Between Bombay and Mumbai by Fawzan Husain, the title alone gave me chills and then the cover shot which only made my heart race faster. I knew it was magic the minute I heard the title and then my classmate went on to read the forward by Mr. Tariq Ansari. Certain words, certain phrases, the emotions that i felt in those moments is something that will stay etched in my mind till the day i die.
To me no city, that I’ve ever visited, carries as much love and emotion as Bombay does, but having said that, I grew up in a time where it’s now called Mumbai and this “Mumbai” has never felt like home. I took the very first opportunity I could to get out, but i still run back every other weekend, perched at Marine Drive till 6 am, breathing in the true beauty of that city. A cup of chai, a footpath filled with as many people as on any ordinary day not withstanding the fact that it’s past midnight. That’s what the city is to me. It’s this place with all these vulnerable feelings and raw expressions, not the investment bankers at BKC on a Monday morning at 10 am, but rather that queue outside Eros at 10 pm on Friday evenings. People always ask me why i take pictures of the lower class or the poor and why i portray Bombay in such a sad light or in such a state of misery. I smile and only tell them that those are where are roots lie, and also happens to be 90% of our population that has no access to the wealth the rest of us our fighting over. When I say I’m from Bombay, they ask if i mean Mumbai and i correct them, reaffirming that I’m from Bombay.
Listening to the article by Ansari, it validated all these emotions I’ve ever felt in terms of what the city was and how it’ll never be the same. Most people of the present generation , hate it and want to run away. The rest love this place called Mumbai that they know as this urbanized concrete monster drowning in materialism, but love it anyway. “Bombay was always about commerce, but in an abstract way. In Mumbai, greed became good and flashiness the new mantra”, writes Ansari. There was a time when the city was fast-paced yet selfless, today however, it’s merely selfish and that’s what I miss most. This one time a girl was hit by rickshaw and lay in the middle of the highway with her scooter lying a few feet away. I instinctively stopped my car in the middle of the road, right where the girl lay to help her out to the sidewalk. Car after car passed by, and no they didn’t stop to help out, instead they stopped to abuse me for having stopped my car in the middle of the road. I was on my way to Criti Care Hospital, Juhu where my brother was admitted, but obviously they were probably in more of a hurry than i was. It speaks volumes in terms of who we were when it came to helping or caring and who we’ve become. There’s no one we’re willing to [gallery ids="37,41,38,39,40" type="rectangular"]help other than ourselves or for our own selfish motives barring a select few.
I’ve been lucky enough to have met and spoken to my great grand parents and they are the perfect example of who we were. My great garndfather Bob Tanna played a crucial role in our freedom struggle. He was one of the first HAM radio users in India and also helped in the establishment of the Congress Radio. To date, whenever i see an old man, drinking or smoking a cigar it reminds me of Bob and i make it a point to go strike conversation. To me Bombay is the generations of men and women that have been running Britannia, the infamous Parsi restaurant at Ballard Estate. Three generations you’ll see right there, running the place with utmost passion. This is the city that I fell in love with to begin with and today it’s a little lost. Today, we seem to have forgotten the true essence of this lovely place that fought to stand where it stands today, that stood together through thick and thin. The rich now are becoming richer, the poor, only poorer. The only value the place has anymore is its property rates and fancy restaurants and night clubs that people run to to escape reality and thats what pinches me. My Bombay wasn’t a place to be escaped from but rather the escape itself.
Ending on the same note as Ansari did, here’s to hoping someday Mumbai will find its way back to Bombay. Not so fast-paced and not so fake.