You heard that right. But because my limbs are still aching, from being mangled by people of all shapes and sizes, I'll say it again: Hello, I am a sardine. And by sardine, I mean Mumbaikar. And by Mumbaikar, I mean I have to ask my need for personal space to "Fuck off!" I am learning to say it louder every day.
Yes. I am finally part of this grind. With having to travel to work in buses, I am now one of this giant mass of living, breathing, moving creatures, who operate in such inhumanly small spaces, that even asking for 2 feet of dignity is asking for too much. On every bus ride to and from work, I brush inadvertently against people's bodies and sometimes their minds. I peer and get peered at. I push and get pushed. I curse and get cursed. It all evens out, in this ginormous sardine tin brotherhood. Every bus is full, every train is packed, every road is jammed. But people seem to go on. In their little bubbles, created with newspapers, music, phones, ambition and desperation, they go on. A polite smile exchanged, a seat offered, a seat snatched, a foot stomped, a frustration (of a bus behind schedule) shared. Little rituals exchanged everyday, with scores of unknown faces, in this mad, endless dance called life, in a bid to survive.
Mumbai has a strange way of drawing you in. I curse the sweat in the summer, I curse the incessant rain in the monsoon, and I curse the lack of cold in winter, but here I am. I complain about the size of my house, I complain about the bad infrastructure, I complain about this sardine life, but here I am. Mumbai multiplies. Everything. It multiplies people, but it also multiplies their dreams. I know mine are multiplying. Anywhere else I go now will be a lesser place. Mumbai, I am definitely making friends with you.