I come from a small town in UP and have spent the first 18 years of my life there. Most of our relatives stay in another town (now a state capital) which is again not very far from my place and remaining few are spread across cities/ states…but then these are very few. When i was a kid, trips to places like Delhi were rare. There was no need per se. I guess till I was in school, i would have visited Delhi hardly 4-5 times, may be for a wedding etc. Those were the days when CNG was not in picture and Delhi was in a bad state.
Apart from Delhi i had never been to any other metro till I was 14. However, there was this one big city I was in love with- Mumbai-erstwhile Bombay. I had a crush on Bombay. I was crazy about the place, the same way i had a crush on Rahul Dravid later in my life! A major part of this can be attributed to the fact that i
was am a big Bollywood buff, and Bombay meant Bollywood for me for a long time till I joined MBA and the corporate connection came into picture. I loved everything i had heard/ seen of the city (in TV/ films), the coconut trees, the beaches, the fancy sounding names of suburbs (Bandra, Colaba, Napean Sea Road, Khar, Vile Parle…they use to sound so fancy then..:)) and roads (remember the song..Kabhi Carter road, Kabhi Meera road…:D), the black yellow taxis, the names of hospitals (Breach Candy- isn’t it a very sexy name for a hospital)…basically as i said above i had a major crush on this city. Then in Dec 1994, i got a chance to visit the city for the first time. My dad had taken LTC and the five of us went to Goa and Mumbai. While i liked Goa, but it was while sitting in the Delhi bound train leaving from VT (if i remember correctly) that I had tears in my eyes as the train was crossing the suburban stations of Dadar etc. I was sad that i had to leave the city of my dreams and head back our boring old town and the life. We stayed their with our relatives and went to all tourist places of the city. I still remember the craze of Essel World, the trip to Hanging Gardens, the first time I saw sea while going to Mahalaxmi Temple, the first time i saw Gateway of India…oh..that was some experience, a dream come true for me. Aall the time sitting in the car, my eyes use to be constantly looking outside the window as i did not want to miss even a single site of my beloved city. In nutshell, my love for the place grew ten times after visiting it once.
This love continued for the years to come. I was always in awe of the city. Then i wrote my entrance exams for various Engg colleges including IIT. The brochure which came along with form had picture of all the IITs on one page. That was the time i was studying like crazy to get into any of these prestigious institutions and Bombay was my choice. I had decided that if i manage to crack this test, Bombay is the one which i would chose no matter which branch i get. Yes, that was my extent of longing- ness for the city. Anyway, IIT happened and i did not qualify. However, my love for the city was still intact.
Later on, after 4 years, i did get through IIT, but in a different course though- for my PG and I joined one, obviously not IIT B. In 2005, i again got a chance to go to the city as my sister was working their, and a friend an I decided to go to Bombay for Diwali. I was excited to go to the city, but as I landed in the city I realized that my “bachpan ka pyaar”was not so strong any more. I still liked the city, but I was slightly over my childhood crush..:) This time obviously the places we visited were different…we spent a lot of time on Marine Drive, indulged in roadside shopping at Fashion Street and Link Road Bandra. Ate at some nice places….enjoyed the vada pao..and came back to IIT Madras…:) I did long for the city this time as well, but for different reasons altogether. We were missing the liveliness of Mumbai! Chennai was depressing for a few days after that until we got busy with the campus life again…
Anyway, in Dec 2006, we got placed. The company I got placed with said that our placement location would be shared later and it could be either Mumbai or Bangalore. Ha!! That was the first time I got a reality check, and for good…:) While all my life I had been wanting to get a chance to stay in/ go to Bombay, this time I wished otherwise. I had actually grown up, and the harsh realities of life had dawned on me. I just did not want to end up in Mumbai in a pigeon hole size flat, nor did i wish to travel to work in a local. And added to that the high living cost of Mumbai….Not that i was particularly a big fan of Bangalore at that time (later i started liking the city a lot during my three years stay there) but I was not up for a life in Mumbai. The very thought of sandwiched between people in a local in the hot humid climate of Mumbai and returning home to a cage size apartment was enough to scare me. (Actually that is all i would have been able to afford with my kind of salary at that time and moreover in general Mumbai is not known for space). As fate would have it…i got Bangalore as my location.
I stayed in Bangalore thereafter, and visited Mumbai quite a few number of times for work after that. Some of these trips were even a month long. That is when i realized the difference between my dreams and reality. Though, I use to stay in company guest house and was driven around the city in a chauffeur driven car…my love for the city had almost vanished. I found life in Mumbai way too fast for me. The crowded locals, the small apartments, the crazy distances, the narrow roads (this I say in comparison o NCR) …the awful traffic…I guess the Delhi metro had spoiled us by then…overall, i found the living conditions a bit too gloomy in Mumbai. The sea of people one evening at Dadar station was so overwhelming that it left me wondering…..the city of my dreams was so different in reality.
Actually, as i said above, I had a crush on Bombay. And crushes are mostly misleading….you see what you want to see… Bombay use to amuse the younger me….it was like a distant land which was far from my reaches and hence very attractive, so i fell in love with it. When reality struck the grown up me, the attraction for Bombay died along with many other imaginary worlds and dreams i had created for myself in my teen years; the grown up me saw the realities of living in Mumbai and the Bombay dreams turned into Mumbai blues for me..:)
Every city has its plus and minuses, and my experience says that in the due course of time a city grows on you. Its very difficult to not like a place after staying there for a considerable period of time. It has happened to me twice. However, still, though Mumbai is the land of opportunities but today, given a chance, i would any day choose a Bangalore or a Chennai over Mumbai…:)
Here is my favorite song for the city..:)