In 2010 when I moved to Mumbai, I didn’t know that the actualisation of my dreams would change me forever. It was the city where I knew no one and had no prior acquaintances and yet hoped I would somehow live there since I was in school. And when it actually happened, I was in disbelief. Have you ever been so protective of your dreams that you felt you could jinx it? I certainly did with this one and until a few months after my move I wanted to do every thing that it takes to keep it safe.

Taj Mahal Palace and the Gateway of India
Taj Mahal Palace and the Gateway of India.

I must have done something right. A city which is famously accused for being tough, superfast and detached worked so wonderfully for me that I have made a lifelong commitment to it. Mumbai is full of money-minded people I was told, and it were those professionals who taught me to put my money where my mouth is. I have heard endless stories of how people had come out during the July 26, 2005 floods and helped stranded commuters with food and water. I have spoken to people who have moved here from different corners of the country to make money, support their family and be happy. Not once has anyone told me that they’d rather be elsewhere. I have met people who had left the city with unhappiness or disorientation and have come back with more clarity or opportunities, because they know they’ve outgrown that piece of the jigsaw puzzle of their life. Once you’ve allowed Mumbai to touch your heart, there are very few fleeting affairs that can tempt you.

Some of my favourite smiles, though some are missing.
Some of my favourite smiles, though some are missing.

I admit there are challenges and it is definitely not as rosy as the words above read. But when did anyone say that living a dream would be easy? I’ve often reminded myself of that special moment when I first walked into the Times of India Building to go to work and the first day I met my team at Femina—it is a constant memory of encouragement. Whenever I may have questioned my interest to work, it was that memory that made me realise that in this city, you win some and lose some. After all, it is the delicate balance of nature that keeps the world go round.

Krishna works at Mondy's and still recognises me!
Krishna works at Mondy’s and still recognises me!

And even though I can hardly tell you what I have lost other than material goods, I can share with you what I have won. Probably, the most assuring of them all is the friendship and the acquaintance of people whose voices and laughs continue to stay with me. Or may be gratitude for space and outdoors (because houses in Mumbai are really small!) Or perhaps, respecting time and managing it well, since 24 hours in a day is too less in the city.

Discovering Colaba.
Discovering Colaba.

After my recent visit to the megacity, I realised that all these years I hadn’t accounted for the most important lesson from my years there. I went around my favourite alleys and neighbourhoods, walked in Colaba and along the lanes of my previously rented home in Bandra, stopped by my favourite bar and chatted with the friendly security guard, hired a cab and drove past the sparkling Queen’s Necklace and the Bandra-Worli Sealink while getting acquainted with the cabbie, and heard my auto-rickshaw driver sing Mohammed Rafi songs while I added verses from Kishore Kumar’s popular ones. Bombay had taught me to listen to people and respect them for who they were and where they came from. This diverse city has so many stories that a lifetime seemed less to know them all. And yet in the limited time span, these few people had shared theirs with me and I felt grateful. Somehow, I’ve grown to respect myself through the eyes of these people. It feels like a mutually evolving love story. Has that ever happened with you?

Rehaan from Allahabad who moved here and supports himself by ferrying people in his taxi.
Rehaan from Allahabad who moved here and supports himself by ferrying people in his taxi.

My frequent visits to the city have often been questioned by people who don’t understand my love equation with Mumbai. In all fairness, it is not something I can articulate very well. But perhaps the closest reason is that I want to keep my foundation connected, I need to spend time with friends and strangers and hear them, I need to walk fast so that I know when to slow down and I need to stay in love because falling in love is not enough.

The infinite city, at sunset with a close friend.
The infinite city, at sunset with a close friend.

Which city does your heart call out for? Share your love affair in the comments below.


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.

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14 thoughts on “My Love Affair with Mumbai”

  1. Hi Amrita – although I was in Mumbai for just 48 hours, I caught a glimpse of why Mumbaikars love their city. There’s something special about it which I can’t even describe it. Can you imagine if I were to actually live there? Then I will be speechless! :-) Thanks for sharing this post…

    1. Hey Kat, Mumbai can be overwhelming. I have no idea where and how my 4 years went by there. I’m glad it shares its charms with travellers as well. Next time you’re in the country, we must meet :) Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Bombay was the city of my childhood dreams, and I finally got to live there for 5 months a few years ago. It was just as you describe above and only served to heighten my love for the city and its people. It will forever remain one of my favourite places in the world, and if the opportunity to return ever comes up, I don’t think I could pass it up. Lovely words, and I couldn’t agree more.

    1. Thanks Veena. How encouraging of you to share your experiences with me. May the love for Bombay bless us all! :D

  3. Lovely writeup. I have a lot of friends who have come from other states, but now call Mumbai home. Yes, it is not a perfect city – but then, which city is? Like you rightly mentioned, despite the fast life, people here are willing to help, just don’t ask for help when they are rushing for their 8.56am CST fast:P

    The July 26th deluge that you mention, I had actually walked 20km from college to home that day as the transportation system was screwed. But you saw Mumbaikars form a chain around some of the heavily flooded areas, to guide everyone on the comparatively lesser flooded regions. Lot of the people I know were taken in by rank strangers who not just gave them food, but also let them stay over during the night. Having lived here all my life, I can say for sure that when the ‘System’ puts its hands up, the resilient Mumbaikar will always be there to help out. Be it 26th July or 26th November.

    Bombay has a fascinating history and the more i discover it, the more i fall in love with it. And of course, we have the sea! If I am in a city that does not have a water body or access to an ocean, i really feel angsty after some days.

    Of course there are a lot of things I do not like about the city as well. Lack of tolerance is one thing I’ve noticed quite often. When the 93 riots had happened I was still in my third grade, but the horror stories I’d heard were spine-chilling. I just pray that this lack of tolerance does not create another situation like that. I am sure it won’t but I feel people just need take themselves less seriously here. Smile more often.

    I may go on and on about Mumbai, but I’ll pause here:)

    Happy Travels,

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your love stories with the city, Nimish. I agree with every point you bring out. The lack of tolerance and the detachment is perhaps Bombay’s most powerful vices. I wish we would omit those. But I suppose that won’t be natural, which is why we balance it out with the aid and efficiency in any form and on any day. ‘I can say for sure that when the ‘System’ puts its hands up, the resilient Mumbaikar will always be there to help out. Be it 26th July or 26th November’– Amen!

  4. I have personally experienced 26 July flash floods. Mumbai is very helpful. I have traveled to so many cities but I admit – Mumbai is one of the best or maybe the best city in India. Endless qualities to say why Mumbai is soooo good but at the same time one wish I wish – road traffic solution :( though still it is managed so well. Anyway its a dream city and everyone wants their dreams to be fulfilled.
    Welcome to Mumbai.

  5. I was in Mumbai for only a few days last July and I loved my stay there. Street shopping In Colaba and a late lunch in Cafe Mondegar were the highlights of that trip for me :)

    1. None can escape the crowded charm of Mondy’s! :) It’s a city for everyone.

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