By Priyanka Mittal:
Is it just me or does anyone else encounters the most vehement stare when they make the mistake of disclosing in Delhi that they might like a certain aspect of Mumbai and vice versa? It almost seems like the same situation as when Pakistan is about to take the last wicket off India in the World Cup Final against them. The hostility is present at both ends and only seems to be getting worse with both cities eyeing the numero uno spot. Having lived in both the cities, my experiences help build a perspective; of course the piled up statistics and debates over the years have been equally helpful.
When I began living in Mumbai, I hated it. It was intolerable; from the two lane roads to the different types of stink to the mucky living conditions to not being able to even walk freely on a busy road. Family and friends consoled me with the phrase- “It will grow on you.” I never understood how that would work, how one day I would suddenly begin to love the stink and walking in the water logged streets during the monsoon. It seemed humanly impossible.
As I continued to live there I began to see more than what was on the surface; something that the city offers only when u take up the challenge of scratching its surface. I would have to admit that is the dirtiest city I’ve ever seen and doesn’t even deserve to stand in comparison to the ever clean and green city of New Delhi. Also, when it comes to infrastructure and being a planned city, Mumbai should be the quiet a back bencher in class that no one notices. Paying exorbitant prices for a cramped little room in a building that looks like it could collapse anytime is just beyond my understanding. Don’t even get me started about listening to people trying to fight out which city is greener; definitely Delhi’s Lodhi garden could any day beat Mumbai’s Nana-Nani park without a second thought. For people with requirements of retail therapy from time to time, Delhi’s plethora of markets including GK, South Extension, Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar and the larger than life malls would succeed at fulfilling this urge better than most places in Mumbai.
Talking about more than just the surface, the focus shifts back to Mumbai. There is something about that city, something so unique and in abundance that we mostly take it for granted. The silence during a traffic jam, the feeling of togetherness in the crowd and sense of security are some of those traits. Even in a jam the whole city seems to be in it together rather than people coming out of their vehicles and yelling out loud on the road. This sort of decorum seems to have been imbibed and exhibited not only at this level but also in other situations like standing in queue for a bus or an ATM machine; to Delhi this concept seems alien, only when all queues have been broken and all aggression displayed will a Delhite find solace in having performed his duty to doing so.
It’s only here that one will find an auto at his disposal at any hour and it does not matter whether you are in the posh locales of Bandra or the by lanes of Dahisar. To add to it, they insist on going by the meter reading and in case the meter is faulty, they will make sure to not take an extra rupee from you. One incident I would like to share includes the sharing of an auto with an old lady in order to catch a movie on time. She was the one sharing the auto ride with me but she made sure to call the theatre I was to watch the movie in and confirm that I would make it on time. This is the sort of humanity and kindness that Delhi seems to ignore.
Moving on to the issue of safety, let’s just say that being 1700 kms from my hometown has made me feel safer than being a mere 200 kms away. I don’t know what it is that makes the beautiful city of Delhi so aggressive and intolerant towards women. Are the neighbouring states to blame? One of the most beautiful cities with so much to offer but it comes with restricted timings if you’re a woman and hoping to embrace it. The only ones benefitting from this probably are the couples who owe the budding of their romance to the late night car drops.
I would not wish to talk about the fashion and culture in both these cities as I believe that both of them are at an equal footing in their own ways. Same goes for food; while Delhi has the most delicious Butter Chicken, golgappas, Momos on its list; Mumbai’s plate offers the famous vada pav, missal pav, bhel puri, various kinds of dosas (Chinese dosa, gini dosa, spring dosa) to its foodie population.
At the end of the day, has this constant comparison helped? I would say yes. Somewhere each city aims for growth in a better way owing to this, maybe also grin a little when one of them achieves something the other does not have, the Delhi Metro would be one such example. About preference, it also depends upon one’s sensibility and circumstances rather than just the statistics that we have been piling on since years. There is still no convincing answer to say that Mumbai is better than Delhi or Delhi is better than Mumbai. You could like both, like one, hate one or hate both. All I can say is, look beneath the surface and start believing in the phrase-“It will grow on you.”