On Valentines Day, express your feelings to the one you love most... express your love for Mumbai... says an advertisement for a I love Mumbai campaign that has been launched by HT, a local newspaper here.
The main part of this post was part of my old site, deeplydeeps on the "Kama" section titled, I love Mumbai. As I have taken the site down, I have migrated the text here.
Truly, let me try and explain my feelings for this city that is the only home known to me. Which has loved me like a mother and provided for me as a father. In it's residents I have the camaraderie of brothers, sisters, cousins, pets, family and community.
Overflowing garbage bins and potholed state of roads are the more commonly held reminders of the city of Bombay, now Mumbai. The sights are compounded by the smells of unhygienic conditions that exist, overflowing garbage and slums and poor roadside people trying to struggle through an existence. But even in the dust and grime of an urban decadence, an artist's eye catches the colours and shapes and patterns that make up Mumbai a microcosm of India -colourful and vibrant. Beneath and beyond the concrete and tar, it's faint heartbeat flutters.
Mumbai has its sights captured by the artist or the photographers eye. Mainly the roadside vendors of fruits, flowers, bhelpuri on the beach and other odds and ends. But there are many other sights that my eye captures that are more every day in nature. Tree lined roads, the sun, a gloden orb setting over the western horizon, dogs curled up on pavements over a parchment of paper to keep them warm (often true of humans too), a solitary cow blocking the road.Or a group of them holding cow-ncil meetings on the sides, brightly hued paper wind-mills swirling furiously around on a totem pole made of dry grass. The raddiwala displays magazines on a string. Old bags repairwala, a key maker under a tree, brightly coloured boganveille (sp.?) draped over concrete walls and barbed wire; glorious gulmohar flaming for a brief period of three months; hanuman shrines in nooks and under trees, with vermillion and green leaves round his neck. A coconut vendor who arranges the waste in a neat concentric circle. Vegetables and fruits organised with similar precision and design.
Green leaves nestle white jasmine in a circle of a brown woven bamboo basket, normally the vendor dressed in a spotless white kurta/pyjama/topi -the traditional attire of Maharashtra. Discarded magazines arranged on a string with the pride of a window-display. Looking up at the sky, it speaks a different tone every day.
To a mind wearied by the grime and garbage, disillusioned by politicians, scams, increasing prices and cost of living, crime and corruption in the big bad city, these colours and pictures serve as a reminder to- despair not.
Amidst it all, smiling urchins, hardworking housemaids (bai's), happy stray dogs, chatty cab drivers and helpful people.
Through floods or riots, bomb blasts or just everyday routine, the city has enveloped me in it's loving care. After three generations in Mumbai, now it is my "gaon", my village, or home town as the colloquial word is used by migrants who call Mumbai home but refer to their roots.
Recently, suddenly the twists and turns of the amazing maze of Mumbai roads led me to the doorstep of the Mumbaidevi temple after which this city is named. As is stood there looking at it, for a few minutes a little surprised at the unexpected sight, I felt my throat choking. Years in this city, being born and having lived here all my life and having a fairly religious upbringing, for some strange reason, I had never paid my respects to this mother Goddess who it is said presides and protects the city. I think I know what I'd like to do on Valentines Day - visit the temple and express my thanks and love. Rest can wait.