Hey Mumbai, I Miss You. Even Your Traffic Jams and Ugly Hoardings


Hey Mumbai, I Miss You. Even Your Traffic Jams and Ugly Hoardings

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Dear Everything Outdoors that I’ve Made Fun Of,

I may have been a bit too harsh.

The lockdown has been tough on all of us, even those of us who’ve had the opportunity to continue working from home with a constant supply of food. The social distancing, and the solitude that comes with it, has led to a period of great introspection.

For me, all this thinking has made me realise how much of you, the outside world, I was taking for granted. The six jumbo king vada pav stalls all adjacent to one another lanes away from where I live, the man who nearly pushed me into moving traffic to get his pani puri before me, the beautiful smell of burning rubber and trash — Mumbai really has it all.

Or had it all, at least. Millions have been under lockdown for more than 45 days now, with — at best — nothing to distract them from finishing season 1 and 2 of Netflix. Something about this situation has made the outside world, in all its glory, seem a lot more appealing. It’s in this regard, that I have decided a few apologies are in order…

The last month of lockdown has led to a period of great introspection.

First, it’s with my hand on my heart and chest almost brushing against the ground that I say I’m sorry for the comments I directed at your family the last time we met, dear Andheri Station. In retrospect, I do not wish that everyone who visits you on a random Thursday morning — myself included — gets sucked into a pit of fire.

The fact is that the human contact you provided, as the days go by, is seeming more like a relic from the past, one that we won’t be able to experience again. And so, it may have also been slightly unwarranted for me to brashly label you the biggest host of infectious disease in Mumbai. (Especially considering that’s pretty much all of us now).

Furthermore, after losing a lot of muscle mass very quickly (exercising is a scam everyone, apparently you have to do it everyday!?!), it has struck me that I must also convey my deepest regrets to the community formerly known as the “gym bro”.

Human contact seems more like a relic from the past, one that we won’t be able to experience again.

More specifically, I must apologise for all the times I’ve focused my irritation on how your members are always so conveniently standing close to a mirror in which they can take a line of selfies showcasing the sweat dripping down their faces.

Instead, I have overlooked all the other skills on display. Such as their largesse, their hand towels, their impressive bicep curls with weights that are clearly too big for them. How I long to be by their side as they forget the lyrics to every song, while doing a thousand jumping jacks. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. It turns out that someone saying “no pain, no gain” is something I do need to hear everyday, my gym siblings.

And then there’s you, dearest traffic jam. You and I go a long way back. Remember that time I nearly threw everything I owned out of the window and threatened to move to Goa after spending three hours with you on the highway? God, how I miss those days…

God, how I miss those days…

Which is why I must profusely apologise for often using misogynistic slurs to refer to you and your kind. And your friend, “The Birthday Greeting Political Poster”, forever watching over us with kind eyes — I’m sorry for implying you are all designed by a three-year-old with an iPad. Having spent over a month indoors, I actually do miss knowing which MLA I should be wishing a “happy happy birthday :)” to. Truly an underrated service.

Bars! When things get back to normal, you should turn the music up even louder so I definitely can’t hear what anyone else is saying. And charge even more for Kingfisher, please! For some reason, the whole package sounds so appealing, I can already taste the next morning. What’s the trendiest pop song right now, even? No one knows! And I’m sure you can’t wait to tell us — multiple times a night.

I know what you’re thinking, dear outside world, most of the things I’ve apologised for are also reasons people hated you in the first place. But clearly the distance has made at least one heart grow fonder. It’s been over a month since our last rendezvous, and I am patiently waiting for the day I can look upon you with a renewed perspective in person. Until then, I sit far away, a man humbled.

Yours sorrowfully,

A Mumbaikar