At 2:35AM the cops in Colaba stop my cab. Gufran steps out and shows them his documents. After the interrogation, he returns to his driver’s seat with a frown and in a few minutes, he calmly vents out his frustration in the matter.

I am impressed by him at many levels. Firstly, even though he feels somewhat harassed, he dismays me with his acceptance towards the cops who are ‘only doing their jobs’. Secondly, his fluency in English makes me curious. Thirdly, he justifies the incident within minutes of its existence saying that all this is transitory and he needs to focus on his dream.

How many cabbies do you know are working two shifts a day to live their dream?

The 27-year old Gufran is from Allahabad and visits Mumbai often to make enough money and contacts to support his dream. What is his dream? Moving to Dubai and making a living there.

In the dark of the night, Gufran and his car.
In the dark of the night, Gufran and his car.

By the day, he works as a guide and a car mechanic of electrical parts. His English is self-taught, as it allows him to communicate smoothly as a guide. At night, he drives his uncle’s car; navigating people across the city.  Money is what drives him to do better and he is convinced that Mumbai is the city in India where his aspirations will eventually shape up. Not only are the opportunities here plenty, but he has seen hard work pay-off. Perhaps one of the reasons why he has introduced his brothers to the megacity.

‘The people of Mumbai are tough and sometimes rude in words. But good at heart. In this city, no one has time for anything but work. The most that anyone can share with you is their time.’ In my post midnight conversation with him, he asks me questions looking from the rare view mirror— most of those I have asked myself only three years ago. I re-live the very young and small town version of myself in our chats.

‘This city gives us as much as it takes,’ shares Gufran with me. This is no secret to anyone in Mumbai. While we are so busy trying to make a life, we often forget to live. But like me, he has made some friends who he keeps revisiting—some of them are his reality check and the others his support system.

Read: Photo Story: Chor Bazaar, Mumbai

When I ask him what his name means, he smiles and discloses ‘the one who is with God, the one who forgives and lets go.’ How much of his name does he live every day? An honest smile again and replies ‘We become our names. In course of time, it connects to our soul and gradually makes us that person.’

His parents do call him back to Allahabad. And even though he resists, he occasionally surrenders to their request. His current stint in Mumbai has been for about nine months. He is aware that he has age on his side to take desirable risks . And hence, he works very hard every day for a better living. Because we know that when our basic needs are not met, our dreams trespass into a room of disillusions. And that is a dangerous territory.

As I bid goodbye to him, I realised that our dreams become our superstitions. While we remain focussed on safeguarding and actualising them, we hold them so close that we fear to let them go and evolve, perhaps? Not Gufran. Because letting go is his namesake.

At 3:15AM, I haven’t felt this safe to return home; driven by the unknown and smiling with a stranger. Life is truly what we make of it, with others.

Read: My Love Affair with Mumbai

When was the last time someone reintroduced you to dreams, empathy and life?

To see more photos from my travels Like my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram.

Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

More Posts - Website


2 thoughts on “Mumbai, the City of Dreams?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *