Friday, March 26, 2010
Saddi Dilli And Aamchi Mumbai
Every time I open my mouth to say I grew up in Delhi, most Mumbaikars exclaim with horror, "But isn't that an awful city to live in?" That question is generally followed by," Didn't you feel horribly unsafe there?" then, " Were you ever, you know, molested on the roads?" And then, "Aren't you glad you stay in Mumbai now?" And of course the icing on the cake," So which city do you think is better?"
I used to answer them pretty honestly once. No. I didn't find the city awful, in fact I loved it. Yes I did, but very rarely. No I did not have my butt pinched or anything like that every time I went out.(It did happen once in a bus, but I pinched back. Hard) Yes I am glad I stay in Mumbai. And well, to the last one, that question is so stupid it does not even deserve an answer.
For some reason, people tend to think that you can not love two cities equally. That you must prefer one over the other. That the preference better be Mumbai because no sane person will ever prefer a city known for the Punjabi culture of over the top display of show-sha and name dropping. And what about the danger lurking at every corner? A testosterone laden Jat male just might grab you, rape you and then leave you to die. It is pathetic that some of the people I know, all well educated, well read and fairly well balanced, tend to be so biased. Earlier I used to get angry. Now I just laugh.
Because there is humour to be found in every corner of both these Indian cities. When I came to Mumbai as a young bride in the early nineties, the city's breakneck pace amazed me. No one had time for anything superfluous. When I went for veggie shopping, I invariably asked the wrong question. What's more, I took too long to ask it. Now of course I have become wise. "Bhai-saab, pyaaz kya bhao de rahen hain?" has been replaced by " Kanda kitne ka?" Short and crisp. And you get the same answer. Amazing.
It took me some time to get used to the city's brash language. I used to cringe every time I heard the Bombaiyya version of Hindi. Once, while selecting some footwear from a particular hawker at Linking Road, I was told, " Leneka hai toh loh nahi to jao, khali-peeli apunka bheja mat kharab karo. Apun ke paas itna time nahi". Coming from the land of the traders who always said, "Dekh lijiye behenji, dekhne ka koi paisa nahi lagta," it was a rude culture shock. My traumatised self almost needed therapy to go back to Linking Road. Now when I venture out there, I make my purchases and quickly get away. Honestly, who really has the patience to deal with fussy customers?
Of course shopping in Delhi could be equally mind numbing, specially for those lost souls who are not used to the North Indian twang. Like my husband. He was more at home in Mumbai, where the strictly vegetarian Gujarati shopkeepers did not stock anything even remotely connected to animals, except milk. He was used to asking the grocers whether they kept eggs. He did the same in Delhi once. " Kya aap ande dete hain?" The grocer without blinking said " Sirji main toh nahi deta par murgi deti hain. Aapko chahiye?" He was speechless but he bravely went ahead and chose what he had to buy. While making the payment, the grocer said " Aap ji chaliye, saaman ghar bhijwata hoon. Bas yehi kafi hain ki aapke ghar mein kuch whore bhi bhejoon?" This time it was my husband who needed the therapy.
Now, you tell me, when they ask me which city I love more, what do I reply? Both cities have made me what I am today. Delhi is beautiful, gracious, old world charm and wide open spaces. Mumbai is spunky, funky, glitzy and modern. In both cities I have a home. And I love both of them unconditionally. It is unfair when people compare these two cities and find one lacking.
So when I am asked which team I am cheering for this IPL, I say unabashedly the Kolkata Knight Riders. Because sadly, some people, even those who are well educated, well read and fairly well balanced, tend to be biased about their home state.
Disgraceful, isn't it?
I did not translate the Hindi sentences into English as I thought the humour would perhaps be lost in translation. If some one wants it translated, I will do it.