Mumbai…Meri Jaan (my life)

6229056564477d66d04bbc68b5d79641Having lived in multiple cities, countries, continents the one question that we get most often is which city was our favorite? Where did we like living the most?  The daughter is noncommittal, the husband smiles but doesn’t divulge anything and the son rambles for a while with commas, stops and exclamations… I love it here, no but I love Melbourne too. And then he gives a disarming smile to exclaim and Oh I love Mumbai!!!

I believe we can love any place we live in if we wish to. It can be the glitziest city with the most hi tech unimaginable convenient amenities or a tiny village with frequent power outage and water shortage. We have lived in both the extremes  and the in betweens too.  I joke with the husband that he is stuck with me for life and much more because our marriage will survive anything since it survived six months in a small town of Ghana where we were challenged everyday with power outage, water shortage, mal- functioning phone lines, no neighbors and long hours at work. There were more birds and animals around us than people. The daughter had her first birthday there and spoke her first word too- gooaaattt! Yes, I kid you not, goat came before mum! Wonders don’t cease, do they?

Prior to this during our stint in Lusaka, Zambia many of the husband’s colleagues and our friends had mercilessly pulled our legs guffawing at multiple  imaginary scenarios of us running away, back to Mumbai on the first flight from there. I must share that this was the only country that we lived in where safety/security was a huge issue, political scenario unsettled, medical facilities questionable and one in four locals were said to suffer from HIV. I had the ‘privilege’ of being mugged in broad daylight and the husband’s colleague lost all that he had on him to a ‘sweet friendly’ 7 feet tall guy with a swagger who put his arm around him as they walked on a busy street as though best friends for life while relieving him of his wallet, watch, rings, belt leaving with a loving parting shot of, “if my friends down the road trouble you, just tell them Simba took it all.” Simba indeed turned out to be the king of day light robbers.  As I said before, wonders do not cease because we thrived there, loved it and made amazing friends right from the CEO of multi national companies to the neighborhood cab driver.

imgresIn Malaysia for the longest time I took the bus to go to work with the husband dropping me and picking me on his way to and fro from work. Every time I got onto the bus the driver changed the music to Hindi/Bollywood songs with a nod to me. Our neighbors introduced us to Malaysian delicacies and customs and soon we could gorge on ice kachang and nasi goreng while nodding sagely to agree on the goodness of everything by saying good lah very good lah! Twenty years plus since we left Kuala Lumpur but I don’t bat an eyelid to switch to yes lah while talking to Malaysians/Singaporeans.

Japan, what can one say about a country where respect, reverence, humility, consideration, courtesy come from birth and go on literally till death does them apart. Right from the Japanese baby to the octogenarian next door were always super courteous saying their Ohaiyo Gozaimashita (good morning) bright and early as I pushed my baby boy’s stroller, walking my little girl to school.  The same neighbors were super excited to see their Indian neighbor, read yours truly pregnant when the baby in the stroller was expected so much so I would be taken aback when they would pat my baby bump with love and excitement wondering whether it was going to be a boy or a girl and even when he or she was due. Their excited chatter was contagious enough for me to smile and nod despite lack of clear comprehension. I knew that they meant well and they knew that I had full awareness of their feelings.

Melbourne endeared itself to us with its chic, casual, laid back yet go getter charm. Just last week the son and hubby were on a California golf course trailing a couple of Aussies and got talking to them. While one  was from Brisbane, the other was from Sydney and on hearing my boys connection to Melbourne, they very somberly said, Oh Melbourne, so sorry mate! Nothing and nobody really can top the Aussie sense of humor- it is unique because of its subtle yet conspicuous nature.

mumbai-slangMumbai, my one time home! I think the only city in the world which has ‘meri jaan’ suffixed to it is Mumbai. Meri jaan literally translated means my life. Songs have been written on places like New York, California, Denver, Chicago, London and lot more. Movies too have been made on plenty of cities. Similarly, countless movies have depicted the spirit of Mumbai, songs have been written on the unique yet multiple specialities of this city- the city that has a heart, the city that never sleeps, the city where you are one in a crowd but still don’t lose your privacy. A city which is as casual as you need it to be or and as sophisticated as you want it to be. It embraces those who make it their home adapting to the multi cultural, multi lingual, organized chaotic crowd.

Now we are in California and I am reminded of the time I first heard the song ‘California Dreaming’, never knowing then that it would be home one day. The hubby was jumping off the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe over the Zambezi river – The highest natural Bungee in the world off Victoria Falls- with a rope tied to his ankle- they called it Bungee Jumping. Now very popular but a couple of decades back it was relatively uncommon. The song the organizers were playing as the jumpers jumped was California Dreaming. I do not see any relevance of the lyrics to bungee jumping off Victoria Falls but today as a resident of California I do identify with the song…”All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey, I have been for a walk on a winter’s day, I would be safe and warm if I was in L.A, California dreaming on such a winter’s day…..”

