Monday, June 25, 2012

Life in Mumbai - Survival of the (Un)Fittest!

Firstly, most of us think the term 'Survival of the Fittest' is coined by Charles Darwin who authored the Theory of Evolution, but in reality it was Herbert Spencer, a British philosopher, who has coined this term.

I have been born and brought up in this blissful city (or that is what we want to flaunt it as) called Mumbai. The word Mumbai is derived from the words Mumba + Aai, which means mother Mumba (Koli goddess) in Marathi.

Mumbai has been the financial and entertainment capital of India since a long time and today contributes approximately 5% to the GDP of the country. It houses various important institutions such as Reserve Bank of India, Bombay Stock Exchange, and National Stock Exchange and is the hometown of the most famous institution in India - the Bollywood.

Now you must be wondering why am i giving you such information that you can also find on more authentic websites such as the Wikipedia and the like. The intention is not to provide information, but to show what people around the world perceive the city as. A person who stays in the city for a long time will know what the real shape of the city is.

I will try to describe a day in the life of an average middle-class person who stays in the city and wants to lead a decent livelihood. This description is not representative of the masses in the city as more than 60% of the people stay in slums. There are also around 8-10% of the people who lead a much prosperous life in the same city. This is an example of a day in the life of a person who is familiar to all the voices of the city. Also, i will refer to the below example as a person (she) but it doesn't necessarily mean it's an example of a woman's life because that's not the basic motive behind the exemplification; please don't read much into it.

The person wakes up at 6 in the morning in her not more than 500-600 square feet house. She drinks milk (tea/coffee) that is not according to the health standards followed in the rest of the world, but she doesn't care. Most of the houses do not have a 24x7 supply of water, so most of the people (as well as this person) bathe with the water stored in small containers. She gets ready and leaves home in a hurry (people in Mumbai are always in a hurry). She waits for an auto-rickshaw but none of the unengaged rickshaw drivers want to take her to her destination. With no choice left, she then waits for a public transport bus in a never-ending queue and after much effort gets into an overcrowded bus. The bus either takes her to her office or to the nearest railway station. During her journey, the bus is stuck numerous times in unimaginable traffic (you should see the traffic to know it). She then gets down from the bus and runs (literally) to board a public transport train. 
 The trains in Mumbai are so crowded that a cockroach might change its travel timings to avoid the rush. She gets into an overly crowded (which is an understatement actually) train and reaches her desired station soon. The trains in Mumbai carry more than 300-350 people in a single compartment, whose seating capacity will not be more than 60-70 persons (no kidding!). This happens although the difference between 2 trains at peak hours is not more than 2-3 minutes (on the clock). Conversations among people in Mumbai about the train often sound like - "Tomorrow I have to catch the 8.43 am Churchgate(a station) local." or "if i don't catch the 9.57 am CST(another station) i will miss my 10.28 am Borivali local."  
When she gets off the train, she smells like a pig who is back from its wonderful time at the nearby muck. No perfume or deodorant can sustain the test of Mumbai local trains (perhaps that's one marketing strategy that a perfume company can never use). If her office is near the railway station, life is heaven for her. If not, she has to repeat the auto-rickshaw and the bus cycle. She reaches her office in that messed up state at, let's say, 9.30 am. Let's not get into what happens at her office, because that is well-known to people across locations. During lunch she goes to her office canteen that serves abysmal routine food.

If she carries her own lunch and thinks she is eating healthy food, then she is living in a state of enigma. Because the food in our country does not pass any quality check before reaching the common people and much has been said and known about the quality of the food, i don't want to get into that.

She leaves her office to repeat the same commute cycle in the evening, just that now she is tired of working more than 9 hours in her office and is in a cranky mood (most of the people in Mumbai go through this cranky demeanor every day). She gets irritated with people pushing her around in the trains and buses and with small things that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. She transfers this frustration onto other people and the crankiness is highly contagious. The streets are now full of hawkers who want to sell all kinds of things from vegetables to cutlery, from toys to books, from street-side junk food to mobile phone accessories and list goes on and on. They yell at the top of their voice to publicize their products because that is the only mode of marketing they know of. Amidst all this craziness she reaches home and her spouse is equally frustrated of his day. Her kids are complaining, and so are her parents, her neighbors, her friends and even her dog. She eats her dinner watching the television, which shows her a parallel world that is filled with things that she wishes to have in her life. She complains about her pathetic life and blames everyone around her for the same. She waits and dreams for tomorrow when her life will take a 180 degree turn and she'll live her life happily ever after. But tomorrow never comes. The next morning she wakes up at 6, and the rest - you can guess it.

This cycle repeats every day in the life of more than 10 million people residing in this blissful city and they (whoever they are) call it the dream city. Wow, what a dream to have! I have mentioned a day in the life of an "average" person, so you can imagine the ones living below poverty line. Thus, I feel the fittest of the people live in this city and the ones, not-so-fit, are just surviving.

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