Lover City

June 27, 2008


Wasssssssssssssssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuupppppppppppppp my maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattteeeeeeeeeeeessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!

So hope you are checking out my new look everyday, coz now I’m not just restricted to Thursday Nights, but am almost available every night! It’s like having your favorite artist perform for you night after night after night, with something new every single night! I know, I know, don’t you love me for that 😉 Love you too, my babies 😀

Love can be for so many things, though the common and rather famous ones are the ones for the opposite sexes. Though nowadays, love for the same sexes is also heating up. But love can take various forms – for mother, for father, for friends, for siblings, for gadgets, for movies, for bikes, for cars, for cities…

I’m in love with this city – Bombay. If you ever are in Bombay, or come to Bombay, do yourself a favour. Go to South Bombay. Which comprises Colaba, Napaen Sea Road, Malabar Hill, Marine Drive, Fort, Chowpatty, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Grant Road, Muhammad Ali Road… There is a different world, and I mean world in the truest sense of the word, to see in every nook and corner of this small but magnificently vast city.

I know that most of you get to see the grime and dust of the suburbs, the pollution on the roads, the burgeoning crowd in the local trains, the open sewers, the bad infrastructure. I’ll come to that. But I’m asking you to do yourself a favour, visit Bombay with absolutely no malice or preconceived notion in your minds and hearts. Take your girl to Colaba and let her shop to her delight. If you don’t have a girl, go to Grant Road to see one of Asia’s largest electronics and computers market, on the road. Or go to Muhammad Ali Road for steals in leather, glassware, ceramics, almost anything. Or just for the food. Take a bike, hire a car, go with your friends for a night-time drive in Colaba. Where you’ll find female prostitutes posing as starlets, eunuchs posing as female prostitutes and male prostitutes posing as, well, male prostitutes. No matter how late you get, eat at Bade Miyaan’s. Or search for an all-night Irani cafe that will serve you scrumptious Kheema Ghotala with fresh pav. In the night. This city truly never sleeps.

I had thought of writing this paean to my city long back. Then I thought I’ll write it this Monday. But then I did something that perhaps will alter the way I think about this city. I picked up a book. Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour again. Buy it. Borrow it. Steal it. Beg for it. But read it. That, and Shantaram, which I rate as one of the loveliest books I’ve read, because it comes out as an act of love. Shantaram is a lover’s poem to this city, an autobiographical which turns into a biography of this city. Maximum City is billed a non-fiction, but it’s harder, rougher, more raw than fiction, with smatterings of autobiographical musings and excerpts and interviews of real people. Read them both, and then tell me you hate Bombay. I’ll call you heartless.

Yes, this city has innumerable, seemingly insurmountable woes. I won’t defend it by giving the same old lines that people give – immigrant population explosion, less land, encroachment, corruption, worsening infrastructure. I’ll give you hard statistics. Delhi has 1458 sq. km of land and has 1/5th of the rainfall Bombay has. Bombay is only 428 sq. km in area and has rainfall close to the dense green forests of Africa. In 1990, Bombay had a density of 15000 people per square kilometre. Some parts of central Bombay have a population density of one million people per square mile. This is the largest congregation of people at any given point, in any given part of the world. These are 1990 statistics. It’s been 18 years since then, with an exponential growth in India’s as well as Bombay’s population. I won’t tell you how huge the calculation is, what results to make out of it, etc. Go do it yourself and then come back to me.

Bombay to me, to you, to us, is like a lover, mind you not a wife, just a lover. A lover to whom we can come at anytime, who is ready for us anytime, ready to accommodate us, feed us, love us and yet, allow us to leave without making a fuss about it. A lover who doesn’t mind if you are not true to her, who doesn’t mind if you abuse her, leave her for someone else. It moves on, because there is someone else who needs her, who is wanting to make love to her. No other city in India, I don’t know about the world, let’s you be who you are. You go to the South, and you’ll have to learn a South-Indian language or restrict yourself to English. Go to the North, and you’ll restrict yourself to your house or wherever you stay. similar stories with the East and West. The cities accept you, their cultures don’t. They are like high-bred women, who will accept you, but with conditions. Whom you will go back to because they are like wives. They may not adjust completely, but will keep you on the straight path. Bombay is a whore. It doesn’t have a culture of its own. Its you who brings your culture to it. What you see in her is what you gave her. She mirrors you, yet so unobtrusively, that you fail to see your own reflection. It is you who make her feel complete. It lets you be yourself. And hence, you keep coming back to her. To assert your ego, your maleness, your dominance. She takes all you got, and gives all she has, without holding anything back.

