I don’t notice it when I’m sitting in class or I’m in a shopping mall. I don’t notice it when I’m climbing into a car, shielded from the heat and the dust. But when I stare out of the window into the real world, the world where ACs and cars are merely dreams, I notice. I notice when the power cuts for about 5 minutes while we sit in a dining room talking about travelling and politics and family and faith. I notice it when the pitch black descends and I don’t have anyone to talk to except for my brain. It’s a moment of calm in this crazy ride, a quiet reminder of the insufficiency in this world and its people. In 5 minutes however, the light comes back on and I have the capability of pushing aside all those meaningful thought bubbles and carry on a conversation with the person next to me about which movie we should go for next or whether the cute boy in the train noticed her or not. However, the light doesn’t always come on beyond our walls. They are still engulfed in darkness and doubt. What must it be like to live like them? To work every day, harder than the next person and still be in darkness?
Coming to Mumbai was an eye-opener. It is here that I have found that however hard I might want to believe that we are helping those who need it the most, there is actually no connection between the two worlds – the comfortable corporate sphere, weighed down with processes, deliverables and balanced scorecards versus the chaotic social microcosm that is really Mumbai and its suburbs, where slums, industry, Bollywood and stray dogs co-exist almost in a brutal fashion, shocking the senses at every turn. Mumbai reminds me of what Suketu Mehta wrote in his book, The Maximum City that Mumbai suffers from multiple personality disorder – and when you consider the juxtaposition of it’s beautiful mansions and well kept cricket grounds and the children tapping on your window for some change or the poor sleeping at the station while you board your next train home, the gap between the richest of rich and the poorest of poor is none the more present that in Mumbai.
Don’t get me wrong, the poverty and the dirt do not stop the city from being home to more than a million people. There is the happiness and the cheer, the festivals and the food. There is supposedly enough for everyone and yet nothing for someone.
Mumbai means a lot to many people. It means a home, a city, a workplace. To me, Mumbai seems more like a canvas. Not a complete picture but dollops of paint waiting to be spread into forming a picture that one might not call perfect, but incomplete and hence adding to its intrigue.