"We live in the world when we love it "
~ Rabindranath Tagore


Mumbai: Little Boxes

Romola Butalia pens her impressions of Mumbai, where she has been living for the past eighteen years, between travelling, working, ideating.

Mumbai, the city of Sri Mahalakshmi, where the goddess of fortune and abundance resides and grants favours, worshipped by countless devotees who have made Mumbai their home.

Little boxes, people on people, concrete humanity. The only city where it all works, against all odds. A city within which people strive for excellence or how would they stand the pace of desperate living here.

A city of crime, where the crime is not visible. A city where you feel safe no matter who, where or when you are. A city in India where a policeman will help you push your car if it stalls, but a city albeit where cars do not stall. A city that respects money...where to be a 'mota seth' (obscenely rich man) is not an insult, but a title that replaces any that the old aristocracy might have had on offer.

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Bright lights, neon signs, fast cars, beautiful people, the city that never sleeps. Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, the home of Bollywood that churns fantasies and dreams and unreality.

Local commuting trains that belch people out into the underbelly of the city. Street urchins so street smart they actually reach adulthood smiling. The dirt and the squalor...one giant slum of a city. And within it, each individual respects the personal space of another. Truly cosmopolitan, there are no divisions, no differences, no advantages, no qualifications : only your ability to deliver.

Throbbing with the vitality of dreams and the will to realise them, of reaching for the stars, it is a city of instant changes, constant changes, a city of opportunities, a city of fortune. It is where tomorrow stands today. If you have the guts and the gall to live in Mumbai, survive it, and enjoy it, you have arrived. Welcome to the real world. No-one has time for anyone here. And yet, at times of crisis, no city responds with greater solidarity.

Mumbai is where the intrepid traveller sees yet another face of India...the catterpillar during chrysalis...the strange transition from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first.

When I first visited Mumbai I thought it was the one city in India I would avoid living in. Yet, I have done more living here than anywhere else. I escape from Mumbai at every opportunity, and yet the city has been nothing but kind to me. Perhaps, indeed, it is the presence of Sri Mahalakshmi - gracious, gentle, bounteous.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.