Welcome to Mumbai city. Some call it Mumbai, some Bombay, and some Mayanagri. People also call it the ‘city of dreams’. What do you call it? Hold on, and let me tell you some interesting things about this city and request you to read it even if you don’t want to. Strange request no? But give it a shot, you will not regret it.
Okay, now that you are here, it means I was successful in my pitch to convince you to stay here for some more time, thanks. Be ready for experiencing a journey within.
Bollywood, the Gateway of India, Taj Hotel, Arabian Sea, Ganpati, Haji Ali, IIT Bombay, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Dharavi, Vada Pav, etc. It is highly likely to think of one of these images at first while talking about Mumbai. In a way, these places and things define the city of Mumbai. Mumbai is a city of hope, ample opportunities and a world of possibilities. So, let’s go for a ride that you may or may not have taken. Let’s go for a Mumbai ride.
Ah-ha, now you may go through the stoppage list for this ride:
Yes, you have arrived at one of the busiest railway stations in India. No, don’t be afraid, because people literally come here to see this beautiful station. This station is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wherever you are in this country, I am sure you might have seen a photo of this building that looks like a palace. The station was earlier referred to as Victoria Terminus (VT) and this palace-like structure now serves as the headquarters of the Indian Central Railway.
This station takes more than a million passengers to their destination every day, and if you are there, you are one in a million. This number is greater or comparable to the population of the district I belong to, as well as many other districts of our country. And for also some nations such as Mauritius and Bhutan, pause for a minute and just let that sink in. This number is enough to intimidate anyone, but wait and ask yourself: why are these people here? And more, importantly what am I doing here? I’ve got my answers 🙂
My first encounter with the BEST Buses was while commuting from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Station to the Gateway of India. I was confused about the right stop from where to board this bus. I asked people and got directed to the right one. One bus had just left as soon as I reached the stop. Luckily, the second bus came just after that, and to my surprise, it was a double-decker. I boarded that bus and found myself a window seat. I was very excited and ready for the Mumbai Darshan.
A well-dressed kaka (conductor uncce) in his khaki-coloured uniform came to me and asked me for my destination and handed me the ticket. For less than Rs 10 and in 20 minutes, I was at the Gateway of India and through this short journey, I got a sneak peek of the Mumbai Heritage.
Sometimes, when we see an affluent place or five-star hotels that are out of our reach, there is a common tendency to not appreciate the hard work that goes into making it. We instead try to position it as inferior to make ourselves feeling okay for that point in time. This is not the case when people look at The Taj Mahal Palace. This Hotel by the Tatas is situated next to the Gateway of India. People who visit the Gateway also spend some time looking at this five-star hotel. For most Indians, a five-star hotel means Taj Hotel and it is considered the first five-star hotel of India to have built in 1904.
Visitors generally take their pictures outside this hotel and take pride in having such a place in our country. Many people come with their family, take joy in clicking pictures with this hotel as background, and also enjoy peanuts, snacks and tea being sold by hawkers outside the hotel. This phenomenon of love comes with the respect earned by the brand Tata over the years by serving the nation and contributing to nation-building. This is the reason why people don’t feel envious or jealous after looking at the Taj Mahal Palace. Rather, they love, appreciate and aspire to become successful so that they can afford to go inside the hotel and use its services.
Here, I got the motivation to dream big and work hard to make my dream a reality.
As the name suggests ‘the Gateway of India’ is a gateway to enter India through the waterway. Here, we go slightly into history — the gateway was built to welcome King-Emperor George V and Queen-Empress Mary, the first British monarchs to visit India in 1911. People come here for many reasons — to see this amazing gate, enjoy the sea view, watch pigeons flying, and also take the ferry to commute. This place is a must-visit place on a tourist’s list and also for locals; this is a good weekend place to visit. You may lose yourself and enjoy the sea waves coming and going and hitting at the rock wall.
