I don’t usually fall in love with places like I do with people. With people, I am easily impressed and I instantly like anybody and everybody at the very first meeting because I genuinely think everybody is just as wonderful. But with places I am a bit of a skeptic. I look at any new place through the glass of a cynic. I take a lot of time to see the beauty of a city’s /country’s buildings, its roads, its waters and its skies. It takes me a terrible amount of time to unravel and enjoy the beauty of the place unless its just unquestionably beautiful like Edinburgh or Paris. While I am open to cultural experiences, I am always on my guard as well. One can always argue that people maketh the place but in my head these are two different elements.
Very frankly, I never liked Mumbai because I found it was too fast. Fast is such a relative term really. Now I understand. But as a 22 year old when I last visited Mumbai, I was overwhelmed by the number of people, their sense of urgency, the sight of the mad rush in the local trains and the muggy weather. I wanted to get away from Mumbai as soon as I could. Fast forward, 2014 and am back in the city for work and that is a transformation story I am going to tell in my post today.
Everything is affected by relativity. I have lived in Delhi, some time in Cochin, in Birmingham and on and off in other cities around the world for work. So when a certain “Mumbaite” comes to me raving about his /her ‘Maximum city’, I make a face. An unhealthy debate ensues about Delhi Vs Mumbai and ends inconclusively. In my 15 years of adult life, I have learnt to value certain characteristics of a city more than others. What makes a place livable and hence likable?
2. Easy access to places that we frequent on a daily basis
3. Quality and options for a thriving social life
Somewhere I had made up my mind about Mumbai.
My recent trip about Mumbai changed my perception. I enjoyed the sights, the sounds,the energy and the pulse of Mumbai. Ofcourse, I avoided the local trains and the other avoidable facets of the city’s personality. I even avoided the usual touristy things to do except for the lure of street shopping at Colaba. I dove deep into the life of the city which happened both by chance and by design.
Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar, peek into cafe Leopold
Mandeep enjoying her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj
What I loved about Mumbai:
1. Work ensured that I met the most enterprising of individuals who were informal as they were professional. Nobody wasted anybody’s time and everybody aimed to extract maximum value from the time expended. I found this extremely impressive and comforting.
2. This city knows how to have fun. Almost every evening I headed out for dinner and to try out some interesting places. Each night was a new experience and every place was packed. Nobody was in a hurry to get back home though it was a weekday!!
3. The ‘concept’ restaurants in Mumbai are an experience. We had a chance to celebrate International Women’s Day at a restaurant called ” Haibao” which promised a shabu shabu experience – a Japanese dish wherein the different kinds of vegetables, meats, fish and other seafood are dropped into boiling broth (which is at the table itself) and cooked in front of the diners. It was delicious as it was satisfying.
The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu
4. Yoga house was yet another cafe that I fell in love with. I would love for Bahrain to have something like this where you can just go and relax with your coffee served with jaggery, quiona salad and detox juices. No processed food is served here which includes sugar. I was completely bowled over by the ambiance and sense of harmony the cafe had to offer.
Yoga house was an experience
5. The most amazing bit about Mumbai was that I found it safe to travel alone or with friends at any hour of the night. I had the shocking experience of walking past the crowd of the most drunk people and there weren’t any mishaps or cat calls. It was like I had almost expected it and was prepared to mentally ignore it and to my shock it did not happen. People were doing their own thing. More drunk people recommended one food outlet over the other. I haven’t experienced this much freedom for women walking down the roads in a long, long time. And I looked around to see so many more women just going about their stuff even as late at 1 or 2 am at night. Hats off Mumbai for creating a culture and environment so safe for women.
6. Mumbai experience was deepened in afterthought. After a long time I was by myself, responsible only for my own self. That was rare and somehow freeing. The sense of anonymity that Mumbai provided helped me be myself. I could easily shed my heavy cloak of self consciousness and enjoyed myself like I didn’t care. That feeling of anonymity can be addictive because even after days of coming back to Bahrain, I craved for it.
These were my reasons for loving a city that I once despised. Life is funny like that. The more severely stubborn we become about something, it has its way of bringing everything back full circle. I hope you enjoy Mumbai as I did albeit through the Instagram images. For most parts it was a great trip because Mandeep planned it so for me. A huge fraction of my transformation journey was possible only because of her – because she showed me that face of Mumbai that she intuitively knew I would enjoy.