once in their lifetime and click photos near the Taj Mahal Hotel and sit in the Marine Drive. And the Bollywood actors have set the example how they fulfilled their dreams with hard work, perseverance in spite of coming with empty pockets.
My story of Mumbai began when I landed here in the month of April, 2016 to give my Pre- admission interview for Tata Institute of Social Science. As I got down from the airport, I saw the 2nd largest slum of Asia, which I had read on paper, something which I have not seen in real life and never thought about. The moment I saw the slums, I was disturbed for some time and I imagined how people lived in such condition, though back home, my state even being the 2nd poorest state in the country, I have never seen any slums and people living in such condition. Then, my brother took me to Colaba in South Mumbai which is considered to be one of the posh area in the city with big shops, beautiful architecture of the British time surrounding the localities. And I got to know that it is the money inside your pockets which decides whether you are affordable to go inside the cafes and bars nearby to socialize and make friends. So, money, fame, luxury was my initial perception of what Mumbai was all about.
After few months, I was selected for an M.A course in Women Studies in Tata institute of Social Science, Mumbai. I joined Tiss soon and moved to Deonar campus, which is in Chembur, the place where the Mumbaikar hesitate to say to their friends that they stay in this place. As the place is a suburb in the city where one can get cheap rents and where expenses are less compared to South Bombay.
One funny thing about staying in Mumbai is that even though your friends and family who stay away from the city will not know you that whether you are staying in South Bombay or Chembur. They will consider you as a Mumbaikar. For us though, the difference is loud and clear. Talking about differences, some will call it the city of dreams but for others it is full of grim, fill with misery, a city of hardship and impoverishment, also a mountain of garbage.
Being a student in Tata Institute of Social Science, we do not get much time to roam around the city especially in the 1st and 2nd semester due to the tight schedule. But every Monday and Tuesday, we go to the different parts of Mumbai as a part our field work. And most of us are sent to the ugly side of the city where we discover how other side of the Mumbai looks like, how the people live their lives inside their small congested room with hardly any basic facilities, fighting poverty, struggling for their daily square meal also the people narrates us about how living in Mumbai is expensive, and they cannot afford the rent even though they live in the unpleasant side of the city. As a student of social work and social sciences, we tend empathise with them. Writing field records reminds you again the same memories which you encounter on the field like how people live in pathetic and unsanitary conditions without basic amenities, in spite of all, for them it is a sweet home, a safe space the lucky ones who will not sleep on the roadside and stations.
Even though we experience both the plain and the glamour looking world of the city, still we attached to the narrative of the latter and say “Mumbai is a dream city and it welcomes everyone”. Because of the hectic academic schedule in the institute, we only get time to go out during holidays and weekends. During these days, we dress up and travel to the beautiful side of the city, to dinner and drinks at the expensive cafes and bars. Thus, we taste and feel the two different culture of the city like the head and the tail of the coin.
So there comes the dilemma and scepticism among the people whether the city should be called as the city of dreams or is it the city of pauperism and misery of breath-taking stinks and mountains of garbage. It is high time that we not only see the face value of the city and decides that it is a city of dream. Instead, we need to look deeper and rediscover the city and observe it; is it the same Bombay as it was ten years ago? .Has the living conditions of Mumbaikar improved like the other city of the world?. We also need to think why the Wall Street of India has not improve the conditions public transport in the city, e.g. Local trains.
In conclusion what we can say is, there is so much things that we can learn from this city, the Southern part of the city taught us that life is a race and everyone can live in comfort villas and homes but the other dark side of the city taught us when you face the worst of life every day, yet continue in perseverance and feel content with basic things that they have in life.. Their patience taught us that things will get better. Just to end my story about Mumbai, I would say that even though we may have never ending discussion about whether Mumbai is a city of dream or not, I would say that in my two years of experience, the most delightful and beautiful people of our country live in this city. The city has taught me how to be kind and help others. The city has her own charm, for girls, going out is not a nightmare as it is in other cities rather it is fun and amusing. As a young member of this city, I long to explore more places in the city where I can discover the unsung songs, where the enchanting sites are uncovered, where vibrant culture are celebrated and to truly accept people of all creed, poor or rich to make it the city of dreams.
(The writer is currently pursuing Master Degree with specialisation in Women Studies at Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai)