Friday, February 26, 2010

The City Beacon(s)

Sometimes a city becomes a living organism. It develops a personality of its own. Myths develop about the city. People start relating it to their life, Hell it even becomes their life. They think they can't live anywhere else but there. People leave/change their jobs just so that they can stay in the same city. We Indians have a special attachment to places that we stay in, and this is more true then ever when we talk about ...where else but 'BOMBAY'.

What can I have to say about the 'Maximum City' that hasn't already been said so. Better still, Who am I to talk about this city when I have never even stayed there. Maybe to the millions of residents of the city and my readers from the different parts of the world, I can dare to give a third party unbiased outside opinion about the city.

Bombay is one of the few cities in India that is known the world over. Its our very own Big Apple, The City of Dreams, The (Indian) City that never Sleeps. The names given to this city by the people who love and hate is probably as wide spread as the different people who live there.

People come from all over to chase their dreams, to make money, to live the good life. Some are pushed/forced to stay there even if they don't want to. Its these diverse group of people that give Bombay the character that it needs. Don't get me wrong, the buildings, the buses, the local trains,the roads, the over bridges represent the body parts of this living city. But for me its the people who are the soul and the life of this place. Imagine just for a second, any train station in Bombay, the picture you would have in your mind is one of huge rush. Trains coming in, going out every few minutes. Great 'hulla-baloo'. Now again imagine the same scenario, the same trains coming in and going out. The same announcements blaring out to you about the 9:23 fast local to Dadar. But this time imagine that you are the only one on that platform. Heck ! The only one for many kilometers around. No one but you.
Now depending upon your inner feelings, you can either love this emptiness (Like I do) or hate it.

In this city no matter where you go, you are never alone. There would be tens of others people grinding along with you trying to rush to some place. Every one seems to be in a constant race with each other. As , If they fail to catch this last local, their life would come to an end. But than again, their lives do come to an end due to these very locals. People fall off them, People jump in front of them. Or sometimes, Even Blown out of them.

I don't know this city. I have always visited it as an outsider as a guest. I have been there when I was a kid. It was a wonderful place to me. Looking at the ocean, staring up at the seemingly endless buildings. Looking at all the people just scrambling for a place to keep their foot. As a kid I had visited the famous land marks such as the Gateway of India, The Taj hotel, Marine Drive, Juhu Beach, Chaupati beach, trying to be pretending to be posh while secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of some film star while I am on the streets.

But then again I had the chance to visit these same places again some time ago. After 26/11 does the city have any hints that it has changed ? In this case I am not sure that my feelings should be of joy or sadness. But the people seem to be the same. No change at all. The faces have changed. The clothes would have changed in all these years. The cars have become more expensive, the houses a little more ostentatious. But the soul of the city remains the same.

On the other hand, the body of the city still carries the scars of the brutal attacks it faced and lived on to another day to tell the tales to a wanderer like me.
I was horrified to hear the tails from one of my closest friends about how their family was the different spots of attacks moments before they took place. Makes you wonder, what if the timing (The attacks/Or my friends) would have been a little different. I would lose someone who is very dear to me. And they on the other hand, might have lost everything (TouchWood).

So as I sat in front of the Gateway of India 13 years after I first laid my eyes on it. I failed to appreciate its beauty, its grandeur. All I could think of, all I could see were the gaping holes in the Majestic Taj , all I could think of was about the people who lost their lives in that building. I don't feel I am someone who can comment on the sorrow of the people who lost their loved ones in these attacks. But I am damn sure glad that I could once again sit in front the Gate to India with my dear friend, contemplating about my future.
Makes you wonder, even after we all know that the next attack is eminent, we all know that it can strike anytime, anywhere, anyone, what is it that drives us to stay on. I don't know, But I sure as hell would like to find this out someday on my own. I would like to fall in love with this city. Maybe call it my own.

Until that day I would be wandering in and out of it. Wondering, If this city is a 'Beacon' to us all. Or a city that 'Beacons' us to come and discover its wonders.



Sachin said...

I longed to get back in her arms too. There's nowhere else I can ever go.

Wonderful post. Thanks for the nostalgia about this enigmatic city.

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