I was walking along the crowded Mohammand Ali road in Mumbai when two cats, one chasing the other ran past me. The ferocity with which the cats brushed my leg and made way for themselves on the crowded pavement scared me for a brief moment. When I recovered, it occurred to me that the cats in Mumbai had probably inherited the ruthlessness of the people in the city.
After having spent time in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, San Francisco and other big Indian cities, I thought I had a handle on this whole big city thing. Mumbai however defies characterization.
In my twelve hours there I managed to do a lot of things. I had a wonderful conversation in my slightly rusty Hindi about living in Mumbai with a taxi driver from Benares. I stayed inside a cramped room in a guest house deep inside Kalbadevi with a bird’s eye view of the urban squalor. I experienced the extraordinary generosity of the Bihari boys at the guest house who handled everything from room service to janitorial duties. I had what is probably the best mango phirni on the planet. I waded through the infamous ”Bambai ki Barish” (Bombay rain, for the uninitiated) at 2:30am, caught a taxi and took a night drive to the airport with Hindi film songs from the nineties (Phool Aur Kaante anyone?) playing in the background. At the end of it, I paid the exact meter fare, not a paisa more. To top it off, I saw twenty people in front of me at the customs counter taken into custody for carrying fake passports.
I left the city feeling extremely confused about my time there. Maybe I will figure it out once I am back for two days later this month. Looking forward to it.