I *heart* Bombay (and well..Boston)

I'm urban..in the way other people are mountain-people or tunafish junkies. I love city life...something about dreary concrete blocks and grumpy people totally gets my juices flowing. Ergo, this will be a blog about me, my two favourite cities (Bombay and Boston), my addiction to Vietnamese coffee and my views on Gregorian chant and it's efficacy in curing some types of tympannic membrane rupture. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

After a couple of weeks of the horrors that visited my city (floods, a riot and then terrible terrorism), I’m about ready to call it quits and leave this city that I love. Bombay has always been the city I call home, wherever I may live in the world. I’ve been able to identify a Bombaywallah just from his attitude and personality..and it’s just that attitude and personality I’ve loved. The brash, inventive, exciting, purposeful energy that drives people in this great city is just what gives me the energy and motivation to live in what is otherwise a very stressful urban environment.The bomb blasts that ripped through trains in my city have done what the riots in 1992 and the blasts of 1993 haven’t been able to do to me. Perhaps I was young then and just didn’t understand the significance of just waht was happeneing. All of a sudden, in 2006, at age 29, I’m confronted by the fact that I may just never come back home one night..or have a member of my family just vanish from this earth one evening. And that scares me. Scares me enough to want to leave and move somewhere. I talked about this with Irshad the day after the blasts. He’s young, ambitious and Bombay is JUST where someone like him should live and prosper. And even he had doubts about whether this is where he’d want to settle down, raise a family and get older.

I have similar doubts. I suppose I’ve always had them even while I was planning on coming back here from Boston. Now it’s just crystallizing into a plan. This is NOT where I want to grow older.I don’t see Bombay as somewhere I can have my white picket fence, 2.3 children and black lab. Heck, I don’t see Bombay as somewhere I can have a great date - let alone a relationship! “If you change yourself, then the terrorists would have won” is what we hear every second person saying. But you know what? I’m scared of dying. There’s tons of things I want to do, want to accomplish. Where’s my magnum opus? Where’s my work of art? Where’s the kids I want to bring into my family? Where’s the man I want to spend the rest of my life with? I may just not come home tommorrow if the terrorists have their way. And that scares me.

Suddenly, a quiet life in an American suburb doesn’t look so bad. Suddenly ,my dreams of living in Israel for a year look untenable. I just want to feel safe. I just want my loved ones - family and friends to be safe as well. Since we can’t be the change we wish to see, I don’t see any other option but to leave. Perhaps then the concerned authorities will realize they need to do something to prevent their best and brightest from fleeing. Why should I agree to live in a (let’s be honest here - all romanticizing aside) crumbling city that is rift with communal and economic stresses? Why should i have to wade through knee-deep water every time it rains? Why should I be afraid to ride public transport?

Frankly, I’m just too old to deal with this shit anymore. That sense of adventure has now morphed into a sense of not wanting to deal with stress anymore. The philospohy that I use for relationships is now a philosophy I use in my day to day life. Minimize stress and drama.

What am I doing about it? Seriously looking to move - that’s a start. I’m giving myself 6 months. By then, I hope to have a ticket to somewhere in my hand. Sad but true.

I love my Bombay…but from a distance.


  • At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Finally, I get to leave the first comment!

    Interesting post, as usual. I share your passion for Bombay having completed my studies there.

    Of course, if there were one city in India that I would like to settle, it would obviously be Bombay. However, I don't share your pessimism regarding its future.

    I am not sure life in suburban America would be interesting, or for that matter, satisfying. The trappings, the boxed houses, the manicured lawns, it all seems very stifling compared to the energy and buzz of Bombay. In any case, I really don't think America or the entire Western world is much safer than Mumbai. You might not return from work not only due to a terrorist attack but also due to an accident that could happen *anywhere* or *anytime*. There is always an undefinable trajectory to our lives following its own path, regardless of our choices.

    I don't think it is fair to blame the terrorist attack because the reasons you put forward seem deeper than the external reality of destruction. If terrorist attacks are indeed the reason, then I guess Israel should also be checked off the list since it lives in a state of perpetual tension and terrorism (Or, perhaps vous preferez a holiday with the Hezbollah :-)).

    I quite Bombay due to work five years ago and still miss it dearly. I moved to Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and, now, London but still remember my daily journey to SEEPZ overcrowded smelly trains with an armpit thrust into my nose, a hand stuffed down my trousers, and someone singing tunelessly, Yeh Kasmir Hain, Yeh Kasmir Hain!!