Here, we come to the lifeline of Mumbai i.e. the Mumbai Local. The number of daily passengers in the Mumbai local could be more than the population of Switzerland. The Mumbai Local itself is a topic of research and lakhs of stories are associated with this mode of transport. People include this in their everyday struggle, sometimes as protagonists, and sometimes to explain their difficult times. All in all, the Mumbai Local is the pillar of Mumbai city and supports lakhs of families every day.
Although I travelled on the Mumbai Local for most of my time there, the instance that stands out is when I was thrown out with the crowd and by the crowd while deboarding at Dadar station. It is there that I realised one should be skilled to travel in the Mumbai Locals as well. Thanks Mumbai Local, for giving me incredible experiences and teaching me the meaning of struggle.
Mumbai autos are the sweetest transport of Mumbai. The Mumbai autowallas are way cooler than the autowallas from any other city. And if you have experienced the autowallas in Delhi, then your appreciation for the Mumbai autowallas will automatically go up and you might want to kiss them on their forehead. These are genuine feelings and they have proved themselves time and again.
You don’t have to ask the autowallas to charge by the metre, they don’t take you through long routes, you feel safe riding in them even at 11pm, and yes, most of them wear their uniform. The honesty and adherence to rules ensured by either their group/societies or the government is commendable. Here, I learned how to be honest about our work and that no work is small.
IIT Bombay in Powai is one of India’s best engineering institutes situated. The institute is a magical place and blessed with nature. One side of it is surrounded by the serene Powai lake, and on the other side, it is covered by the Sameer Hill. IIT Bombay itself is a mini Mumbai or a microcosm of the Indian society. This place is full of opportunities and equipped to produce leaders and personalities who can bring change in society. IIT Bombay is a centre of knowledge and possibilities in this beautiful city of Mumbai.
I was fortunate to study here and grateful to work with some of the brightest minds of our country. IIT Bombay filled me with confidence, took out the fear of failure from me, and taught me to dream big. The institute convinced me that one person can make a difference and achieve the unachievable.
Many things happen for the first time in life and flying was one of them. With more than 40 million passengers traveling every year, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport is the second busiest airport in the country. It has also been awarded the ‘World’s Best Airport‘ by Airport Council International.
It was in March 2018 when I forst booked a flight ticket to travel from Mumbai to Ladakh for a very special cause. I was going for an expedition to electrify a remote village of Ladakh. I was excited and full of energy for the whole journey. I boarded the flight from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport for the first time and reached the destination safely.
The journey to Ladakh from Mumbai was via Delhi and when we took off from Delhi for Leh, it was a treat to watch. It is very rare when you get a chance to see the Himalayas and that too, from the top. It was a surreal experience. The rock Himalayas covered with snow were majestic. I learned that if you work hard for something, sooner or later, you achieve that. And if it is for a good cause, then God helps us in achieving it faster.
Marine Drive, does it sound lavish? Yes, for most of us. This place is another jewel in Mumbai’s crown. This is the favourite place for many Mumbaikars. It is near Churchgate station and is spread over 4km in an arch-like shape, confronting the mighty Arabian sea. A continuous sitting platform is constructed throughout the arch that starts from the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) all the way to Girgaon Chawpati.
This place is used for many objectives. People come here to relax to group performances, walk, set the mood, sit alone to spend some quality time, chill with friends and family, find yourself to be lost in your partner’s eyes, and explore to meet strangers. However, most people come to the Marine Drive to just chill with friends and families.
Whenever a sea of thoughts jumps up and down in your head, you get fed up with all the everyday struggles, unable to find answers to your questions, I have a suggestion to make. Sit at Marine Drive. Yes, you heard me right. Go to Marine Drive and find a place to sit. Sit facing the sea and after some time, close your eyes, dwell in your thoughts for a while, surrender yourself and let go.
You’ll hear the sound of the sea waves touching the shore, air passing through the ears, the unending sight of the sea and you. These combinations will lead to a more peaceful, serene and composed ‘you’. I have experienced this multiple times and this place is one of my favourites to date as it helps me find myself and provide depth by unleashing my thoughts.
Trident at Marine lines is another five-star hotel in Mumbai. One of the perks of being in a premier institute such as IIT Bombay is that you get the opportunity to visit such places for conferences and seminars. I registered for an event here that was organised by Columbia Business School (CBS)on the topic ‘Renewable Energy & Climate Policy in India‘, where CBS professors presented their research and debated with business leaders on how India can create and finance a world-class renewable energy industry.
The venue for the event was Trident Hotel. The speakers or the panellists were Jairam Ramesh, Former Minister of Rural Development, GoI and Member of Parliament, Anil Sardana, CEO and Managing Director, TATA Power, a partner at Mckinsey, and other professors from CBS. I was accompanied by my guide and senior to the event. I heard the discussion very carefully and contemplated the discussion. At the end of the event, I got the opportunity to introduce myself to Jairam Ramesh.
Here, I learned if you are in the right place, then nothing is out of reach.
Fashion Street is a place with around 400 street-side clothing and accessories shops situated near Azad Maidan, South Mumbai. The one thing that anyone should be prepared is bargaining. You will get decent daily wears and other accessories here, and there is no harm in exploring this space once you are in Mumbai. Here, I learned that one should be able to analyse and put an appropriate price tag or give importance to things that we buy or willing to have in life.
One of Mumbai’s hubs for wholesale businesses for all kinds of products is Crawford market. I used to visit Masjid Bunder to procure hardware for my study projects and product development. Here, you get the things at cheap rates because of the sheer quantity of the products. Here, I learned the concept of economy of scale.
Dharavi! What comes to your mind when you hear this? A slum, big slum or Slumdog Millionaire? But what if I say it is the hub of industries and has $1 billion businesses? Am I dreaming or am I telling a lie? Yes, it is true that Dharavi is Asia’s largest slum situated at the heart of Mumbai, but it is also true that this slum has an ecosystem for small-scale industries and a host of a variety of businesses that export their products and get an annual turnover of over $ 1 billion.
I visited Dharavi once and explored it with a slightly different lens. I visited a couple of factories and shops, and realised the role of Dharavi in every Mumbaikar’s life. I saw the immense opportunities that Dharavi has to offer. Here, I learned that no matter where you are, what sources you have or what people think of you, if you have the determination to do something, don’t stop until it’s achieved, and never stop dreaming.
The line “Necessity is the mother of invention,” holds true for the Mumbai dabbawallas (tiffin delivery service). People from across India come to Mumbai to make a career and settle here. People come from various cultures and this is why the food culture of Mumbai is also different.
To cater to this need, people either prefer food from food services that make according to your taste or carrying home food, but how do they take hot homemade lunches to your office? Here, the idea of dabbawallas comes into being. The dabbawalla service is nothing but the delivery of lunchboxes from home to the office and then returning of the same from office to home.
I travelled in the Mumbai Local several times and sometimes, I would see the dabbawallas loading and unloading the dabbas (tiffin). It is incredible to see how efficiently this system works and every tiffin reaches the right place every time without mistake. I learned that if our objective is to solve a problem that exists in reality, then given the right time and effort, we can find its solution and create a successful business from that opportunity.
Mumbai is blessed with nature and it makes this metro city more livable than any other. Mumbai has several beaches and lakes to visit. Over a period of time, these places have become crowded and due to construction, irresponsible behaviour of tourists and people failing to adopt sustainable practices across the globe. This has led to the pollution of the ocean, with garbage thrown at the seashore, beaches and in lakes. To see our water bodies in this condition puts me to shame and propels me to do something to change the status quo.
