Mumbai is a strange village. It’s either hot, hotter or hottest in this part of the planet. Sweating goes hand-in-hand with breathing. It can be unbearable at times. For the record, about 70% of Mumbai’s population lives in slum and the remaining 30% complain about harsh living conditions. Interestingly, poverty adds to the equation. It is like the most glaring cosmopolitan feature but somehow gets camouflaged by people’s never-say-die attitude. The very faceless folks who know nothing other than the hard learned art of survival under sweltering sun. It’s like a never ending struggle against one self. Against time. Against space. Coincidentally, the crowded local trains are one of those devil-kissed marvels where every single millimeter of space matters and people literally breathe into each others’ lungs and you are just a fart away from asphyxiation.
It’s safe to say that Mumbai is bursting not only at the rim but at the very center. It just can't wait to get back to restful evening. In a lot of ways, it’s hopeless but in others, simply incredible. You’ll never hear anyone say “Amazing how people can be so cold in a warm city like this”. Never.
It is a land of chronicles, mostly unbelievable but truer than death. That’s what years of migration do to a place. It fuels passion and ambition giving birth to countless tales of human endurance and triumph. A few stories are repetitive but the moral remains the usual: Resilience is the word.
There were some kids who used to study during nighttime under beacon at Mankhurd railway station. These kids have homes but not the kind we have. I mean, the privileged lot. They live in shanties but dream of getting an education that their parents couldn’t, so as to get ahead in life and make a respectable living. In simpler words, they just want to get the heck out of the shithole they are currently in. In most cases, their fathers are drunkards who created ruckus almost every single night at home, making it almost impossible for them to concentrate on their books. So that’s the reason they used to gather almost every single night and burn the midnight dreams. As of now they don’t do the same as the board exams have ended and vacation has commenced. They’ve got themselves part time jobs to kill time. Yes, jobs to kill time and not by staying online on Twitter or Facebook. It’s a poignant tale of tenacity. These are the kids who learnt the importance of education as well as electricity on their own. I know this coz I know them.
Dawn marks the time when street dogs go back to being pussies and humans venture out to replace the dogs in the street. But what happens before that? Well, these dogs literally rule. They chase every vehicle that passes on the street. It’s not like they wish to take a ride on it or something. They just want you to get out of their 'territory’ ASAP. In that context, we better not talk about rag pickers who start their day pretty early so as to pick their *stuff* before the dump trucks scoop up its daily roll. As one can guess, the dogs can’t bear to share either the street or the garbage fill with them. Amid the barking, we forget what a fabulous (read: hopelessly courageous) job these rag pickers are doing for the society by helping us with the recycling of things we discard as rubbish.
And just like that, a new day begins. Cynical as it is, with sharp sunlight on the face anyone can get an idea that this city has a long way to go before it can call itself what it is already calling itself–a city.