    (SOB!! Sandeep reaches for his pick lace handkerchief and sniffs loudly into it).

    Take care

    Ps. Regardless of where you move, I hope your blog will be updated?

  • At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Has Bombay really gotten that much more dangerous? If you've been able to live with floods, gang violence, crumbling infrastructure etc. what's a few bombs? After all, anyone could bomb Boston too. Fear makes for poor existence and no living at all.

  • At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    here's betting 1 lakh that this is all more stupid bravado, and that in six months you'll be sitting where you now are, still unhappy and still deluded.

  • At 8:20 PM, Blogger Hob Gadling said…

    I wrote a big fat reply here but decided to move it over to my blog because it became so big and contained stuff that I wanted to say to everyone, not just you.

    It's here.

  • At 1:37 AM, Blogger mumbai_jerry said…

    I completely agree with you....

    And, as for me, having lived most of my life in Mumbai and some of it in a large western metropolis......I sometimes shudder thinking me as an old man in Mumbai......

    And maybe it is for the best that you or I for that matter have a vacation in Mumbai and rest of the life somewhere safe.......

    Still thinking....and difficult to decide....

  • At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i have an exactly similar plan
    ..:boom shanker:..

  • At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what about all those people who died in the 9/11 attacks? they didn't up and quit their lives and shift base to the cayman islands (dude, it's the quietest place to live. and safe.)

    and who is to say boston won't have its share of kkk ressurective movements?

    the sarin gas breakout in japan? chuck that, zee german jews? what about them?

    how about closer home? the godhra riots?

    we can't keep leaving what we like because we feel threatened. the city doesn't threaten u. its the people who can't deal with their lives and would rather disrupt others?

    c'mon after all how far will you run?

  • At 7:31 AM, Blogger Fanaah said…

    Very well written. But sometimes I feel what has to happen will-and its not like USA is safe-Katrina and Osama have shown their affinity towards it :)

    Im not saying it makes sense to play with thunder, but you cant run from it-it thunders everywhere.

  • At 4:55 PM, Anonymous IGC said…

    Knowing your fondness for Cavafy, I thought you might find this poem resonates...

    The god forsakes Antony

    When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
    an invisible procession going by
    with exquisite music, voices,
    don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
    work gone wrong, your plans
    all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
    As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
    say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
    Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
    it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
    don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
    As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
    as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
    go firmly to the window
    and listen with deep emotion, but not
    with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
    listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
    to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
    and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

    - Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

  • At 11:01 PM, Blogger roswitha said…

    Lovely, IGC. Recall the Leonard Cohen adaptation: "Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving/Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost."

    How are you today, Vik?

  • At 1:31 AM, Blogger Just Kiddin said…

    Hyderabad needs good quizzers. We provide picket fences. 2.3 kids and the man of your life are your look out.

  • At 2:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    what an ungrateful wretch! ur worse than the terrorists

  • At 2:58 AM, Blogger Vikster said…

    Sandeep: It's pessimistic all right. Most of the Bombayites I've talked to in the past 3 weeks feel this way. INCLUDING several people who moved BACK to this city from abroad cause they remembered and loved this city. It's the crumbling city + other reasons for me...like the fact I won't ever be able to afford my own house here. Unless it's about 100 sq. feet in a slum.

    Anony1: I agree. Bombs can happen anywhere. But crumbling infrastructure and soddy quality of living appears to be an Indian trait. I could take it when I was young and adventurous. But not now.

    Anony2: You've lost your bet already.

    Hob Gadling Ji: Very well written. But you must admit, nostalgia for Bombay living 20000 miles away in suburban Wisconsin is quite a different thing from actually wading through slush to get anywhere. I'm romantic about this city when I'm away from it. I think if I need to keep loving it, I need to leave.

    Mumbai_jerry: Exactly. I'd love to live somewhere else and vacation here. That way, I'll still love it.

    Boom Shanker: :-)

    Anony3: The people who died had no choice. I do, and I choose not to have to live around this. You wanna play savior? More power to you, I'll finance you. Don't expect us all to be that way. I have dreams I want to achieve. And taking care of India's security issues is not one of them.

    Fanaah: I agree. But I'd take terrorism with a great quality of living over terrorism with a shitty standard of living please.

    IGC: You understand then.

    Ros: I'm fine. Just doing my bit to take care of things.

    JK: Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire! Hyd and men? Not unless I want the Nagarjuna types..

