Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mumbai, it zips

Mumbai - the city of opportunities, the tinsel town, the (once-upon-a-time) gateway to India. To all the Mumbaikars out there - Pardon me for stopping at just three adjectives to describe your city; I can't even make a decent attempt at that in this limited space.

Despite never having visited Mumabi earlier, I could rattle off a score of names, which are landmarks and sub-urbs of this bustling city, thanks to Bollywood. Images of local trains, BEST bus service and Marine Drive become synonymous with Mumbai. Against this backdrop, I will describe a event which lasted all for a 30 second duration but hit hard to make an unforgettable first-hand impression of the city on me.

I was travelling from Worli to Church Gate on the BEST bus (route no. 83). The event occurred around a place called Charni Road. It is the third station on the Western Line of Bombay Local train, from Church Gate. One can get down here to begin a nearly 2-2.5 km walk on Marine Drive to reach Nariman Point.

Picture it this way. Imagine a two-way road and 2 railway tracks parallel to each other. The road is on the left and tracks are on the right. Let's number left lane of the road is R1 and right lane as R2. The track adjacent to R2 is labeled T1 and the rightmost track is labeled T2. When viewed from top, the picture is:

R1 | R2 # T1 T2

I was sitting in the bus which was waiting in R1 at a red light. Coincidentally, a local train was also waiting (outside platform) on T1 because the line ahead might not have been clear. My bus and the train were heading in the same direction.

My bus then got its signal. Simultaneously, the train also got its "GO" signal. The two machines sped up. The bus, with its silent environs and tinkling bell; the train, with human bodies hanging out defying center of mass theories. In the lane R2, the cars and buses started zipping past my eyes, going against the direction of R1. And in T2, another local train started rumbling opposite to T1.

That moment, somehow, was special. There were 4 causeways in which "life" was racing. Two going together, two going against them. And each working like clockwork precision. Never interfering in each other's movement.

A feeling which had been growing in me suddenly surfaced in clear consciousness. I was awed by the speed with which Mumbai city moves. The huge sea of population carried on different currents and each gliding against the other; without friction, without hassles.

Mumbai, you humbled me in that one moment.