Mumbai – the City of Dreams
Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) is
considered to be the commercial capital of India. People of Mumbai are known
all over the world for their joie de vivre, their aptitude to work hard and,
most importantly, living a highly tolerant cosmopolitan life. Mumbai is the
abode of an estimated 18 million people, most of them immigrants from other
parts of India.
What drives Indians towards Mumbai is the ample job opportunities and
fast-paced life. People from rural areas, chase dreams mostly of becoming a
film star or a cricketer or even a politician or businessman, and come to India. This has
provided Mumbai with the title of ‘The City of Dreams’. It is said that no one can
ever go hungry in the city as there is always some kind of job and some kind of
subsistence for every person. Also, it is considered easiest to earn money in
the city. People often reach dizzying heights of success and richness.
Nonetheless, a person living in Mumbai is considered in high esteem in almost
every other part of India.
Mumbai has a unique history. Pre 16th century, it
was made up of seven separate islands – Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman’s Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel and Matunga-Sion. In 1662,
these islands came into British possession from the Portuguese as a wedding
gift when Prince Charles II married Princess Catherine of Braganza, daughter of
the then Portuguese king. Over the centuries, these islands have been connected
together by land into the single bulk of Mumbai that exists today. More land is
being reclaimed to house the ever-growing population.
The diversity in Mumbai is enormous. On one hand there are
posh areas like Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Lokhandwala, Walkeshwar, etc. where the
rich and famous live in swanking apartments and bungalows. While on the other,
there is Dharavi, the biggest slum in the whole world. The suburbs of Mumbai –
from Bandra to Mira Road-Bhayander – houses the huge number of middle class
Mumbai residents. Life in Mumbai is extremely hectic and it is said that the
city never sleeps. Even in the nights, there is movement – whether in the form
of discotheques and pubs or the ubiquitous auto-rickshaw drivers plying the
roads all through the night. Mumbai is also the progressive capital of largely
It is the only city within India
(with the exception of perhaps Delhi and Bangalore) that accepts without
intervention inter-caste marriages, children born of wedlock and such other
social oddities. Though there is a bit of reservation, Mumbai is constantly
evolving and also beginning to slowly accept alternative lifestyles in its
No mention of Mumbai can be complete without speaking of the
Mumbai film industry, often lovingly termed as Bollywood.
It is correctly the
biggest film industry in the world, clearly superseding Hollywood in sheer volume – it churns out 800
films a year. Movies are true reflections of Mumbai’s society and vice-versa.
In fact, 90% of the movies made in India
revolve around life in the city of Mumbai.
In fact, great movie people of Mumbai like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan,
Aishwarya Rai (also ex Miss World) are rages all over the globe. Another great
form of entertainment is cricket. The whole city of Mumbai
almost stops whenever there is a cricket match – especially one day matches
between India and Pakistan.
Mumbai’s lifeline is its trains. The rail network of Mumbai
is divided into two zones – western and central. Trains are the most vital and
convenient connections between two points of this big city. They tend to be
extremely crowded in peak hours, and only a person living in Mumbai can be
trained enough to travel in one. Apart from trains there are buses shuttling
between fixed points in the city. Then there are always auto-rickshaws and
taxis, mostly run by immigrants from the northern states of India like Bihar, UP and Punjab.
Mumbai, being a cosmopolitan city, is open to all kinds of
languages. The street language, as also the national language, is Hindi.
However, Mumbai people speak Hindi with a markedly different colloquialism than
the rest of India.
Marathi is the regional language, and again, it is evolved from local speech.
Gujarati is the language spoken chiefly among the Gujarati businessmen
community of the city. However, in pockets of the city, there are people of all
communities speaking their languages – like the Tamil speaking Madrasis in
Matunga, the Konkani speaking Goan Christians in Orlem and the Muslims speaking
different dialects in various zones of the city.
Mumbai provides a unique living experience even for the first-timer.
Surely, there are conmen and unscrupulous venders all over, eager to make a
quick buck out of foreigners in popular tourist spots like the Gateway of
India. There are also communal riots, as there were in 1993, mostly incited by
political parties. But it is this blend of the good and the bad, the
interesting and the humdrum, that makes life in Mumbai interesting.