Do you have a favorite city or a town dear to you?  It is memories that make a place special, that carves a place for it in your heart and mind. Is there a place that warms your heart on a winter day? Share your favorite city story and why it is so….and I bet it would be because of the people.

Picture courtesy: Jeff Stahler , http://www.missosology.info & http://www.sutrahr.com

 

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A world full of heart…

'Stocks rose on the news that random acts of kindness today outnumbered random acts of violence.'

I truly believe people are inherently good, sometimes we just have to pause a moment, breathe in and wait to savor it because more often than not that goodness just happens, unfolds and passes by taking us unaware just like sunrise each morning. Today’s post is dedicated to all those unknown people, perfect strangers actually who knowingly or unknowingly touch a life, making random incident memorable, turning  traumatic events bearable, to be talked about, reminiscing over a cup of coffee, glass of wine or simply…

I recall the time the son was a baby, a mere 4 month old happy cuddly little fellow with the widest gummy smile and eyes glowing with happiness. He was born with a congenital kidney problem and needed multiple surgeries. That was in Mumbai and after painstaking efforts from the nurse, wails from the son and silent tears from me an IV line was set up on his podgy little arms. After the first surgery he was discharged from the hospital with the IV line on for the next few surgeries as no one wished to put the baby through another trauma probably saving the doctors, nurses, mum and dad too from the same. So there we were headed home with the husband driving, trying to reach the four year old daughter waiting for us, while I sat behind with our boy who happily grinned at me from his basinet as though sensing that we were going away from the place where he was poked and prodded. Suddenly  we were flagged down by a cop. The husband ‘apparently’ had driven through an amber light turning red. Unlike the United States, one doesn’t hand over license/registration while sitting in the car when stopped in India, but gets off to stand by the sidewalk with the cop with  an explanation/license/registration/cash-bribe, and not exactly in that order. I viewed the two talking in the side view mirror and was surprised to see them walking towards the car and next the cop peeped inside to see me and our boy whose big toothless smile was still in place probably only getting wider. The cop and the baby exchanged toothy/gummy grins as if sharing their own little joke.  He saw the IV and looked again at the two of us, dropped his notebook back into his pocket, gave me a little salute and bid the husband adieu with a big hug and instructions to take good care of the baby and drive safe. Yes that is Mumbai…a city full of heart.

It is not surprising to encounter these warm incidents in Mumbai. The city indeed is full of heart. It gets battered with bomb blasts and rises up the very next moment with everyone walking an hour or more to reach work with public transport suspended. It gets flooded and the city that was supposed to grind to a halt continues to move, with neighbors helping each other, picking up a child, reaching food or even sharing groceries with supermarkets closed or sold out.

London is famous for being cold, weather and otherwise, no offense intended but I feel it has the most amazing heart. Another time the husband had flown to London on work and on landing at Heathrow airport saw my text message that the daughter was admitted in hospital. At immigration when asked the purpose and duration of his visit, he told  that he was supposed to be in London on work for 3 days but was going to take the first flight out as his child was in hospital. The immigration personnel picked up the phone and murmured a few words and an airport ground staff appeared to escort him through the quickest shortest way to baggage claim and customs, reaching him back to the United Airlines Global desk in a few minutes skipping all lines and waits. And United Airlines, not exactly famous for its great service on grounds or inflight wasted no time having him back on the same flight that reached him to London and soon he was flying home having touched down in London, cleared immigration, taken baggage, gone through customs, back in with new ticket, check in, security check in less than two hours!

In Tokyo our friends visiting us forgot their backpack containing a high end camera with multiple lenses and a $ 1000 in cash in the overhead compartment of a train. On lodging a complaint with the Station Office we were directed to wait at the exact place we had disembarked and check in the train when it returned in 43 minutes to be precise as it had a circular route. He was convinced that it would be found exactly where it was left since it had not been deposited at the Lost and Found department. Robbery was not an option even considered. We never really  expected to find the lost bag but there it was exactly where forgotten, waiting for its rightly owner having escaped both theft and bomb disposal squad.

During one of my walks in the neighborhood park, I was getting to a point of discomfort since another walker, a young man kept looking at me very blatantly every time we passed one another. I didn’t believe that I was unsafe but nevertheless felt hesitant until he stopped in front of me with a big smile and said, “you are wearing Kathmandu, you must be from Australia.” For those unfamiliar to the down under, Kathmandu is like the Nike of Australia- everyone does it!

 

'Beauty is on the inside.'

Last few weeks my brother-in- law was visiting from India and we had been hiking pretty often as I showed him the sights and sounds of bay area. He couldn’t get over the fact that strangers walking past each other either said hello, how’s it going? or remarked on the good old weather or simply nodded. There was always a courteous, respectful acknowledgment. In a world rocked by terror these simple etiquettes go a long way in building better communities.

Do you recall the moments when perfect strangers made your day? Or does an incident with an unknown make you break into a smile or feel grateful and blessed? Reminisce those  and share,  let the world know yet again how wonderful it is….

 

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com