Mumbai is more a mood, a celebration and a spirit rather than a city. It is an impersonator that can dexterously switch between its up-market posh celebrity status, its “dharavi” “slummy” image, its culturally rich “knowledgeable” self and the financial whiz kid in pinstripes! And the switch is seamless and so “becoming” that for an outsider it is difficult to pin Mumbai into a mould!
Exploring solo has an added charm and I too followed the “switch” mentality… discarding my business suit as I transited from the “new industrial” Mumbai to the upmarket “hangout” cafes of Mumbai. Gawking at the Mumbai Worli Sea Face – the engineering marvel that rises from the waters… and shedding the “Monday to Friday rush” mentality to simply unwind and relax as I sat at a restaurant and enjoyed a quiet meal with the view that only Mumbai can bestow – of the Marine Drive. And then again I toggled between “brand shopping” in the multiple urban malls that sprawl across Mumbai and trying to be the “haggling street shopper” as I traversed Colaba and Fashion Streets – it is refreshing to feel the colourful inexpensive consumerism that survives in Mumbai while the new metros across the country have discarded their “flea market” cousins to chase the glassy heights of mall consumerism!
The Arabian sea caresses the city at its curves and contours and it too switches from quiet murmur to bellowing roars depending on the time of the day and your “point of intersection”! The city, the citizens and the sea share such a warm bond that is almost charming to an outsider. The joy in the “mumbaiker” that the sea brings is a sight to behold. They await the high tide to be embraced by the massive waves that rise above the corniche!
For a person who goes into panic attack at the first drizzle (thanks to the muck and traffic that usually accompanies rains), Mumbai taught me the joy of enjoying the monsoons.. the rains romance, flirt and sometimes goes to war with the city.. sometimes showering it with drops of rain to cool its temperatures… sometimes squabbling and blocking arterial roads.. sometimes celebrating the festivities of rain with its residents… Mumbaikers can truly tango with the monsoons.. weaving romance, music and merrymaking into the monsoon downpour!
Mumbai thrives, grows and charms with the art of balance. While it grows and expands its tentacles into expressways, new Mumbai and “newer” Mumbai, it still remains rooted to its humble self and true to its heritage and historical past! It can make the king and the pauper feel “at home” with an ease and skill that only Mumbai can boast of and gives you the choice to explore it at your own will and convenience… no holds barred.. no strings and no judgement… that is the spirit of Mumbai that magnetically holds back its people and a piece of that spirit resides in every Mumbaiker and he wears it as a badge of honour!