I’m sure it takes time to find one’s bearings in any new city, but Mumbai is a tough nut to crack. I’m assuming that in most other cities, knowing the name of a particular area ought to be enough to find your way there. But not in Mumbai, where each and every locality is suffixed with either an East or a West. And these four letters could cost you a couple of hours in traffic. Unfortunately I learned this the hard way, as I tend to do whenever presented with an opportunity.
Everyone you meet in Mumbai will ask you (the outsider) a set of questions to calculate your GQ (Gullibility Quotient) – which in turn, determines how much of a chutiya you are. Some popular questions include “How much rent do you pay? What is the area of your flat? How far is the local station from your flat? How much do you pay your maid?” I have been told by certain people that I have a fairly high GQ. I beg to differ though.
Travelling in the local trains is an extremely empowering experience. During rush hour, when I get a thorough full body massage, I console myself thinking about how much money I saved by taking the train instead of Uber. It helps immensely if you have the ability to hold your breath for three minutes – to deal with the stinky armpit that your face is inevitably going to get shoved into. Just don’t forget to take in extra deep breaths of fresh air when the train halts at stations.
To establish your presence as an alpha male, never forget to ask the following question to anyone standing between you and the door as the train pulls into the station, “Train rukne ke baad utroge kya?” It is best delivered in a menacing tone which subtly hints that you have been known to shove people off the train at the slightest provocation. I haven’t had the opportunity to deliver this dialogue yet, in real life. (I have practised it to perfection, in my head though.) I don’t think I can either. Not with a straight face – because, as radical as it may seem, in my hometown, it is considered absolutely normal behaviour to wait for the train to come to a halt before attempting to disembark!
I have noticed that hairy old uncles standing at the train door have this annoying way of muttering, “Yeh first class hai” when I board the first class compartment in my ratty t-shirt and tracks. At first, I used to get a kick out of saying, “Pata hai” but maybe I should do one better. “Sorry uncle, I was in a hurry. Aapko dekh ke laga ki yeh second class compartment hai.” Or maybe I should stand at the door and give out PSAs myself (“Uncle, yeh first class hai”), especially to the well-dressed ones.
Six months into life in Mumbai, and I feel like a proper Mumbaikar. I can now find my way in the city on my own. I’ve reached a stage where I’m thinking of uninstalling m-indicator. Isn’t that the litmus test for judging if one is new to the city?