I distinctly remember that it was in the month of June in the year 2001 that I was transferred to Mumbai, which today culminated into two decades of unbroken stay in this city of dreams.
I was put up in a decent hotel in Fort area, which was closer to my workplace in Cuffe Parade. But the first priority was my daughter’s admission to seventh standard and colleagues directed me to Poddar Santa Cruz. As I was to commute by train. Andheri was the first choice for residence. Natural affinity was for Lokhandwala, though a friend advised me to explore four bungalows as this would result in saving in commuting time. From Andheri to Juhu to back to Andheri four bungalows is a long story that I would touch upon some other time. But it was a smooth subsumption into a routine involving train travel from Andheri to Churchgate and a shared cab or BEST bus from there to office and back home. Occasional after office drink with friends, mostly on weekends in Churchgate or Fort was the big attraction. To put it mildly, for a born Delhiite, adaptation to Mumbai was seamless.
Of course, I witnessed huge changes. For once, I consider myself lucky to have savoured the experience of watching movies at iconic Regal, Eros, Sterling, New Excelsior and Metro, before they shut down ( except Regal) and reopened in the new avatar of multiplex. I could also enjoy the inexplicable joy of eating at some of the iconic Iranian Parsi joints and unbeatable Cafe Samovar inside Jehangir Art Gallery. The thali restaurant at Kalbadevi that started serving thali at Rs60 and the last price being Rs320, has since downed shutters. World Trade Centre gave the first experience of what the malls were going to be !
And so much infrastructure development that happened in last 2 decades changed the face of the city. Scores of flyovers, foot bridges, sea link, freeway, Monorail, Metro and of course, the world Class T2 are some of the transformations I have witnessed during the last 2 decades.
Of course, a few things have worsened too! Two wheelers have crowded Mumbai roads and the owners neither wear helmet nor abide by traffic rules. Auto and taxi drivers can be frequently seen not wearing uniform and running shared services by overcrowding their vehicles! More and more iconic places are shutting shops! And there are other urban malaise like water logging, traffic jams and lack of open spaces.
But these 20 years have been the golden period of my life highlighted by career and life progression – personally for me as also my wife and daughter. Some of the most interesting and important events of life have happened during these 2 decades.
Having lived in Mumbai for two decades, living anywhere else would be quite tough if not impossible. Mumbai is cosmopolitan, broad minded, all inclusive and advanced in its thought process. For those who can work hard, Mumbai has rich rewards. This is a classic example of karmabhoomi becoming more important than my janmabhoomi.