I signed up and volunteered for the world’s largest beach clean-up project, the Versova Beach clean-up campaign led by Afroz Shah, a lawyer by profession, ocean lover from heart, and United Nations Environment’s Champion of the Earth. I also went for the Powai Lake Mega Cleanup campaign organised by Abhyuday, a student-run social body of IIT Bombay.
After participating in these clean-up projects, I realised that we humans have impacted our ecosystem at a scale that makes it very difficult for us to now go back to the old normal, and we should be ready to face the consequences. Here, I learned that “the earth has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” These incidences alarmed me and made me aware of the situation and prepared me to work towards sustainability. It’s now or never.
Elephanta Caves, a world heritage monument are situated on the Elephanta Island about 10 km from Gateway of India. The caves and structures are as old as 2nd century BCE. The monument comprises rock-cut stone sculptures. The carvings at these caves narrate Hindu mythologies and having a monolithic structure as large as 20 feet (6.1 m). Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of Dance), and Other Lord Shiva Sculpture are the main attractions.
This is a small island near Mumbai and a good place to visit for one day. It’s a good place if someone wants to be lost in history and mythology. I learned that the sheer determination to do something will make you do something that seems difficult at first but motivates you to achieve the hardest goals. Similarly, how these caves and magical sculptures were made with limited or no resources on an island surrounded by sea and away from the city is something to wonder about.
Geographically, Mumbai and its nearby places have a lot of natural scenic destinations. The Alibaug beach is one of them and Matheran is another place where people could go and come back in a day. These are the places that take you away from the traffic and everyday struggles of the metro city. You may also visit these places to take a break from your monotonous routine and rejuvenate yourself. These are great places to visit with your friends and small reunions. You can make or strengthen your bond with your friends.
I visited and explored these places with my friends and colleagues, and enjoyed the scenic beauty that these places have to offer. And yes, these visits do strengthen the bonds and also give you memories. I learned that it’s important to find time for yourself and keep any relation going. It’s like watering relationships with your time and small memories.
Ah-ha, Bandstand Promenade is famous for a lot of attractions. Bandra Fort, Bandra Worli Sea Link, Mount Mary Church, Bandra Bandstand and Mannat are the most famous of them. The Bandra Bandstand is situated along the sea on the Western coast of Mumbai and stretches over a 1.2 km long walkway. People use this passageway to jog and relax. This long walkway ends at Bandra Fort. This place is generally crowded with young people and couples, and one can feel the love in the air when here.
The cherry on the cake is that it is also the same place where Bollywood megastar and ‘King of Romance’ lives, who once said to his friends, “One day, I will rule this city” when he hadn’t even started his film career. Now, the same person has won millions of hearts across the world, and is famously known as the ‘Baadshah of Bollywood (King of Bollywood)’. The Mumbai city and the whole of India loves him. He is Mr Shahrukh Khan. Shahrukh lives in Mannat and his home is the centre of attraction for most of the visitors.
It is the sheer love of people for Shahrukh and the magic of Shahrukh Khan which brings people to see Mannat. The common person gets exceptional courage from him to dream big and realise that it is possible to achieve those dreams. I visited the Bandstand a couple of times to sit facing the sea just opposite Mannat and contemplate. It is the magic of love that makes people who they are, be it in any form. And I was inspired by the same. While sitting there, I got inspired to write and film (record) a poem about the feeling of love. I learned that if we believe in our dreams and constantly work hard towards them, we will achieve our dream, however big they may be, and however unreal it may sound.
Mumbai is blessed to have many religious places for almost all major religions and I was fortunate to visit some of them.
Siddhi Vinayak Temple: It is believed that Siddhi Vinayak Ganpati Bappa fulfils all the wishes of their devotees. People come to see Bappa and take his blessings before starting anything important. I managed to visit the Siddhi Vinayak temple a couple of times. I prayed to Bappa to keep blessing us with knowledge and prosperity.
