Over the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity of living in Mumbai for two months for my internship. It was in February that my internship at this particular organisation got confirmed and to be honest, it was a moment of pride and apprehension at the same time. Yes, I had been to Mumbai before but it was always a few days visit to either my brother’s place or a friend. I always had someone with me during every visit. This, however, was different. Not only was I going to live in this huge city of 12 million people, I had to work at an organisation that was huge and daunting.
Given all this, I was still extremely thrilled about it because I’ve always loved Mumbai and all the hustle that comes with it. Not only Mumbai, I have always loved to explore new cities. The only reason I came to Pune was because I wanted to live here and not because of my college. Well, college was an added benefit that came with the city. So, when I got the opportunity I grabbed it with both my hands and ran for it.
Initially, the city was intimidating given its busy environment. The moment you enter Mumbai you are surrounded by thousands of people walking continuously and never stopping. It is as if someone said “GO!” and everyone just started running towards a never ending race. What most people find infuriating about this city are the long travel hours and the busy trains full of sweaty, irritated people. I was lucky enough to find a home near to my office. However, I still had to use the local trains to get to work. That was easy – I soon got a grip of it and in less than two weeks I had all the routes memorized in my mind.
Read any blog or article about Mumbai and you’ll see that while this city attracts people it can also make you feel very lonely. There are limitless things to do here but if you are someone who cannot socialize very easily or doesn’t like to roam around alone, then it can get a little lonesome. This is what happened with me in the initial weeks of my stay of two months. I did not know anyone at the office or anywhere else for that matter. All my known relatives or friends had either shifted to some other place or were out on vacation. In the beginning, I tried exploring alone but after a while it became boring. I used to message my Big everyday saying that I need to leave this city and he always said only one thing “Hang on, it will get better”. I did not want to believe him because I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel but I still stayed and waited for the good days to come. And, they did come.
At the end of two weeks, I met a few friends of mine with whom I had lost touch. Some of them were friends from my past college and some were childhood friends. Meeting them was a big relief from all the loneliness that had accumulated over the past few weeks. Sitting at Marine Drive and chatting away for uncountable hours with too many cups of tea is just what I needed to realize that I need to stop being a lazy-pants and find my way. After all, I had come here to explore the city and people and their lives. From there on, there was no looking back.
Near to my office was a Starbucks outlet. But before the rest of the story let me tell you this – I cannot eat alone at a café or a restaurant. It is the most depressing feeling to sit there and watch other people laugh on their inside jokes or fight over petty issues or simply just be there for each other. But this time, I took all the courage that was inside me and pushed the doors to the café just to find that there were twenty other people, all alone busy with their lives. The place did not seem lonely anymore. I began going there every day during my lunch break. Gradually, I became acquainted with the staff and the other regulars at the café. I took a book with me, sat in the middle of the café and spent a good one and a half hour getting to know people and small little details about their lives. I witnessed a man propose his girlfriend in the most simple yet romantic way. I made friends with an old man who also came there for his lunch break and found out that he has been married for 55 years and everyday he takes a muffin or a cupcake for his wife and the wife is always ready with his black tea once he returns home from office. This is also the place where I met a boy who seemed perfect for a while but life had other plans for both of us.
Over the next few weeks, I was always out with my bag strolling around nowhere, spending hours at bookstores or shopping along the roadside or simply walking. Once I was out of office, I went to Marine Drive every evening and just sat there looking at the never-ending ocean. That was the best time of my day. I also went to see an interview of a popular director in Bollywood. Once, I helped a group of travelers bargain with the shopkeepers for their shopping. I took my roommate to show me the city as she had been staying there for a while now (Just a side note – my roommate made the tastiest French Toast). I found hidden cafes and ate lots and lots of red velvet cupcakes and blueberry muffins. Not only that, I was doing great at my internship as well. I was a free bird and I was flying with all my strength. I have never felt more confident about myself in my entire life than I did over these two months. I can proudly say that I’ve evolved as a person after this trip. Today, I am participating more in my class, socializing with new people and most importantly, walking alone on the streets and not feeling lonely about it.
What I am trying to say here is that if you know what you want, simply take a step. I know this is the most common advice you will ever hear in this world but I can guarantee now that that one small step makes all the difference. It did in my life. All you need is twenty seconds of courage (Dialogue taken from We Bought a Zoo :P) and you will do wonders. While these wonders might not seem too big to the world, you will feel a lot better about yourself and that is all I want in my life – to feel good about me.
There are not enough words in this world to describe the kind of impact Mumbai and the people I met there have left on me. I am thankful to every person and incident I came across. You all helped me in innumerable ways in this journey of self-discovery. I am definitely going back to this city of dreams to fulfill all the other little yet important dreams of my life.
“It’s not so much what you learn about Mumbai, it’s what you learn about yourself, really. It’s a funny old hippie thing, but it’s true as well. You find out a lot about yourself and your tolerance, and about your inclusiveness.” – Anonymous