    Anony4: Yes. Wanting to move to a better place makes me worse than someone who killed 200 people. I see your logic and bow before your supreme intelligence and eloquence.

  • At 6:17 AM, Blogger roswitha said…

    I woulodn't recommend that anyone come to Hyd, but a Nagarjuna is an order of magnitude cooler than a Chiranjeevi, so you need to pick the right mustachioed superstar to mock.

  • At 6:20 AM, Blogger roswitha said…

    Also, "woulodn't" is how we spell 'wouldn't' down in this city.

  • At 9:42 PM, Blogger anydamnguy said…

    Come to Cal.Be fellow martyrs. The city kicks my ass , day in and day out. Have to put up with this dungeon and its ugliness.
    btw, which is the most livable city in the world ?

  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger Meenakshi said…

    Ey Mon,

    Don't come back to Boston in 6 months, else you will be breaking your back shoveling blizzards sent from the heavens. Plan for a March/April arrival. We'll have a gay old time at Diesal Cafe!!

    PS: Does this mean I don't get your furniture anymore?? :(

    J/k obviously

  • At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    and vik post more often..

    .:Boom shanker:.

  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger Enemy of the Republic said…

    Sorry I haven't been around--you still are very dear to me. I understand how you feel. Oddly enough, I planned on going to Israel for Christmas, but no way now. I also planned to look for work in Asia for next year. So I can relate to your quandry.

  • At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think where you choose to live is a completely personal decision, which you don't need to justify to anyone. And while it's true that you could be the target of a terrorist attack anywhere in the world, the only places more likely to be attacked than Mumbai are Tel-Aviv and New York. Playing the odds seems better than doing nothing at all. And unlike many others, myself included, you've atleast gone back to the city you love and given it a fair chance.

    As for your Nagarjuna comment, I've often wondered how we can complain about the racism Indian men experience in the US (be it subtle or not-so-subtle), and yet cling to our own notions of the ugliness or inferiority of dark-skinned men. Apparently, Bollywood's influence extends much wider than one would think

  • At 8:07 AM, Anonymous zai said…

    Yeah, as a Hyderabadi now in Boston I have to completely ignore your poignant outpourings of love for, and fear of Bombay, and pick on the harmless yet insidious comment on mustachioed Hyderabadis. Not all of us have them! Your casual comments only add to a very well fleshed-out urban legend that does people like me no good ;) I really do wonder though, are Chiranjeevi and Nagarjuna enough for generations of Bombayites to form the prototypical south-indian feature set in their minds.

  • At 3:32 PM, Blogger Raindrop said…

    What you need, my boy, is a Tag am Meer.

  • At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    so gay fokker, u saying u quit US just to get back to bombay which u *heart* ? what were u doing in boston before you moved back? dont be a wussy, be a man dude, live it up!

  • At 4:05 AM, Blogger RUMS said…

    Where’s the man I want to spend the rest of my life with?... Was this a typo? At this point, i thought you were just pasting some woman's thoughts...

  • At 4:07 AM, Blogger RUMS said…

    Uh oh... never mind that comment...

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger jedi said…

    get cracking soon...

  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger Id it is said…

    That must hurt; parting from something that you feel so attached to. Isn't there some way you can make a change, or at least initiate it, so that there's still a chance that you live in the land you love.
    Moving to a foreign land/s creates a rootlessness that can be worrisome.

  • At 11:05 AM, Blogger Shreeharsh said…

    leaving the city because of its crumbling (and even that's probably an understatement) infrastructure is one thing. seamlessly seguing from talking about terrorism to talking about infrastructure is another, no? should i take it that you were fine with the crumbling infrastructure before but the bombs were sort of the last straw? i guess that sort of makes sense, although -- and i'm sure i'm not the first one to point this out -- bombs can go off anywhere, so you could die in boston too, you know. Oh well, keep writing!

    ps: didn't mean to sound so morbid.

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger Shreeharsh said…

    oh, and check out this new paper from the Cato Institute called "A False Sense of Insecurity?"; it relates directly to your post!


  • At 8:37 AM, Blogger AllesAufDemWeg said…

    I like your style of writing! It has really changed since your first post! :) :P

  • At 10:46 AM, Anonymous zio said…

    Doord! Hope it's North America you have in mind...

  • At 2:52 AM, Anonymous Sherry said…

    Let me introduce myself. I am a 26 year old ABCD female. I was born and raised in the state of NH, a small country-esque state. My parents came from India about 34 years ago. I am married to a wonderful guy who was born and raised in the awesome city of Bangalore India, but has been out of India for 10 years...

