Sunday, April 28, 2013

Now a Mumbaikar

Life is much like a train that takes you through many Cities.

It has taken me from Coimbatore to Madurai to Chennai to Baton Rouge to Madison to Chicago to Bangalore and now in Mumbai.

Coimbatore is very special to me. The monsoon drizzle in June/July, then the Puja and Diwali rains, the chill in December,  Pongal time visit to a village temple from where my father came from and the summer holidays - visiting the Annual Exhibition - the highlight of the city once. Lot of sweet simple memories - all intertwined among school friends, street friends, relatives and festivals.

Madurai was hot. Super hot. Got Jaundice and Chicken pox. This city lives and breathes Tamil. I still remember one Sugarcane vendor's rhyming statement when he had to go attend nature's call after handing over the juice ( thankfully ) "Aatharathai adaku mudiyum aana mootharathai adaku mudiyuma" [ You can control Anger - aatharam, but you cannot control nature's call - mootharam ]. All the streets, places had beautiful names - Anupaanadi, Thallakulam - and each has a story which the Tamil Miss will tell. Then the school I attended where except me all were somehow related to each other - and at times during marriage season half the class will be gone to attend a wedding!

Chennai was magical. The beach, the crowd, the super hot summers and movies. I tasted freedom. Had my own pocket money to spend between movies, food or books. Life in CEG was even more awesome. Techofes, Waves, Student Union Elections, running a stall during Techofes, the "study" tours, the labs, late night chat parties, editing a magazine, horrible hostel food, the cricket matches in TV room with some 200 people crammed into a 20x20 room - that too in that chennai summer - each day was new and un-predicatable. Then the second phase of Chennai life where I worked in TCS - had lot of money now - could go places where I could never go before - Residency buffet or Ponnuswamy or Anjappar and could buy any book or CD when I wanted. I once blew a months salary on a VCD system and watched umpteen movies week after week from a VCD rental shop in Velacherry who did door delivery. But got bored quickly with this life.

Was once again broke as a student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I went for my Masters. It was Super hot in summer when I landed. I thought USA was a cold place. This was year 2000 - did not know of Google or a website to go check for Weather. And it was a place with warm hearts and down to earth people and had a unique culture  Cajun culture. Learnt to cook  and got addicted to American Football, Baseball and Basketball. It was a lazy laid back place with a huge river - Mississippi - and God Awesome hurricanes.

Then shifted from Hottest place in USA to the Coldest place - Madison - another college town. And then to Chicago - a fairy tale place with museums and sky scrapers and parks and lakes and plays and all kinds of restaurants from around the world - so much to do - cycling,trekking - or just walking near the lakes late nights. If I ever go back to live in USA, here is where I will drop my anchor.

Then Bangalore. I actually feel sorry for this nice little city. In the 6 years that I was there, could see the city turn into a concrete jungle. Do not know how the old timers feel. But this city feels young and vibrant.  Here is where the New India ( India 2.0 ) is being forged. Barcamps, Devcamps, cycle commuters, car poolers, Tree planting drives, New Age Politicians, Wasteland turned into a meeting cum work place cum garage sale place, Eco Conservationists...its a long list of new age thinkers and doers. Then the MG Road, Brigade Road, Church Street, Cubbon Park and now Metro - loved to just hang out.  335E Volvo - thanks to traffic will take 1 hour to reach my office - a distance of 8 kms - and I crunched book after book - Leo Tolstoy, Paulo Coelho, Ayn Rand, Robert Pirsig - thanks to Justbooks - a library startup from Bangalore. And Startups - cart loads of them.

Finally since last year - moored in Mumbai. Started on the wrong foot - bike got towed, got hit with a fine next day for jumping signal. Discovered public transport, most are super hard working people, folks who respect and value money, auto drivers who return 1 Rupee, parks everywhere, dirty roads and pan spits everywhere, and Rains that keep going on and on and all festivals celebrated with lot of food, music and dance. This is one crazy city. Folks here do 2 3 jobs and are always looking for new opportunities and to make things work. 200 sqft shops where some 10 people work in this space thanks to the concept of a "mezzanine floor" - like the new office we are to move shortly ( will post photos next week after we move ). Its amazing how Mumbai uses space.

Yet to fully discover Mumbai. It has so many layers which I keep peeling as I continue my journey here. But the thing I have come to appreciate the most are Drinkable Tap Water ( felt guilty drinking bisleri water in Bangalore ), zero power cuts and a Public Transport that is so reliable.

Where next? No idea - I live in the present :)