It will soon be one whole year since I landed in Mumbai, so I am probably no longer a newcomer in the strictest sense of the word. Mumbai, however, continues to awe and amaze, and occasionally exasperate, me. There are aspects of Mumbai life which are unique and some of them require a good amount of getting used to.
If you have not seen Mumbai before, the first thing that grabs your attention is the crowds. No amount of reading up on it prepares you for the first sight of the teeming millions everywhere–on the roads, the trains and the buses. It is intimidating. I may not agree with Shiv Sena’s parochial, anti-immigrant, almost xenophobic politics but I have to agree with them that the city is bursting at its seams and cannot accommodate more people.
The crowd takes your breath away at times. You get to see sights never seen before. Nowhere had I seen, for instance, a queue of people waiting to get into an auto-rickshaw as one sees outside local train stations at peak hours. The local trains themselves are another story altogether. Their efficiency is legendary. They are also packed like you cannot imagine during rush-hour. You have not really experienced Mumbai in all its glory if you have not got into a train spilling with people on all sides.
Apart from the crowd, the cosmopolitanism of the city is ever so obvious and amongst the first things you notice. No other place comes close to Mumbai here–Delhi probably comes a distant second. I am sure we have people from every state of India living in our society.
And then when it rains, it pours. And how. I had never before seen it rain like this–it is a sight to behold. For three months the skies open and the rain comes down in torrents, almost non-stop. You forget what sunlight feels like, or what it feels like to walk on a dry street. Yet life goes right on, without a break, despite delayed or cancelled trains. And thank God for washing machines–I have no idea how Mumbaikars of earlier generations got their clothes to dry during the monsoons.
For a city groaning under the weight of its population, Mumbai is greener than I expected. Especially during the monsoons, the whole city gets swathed in greenery. Hills become lush and verdant. Boundary walls made of stone get covered with a carpet of velvety moss.
Monsoons also bring with them a characteristic fishy smell to the outdoors, though . It bothered me initially but I stopped noticing it after a while.
And then one day, the rain is gone just as suddenly as it had come. Sunshine is back in all its glory, and brings with it hope and a feeling of victory–of having survived the Mumbai rains!