Mumbai Memoir: The City That Lives On

When I put up a fun ad on Facebook last month before my short visit to Mumbai, asking friends to host me in their city, I included a few conditions. A prominent one was ‘Go on a walk post-midnight and have idli-sambar’. The freedom of walking around the place at any time without feeling scared, the availability of food at all times, the ease of traveling from one corner of the city to the other in the local train- these defined the good part of life in the fast metropolis for me when I lived there.

Three years ago when I first visited Mumbai for a month long internship, the city had cast a spell on me. The Bollywood town was too fascinating for the filmy me and I wanted to explore every shoot location that I had seen in films shot in the city.

I remember walking around Juhu for several hours just to discover its nooks and crannies- the star houses, the beaches, and the eateries, Prithvi Café, the PVR and Chandan Cinema. Another time I walked around the Fort area, looking around for the rich history and gothic architecture of the buildings. I stood in front of CST for several long minutes marveling at its beauty. I always liked these solo long walks- not a big purpose in mind but discovering the city one step at a time- things tourists probably would never get time to explore.

During my one and half year stay in the city, while I was working at a prominent media house in Lower Parel, my colleague introduced me to this amazing sugarcane juice vendor next to the Four Seasons Mumbai near our office. The hotel hosts some of the biggest conferences and B-town parties but right outside it is this young guy selling sugarcane juice through the day. I have always been a sugarcane lover and am least bothered when it comes to hygiene at these roadside stalls. The sweetness of the juice along with the slight pinch of lemon and pudina used to refresh me like nothing else while we were running around the humid city finishing shoots. That’s how probably I managed to discover my favourite eateries around the city. (Not to forget I had carried a ‘must see’ and ‘must eat’ list during my first visit to the city)

Another time I was at Hyatt Regency Mumbai near the international airport. My uncle was in town for a business meet and I had gone to meet him. We had ordered a biryani- probably the most expensive one I have had in my lifetime. It was very good. Last month my friends took me to an eatery in Vile Parle –Md. NashirPavBhaji and Bhurji Centre- that serves the best rice dishes at a fraction of the price, a place I had never heard of before. A brilliant and chance discovery it was and probably one I would recommend to everyone now.

That’s how the food discovery sojourn had been. From vertical jinnidosa to Mumbaikar’s love for everything with pav, from the modaks of Siddhivinayak to the staple vadapav breakfast, and from kurkure with gravy to kokam sarbat- the city continues to eat and live or perhaps, simply survives.

In the rare days when I would leave from work early- in the evening rush hour- I would take the local train in the opposite direction and head to Marine Drive, just about 20 minutes away. I would sit there on the promenade and watch the sea waves crash on the tetra pods for over an hour as the wind hit my face. It gave me peace of mind like nothing else did. It soon became my favourite pastime whenever I would want to escape the fast life of the city and simply sit and reflect.

I loved Mumbai for the short holiday opportunities it offered. When you are looking for an escape from the routine, there are options of innumerable treks and weekend holidays less than two hours away from the city- and not limited to Lonavala and Khandala. I went for the most dangerous climb at KalavantinDurg one weekend, and then waterfall rappelling at the Dudhiware waterfalls another time. Then there was the 13 km long Andharban trek. During the monsoons, you can easily find a trek group and go on new adventure every single weekend- an ease that probably no other metro city provides.

A lot of people have asked me in the last few months if I would move back to Mumbai. I haven’t given a firm answer to anyone. May be the glamour of the media industry will lure me back to the city sometime. May be the romance of the sea waves would pull me in. May be the freedom and liberty would call me again. Or may be none of them would. But Mumbai will always remain close to my heart, as the city that brings the best out of me, as the city that endures, as the city that lives on no matter what.

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