I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Part 4: People

This comes with disclaimers. Any references to real people (living or dead) or favourite characters (in all works of arts - including but not restricted to comic strips, short stories and graphic novels) , actual locales (especially those South of Bandra and South of Delhi) and historical events are based on the observations of the author, who has no way of confirming that what he perceives in his cognitive reality is identical to objective reality. All other names, characters, places and incidents portrayed in this post are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, is entirely coincidental and only slightly intentional*. In other words, don't sue me.

I have had more experience with Delhi. Eighteen more years of experience than in Bombay. However, where experience fails, stories make up for it. Plus, when has the lack of first person experience stopped me from abstract thought?

The proudest moment of a Bombay person's life is when the taxi-driver delivers exact change, in multiples of Rs. 1. This happens only in Bombay (obviously, they discount the Kolkata bus conductor, who gives out 10 paisa, as the economy there has a different currency altogether). The second proudest moment comes when they travel in well-packed trains at 9:30 am in the morning and get occasional glances of the sea. This experience, however, is more the stuff of legends than reality. Anybody who complains about the fact that they were pushed in by the crowds and therefore couldn't really see (anything, leave alone the sea) is a Delhiite.

The Bombay person also is amongst the busiest species in the world (trailing only the honeybees, worker ants and the Chinese). They also believe that nobody else has as much work and professionalism as they do (not even the Chinese or the ants). Inspite of this (or perhaps because of this), they get to watch the maximum number of movies, play the most amount of cricket and eat out the most. Every weekend, they watch the maximum number of plays and read the maximum number of books, unless they are headed out to one of the maximum number of hill-stations nearby.
In fact there's nothing that a Bombay person can not do. Maximum.

When it comes to thinking, however, there's nothing that a Bombay person can think. He doesn't/ can't think of politics, art, history or anything which requires thought beyond the primal instinct to do. Nothing captures this more than an incident a famous columnist told me about. This is when he just joined one of the most-read mid-day newspapers as an assistant editor and had an intern working in the same division. The intern was from the best college in Bombay (we will call it X). So columnist (we call him S) asks,
"So Zach, what are you doing at X?"
"Economics, dude."
"Really, even I did Economics. So, have you studied any comparative economic theory?"
"Yes, dude. Lots."
"So, Zach, what do you think of socialism?"
"It's all cool, man."
"Really. So, are you a socialist?"
"Yes, dude. I am."
"Really. What do you mean.."
"Man, I like to party a lot. I am amongst the most social.."

Needless to say, it could only have happened in Bombay. After all, the geography of Bombay makes a man (woman) what John Donne warned against. Needless to say, also, the assistant editor was a Delhiite.

If there are two words which describe the Delhi person, it is "Chhin Lo" (or snatch it).
That is because the Delhi person also is a victim of her geography. She has personally fought against corrupting Western influences - the Aryans, the Mughals, the Mongols, the British and fashion designers from Bombay. She has also given every refugee - the Aryans, the Mughals...., a place in her heart and the city. For the Delhi person has the largest heart in the world. Whether it is because of the food doused with liberal doses of ghee or because of historical factors, has not been proved. That's also besides the point - the Delhi person can make place for everyone and everything and everyone's everything (snatch it).

To enable her to make place for everyone and everything, she also neatly buckets them into various appearances. Hence, a male movie-goer has to wear cargoes and a T-shirt. The male play-goer has to wear a kurta/ kurti and chappals. The male pub-goer has to wear tight jeans, shiny buckles and a designer-looking shirt. The male college goer has to wear a goatee and a shirt loosely tucked in. The neat categorisation keeps everyone in their place, without the need of an identity card. It also ensures that a play goer will not change her mind half way on her way to Shri Ram Centre and go for a drink at the Blue's instead.

As I said, the Delhi person also has a place for and right on everyone's everything. Coming from Calcutta, I wasn't very prepared for such inclusiveness and 'lost' at least nine water bottles in school within the first month. Soon, I learned and now, have no qualms breaking lines at airports (even in Bombay!). Okay, this isn't my confessional so I will move on.

Being in centres of power, every Delhi person also knows somebody in power. This is a cliche, of course and hence, will not be mentioned ever. Not by me since I was not complaining when I watched Anil Kumble take his ten wickets from the Kotla Pavilion**.

And getting premium tickets and other favours is perhaps the reason, why I like Delhiites more! If the above mentioned person (who got me tickets) is reading this, I like you even more than that.

* inspired by this.
**actually, that's a lie, but then I am a Delhiite, myself.


Blogger Bombay Addict said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:25:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not think it would be right to draw a judgement based on some random conversation with a brain-dead eco student.. i am sure that is not a city issue , but a person specific/ generation issue.

On a broader level , where i think Bombay and Delhi are different is the relative honesty of people ( I have stayed in Delhi for 20years and in Bombay for 2 years ). for e.g. if I have to travel 2 kms in Delhi , there is not a single auto wallah who will be ready to go unless I pay him twice the normal fare. In Bombay at least one out of five taxis are going to agree - at no extra charge.. ( though if u have hired a taxi at the airport in mumbai , your experience will be totally different - they are a bunch of dacoits )

Another thing which I have noticed ( may be wrong ) is that people in Bombay are too mechanical.. they live a zombie style lifestyle ( getting into overcrowded trains , travelling 4 hours a day etc. etc. , living in absolutely shady houses ) and yet do not crib.. I do not know whether this is good or bad , but it is extremely irritating.. people in bombay have got used to a life of misery but still continue to stay here because of employment opportunities , charm of the city or reasons best known to them..

Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:55:00 PM

Blogger Bombay Addict said...

DK2 - "When it comes to thinking, however, there's nothing that a Bombay person can think."... Whoa ! will your disclaimer save you here ? Yet, I can't deny an element of truth in this. And here's why.

Bombay is about money. And believe me, money can buy you a lot. ("Agar Tata, Birla, Ambani apne gao mein hi rehte, to woh to Tata Pan Bhandar, Birla Cycle Dukan aur Ambani Chakki ke aagey nahin jaate" - loosely what Abhishek said in "B&B")

Where does the Bombayite have time to think when he's so busy commuting and earning a living/making money? Don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses. Because I know this hustle-and-bustle (i.e. average Bombay day) comes at a cost which is that - as you bluntly put it - he can't think. And hence, probably, the John Donne thing. But - please don't hold it against him. After 6 days of grind, believe me, seeing a movie/play/eating out is far better than reading Economic & Political Weekly. No wonder he does the former with a vengeance.

So to that extent I agree, but I think one needs to view that in a broader perspective.

The incident you related, well...I'd be interested to know how the same conversation would play out between two DSE students. I had Eco in my TYBcom (and my college was not the best!), and believe me that was not the kind of conversation we had.

But, but, but - that was then (a long time ago) and perhaps this is what it is now. I haven't spoken to college kids to confirm this, but somehow it seems believable. Yet, quite funny and why am I not surprised the AE was a Delhi-ite?

IMHO four paras aren't enough to describe the "Bombay person". And then again, you (I?) could go on and on and perhaps still not do justice. Having said that, I find myself broadly agreeing wtih what you've said. And I must say, I did like your description.

Briliant job. I thot Part 3 on weather was your best so far, but obv. this one has pipped it to the post. Thanks.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:37:00 PM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Anon, you are making the same points, but a little more seriously. So, glad to see that we agree!

Bombay Addict, Thanks. The reason you give might explain what we see.

Friday, April 21, 2006 5:41:00 AM

Blogger Gaurav said...

This post makes me want to revive the project I once started working on - an english translation of Pu La Deshpande's brilliant essay "Punekar, Mumbaikar aani Nagpurkar". It was written sometime in the 60s, but most of it still holds true.

Here are a few relevant lines -

"Punekars care about history. But Mumbaikars really have no idea about it. In fact a true blue Mumbaikar may make a Punekar faint by earnestly asking him "This battle of Panipat you speak of....where exactly in Pune did it happen?""

"Mumbai is the only city in India where the minute hand of the clock actually has some importance"

"The Mumbaikar will care about local train schedules than anything else"

Friday, April 21, 2006 11:01:00 AM

Blogger Mr. D said...

I couldn't help notice that the mumbaikar is a he, and the delhiite is a she....

Saturday, April 22, 2006 10:19:00 AM

Anonymous Siddharth said...

Come on, what do you think Delhi people would do if they had floods like we had last year. You think people would have risked their own lives to save others? Or taken in any strangers from the road for the night, without asking any questions? I don't think so.

About the thinking part, I'm sure there are many people in Bombay who read, watch theatre, discuss politics and everything else... Not as many as Delhi maybe, but so what... But then, most people come to Bombay to earn, not to think.

Sunday, April 23, 2006 4:51:00 AM

Blogger Selma Mirza said...

when you ask a mumbaiiyya for directions, he'll help you out if he has the time. if he doesn't want to help you, or does not know what you're talking about, he simply shrugs and walks off. he doesn't try too hard, and he doesn't misguide you - like you-know-who.

Sunday, April 23, 2006 7:10:00 PM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Gaurav, you must complete the project.

Dibyo, sharp you are!

Siddharth, the first answer is yes, they would do the same. As far as the second part is concerned, you are denying it and then giving an explanation. Interesting.

Evenstar, I agree. Although, you know, the world is essentially round...

Sunday, April 23, 2006 9:19:00 PM

Blogger Bombay Addict said...

Gaurav - Bombay is a huge Pu La fan! Why else would we erect his statue and dedicate an entire theatre for him ?

How I wish his works would get more exposure than the stuff being doled out now on the various Marathi channels. But then at least they're showing it.

Agree with DK2 - revive your project.

Monday, April 24, 2006 12:16:00 AM

Blogger In The Shadows said...

Just reached here blogsurfing..
You say:-
That is because the Delhi person also is a victim of her geography. She has personally fought against corrupting Western influences - the Aryans, the Mughals, the Mongols, the British and fashion designers from Bombay. She has also given every refugee - the Aryans, the Mughals...., a place in her heart and the city.

I must say that there was nothing called Aryan, and there was no Aryan Invasion or Migration. It has been discredited by many researchers and scientists, incl geneticists. Well, but the kids in school still learn that by rote. It seems to me that the reason its still there is to keep north-south divide in place for political reasons.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:19:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

In the shadows, hi! Firstly, hope you saw the humour in those lines. It wasn't one of my best examples, but others did see it.

Secondly, What are you saying? Can you please show me this research? Obviously, there's your theory on one hand. On the other, there's also this theory that Ram was born in Afghanistan. No?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:41:00 AM

Blogger Bombay Addict said...

DK2 - I'm running a Bombay's Diaries series on my blog and have picked up an extract from your post in it. Hope you don't mind. Thanks and do visit.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 8:19:00 AM


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