After doing a similar post for Singapore, on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day, I had to do one for the city of my birth, my beloved Mumbai.
A Mumbai resident is known as a Mumbaikar, though when it used to be Bombay, we called ourselves Bombayites. I guess the change from Bombay to Mumbai meant that the word also changed and became the Marathi Mumbaikar where kar is the Marathi word for a resident.
It is said, Mumbai is a city while Bombay is an emotion. Mumbai is full of dreamers and the place where people’s dreams are realised and extinguished. It is said that if one has lived in Bombay and has travelled in the local trains then one can survive in any other city. Officially Mumbai, Bombay is still used interchangeably by many locals.
Mumbaikars live a very fast-paced life and why not, given that the bulk of the population spends a few hours daily just on their commute, whether for school, college or work. I know of friends and colleagues who would spend a minimum of two hours each way on the trains to get to their destination. And speaking of trains, the Mumbai local is the lifeline of the city and if for some reason, trains shut down, the city comes to a standstill. The life of a Mumbaikar, especially one who needs the train to get to work or school revolves around train timings. So their conversations are peppered with train timings and what time to reach the station. And within the train is something that is uniquely Mumbai – the train friends. So what are these train friends? Train friends are those who invariably take the same train as you do daily. Over time, these people become friends. And this is a category of friends who may move outside the train or remain within the train itself.
A Mumbaikar is a perfect amalgamation of pan India. A blend of the North and South and to this is added the Eastern and the Western parts of India which it is already a part of. If you ask a Mumbaikar for directions, you will not be told of the direction in kilometres, but rather the time it will take you to get there. It’s very common to travel long distances to get from one place to the other because unlike other cities, Mumbai is set up in a north-south alignment so this means that long distances are inevitable and this does not faze a Mumbaikar.
Mumbai has one of the highest literacy rates in India, 94.7% which is significantly higher than the country’s average. Though the official state language is Marathi; 16 other major languages are spoken in the city including English. The city is the commercial and entertainment capital of India as well as its most populous city. With a high number of migrants and diverse religious groups, Mumbai is truly a melting pot of cultures. Mumbai can be called the true and first cosmopolitan city of India because this is a city that brings together people of different communities, religions and customs and the city is known for its diversity which can be hard to find elsewhere in India. In any building society, it’s quite easy to see people from many Indian states who live together and celebrate all festivals. The inhabitants of the city can be called a microcosm of India’s population.
The Bambaiya Hindi which is maligned in Bollywood films is a blend of Hindi, Marathi and English. While this brand of Hindi. While the Hindi may not be as pure as what is spoken in Delhi and the northern parts of India, it’s not too bad. What is shown in television and films is an exaggerated version spoken. Neither I nor my family, friends or acquaintances have spoken like this daily.
But at the end of the day, Mumbai has a heart of gold. I have written previously about how the city comes together to help during a calamity or crisis and that is what is important.
A Mumbaikar loves Mumbai, plain and simple and once they identify themselves as a Mumbaikar, they remain one till the end of their lives. I may not travel to Mumbai now as often as I want to, but you can take Mumbai out of my life, but you can’t take the Mumbaikar out of me.
To end this post, an old song which beautifully captures the spirit of Mumbai, though it was Bombay then. This song is from the old classic C.I.D which was released in 1956 and starred Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman in the leading roles. And this shows you how Bombay was in the fifties, with trams running and wide, uncrowded roads.