I moved to Mumbai six years ago, following my marriage. Growing up in small towns and having spent almost a decade in Banaras, I was initially surprised to find the fast pace of Mumbai. Indeed, it was so fast that while boarding a local train one fine December morning of 2014, I almost actually fell off the train. I got away with minor bruises and the train too did not stop for me. But then there were so many hands to help me get up that day. One kind woman who was a nurse by profession dressed my wound, while another offered to take me to a doctor. I was taken aback, not used to such generosity from strangers. That day, I realised the good side of the city and the people here.
On another such day, when I was returning after a trip to Banaras, with a huge suitcase loaded with about twenty heavy books, I decided to take the local train from the nearby railway station in Andheri. So, I was struggling to climb the stairs of this crowded overbridge with my rather heavy suitcase (there were no escalators then). At least five women stopped to ask me if I needed any help. Now, I really did not want to be helped but the women waiting and asking me if I needed any help, was something I had never witnessed on any of my trips to and from other cities.
Eventually, I landed up having my dream job as an editor with a magazine, where I found an amazing jolly group of women. They would be busy with their work through the day and at lunch hour they would share food and talk about so many things. The conversations would range from their everyday lives to the latest movies. They would talk mostly in Marathi, a new language for me. I could grasp only a few words, nonetheless enjoying the aura of fun and joy. Eventually I began understanding Marathi, and the group became more fun.
I also fortunately associated with an NGO in Mumbai, where I was a part of a dynamic public action group that worked for slum children. The women here were full of zeal and enthusiasm for the good of the lesser privileged. The acquaintance of those incredible women made me realise how women in this busy city take time off to think about the others.
My next workplace was a college where I taught for a short period, but even there, I met two wonderful women who were my colleagues. I could somehow relate a lot to them and they helped me through one of the toughest phases of my life.
My last workplace was a children’s publication where I met the most amazing group of women writers. We connected very well and it was difficult to part from such a wonderful group. But then I had to take a break from work to be with my little one.
Talking about the women of Mumbai, I should not forget the ‘sisterhood of train friends’. Women in Mumbai mostly commute through local trains. There is something called a ‘Ladies’ Special’ train particularly meant for women commuters that runs at the office hours. If you commute on these trains regularly for a week, you will certainly make some great friends. These women belong to different professions, different workplaces, and different backgrounds, but what stands out is the warmth of their friendship. They will chat about everything under the sky, keep seats for each other (often also fight to sit beside the window) and also offer seats to women in need (pregnant women, older women, women travelling with kids, or anyone who is sick).
You meet all kinds of people in your life, and each one of them leaves a lasting impression on your mind. Some of them play the role of good teachers for you by teaching you a tough lesson, while the others become your friends. A new city brings the promise of a new kind of life – which might bring in changes in you, and then sometimes you adjust with the changes and sometimes the circumstances around you adapt to you.
Life in the last six years was a complete roller coaster for me. I learnt my lessons and became what I am now (not talking about any achievement, but about growing up and growing older in the last six years). Eventually the city became mine. I cannot deny the women of my city have contributed to making me a part of life here, a tiny bit of Mumbai, and I love that tiny bit thoroughly.