Every day in Bombay, one is provided with a few opportunities to forget where they are. This is because though Bombay is situated in the state of Maharashtra, on India’s west coast, bordering the Arabian sea, it’s actually its own place… and not like any other.
A Delhi-ite argued with a cell phone salesman over the rates, saying they were lower in the north.
“Delhi is Delhi,” the shopkeeper proclaimed in famous Bombaiyya Hindi. Making a kissing sound as though to call a cat or a dog, he touched his fingers to his forehead and waved his hand dismissively in a distinctly Indian gesture. “We are in Bombay.”
In Bombay, I forget where I am. In many ways, I could be in any cosmopolitan city in the world.
Young women in Bandra are dressed in dark jeans, black tops and sandals. They toss their dark hair over their shoulders and carry lattes in takeout cups. We could be in Rome.
In Lower Parel, teenagers from wealthy families enjoy pool parties in fancy hotels. They smoke cigarettes and dance like music video stars. We could be in Los Angeles.
At Marine Drive,couples of all ages sit along the edge of the ocean, talking about life and kissing. We could be in Vancouver.
So why have I come to Bombay? I wonder. To sip cappucino in a cafe with wifi, or dance at a nightclub playing western commercial music?
Thank goodness though, that when young Mumbaikars leave those nightclubs in the wee hours of the morning, they can go and eat their favourite pav bhaji at a snack stall.
Thank goodness that when I leave the western oasis of the wifi cafe, I am find myself stuck in the traffic created by Ganpati festival. A Ganesh idol the size of a real elephant is being carried through the street, and several hundred people, as well as many animals and trapped vehicles fill the space. A brass band in uniform plays celebratory music at top volume. A few of Mumbai’s Punjabis dance to the dhol, thrusting their arms in the air and grinning. In my rickshaw, unable to go anywhere, it’s all I can do to shake my shoulders and dance a few bars myself. I may not be in India, but at least I’m in Bombay.
Bronwyn McBride is a student from Vancouver, BC, and now lives between India and Canada. After quitting her intensive study of circus arts and dance in Quebec, Bronwyn flew across the globe alone to see if she could live in a very different way. It wasn’t her first visit to India, and wouldn’t be her last!
Wherever she is, Bronwyn explores different ways to volunteer and get involved with local communities. She’s worked with severely disabled kids in a Mother Teresa orphanage in Kolkata, crossed the country with a social change performance tour, and has spent long months through the boiling summer in Varanasi, working in a school for girls. Next up: enjoying volunteerism and a foray into Bollywood in India’s cosmopolitan metropolis, Mumbai.
More of Bronwyn’s writing can be found at: www.bronwyngrace.wordpress.com