    People often times tell me I am more Indian than Indians from India. I speak Hindi fluently, even quite a bit of Punjabi. I can even read and write Hindi. I am a Bollywood FREAK! I have always been one. Every since my first ’’real visit’’ to India when I was 14 years old, I have been in love with the place...and at that time would say I want to move to India. Everyone in the US would tell me ’’You are nuts. It all seems nice for a few weeks.’’ Even at the age of 14, it IRKED me no end to hear other Indians in the US (NOT born in the US, but NRI’s) who would constantly insult India and say how ’’dirty’’ and ’’smelly’’ it was and how ’’badmaash’’ the people were. HELLO, in that case even YOU are dirty, badmaash, and smelly cause you ARE from there!!! This to me was SO hypocritical.

    Anyways, I had gone in between as well, but recently went on a two week trip to Bangalore India with my husband to visit his family. This entire trip has just thrown my life out of balance. I am an attorney here in the US. I make great $$, have a great education, my husband has a great job, we have a nice place, car etc. BUt yet, I have ALWAYS since that age of 14 felt that something in life is missing. Suddenly, the moment I landed in India, I was complete...

    Just seeing the Indian people around me...MY Indian people gave me such a sense of ’’fitting in.’’ I have not faced discriminination at all growing up in the US, but yet, I dont feel like I quite ’’belong’’ either. Maybe it was that particular city of Bangalore India. It is AMAZING! I mean, the amont of development, perhaps due to the multi-national companies is fantastic. There are several malls like the US, the food is awesome, just having chai on the street rocks, but most of all I enjoy my people.

    One thing I realize is that people in India have changed. Parents have moved with time, changed their ideologies, and are open to their kids’ ideas. Indian parents in the US, have NOT changed. They are stuck with some warped ideologies of the 1970’s or whenever they came from India. But yet, they feel that they are superior and more ’’broadminded and honest’’ than people in India. Again, the hypocritical attitude...Here, they stand and say that America is the BEST country...They dont like India, but YET they have built a tiny India for themselves in the US!! They dont hang out with Americans. All their friends are Indians. They only watch Satellite channels from India and live on Zee, Sony, Star TV etc. Their lives move with these TV serials. They actually hear American News on Indian News Channels!! They listen to only Indian music. They look forward to dressing up for Indian parties, where all their friends, also dressed up in the new suits and saris they picked up from their last trip to India, COMPLAIN about how dirty India is and how ’’badmaash’’ and ’’two faced’’ the people are! Do you see the irony here?

    I have developed a VERY different impression of India this time around. A GREAT respect, and a love for the place. All I know, is when I go there, I feel like I truly belong. It has kind of messed me up since I came back... I am having a hard time focusing on work (for example, I am writing this at work!) I keep thinking of ways to go more often..Perhaps through work for a year?? I dont know. But I left a piece of my heart out there...And in turn, a piece of me.

    But no one (at least of the parents generation) lets me appreciate the place. The other day, an Auntie asked me, do you think you could live there?? I looked at her and said, ’’I don’t know. Maybe.’’ This threw her off. The bindi-wearing, sari-clad US Auntie couldnt stand the fact that I had said that, and started telling me how lucky I was to be here...I was just on vacation and its different. When I move there, I will face in-law problems etc etc. Ok...If someone asked me what it is like to live in France, I would also say ’’I don’t know.’’ BECAUSE I HAVE NEVER LIVED THERE! So why the problem if I say that about India? Yes, I admit, I have not lived there. I only know what I do from my visits. But why will I sit here and say ’’I woud hate living there?’’ when I HAVEN’T lived there?? Why such an issue if I say, I like the place? When such an issue if I say I LIKE my Indian in-laws?? Are Indians who moved here just trying to convince themselves that they made the right choices?

    You know, perhaps one day, I as an ABCD, will move to India, at least for a year or two. My parents and their friends would freak at the idea, again lecturing me about how manipulative of a country it is, and how dirty it is, and how I will have problems etc etc. But all I know is, that part of me is in India. Let me discover it myself....Realize India has changed. Its not what you left behind. And don’t be ashamed to be from India. If you really want to be American, then toss away your Indian clothes, speak only English, make all American friends, throw away your ’’Jagjit Singh’’ CD’s, and get rid of your Satellite dish. And THEN lecture me on how much India stinks...Also, there are issues in India but there are in US too.



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