This first "real" post is an ode to my birthplace, my hometown - the incomparable city of Bombay.
Mumbai, as it is called now, will always be Bombay in my mind. The first 21 years of my life were spent in this crowded, exhilarating lump of seven islands.
My experience of Bombay will always be different from the hordes that call this city their home. I did not grow up in the "town", or in one of the "ethnic" neighborhoods. The area that I grew up in, was a secure, middle class neighborhood of the finest scientists of the country. A cosmopolitan melting pot, our neighbors were families from all over the country - each trying to adapt, mingle and assimilate - some more eagerly than others.
My mother moved to Bombay after her wedding, and as much as she missed her own hometown (and now I know what that means), she adapted well to city life. My father, who like millions of others, came to this city to find a job, has his own unique story of his journey to Bombay.
Growing up, I did not need to take a bus or a train to school, those indispensable aspects of life in Bombay. Our neighbors and friends all had one or both parents working for the same organization. Our health-care was paid for by the government. My parents did not struggle to find a good school for us, we had access to an excellent school less than 2 minutes from home.
It was only after I started attending college that I came out of the protective cocoon of our highly secure township life. I faced the daily rigor of taking a local train, and then a bus. And once in college, I found that in fact I had one of the shortest commutes among my classmates! However,what stands out in my mind is not the commute or the hardship, but the experience of college life in Bombay. I was friends with the conservative and the most liberal, with friends who had very little to friends who had everything - I mean EVERYTHING. People who had connections to the rich and the famous, to friends who were their family's ticket to a better life. I think of those days as the most educational years of my life - not because of the degree I received, but because of the life lessons I learnt there.
So I never lived the "typical" Bombay experience. But then, who really has? I am, in fact, a part - but only a part of it. Like every other Bombayite. And THAT is the "typical" Bombay story - a collection of 18 million pieces of everyday experiences.