It was my last day in Mumbai, as a person seeking admission to a college. My dear father had gone back after the formalities were done. Big city, much bigger than I was used to. That day I roamed alone, a day alone with the city, where I would spend the next 6 years of my life. I decided to take a double decker, and got on to my favorite seat, the front row. I could see everything on the road, as a driver would. I could see the sea and Haji Ali on one side and skyscraper and traffic jam on the other. I would be lost, the city is too big, I thought. I felt like a dot on the planet, while the horns blew in the background, red lights flashed in front of me and BEST bus revved in heat. I felt lonely. The bus conductor asked me for the tickets. And he also told me the stop that I would need to get down. He tried to explain me in as much as he could in his Marathi accent.
I was on my way to catch the train from Dadar central station, exactly two days after my father had left. He had an important business to attend to. He filled me up with every essential. I was a grown up man, enough to travel alone. And yet, I felt small, the city seemed too big. My only luggage was a small bag, which I was holding close to me, to mitigate any mishap. I had also put my wallet on my front pocket, which otherwise I would use my hip pockets. Bombay is very crowded, you should be careful about the pickpockets, I was told, you would never know when your wallet disappears especially when you are in a crowd. The eventuality of losing my wallet was scary. How would I reach back home, better keep close attention on my items. I was very careful. The man in front of me kept reading the newspaper and the one standing next to me, kept looking at me. I offered him my seat when my stop came, he smiled and nodded in approval when his patience paid off.
I was on Dadar station, it was evening, didn’t know what time it was. I had a bag and wallet in my front pocket. I had to cross over to the other side to get to the train and as a matter of fact, I looked down. Not an inch of space on the platform. I could only see people everywhere. It was the evening time when every one is rushing back home. Like a ant colony, I felt small again. Probably, I won’t survive. In the midst of this chaos, there was a sudden realization that I needed to get to the train; I could afford to miss it. I wanted to get away from Mumbai, as fast I could. While I was walking, I asked a person who was walking by about time. “It is 6.30.”, he didn’t look at me and walked on. He was in hurry, to catch his local train, but had heard me. He helped me as much as he could in the time he had. I remember he also said, “Get off the last platform to get to Dadar Central.” I didn’t ask for his last piece of his advice, but I guess he saw my luggage. He walked on and didn’t look back or expected anything in return. I never met him again and he left memories that made me fond about the city & people.
My first few recollections of Mumbai were of concern, full of anxiety and sense of loneliness. And it took just about few days to settle in. The people, the food, the language, exuded warmth. I found spirit of people inimitable, it was grand and connected to each Mumbaikar. The culture and love is extended to strangers and the new. I miss Mumbai, so much so that when I went back to Delhi, the place I have spent longest time, I felt shallow. I couldn’t identify with people, I took me 3 years to feel at home in my home city. We seemed to be running all the time in Delhi.
We were a group of 9 people in a yoga session and none of us know each other. My first exercise was to approach every single person in the group and tell him, I belong to you. Didn’t make sense to me at all. We did this every day of our course. Sincerely, even by the last day, I wasn’t able to truly say, I belong to you. We would leave after a week and none of us would connect again. We do belong to each other, even if it is for a fleeting microsecond. But it may take many years for us to realize it. I haven’t realized it yet.
And it is difficult, and takes courage to say, I belong to you, and stand by it. It doesn’t come naturally, as it comes for our siblings, parents or children. These boundaries, in our minds, are created by us and difficult to break. Irrespective, connectedness is one of the strongest virtues, that empower us and give us hope and strength. For the sake of simplicity we would just let it be. If it doesn’t affect me directly, it is none of my business.
Kids understand it the best. They have amazing 6th sense to know who is genuine and feel connected to them. First few interaction with a new person would tell you how genuine you feel with each other. There is an invisible bond amongst all of us, essential like air; we will feel suffocated if there isn’t any.
And it is all so powerful. Connected people make good families, teams, society and nation. Where each one respects the existence of the other, where there is a dignity of life in every individual, where there is strong connectedness.
Do you feel it? Slowly, one day at a time is all it takes to truly and sincerely say, “I belong to you.”
Photo & layout courtesy: canva.com