First.. I am from Vasai, a suburb near Mumbai, but not too far to be not touched by the openness, freedom and the spirit of Mumbai.
Second... Been to New York twice, once in 2005 for 3 months and then in Dec 2010 for 2 weeks. The second trip, walking on the NY streets, observing people and my interactions with the shopkeepers and taxi-drivers, made me realise... how great Mumbai actually is! It truly is the city of dreams. Missed it so much. I left Vasai for work and came to Bangalore. I was in for a culture shock from the lack of professionalism and friendliness among the local shopkeepers to the rickshaw drivers to showrooms and road rage among common people. Except for the weather, there is nothing great that you can write about Bangalore. If I am to be born again, I want to be born in Vasai... near Mumbai... I mean, we all feel we are Mumbaikars. That is how big Mumbai's heart is.
So a post on this greatest city was long overdue... I will try to cover some general grounds and then maybe some personal experiences as to why I feel this city is the greatest in the world. Also, the photos used in the posts are not mine but from google searchs.
The Spirit of Mumbai and it's people can be easily witnessed in a very regular day. Just go to any of the local stations or stand next to a railway track and see the train go by. You will see a hundreds of people hanging by the train (as if their life depends on it). But that is the way it is. Millions have taken that train for years. Many unnamed relationships are formed. People just know each other by faces and always smile and acknowledge each other (no plastic "Good Morning" or "How are you"). Then there are people who form some bonds. They will always get into the same compartment, rotation on who will bring food for the gang, playing cards in their one hour journey. So strange are these relationships, that the only time their lives ever intertwine is in the daily journey to the office by local train.
I too have been unknowingly a part of this. I used to take the First Class Compartment of the 8.47 (or 8.45)a.m Vasai Local. I would always stand near the same bench everyday. I saw that there was a group there. They would crack jokes, play cards, etc.. Then one day I was feeling very sick. I just asked one of them if I can sit for just 5 minutes as I am not feeling well. Then Mumbai opened up, they quickly gave me the place, someone got a bottle of water. But that is not all. I got down at Andheri and some of the group got down there too. One of them came to me and said, "Take leave, Health is Wealth". I have no idea who he is or his name and vice versa. But we are all just the same, somewhere we all see ourselves in everyone in this sea of faceless people.
And then the words of Karishma Kapoor that she allegedly told a reporter when asked why she used to travel by the local train "To understand life". Agreed. To add to that statement, just travel by the local train, hang outside the doors or sit by the window and see the various phases of life passing by. You will be closest to understanding the nature of the observer, the witness. Where else can you get such a meditative lesson, but Mumbai.