Haji Ali Dargah: It was long due on my bucket list and I only got to visit this place recently. People who visit Haji Ali offer chadar (tomb cover sheet) on Haji Ali’s Dargah. This ritual is generally followed by Muslims. But people from other religions also offer chadar whenever they visit the Dargah. I followed the same and offered chadar to Haji Ali’s Dargah with love and respect. I prayed to keep peace upon us.
Gurudwara Sri Gurunanak Nagar: It is situated in Andheri East, Mumbai. It’s a norm to cover your head with a scarf or any cloth while entering the gurudwara. Most of the gurudwaras also have a small space just before the main entrance where one has to wash their feet and then move inside. Gurudwaras are always open to people from any caste and religion. I visited Gurudwara Sri Gurunanak Nagar once with some friends and we sat there for a while, prayed, and then left with a little calmer self. I prayed to keep all of us happy and united.
Mount Mary Church: It is located at Bandra near the Bandstand. Lakhs of people visit this Church annually. It is believed that Mother Mary fulfils the wishes of their devotee. Apart from people from the Christian faith, people from the Hindu, Muslim and other religious communities also visit this place. It is a very old Ramon Catholic Church that gives the building a beautiful design and attracts tourists. I prayed to Mount Mary to keep blessing us and kindle the feeling of generosity.
While studying at IIT Bombay, I fell in love with this city so much that I didn’t want to leave and wanted to pursue my career here. With God’s grace and all the prayers, I got a job with one of the reputed and leading private bank of India and got posted at its Mumbai Headquarters. Mumbai is also known as the economic capital of India and I am lucky to be one of those contributing directly to it.
Although it sounds easy, to work in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t easy. The fear of every kind crossed my mind but I survived and learned that even the economics of economic capital could be shaken at times. So be prepared for your worst nightmares and uncertainties that life (zindagi) has to offer.
The 5.6km cable-stayed Bandra Worli Sea Link bridge is the next best sight in Mumbai. This bridge connects the Bandra Western Suburbs to Worli in South Mumbai. This sea link is very scenic and people look forward to seeing this beautiful bridge. Only four-wheelers and heavy vehicles are allowed on this bridge. It is not open for pedestrians and two-wheelers. You may see it by either sitting at the Bandra Fort or visiting the sea link bridge. I did both, and you know what, both have their own merits. When you look at it from afar, it seems like a dream to achieve and when you are on it, it feels like an achievement.
I took a taxi to experience this journey from Bandra to Worli. This was special, and I was away from the crowded and busy metro life for that moment. It was magical to sail through the sea and enjoy this little me-time. Here, one could sense the feeling of being at the top, and not only that, but also getting inspired to be successful and looking at the world from a truly different perspective.
Here, we come to the world famous Ganpati, Mumbai Cha Raja (King of Mumbai), also known as Lalbaugcha Raja. Ganpati is the biggest festival in Mumbai and the day to celebrate Ganpati starts with Ganesh Chaturthi. Almost every Mumbaikar brings photos or idols of Lord Ganesha to their home and celebrates this day wholeheartedly. The festival is celebrated by people of every caste and religion, breaking all the notions of discrimination and spreading the feeling of unity.
As people say, ‘Bappa ka bulaava aata, hai tabhi jaana hota hai’ (you can only visit Bappa when he calls you) and I think this is the reason why it took me five years to visit Lalbaugcha Raja. It’s so famous that people who visit to get a sight of Ganpati have to wait in a queue for hours. People wait the whole night in a queue to get a glimpse of Bappa. I was lucky to get Bappa’s darshan (sight) in few hours.
It was a celebration within and after getting Bappa’s darshan, I was elated and felt complete. It is because of Bappa’s blessings that I could do and whatever I do every day. I know many of you might be feeling the same. It is a special blessing for every Mumbaikar to live under his patronage. Here, I learned that the feeling of samarpan (surrender) is the best, strongest and toughest thing to do. Bappa gives us the strength to perform our duties, identify ourselves and become a better person.
“Ganpati Bappa Morya, Mangal Murti Morya”