In Bombay, you can be yourself. She lets you. She’s like that smart lover who knows that though you may want to assert yourself and try to prove that you won’t bend and be yourself, you still need care and love. And she won’t stop you from being yourself. Rather she’ll encourage it. And you, prompted by this love, will try to become more like her. More accommodating, more adjusting, more loving. Bambaiyya.

The problems of Bombay are not many immigrants, it is not corruption, it is not illiteracy. It is this treatment that Bombay gets, as a whore. You come here, fuck her to death, bleed her, and then with a light heart and lighter load in your testicles, you go back to your wives, to your home-towns, leaving a sad, old whore behind. But you will never, ever get her out of you. She’ll be a part of you as long as you are alive, and maybe more after you are dead. Every morning Bombay wakes up like a newly-wed and every evening, it dazzles like a courtesan in all its brilliance. No other city can boast of being this rich, yet so poor.

But the cracks are showing. No amount of make-up can hide the fact that Bombay is losing its sheen. That other new girls, with newer, better assets, are emerging on the horizon. But Bombay smiles. Because she knows she has what no one else can claim or dream to have. Love. The other girls are in it for business. Trying to emulate Bombay’s phenomenal success. Using their beauty and charm to seduce new lovers. But the old-timers will not be fooled. Bombay did it out of love. She’s a whore not by profession, but by choice. Not for money, but for love.

Maybe what she needs is the support of her many lovers. But she’s unfortunate there. It’s many lovers shit where they make love to her. Even those who claim to be her dutiful husbands, the sons of the soil, rape her with impunity, smear blood across her face and parade her naked, showing the world a monstrous, ugly sight of terrorism, bigotry and intolerance, the very things she is against. She has been portrayed as being biased to her different lovers. That she belongs to only a section of them. The problems arise in Bombay when one section or one person tries to claim her for himself. Because she does not belong to one community or sect. She gives love to all, she expects love from all. But she can’t help it. She got herself into this mess, when she opened her arms and legs for all and sundry.

But maybe all is not lost. I say this because it is only here that someone will pay for my rickshaw fare home, because I had no change. And leave me with the words, “You can pay me back or pay for someone else.” A magnanimous heart. That’s what Bombay makes you into.

I will not call her a whore. To do that will be to demean myself. She’s my lover, perhaps the only true one. Maybe I’ll go far someday, to different nations, different cities. But I’d like to be buried here. Amidst the sea and the mangroves. In the arms of my lover. You can go back to your wives. I, like the great poets, do not have anyone to go back to. I’ll spend my days in the house of the courtesan, drinking her wine and taking in her sights. Because only she can give me unconditional, un-prejudiced love.

Save my Bombay. That’s the least that you can do.

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6 Responses to “Lover City”

  1. Tushar Chavan Says:

    agree to all u have said,

    Mumbai populated with an estimated 13.66 million, makes it the second most populous city among all the cities of world.

    The first stand goes to Shanghai, but as mentioned by u we see where both of them stands if compared

    If thats not enough along with Navi Mumbai and Thane(both of Mumbai’s suburbs),it makes a total of nineteen million, making it the fifth most populous metropolitan area in the world.

    And if anyone have time enough have a stay for an hour at any of major railway stations and have a count of people from all parts of country alighting to make a life in the city, that can prove whats its worthed for

  2. Soumyadeep Mishra Says:

    Hi Ivan,

    This is the third time that i am browsing through your writing. More so because I am anicipating your next piece on this space. As i have found the previous one still showing up as the recent blog, I cant prevent myself but to surf my mind and thoughts with your writing, once again. Reading your blogs, i have realized that i had known earlier but never felt that its entirely upon the way a person speaks or a person writes that a situation or a matter can be comprehended. Never before in my lifetime so far I have been influenced so much with the writing of someone, with a topic so commonplace. Its really like mother giving her child a regular dish so altered in taste, so good in appearance,which her child would otherwise, have hated to even see.

  3. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.


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