Bombay is not India

Every day in Bombay, one is provided with a few opportunities to forget where they are. This is because though Bombay is defined as being an Indian city, situated in the state of Maharashtra, on India’s west coast, bordering the Arabian sea… it is actually its own place.

A Delhi-ite argued with a cell phone salesman over the Reliance rates, saying they were lower in the north.

Delhi is Delhi,” the shopkeeper proclaimed in famous Bombaiyya Hindi, throwing one of his many mobile phones under the dirty glass counter. He made a kissing sound that someone in Canada would make to call a cat or dog, then touched his fingers to his forehead and waved his hand dismissively.

We are in Bombay.”

In Bombay, everyone forgets where they are. In many ways, this could be in any cosmopolitan city in the world.

Young women in Bandra are dressed in dark jeans, black tops and sandals. They toss their black hair over their shoulders, gloss their lips and carry lattes in takeout cups. We could be in Rome.

In Lower Parel, teenagers from wealthy families enjoy pool parties in fancy hotels. They smoke cigarettes and dance like music video stars. We could be in Los Angeles.

At Marine Drive, couples of all ages sit along the edge of the ocean, talking about life and kissing. We could be in Vancouver.

So why have I come to Bombay? I wonder. To sip cappucino in a cafe with wifi, or dance at a nightclub playing western commercial music?

Thank goodness though, that even in Bombay, India cannot be avoided.

Thank goodness that when young Mumbaikars leave those western nightclubs in the wee hours of the morning, they can go and eat their favourite pav bhaji at a snack stall. Lone dogs and lone humans roam the streets, enjoying the cool air.

Thank goodness that when I leave the quiet oasis of the wifi cafe, I find myself stuck in the traffic created by Ganpati festival.

(Just when you thought the chaos of Ramzan and its night activities was over… Ganpati has now begun)

A Ganesh idol the size of a real elephant is being carried through the street, and several hundred people, as well as many animals and trapped vehicles fill the space. A brass band in uniform plays celebratory music at top volume. A few of Mumbai’s Punjabis dance to the dhol, throwing their arms in the air and grinning. I remark that the youngest kids have the most vulgar dance moves, thrusting their hips like wild animals. In my rickshaw, unable to go anywhere, it’s all I can do to shake my shoulders and dance a little. I may not be in India, but at least I’m in Bombay.

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3 responses to “Bombay is not India

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