Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Eternal Battle Between Delhi and Mumbai

If anybody has ever moved from Delhi to Mumbai or vice-versa, this has definitely happened.

You are new to the city. You don't know anybody. The first question people ask (after they know your name, age and occupaion) is where you're from. In my case, when I moved to Navi Mumbai, my answer was "Delhi". I now realize I should have just said 'Iceland' or 'Kenya' or 'Cuba' and I would have met with a more favourable response.


Almost immediately after the D-word escaped my lips, the taunts began. "Isn't that the place where all the Blueline bus accidents took place? I saw it on the news. Are the roads really that unsafe. They yelled out from the TV that a kid died when he got hit by a bus". This was followed by a demonic laugh that still gives me the chills.

It didn't end there. People who have never been to Delhi have said to me- "I hear people there are very arrogant. I hear everyone just cares about money. Isn't it the capital for crimes against women?" Their basic question is- "Isn't Mumbai, like, fifty million times better than Delhi?"

I have lost count of how many times I have been in this situation. The moment the Delhi-Mumbai war begins, all is forgotten, including myself. Nobody cars that I spent my childhood there, had tons of friends, have millions of memories and that the city is not just the national capital but also my first home. I take the liberty to point out that to insult somebody's origin like this based on very little logic is not just ridiculous but also a little cruel. Just imagine- if I were to tell you the people you spent your childhood with, the people who helped you before I even came into your life, are mean, arrogant and greedy, how would you feel?
The opposite is also true. People in Delhi are quick to point out how people don't have time for each other in Mumbai. Even if they are being accused of being rude, they'll say "At least we're talking to each other". They'll talk of how seven people die every week in railway accidents, how the crowds are unbearable, how the seasons beasically never change, how the underworld rules (Ram Gopal Verma films have done quite a lot to promote the last notion). They will also say Mumbai is unjust in accusing Delhiites of discrimination, becuase a lot of housing societies where only people from one religion/dietary preference/ linguistic or religious sect are allowed. And it doesn't help the whole Maratha agaist UP/Bihar situation is on TV all the time. I myself have seen incidents related to it in buses lots of times, something I choose to hide from friends in Delhi because I know they will jump to the conclusion that all people in Maharashtra are against North Indians.


But amidst all this, nobody takes a neutral side or admits that cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad are fast leaving both Delhi and Mumbai behind in terms of living standards, plus the fact that they don't have th ebad reputation of arrogant/ignorant people. railways accidents. molestation cases or extreme regionalism.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that both sides are correct. But what astounds me is how eager each city is to think badly about the other. For example, my friend from Navi Mumbai lives in an area whose infrastructure mimics Delhi's. Besides, Navi Mumbai is Mumbai minus the flaws, so nobody from Navi Mumbai gets to judge anyways. My friends from Navi Mumbai are privileged, they don't know what common people in Mumbai face. Also, most of my Delhi friends who hated Mumbai didn't know anything about Mumbai, so I don't know who gave them the right to talk.

Secondly, how come we don't see logic in these arguments? Logically speaking, it's impossible that people in Delhi yell and slur all the time and money is the only thing that's important and I know this because I went to a school where children of the biggest of businessmen studied with students from LIG apartments (apartments for the lower income group, with only one or two really small rooms). I never saw the latter face any discrimination. In times of sickness, our neighbours have stayed up nights for us so that the sick member of our family could be taken to the hospital. If a posh area like Sainik Farms thrives so does a 'middle-class' locality like Janakpuri.

On the other hand, nobody has ignored me in Mumbai. I see the safety risks associated with trains, I also acknowledge their position as the lifeline of commerce. If Mumbai is busy, it's also active and living life. There is nothing wrong with Mubai just because it's fast.

