Friday, January 31, 2014


I can name at least 10 people right now who hate the city they live in. They hate the pace, lifestyle, people, weather, culture, infrastructure, job opportunities or any other reason - they are living there as they don't have any other option as of now. The moment they find the right kind of opportunity and favourable circumstances, they would move there. But how many of them get really lucky?

There are so many stories around us of lost dreams, of those who do not live in their dream place because they want to earn. It's about people who go to a different city, to chase their dreams, or to find new ones. To survive, or to hide. To remain in their comfort zone or to move away from it. Most of us are stuck in a monotonous working life we hate but cannot do without. Imagine just staying there all your life. This idea may sound absurd to us, but a generation before us lived for this. Rather, most of them.

Imagine being in such a profession or job for years, earning enough every day to survive for the next. Save some money for contingency, take a loan when there is an emergency and you don't have enough money. Recently I met such a man. He is an auto driver. I was travelling from office and we were stuck in a traffic jam which is nothing new if you live in Bombay. There was some wedding going on near Kokilaben hospital. We started talking about it whether it was legally allowed to play band baaja right next to the hospital.

Now, I have this habit of conversing with auto waalas and cab waalas. Their stories always amuse me. And this guy asked me a very valid and smart question which you do not usually expect from them. (How judgmental of me!) From that we started talking about how Bombay was before and how it is now. How the lonely areas are full of buildings, how a useless site has one of the first and largest malls on it today, how civilisation development depends on malls around that area these days and such. I have been living in this city for 16 years now and he has been riding for last 24 years. 24! He knew about Bombay roads more than any autowala I have interacted with. I had to go to a cafe that was located on the Oshiwara back road. I just gave him the name and he told me what was around the cafe, in that area, which other cafes, restaurants, salons and banks were there in and around that area. Yes I was amazed. He was a Bombay map.

Since the ride was short, I couldn't talk to him much, but it was an experience worth mentioning, sharing and writing about. And completely opposite to the one I had a few hours ago, same day.

Republic day was a working day for me. I taught for five hours on that day. While going to the class, the cabwaala suddenly asks me - what is there today? Did we become independent today as well? He was an old man, must have been in his 60s. His question shocked me. And shook me. That realisation of how ignorant one is today - maybe because of lack of knowledge or opportunity - one doesn't even know the difference between independence day and republic day. I explained to him about the importance of that day. This journey was of ten minutes, which I spent in the explanation. There was no time or opportunity to ask this man about anything else. I asked him twice if he had heard the words like - Ganatantra divas, Sanvidhan, Prastavna, Dr. Ambedkar etc. He did know some things, didn't know some. I told him that our constitution that gives us voting right came into effect on that day. "Hum toh Panje ko (Congress) vote dete hai. Saalo se dekhte aaye hai unhe." - he replied when I asked him if he ever voted.

I love to interact with these people. But not always that you find decent men. Many of them give you dirty stares when you are sitting in the auto/cab. They keep staring at you through rear view mirror. But some of them are really helpful too. They won't say anything if you don't have sufficient change to pay them, or you make them wait, or roam around streets while looking for an address. Some behave as if they are doing a huge favour on you by dropping you at your destination. But most of them so far have been nice. There have been plenty of conversations with them. Their stories have always been amusing, and inspiring. Most of them have been honest. And helpful.

This city is one of the best cities to live in because of them.

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