Cultural Experience | India

Mumbai: From the lens of a local outsider

 Aamchi Mumbai. ‘My Mumbai’ in the local lingo.  Returning to Mumbai after an absence.

I was neither born here, nor do I live here now but if any city has raised me to be who I am, it is Mumbai. From the ages of one to ten, I lived in Mumbai, never having seen a world that extended beyond my home, my school and my friends. A routine was etched into my life and I barely deviated from it. I would travel with my family or on school trips and be enamored by the different people and ways of life I encountered. But Aamchi Mumbai was always the same, always home, always mine. At the age of 10, I moved to London. When I was 13, I moved to Singapore. My dad changed jobs and my family followed wherever his career was taking him. When I turned 18, many things changed. I left Singapore, not knowing that I won’t see most of my high school friends for years to come. I went to New York University. My brother who was studying in the United Kingdom moved to Scotland with a new job. Around the same time, my dad retired. Then it happened. My parents returned to Mumbai to settle down once and for all. My Mumbai was to be mine again. Inside a swanky eatery, Mumbai appears just like any other metropolis. The food, the ambience, the people- everything is sophisticated, neat, hygienic. Shutting the doors drains out all the noise. The air conditioning resists the heat from the outdoors. My city appears to have progressed in the last 10 years that I have been living overseas and I am proud. A city blended from high-rises and shanties, corporates and homeless, food and hunger, Mumbai has a long way to go in terms of balance. There are men living in mansions while others live on street corners. There are women traveling in cars with people to look after her and there are women who cannot find a sanitary area to shower in, away from the public eye. Mumbai may not be perfect, yet hundreds of people from all over India enter the city on foot, in buses and in boats. Everybody wants to be the guy in the mansion. Everyone wants to be the woman in the car. This city has a lot to offer for those who can afford it- theatres, clubs, designer stores- but it has the greatest gift for those who can afford to dream. It has potential, it has growth and it has reverence. During floods and earthquakes, the netizens don’t see caste and creed, they see humans. Every Mumbaikar (a person belonging to Mumbai) sees need, hears the cry for help and understands. The city is a blanket of comfort for those who sleep beneath the stars. He who has nowhere to go would rather wander in Mumbai than elsewhere. And I, who have been many places, would choose none other than Mumbai to call home.

Ananya Bhattacharya

New York University | 7 stories

Ananya Bhattacharya is a rising junior at New York University, double majoring in Journalism and Economics, with a minor in Creative Writing. She can't travel without a good book to read and she can't sleep without a good meal to eat (foodie alert!). Having grown up in three countries in three different continents, she can't stay put in one place for too long- an avid explorer, she documents her life, partly as journalism and partly as poetry.

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