24 years I’ve been in Bombay. 19 of which, I recollect. And in front of my eyes, I’ve seen the electrifying city lose its fizz. And mind you, not in comparison with any other city. Many of you must be questioning/cursing me for entitling it Bombay and not Mumbai. But for me, it will always be Bombay, because those were the Golden years. And even if the name change took place in ’95, it was still Bombay for me for a few years after that.
Before making such an emphatic statement, I did consider the generation gap syndrome as well. But times were simpler then, more human. Blame it on globalization or the political scenario, with its development came the demolition of its nicety and innocence – maybe here, the seeds of decline were sown. Never before did people want to move out of Bombay before. The claustrophobia itself is encroaching, and people can no longer breathe.
Diwali was an amalgamation of each apartment, each society and each locality coming together and celebrating this festival of light, but Diwali was never big in Bombay as compared to North India.
Bombay although cosmopolitan, celebrates 3 festivals with vigour, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri and the New Year. Barring the first one, the rest have become commercial properties and the former too slowly but surely is bending towards the same.
Back in 90’s, these festivals would literally hold the city in ransom, and its inhabitants would willingly pay their dues. These festivals were reasons for families to unite, brothers to bond and this is where peaceful, harmonious, happy communities existed. With no time limits, people used to merry until the wee hours of morning, only till some Jacks rose and decided to misuse and create havoc with freedom, rules and regulations thus came into place. With many running behind the buck now, and a life that befriends stress, these festivals have become nothing but another paid holiday. This is the case with Ganesh Chaturthi.
Navratri is now a place to dance and fornicate. With alleged reports stating condom sales are at its peak during this season, 9 nights have found a new meaning in Mumbai. It’s Mumbai’s shameful answer to ban St. Valentine. While love remains unceremonial, pre-marital sex gets the company of music and dance for 9 nights.
New Years used to be ‘Burning the Old Man’ culture. But then again there are a few who still indulge. Sadly, the parties enjoy the extra hours levy and profit heavily during this time.
Though these festivals are dying and Bombayites are turning into I-don’t-know-my-neighbours New Yorkers, the festival of IPL, though enjoying a commercial corpus is bringing people closer – and this is not restricted to Bombay.
While the cultural flavour is dying, the new gaming generation has successfully pwned the outdoors. Although this is an established fact, and not a revelation of sorts, the sorry state of today’s children is appalling. While books and a cricket bat have become furniture, the consoles are controlling their lives. Don’t we all remember the days when we bought a new bat and showed it off in the entire colony? The times we used to add additional grips or use brands as stickers or resort to rubber balls, light tennis and hard tennis balls? The exciting monsoons of football every season? Unfortunately kids these days await the latest versions of these games.
Taking the encroaching apartments in the city, many areas have benefitted, and I won’t deny the spread of joy. But then they too have come at a cost. The western suburbs are already claustrophobic and the encroachment at the National Park is simply intolerable. While the suburbs have become cooler, the psychographics of these areas have become warped. Every suburb imitates a certain sub-culture or a western culture altogether. Development has come with a price. The only area that remains true to its old world charm is South Bombay. The town still has its romance intact, the architectural brilliance and the vibe of this area remains the same. While many single screen theatres have bitten the dust, a few prominent single-screen theatres still hold their ground, reminding us of an era gone by. Bombay cared. It wasn’t indifferent. It had a heart. It all changed when Mumbai was born.
(Didn’t want to dabble into the political side of the debate)