The fact is that Mumbaikars are programmed to hate Delhi and Delhiites are genetically obliged to hate Mumbai. I hear it's the same with LA and New York, the American counterparts od Delhi and Mumbai respectively. I now understand there's no side I can take because no side is the right one. So next times someone says Delhi is the city of dilwallas and Mumbai is the heartbeat of the nation, I'll just go ahead and say Delhi has the heart which beats in Mumbai.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Growing Up- 6

I turn eighteen today. Officially, it means I'm done growing up. The future of the conutry can be decided by me through me vote. My parents can't do anything if I run away from home. I can even get married if want to; I'll just have to find a twenty-one year old guy to marry.

But truth be told, I don't feel any different from last year. It's not like you go from child to abult the moment you turn eighteen. Growing up is more of a process, as you can see in the following pictures:

Me as the youngest member of the family

On my annaprasan (the ritual in which I was given solid food for the first time after six months of birth)

There was a time when I fit into my paternal grandmother's arms.

My favorite baby picture from when I was a year old.

Independence Day in pre-school. My first crush is somewhere in the picture.

Swimming lesson in pre-school. I didn't learn anything though. I'm the one in blue, staring straight at the camera.

Starting out as a cultural explorer.

The beautiful waterfall doesn't take away from the striped trousers.
Okay, I admit, I was kind of cute in spite of the bad hair days and weird clothes.

Don't be fooled by the Science journals. I wasn't much of a student five years ago.

At home, in 2011.

I'm way too big to be hold by my grandmother now.

Now, years of experience have taught me some things:

1. No matter what you do, you're going to think of it as immature and embarrassing a few years down the line. But still, you may not exactly regret what you put yourself through.

2. You're probably never going be thin enough or pretty enough for yourself.

3. Once you set out to do something, you're going to have to live with it. Nothing's as short term as it seems. This can derail you from the path you originally wanted to take. Remember 'Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost?

4. You may be turning into your mom. Pressures may be mounting up. Your skin may look really bad. But if you're growing up, you should know it's a rare thing. A lot of people spend their lives as arrested adolescents, so you have something rare.

5. In the words of Ann Brashares, one of my favorite writers- 'Growing up sucks, but it's better than the alternative'.

So that concludes my growing up series, but hopefully, it doesn't conclude growing up because I have always felt prouder of what I became than what I once used to be. Wish me luck, because I think the real growing up begins now.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present to you 2012!

2011 saw many ups and downs. Northern Africa smouldered in rebellion/revolution (you decide what it was). Closer home, Anna Hazare became an anti-corruption star and in a funny turn of events, became one of the most searched personalities on Google, joining the likes Katrina Kaif. We lost many- Jagjeet Singh, Pataudi, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Amy Winehouse, Elizabeth Taylor and even Osama Bin Laden and Gaddaffi. We also welcomed the seventh billionth baby. India brought home the World Cup for the second time, but disappointments were seen in track with our women's relay team facing suspension due to doping charges. Small movies scored dig, big movies let everyone down. Like every year, this too was one full of surprises, shocks, trials, tribulations and hopes of millions for a better future.

I have never been crazy about year New Year's or birthdays. I sometimes see them as an end, not a beginning, At other times, I see them as normal days, just like any other. But this year, I am choosing to be optimistic about the new year. 

You see, this year, I end with school and hopefully start with college. My parents are busy thinking of the future, but nobody but me sees what is getting left behind. Everywhere I look, there is some change going on. Some changes have nothing to do with me and some are all about me, but the culmination of them all will shape my future.

Given how big a year this is for me, do you think I'll believe 2012 will bring the end of the world?

I see reports in the newspapers, dystopian fantasies about post-apocalyptic countries and people talking about how the world ends in 2012. But if a recent ad on TV is to be believed, more people are sending out New Year's wishes than worrying of the apocalypse. So, instead of believing some Chinese prophecy, what I'm going to do now is prepare. I'm going to prepare for exams, for college, for life, because even though preparation takes a lot of hard work, preparation is the biggest indicator of hope. So cheers to all those who are renovating their houses, taking loans and going for rehearsals. Their preparation symbolises a hope that is stronger than the supposes apocalypse that is appraching us.

My dear readers, welsome 2012 with open arms. And if the end is near, we'll all go together and that too, in its own poetic way, will be something to celebrate.