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Mumbai was never and can never be called the ‘City of Dreams.’
It would be misleading, cruel and outright mean to all the dreamers out there. In these trying times and the constantly evolving state of our country, Mumbai stands as a beacon for something. That something is definitely not a call to the dreamers out there to flock the beacon like moths on a dreary night. Mumbai is not a symbol of hope nor is it a haven for all those who wish to achieve. Mumbai shouldn’t be analogous to what people call the ‘City where you can make it.’
It is time before someone spoke against this blatant rehashing of Mumbai’s image only to coddle the poor, soft, so-called ‘dreamers’ that will suffer once they end up in Mumbai.
Mumbai is a city of perseverance. Mumbai, the city, will beat you down to your knees and kick you in the abdomen when you’re begging for mercy. Mumbai will laugh on your bleeding self lying down the drain and then taunt you to get back up, only to beat you down again.
The ‘City of Dreams’ does not and will not care about where you come from, who you know and what you’re capable of.
The sole thing that this cruel, merciless and soulless city will test is how bad you want it. Aamchi Mumbai is the sadist who will enjoy seeing you suffer from the rats in the sewer and probably livestream it for the whole world to enjoy. Aamchi Mumbai will test how hard you can get hit and get back up. It will keep a tally of the number of times you got back up from that gutter and asked for another hit. Once you acquire a taste of the Mumbai’s actually made of, that’s when it gets worse.
When all your dreams are awash and you’re struggling, deep in debt, being unable to afford the rent, and getting by with unfulfilling food, Mumbai won’t come to your rescue. This city and its people will not care about your suffering because let’s face it, everyone is probably worse off. Mumbai will feel like a sinking ship and aren’t all of us just trying to stay afloat. Holding on to our broken doors and cannot ‘afford’ to have DiCaprio on board.
The sinking ship feels like a nightmare but it’s cute compared to a ship sinking in a thunderstorm, in the middle of the ocean. That’s what monsoons in Aamchi Mumbai will feel like. The mighty buildings and pothole-ridden roads will mock your dreams and all the aspirations that you came with to this city.
The wet, slimy, smelly collars that you will find your face mashed into in the locals will seldom make you feel like a dreamer trying to make it. It will make you wonder whether that wet spot that’s being rubbed against your face with every jerk is sweat, spit or just murky rainwater.
Mumbai will not offer you a job, a livelihood with a simple interview. It will involve a fight to the death. The death being the actual death of the dreams of other dreamers you’re competing with.
This city will not bat an eye on letting you go, making you suffer and will definitely never be sympathetic. Mumbai will be cruel enough to choose someone more capable over you. It will choose the workers, the people who are willing to grind stone with their teeth. The people who will devour the opponent without batting an eye, in summary, people who have the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ in them.
Mumbai will not resort from being politically incorrect and it probably wouldn’t care about your gender either. Which is the beauty of it? Mumbai will beat you down, with complete impartiality and with the best of intentions. Aamchi Mumbai will test if you’re capable, not of achieving or innovating, it will test if you’re capable enough to survive. To test what lengths you will go to, just to make it.
Mumbai will not turn you into an empathetic, kind and lovely human being. You will probably turn out to be mean, aggressive and highly competitive. But it will make you surely value the tiniest of pleasures in life.
To be honest, Not many people make it in this city. But don’t let the beggars, people living under bridges, on couches in 1 RK’s and in crowded smelly subways make stop you from thinking otherwise. A few people make it. Considering the massive population that Mumbai inhabits, the few is also pretty significant.
But living in a city like Mumbai will be harsh, highly uncomfortable and overall pretty bad.
Coming to Mumbai is analogous to signing a deal with the devil. Selling your soul to live through hell, which, when logically thought of, is ridiculous.
But it is what it is.
I really want this article to end on a positive note, but let’s face it, not many stories in Mumbai end positively. People either give in to the pressure and back away. A lot of them accept their fate and become mere slaves to the cruel ‘City of Dreams.’ But there are a few who make it.
You will meet them in local trains, and probably won’t recognize them as they are indistinguishable from the countless faces around this city. Again, that’s the beauty of this city, it doesn’t discriminate. A tech titan and a daily wage worker all travel in the same, overcrowded, local to CST. But those who make it, hit it big.
Mumbai might be cruel, but it rewards you for the countless blows you’ve taken to the face.
Mumbai won’t pay the hospital fees for all the shattered bones, but it will unquestionably make your victory notorious. The stories of you getting beat and still standing tall will be told for decades. You will not be different, but you’ll be strong. Mental toughness comes at a price.
You will find yourself being unable to survive without the hustle-bustle of the city. You will enjoy the crowded beaches and unwholesome street food. You will revel at the magnificent architecture of buildings. You will be unfazed by the living conditions of the countless people living in the slums. You will curse at the BMC for the pothole-ridden roads and the never-ending traffic. You will find yourself strangely addicted to the polluted air of the city. You will be comfortable with sharing stories and find yourself involved in small talks with people you’ll never see again. You will find yourself, strangely attracted to this cruel, mean and torturous excuse for a City.
When Stockholm syndrome settles in and when you realize that you’re in love with this monster, that’s when you will call yourself a ‘Mumbaikar.’
You will make it in the city, knock it big! You will once again stand as a beacon of hope for all the dreamers out there and then you will be cursed when those dreamers come into the city. The same dreamers that once worshipped you will challenge the legitimacy of your success and chalk it up to political means or contacts. The same dreamers will receive the same number of blows, but they won’t make it. The few who do will have a newfound respect for their icon.
The few who will make it, will probably meet their icons in the same train, bump into each other and curse ‘Pudhe chala tujhya aaichi gaand’ to each other.
Mumbai is far from being called a ‘City of dreams’ and calling it that would diminish the peculiar qualities and the bewildering nature of the city.
Mumbai is a city of dreamers, dreamers with ineffable willpower and dedication. Mumbai provides the fuel for you to reach escape velocity and shoot for the stars. Mumbai is precious, and no matter how harsh it gets, It’s home.
I’m extremely grateful for your attention if you made it this far. If you think this article or my writing can be improved through your feedback, feel free to hit me up! I’d really appreciate it.