Boon Bay – My Good Little Bay
By Abhilasha Trivedi
Abhilasha Trivedi who moved to Mumbai fifteen years ago, from a small town, paints her version of the city’s vibe and its enduring charm.
Bambai, is how I knew Bombay while growing up in a small town far away. The picture that my mind painted of the city, was of colours picked up from Bollywood movies. Of glamour, glitter, skyscraper, ocean and traffic jam. Fifteen years ago, when I arrived here from my small town, it was by a late evening flight. City lights shimmered like a handful of gold coins along the coastline. When you move to a big city like Mumbai, from a small town you are first of all startled: By everything which feels more, mega and different. Efficiency of public transport as opposed to car ownership, a sea of human diversity and sudden expansion of choices. Be it entertainment, shopping, fashion, fitness, the arts and amazing travel opportunities.
Large cities feel like citadels of creativity and if you want to be the best you can be in your professional life, they attract you with this pull. But what follows immediately are direct encounters. Contrary to Mumbai’s reputation for rush and rudeness, it is initially surprising that there is no dearth of kindness. Mumbaikars are hustlers but not the selfish kind. There is a warmth and a camaraderie with which they hustle for each other too. As a newcomer to this jungle, I’ve spent a lot of time at the mercy of strangers’ willingness to lend me their time and wisdom. I have asked them for all sorts of things – and I have never been refused. Perhaps it’s because so many of those strangers were once new here, too, and they’re repaying the kindnesses they were shown.
It hits you often though, that the most generous people in this city are those who don’t have much to spare. Auto-rickshawwallahs have let me pay them a few bucks short of the meter when I’ve been low on cash. Tapri dudes have loaned me a free cutting chai when I’ve been out of change, trusting that I’ll pay them back. Algu, a young boy who sells peanuts at a traffic signal comes up to my car quite often. With a magnanimous heart, he tells me kal de dena paise (Give the money tomorrow) when I run out of change once in a while. Local train seems more convenient despite the chik chik aunties, sweaty armpits and cranky children. Traffic is a justified excuse for any option which chugs faster, for speed in a busy day becomes efficiency and economy of time.
Each city has its own IOS and Mumbaikars are pros at getting the job done – they see obstacles as opportunities for jugaad. The word lazy does not seem to exist in any Mumbaikar’s dictionary. The fast pace of the city amazed me and soon it enters you, with an energy, a vibe that’s probably hard to find anywhere else in India. From rickshawalas to top honchos, everyone is there to make money without wasting any time. Chaotic traffic, terror attacks, stock market ups and downs, cloud burst and characterless construction may constantly threaten, but dig a bit deeper and something keeps chugging in ‘Maximum City’.
Mumbai’s relationship with the rain is interesting. Monsoon isn’t just a season here, it is an identity. It is, in equal measure, loved and loathed, Instagrammed, tweeted, and trended. Year after year, it is as much a disaster as it is a relief. It has taken several lives and changed others forever.
Bollywood sticks right out at you, whether you revere, ridicule or are indifferent to it. Whether it is Chapel Road’s larger-than-life Amitabh mural or vanity vans holding you up in traffic jams, the industry has tentacles spread deep and wide in the city’s nooks and crannies. Where on earth do you get the stunning Madhubala smile back at you from a wall? Not entirely sure what drove this artist to make this – was it his admiration for Madhubala or a desire to put a smile on the faces of people passing by or just the love for street art! It sure is an industry bringing a promise to its city’s denizens that every experience is one worth dramatizing.
And before you know it another lingo enters you. Bhankas, waat, jhakaas etc. are the slangs used only in Mumbai and wait till it becomes super hard for you to verbalise your thoughts without using these words.
Is this adage true – The cheaper the food, the better it tastes? Roadside bun maska dipped in chai will, for ₹30, do things to your taste buds that the most expensive gourmet dishes may or may not. Vada pav and cutting chai have also often satiated my fast food cravings.
Convenience is a commodity here. If you have the money, you can buy an easy life. Too lazy to run your own washing machine? A dude will come home, pick up your clothes, and return them washed, dried, and ironed in 24 hours. Don’t have the energy to pack your own lunch? Mumbai’s dabbawalas will bring you a hot meal wherever and whenever you want. Just don’t want to leave home? Well you can get anything brought to your doorstep: a masseuse, fresh coconut water, and a lady who’ll wax your legs and thread your eyebrows – you name it.
Bombay is full to the brim of really interesting people doing really interesting stuff! Slam poetry, stand-up comedy, serious theatre, an indie music gig, a photography exhibit, a wine-tasting lesson, graffiti, mixed martial arts or breakdancing workshop and currently playing out – Equal Street! I’ve met more intimidatingly talented, creative, and ambitious people here than anywhere else.
Mumbai – a city to rediscover your true self because it is ready to accept you for who you are and not what you can be. If you like change and are ambitious, then moving to a big city like this one, is the best thing that could happen.
Boon Bay means my good little bay and I remember reading this in a Portuguese writer’s book called ‘Legends of India’. It was mentioned as a name for Mumbai and the name stuck in my head. Little in the big and big in the little, you can find your own bay right here.