Neo and I went to MDI together and despite being in the same cohort, we were never friends. I knew him, he knew me and that was it. Time changed and we moved on. Somehow he landed in Mumbai for his naukri and I hopped around Chennai, Delhi and other such cities before I reached Mumbai. Mumbai has always been like that enigma for me. It has attracted me since I don’t know when and yet I never had the balls to go there by myself. Now that I was in Mumbai, I had to find my way around and unravel the mystery. I had to meet people and make friends – not that I had issues with it. I have always been very social. So, the first set of people that I met was classmates from MDI and there was this guy, Neo, amongst those.
sgMS and I are like that happy accident that you wish you met at every other crossing. To be honest I don’t even remember what our first conversation was like. But I distinctly remember when I first saw her. And I knew that I wanted to be with her. No, it was not really love at first sight but I knew we could be good friends at least. She is a typical Mumbai girl and has lived in Mumbai all her life. And like all Mumbai women, she knows how to dress well, carry herself around and has that confident air about her. She has this amazing smile that can move mountains. Her eyes are so brilliant that you could look into em for ages and get oblivious to the very concept time. Her hands, though tiny and fragile are that strong that if she held you, you can weather any storm. Nothing can trouble you when she is around.
Neo was like any other fresh MBA. Opinionated, well read and aware of the world around him. And he was like no other man that I had met. He had
sgMS on the contrary is miles away from being a MBA material and that’s probably why she knows more about life and people than most people I know. Very pragmatic and very good at what she does. She is probably the goddess of cleanliness and orderliness. She hates any kind of kachra and does not hesitate in lashing with her mile long tongue if she spots anything amiss. She is calm and has that serene air about her. Compare it to my excited-all-the-time countenance. If I am yin, she is the yang. She complements me. Completes me. It’s as if when God was making me, he took a part of me and carved another human out of it. sgMS. Individually we are great at what we do but if we could be together, we could redefine awesomeness. That’s how “made for each other” we are. But then she and I had the weirdest relationship in the history of mankind. She knew that she liked me but she hated the way I was. It was a classical battle between her heart and her mind. She obviously gives more heed to her head and we aren’t together. I on the other hand, I loved her. Still do. And I knew that if we were to end up together, I would have a tough time with my parents and other such societal shit. Again this was a typical heart and mind battle where my heart refuses to let go.
Neo loves Mumbai more than anything else that we humans are capable of loving. So much so that he has declared to himself and everyone around him that he would not leave this city ever. What is strange is that Mumbai is an epitome of everything that he dislikes – hunger, poverty and humidity. And yet he loves the city. More than even Milind Gunaji. Mumbai, though is a city that he has adopted (or the city that has adopted him, as he says), he knows it as if he himself was the chief architect and planted the buildings, the alleys, Marine Drive and other such landmarks of the city, at his whims. Everything that characterizes Mumbai – the dilapidated buildings, the tiny alleys, the food joints, the Parsi cafes, the crowded local trains, the Marine Drive, anything – Neo seems to know about the history and importance of each tiny speck, in the grand scheme of things. I at times wonder if those stories are genuine or are cooked up. Even if they are cooked up, they make for a fascinating earpiece. If only Neo wasn’t lazy, he could have written it down and shared with the world. In it, we have a sure winner on our hands and a bigger hit than any other piece of text written about Mumbai. Someday I need to cajole him into writing an anthology about Mumbai. And for the same, maybe I will ask him to use a Pseudonym (Bajirao Singham?).
sgMS probably loves Mumbai more than Neo does. Though with Neo’s unwavering determination, I couldn’t be sure. Her love for Mumbai probably stems from her lineage – her family has been in Mumbai for more than three generations. She was born and has grown up in Mumbai and knows the nooks and crannies like the veins on the back of her hand. She knows where you get that best pao bhaji, where is that perfect place to sit and stare at the sea, what gully to take to reach Bandra the fastest, what store to go to buy that perfect gift, which is the most happening night club, what shop would give the best bargains and other such things. And the best part is that she is not just attached to Mumbai per se but she is very fond of her motherland of Maharashtra and her culture. Her love for all things Maharashtrian is legendary. She is proud of all the great Marathas – from Shivaji to Ambedkar to Mangeshkar to Tendulkar and all the Kar’s of the future! She loves all the festivals that bring the spirit of Maharastrians alive – from Gudi Parwa to Ganesh Chaturthi to Bhau Beej to Diwali. And she loves to gorge on all the typical Maharastrian delicacies – from Kaanda Poha to Vada Paos to Puran Poli to Modaks and everything else. If there could be a title of The Official PR Agent of the State of Maharashtra, sgMS would do a wonderful job.
The comparison and contrast between the two faces of Mumbai – Neo’s and sgMS’s could go on forever. Both of them have made me experience their respective sides of Mumbai and I cant disrespect either by attempting to pick one. Too bad they don’t know each other well and they couldn’t compare notes – it would have made an engaging battle of opinions, if not anything else. Neo would sit with his back to the chair, legs on the table and arms folded behind his head. sgMS would be standing on her feet, her arms making those gestures that only she can come up with and her eyes more animated than her face. Neo would use things like "but hear me out", "you don’t like me", "kise pata chalega", "trust me" etc. sgMS on the other hand would say things like "you are kidding me", "balls" etc. And since both of them have really really strong opinions and both of them hate to lose, I dont think the argument would end but it would make for an awesome sight.
There is so much more that I could talk about here. I could talk about Neo, sgMS or Mumbai. Or about all three of them. But I honestly believe in the power of things that are left unsaid after a long monologue. I'd let the readers decide who this piece was about. To close this, I'd saay that Mumbai to me is thus this place that the thrifty Neo loves and fancy sgMS adores. With the two of them with me in Mumbai, I experienced life like I had never done before. Thank you guys. Thank you Neo. Thank you sgMS. Thank you Mumbai.