24 Hours With The Spirit of Mumbai

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It’s one past midnight, and there is a sweaty boy running across the highway in front of Anand Vihar Bus Station to catch a bus. I am that boy and about thirty hours following this moment, I went from Lucknow to Delhi to Mumbai and back. It all starts back in my house in Lucknow, entirely sure that I wasn’t going to go to college or Mumbai. But in 48 hours, I traveled through three states and completed a trip which I could only describe as eye-opening.

Back in 2016 when I still had two years until college, I started thinking about going to Mumbai. In the beginning, it was just a thought but that thought stuck. I started to randomly Google things about Mumbai. Things like the weather in Mumbai, a couple of months later it was flats for rent in Vile Parle West. I was sold. I couldn’t imagine going to anywhere but Mumbai.

Back in 2018, I get selected in Mithibai College and had to go pay my fees which is when things took a terrible turn. My father got involved in an accident and our already bad financial condition became worse. I had about 11 hours to be present on the college campus failure in doing so cost me my seat. I had almost given up and accepted that this is how things were going to be. At 8 pm, I get a call from my aunt and who says I am going to Mumbai. I get just enough money to go to Mumbai and get things done. The coming hours were probably the most intense in my life and probably one of the best.

This 18-year-old student who had never traveled on his own packs his bag and goes to the train station to catch a train to Delhi since a direct plane ticket to Mumbai was too expensive at this point. I get to the train station, run from platform to platform trying to find a train and a TT who could give me a seat. After an hour, I realize I wasn’t getting anywhere so I went to a bus station and then another where I finally found a bus. At this point, I am just glad that I am going to Mumbai, albeit on an empty stomach. I bought a plane ticket to Mumbai from Delhi on the bus. I had to get to the airport by 7 am. Tired old me doses off soon after.

I wake up in Delhi the next morning at 6. The bus is running late, so no room for mistakes now. I leave the bus and get on the Metro after which I reach Indira Gandhi International Airport with little time to brush my teeth, change my clothes and head to the silent terminal. Wheels up.

Holy shit, I am actually going to Mumbai is what I keep repeating to myself.

After landing in Mumbai, I meet my uncle who took the day off to show me around. I go to the college and do all the paperwork. My admission was complete. We decided to get something to eat at this point because I hadn’t eaten anything since I left home. We ate Medu Vedas, which were amazing.

My uncle showed me around the nearby areas. We traveled in Vile Parle in an autorickshaw and it was everything I hoped it would be. A little warmer but I am not complaining. Oh no, sir.

We rode Mumbai Metro but it was in the local train where I saw something that’s… hard to put in words but I’ll try to make you feel the way I did. We were going to Nala Supara as my uncle had to meet someone. In the local train, I saw an elderly couple. They must have been in their 50s if not more. Her head was resting on his shoulder. They must have been so tired that they fell asleep. It was so quiet. You could hear the sound of the wind and the noise that the train makes. Mumbaikers will know. I feel even the announcements had stopped at that moment. We got off the train and ran all our errands but I just couldn’t get those two people out of my head for some reason. My uncle asked me if I liked the local train, I said, “Yes, but it was quite crowded. Is it always that crowded?” He said yes, on that particular local people would get on the first station and get off on the last. From work to home and vice versa. He said all the people who had seats must have boarded on the first station. It takes almost two hours to reach the last station.

The elderly couple immediately came to mind. They were sitting there for more than an hour and would continue to spend another half an hour. They must do this every single day. That couple is what Mumbai is. They are the spirit of Mumbai for me. I am not crazy or anything but I realized from a young age that you need to work to get anywhere in life and by the time I was an adult, I knew that I had to work harder than everyone else in the room. I wanted to go to Mumbai because I wanted to work as much as I can. Don’t get me wrong, they are people in every city who are just trying to make ends meet, put two meals on the table and survive but not every city is called the city that never sleeps. The work ethic of people in Mumbai, their persistence and endurance are qualities that I strive to inculcate in myself which is why it’s so attractive.

Next day the Monsoon started. I had already booked a flight back to Delhi and it had started raining and the clouds didn’t look like they planned on stopping. (It rained for the next three days.) I got to the airport and realized I had some time and could probably get something to eat. I found a shop outside the airport but everything was very expensive so I figured might as well travel a little and find something half decent to eat. Boy, was I wrong. I had to travel for half an hour and all I could find was a shop selling samosas and Vada pavs. And… I ATE THE SAMOSA, GUYS! My god, what terrible decision-making. I went to Mumbai and picked a samosa over a vada pav. In my defense, I was stressed about getting caught up in traffic and getting late for my flight.

I didn’t get late, I made it to the airport on time and landed back in Delhi past 10 during the night. The next two hours were atrocious. Metros had started closing and I couldn’t get to Anand Vihar via the metro so had to get a cab. I got in the cab thirty past midnight after waiting for 20 minutes at Canaught Place.

As soon as I got to the bus station in Anand Vihar, a guy looked at me and said (more like shouted) “LUCKNOW?! LUCKNOW?! LUCKNOW?!”, I said yes, in a state of shock and he told me to follow him as the bus was getting refueled and was about to leave. So here I am, running behind a stranger on a very wide highway in a state of confusion but absolute determination to go back home. We catch up to the bus, I buy the ticket and I just fell asleep in that terrible, terrible seat.

The journey was finally coming to an end. It was crazy. I witnessed a fight in the local train, was almost run over by a car in Vile Parle, had an epiphany and chose a samosa over a vada pav.

I felt like this was an experience that a lot of Indians have shared, not just people from Mumbai and figured you guys might relate and would enjoy reading it.

About the author

Prakhar Singh

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