Lost many things in life. Gained a lot too. But one thing that pushes me to get going every morning are the DREAMS. They are so inspiring and so stupid that I feel like following them each time they break and each time they shatter.
Confused...Gotta dream then...
You have great roads, well designed fly-overs, metro rail
and now a super terminal in the airport. All the basic infrastructure is in
place, there are still few things to improve, but it is still far better than
other metro-cities. Delhi, or Delhi – NCR, has ‘almost’ got everything
that will merit this city to be as India’s capital. When I visited this
city, after a gap of a decade, I went with a lot of apprehension. And the
apprehension was built over the same last decade where the crime rate in our
capital city has gone up several notches up. Today, it is a known fact
that a girl cannot step outside her house after 7 in the evening alone. What
has happened to a city like this that the situation has reached
such a point!
During my last visit before this, around 2003 – 2004, it was only the
taxi & auto drivers along with the shopkeepers were unruly and rude. The number
of species has now grown manifold to an extent wherein you will start
suspecting every person you are dealing with outside your comfort zone. During
my current visit, by looking at the Delhi roads, I realized why Mumbai has
lesser number of Lamborghinis. When I stepped into Gurgaon, I was elated to see
how beautifully a city can be designed and infrastructure can be managed. So where
is Delhi, the home to our parliament, babus & media houses, going wrong?
My next stop of the journey was a neighboring state of
Delhi, full of scenic places, Uttarakhand. Recently devastated by the horrific
flood, the state is recuperating from the effects. I went to a place
8500-feet above sea level and the road was good until a point. After that, we
had many moments where we had the opportunity to witness some breathtaking picturesque surroundings and some such rough mountain terrains where we had to drive
our vehicle through 2-inches gap from the other. Throughout the journey and
during our stay, we interacted with many people, and each of them exuded one
thing: warmth. They were helpful, they were soft-spoken and never misguided us
(which they could easily have done). The stay was pleasant not ‘only’ because
the temperature was 11 -12 degrees or the place was simply beautiful, but
critically because we were taken proper care of. They ensured we get everything
we required during the 24 hour stay.
Then I headed for my next destination, my hometown,
Bhubaneswar. The state of Odisha has grown quite well (if not quite fast) in
last few years. Bhubaneswar being the capital has seen tremendous amount of
development with a lot of projects still underway. The city is not as big as
Delhi nor as small as Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. But it is a city
where you can settle down post retirement knowing there will be lesser noise,
interference. What I have observed over the years when the city
has seen many changes that there are two different sections which are growing separately.
One that is growing with the right outlook of what future holds for them and
they are preparing themselves for it and the other who are inclined to stay in
their shell and does not like to be disturbed. Now, the second species are a bane
to any society and a city at large. You can change everything in a man, but not
the attitude. The attitude can be towards work, towards civic sense, towards
their approach to the people or simply be the attitude towards life. Personally,
I believe that attitude is your ‘upbringing’ plus your ‘education’. Both these
factors overlap and inclusive. Now every society needs more of the first breed
of people than the second to create stories people can
feel proud of.
Whether I want or not, I had to leave home after a 6-day
stay for my karmabhoomi, Mumbai, a
city which is defined in many ways. Now when I stepped in, I found the airport
terminal smaller, the parking slot outside slightly cramped, the road to my
home with far more potholes that I found in all the 3 above cities added together. The
traffic in Mumbai on a Sunday afternoon was more than the traffic of Gurgaon on
a Monday morning. It has this never-ending monsoon spree which sometime continues without a break for 3 months (seriously without a single break of a
day). During monsoon, the commuting in the city goes from bad to worse. The city
has a metro project running for a half a decade now and is yet to start the
operations. Now, what is there in Mumbai that millions come every month here,
even though they are not even sure whether they can sustain in this city where
the cost of living is higher than any other city in the country! I just gave a
brief on the infrastructure, the haywire projects and the pain. Well then, let’s
talk about those 8 million (yes, that’s 80-lacs) commuters in Local Trains
(close to 2500 services/day) that runs for 22 hours in a day. This figure
is barring the bus services and the taxi/auto services. The
last local train
which runs around 2 in the morning will have ladies travelling in them, same
goes for bus services. The busiest public places often turn into an uncomfortable
place to female travelers, but not in Mumbai. You get into a local train or
some other public transport system, you will feel welcomed. This city has
embraced all, but how? The answer to all these questions is: People. It is the
people, from wherever they are, they have one thing in common – tolerance.
Tolerance to the person in front, irrespective of the religion, caste, sex or
education is the proof of a healthy society and an enriching one as well. Mumbai,
with its lack of space, has been the most accommodating city for me in my life.
And it is the people who make you feel a part of this place, this city. Under no
circumstances, I can take away the role of each Mumbaikar (yes, we call
ourselves that, whether we are born in this soil or not) who shaped me into a
better person. The accountability and the onus lies ONLY with us.
To summarize (not to ‘conclude’, as ‘comparisons’ has
conclusions, and this piece is not one), let me put this straight - I am no
Delhi-basher or Mumbai-supporter, I do not even have my ancestors linked to any
of these 2 cities. I feel I can connect to a city like Mumbai like no other, after having spent my life in multiple districts of smaller and an under-developed state because of only one
thing: The People. They make it a place to live, they make it a place to
respect, they make it a safer place. They make it move on. No city can work with just infrastructure,
skyscrapers, flyovers, terminals, shopping malls. Every city need people who define
it. A city is as good as its people.
People make a city work.
A small video, you may call it a travelogue, which I made during my last long-trip spread over 5120 KMs here.