November 22, 2016

8 things I've learned from 8 years in Mumbai

1. Run..
.. the standard chartered Mumbai half marathon. Training for a half isn't too time consuming and the run itself is worth it. You'll catch the breeze on the sealink, watch Milind and the Kenyans lope past you, grab 5 stars and orange segments from the Peddar Road crowd, get a medal and a foot massage at the end.

2. Don't run
.. For a train, traffic light or bus. Running to catch the first two could kill you. And this might be my middle aged cynicism at work- but buses will not stop for you, run you ever so shrewdly.

3. Start up
Create something yourself. Start a lake cleanup, get your society to segregate garbage or start helping the maids and security guards to open bank accounts and get insured.. It might seem like your efforts aren't making a dent in the mountainous problems of mumbai, but like the garbage people throw into the sea- come the monsoon, it'll wash back onto Mumbai's shores.
Seriously, do something garbage- related.

4. Marine drive, kala ghoda, Colaba, chowpatty..
Are all visited during your first bewildering month in the city. After that, you'll find a suburban place for all the sobo food, and monuments can always be revisited when friends from the US want to show their kids the sights and sounds of "real" Mumbai.

5. Friendly neighbourhood
Your college buddies may be in Mumbai, but if they're several suburbs away and on a different train line- you're going to see them never. Make friends in the neighbourhood, join a local area fb or whats app group, take part in the building dandiya, attend the society AGM... You won't make friends at the AGM, but you'll find out about enmities, frustration, hunger for power and maybe even see a few angry-but-genteel punches and hair-tugs.

6. Signed, sealed and delivered
If it's a commodity or service that can be provided at home, you will get it in Mumbai. You will get so used to the efficiency, that you will pout and sulk when a single contractor delays his work.

7. Don't let it rain on your parade
Mumbai's extreme weather is the monsoon. Since it's mainly a car and public transport city, everyone uses umbrellas, unlike Pune, where we all had wind cheaters to protect us while on our two wheelers. Buy yourself a small foldy umbrella that's useless in a July downpour. You will inevitably lose it in the first week. Then go and get yourself a lovely big umbrella that fits your nuclear family and dog under it. Most of Mumbai then proceeds to buy "jelly shoes"- those colourful rubbery slip ons from Thailand that won't get spoiled in the rain- though they will slosh all kinds of water and lepto-ridden slush onto your feet. Be smarter than that- search for a pair of rain boots and stride proudly through the puddles.

8. Leave
After 8 years, pack a bag - and get the incredibly efficient movers to wrap, pack and box everything else- and move out. You'll realise how dependant you were on maids, caterers, drivers, car washers, delivery services, contractors.. and everyone else that comes to your doorstep- usually when you're napping- to do all your work for you. Move to a smaller town, enjoy cooking, gardening, hanging your own laundry in the sun- no pulleys in sight- and for the first time since your childhood, learn to clean your own..
Methi. Clean your own methi. What did you think I was going to say? We're spoilt in Mumbai, but it's not that bad!

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