Mumbai is the city of dreams and attracts people from all over the world. She promises success, riches, and fame to all those who enter her land. She will sweep you up into a life of glitz and glamour and make everything seem like an easy path to success.
But Mumbai also has undercurrents as strong as the Arabian Sea bordering her coast. She will drag you under at the hint of failure and leave you with no way out. She will take and take until you have nothing left to give.
Mumbai was always the city of dreamers. Those who wished to establish businesses, factories, schools, and other institutions always came here to make it big. Thus, pre-independent India saw a massive boom in newly established Mumbai businesses.
These businesses and other institutions have survived in the city for decades. Some have even made their mark for over a century. While the city initially consisted of seven separate islands, after bringing them together, Mumbai flourished even further.
The city dwellers first made their fortunes by establishing shipping and fishing industries. The Iranian diaspora made their mark by starting several cafes that still give gourmet restaurants a run for their money.
The Ballard Estate, Kayani Cafe, Regal Cinema, Prince of Wales Museum, Victoria Terminus, and the Jehangir Art Gallery are prime examples of the creme de la creme of cafes. Over the years, Mumbai has become synonymous with wealth and high society.
However, this high social status applies only to what the locals affectionately call South Bombay or SoBo. Although the South Bombay locality extends to Mahim and Sion, the ‘posh’ crowd always seems to be from Colaba, Cuff Parade, or Worli.
Even Mumbaikars often forget that the city often extends beyond the glitz and glamour of South Mumbai. Localities such as Kalyan, Panvel, Virar, and Andheri often get overlooked when stating the grandeur of the financial capital of India.
Although the city houses the wealthy, it only runs smoothly through the city labourers and their sweat and hard work. While the city dazzles newcomers with its highrises and magnificent seaways, it also hides the dirty secrets of its residents.
Mumbai is one of the most populated cities in the country, and the garbage collection makes this statement true. The city overflows with dilapidated garbage disposal equipment, and the municipal workers do not own appropriate protective gear.
They face heaping mounds of rotting garbage with bare faces and hands. Worse than that is the fate of the sanitation workers who clean the sewers and drains in Mumbai. They call them manual scavengers because they enter unhygienic environments without protective gear.
The country abolished casteism and the practice of untouchability in the 1950s. India has a rich history of dividing people based on caste. Earlier, we had the Brahmans, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, the Shrujras, and the Harijans. The Harijans were the lowest in the hierarchy and could not share well water with the other castes. The higher castes would not even touch anyone beneath their caste.
After several discussions, the government established Schedule Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Castes (OBC). Individuals belonging to these sections would face certain benefits provided by the government. Unfortunately, the SC/SC and OBC quotas have begun working against such individuals.
The city also relies on the hard work of several lunch delivery men, known colloquially as dabbawalas. These men travel across the city in the scathing heat or melting downpours to deliver home-cooked meals to corporate workers.
They are often overlooked and do not receive fair compensation for their work. However, when asked about their thoughts, they are always happy to provide for the hustling Mumbaikars.
Mumbai also hides the seedy underbelly of prostitution. Kamathipura, the largest red light district in Asia, is in Mumbai. The women of the district face heavy discrimination, and many have not stepped outside of their place of work. Recently, there have been many documentaries showcasing these women. However, they portray them based on their work rather than as people. It will take a lot of social debate to sensitise the public to their plight.
There also hides a dark side to one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. Many young women travel to Mumbai with dreams of becoming a movie star. More often than not, young women from rural India receive big promises, but the industry exploits them.
From harassment to dismissal, women have faced it all to make it big in the Bollywood industry. Rarely have the perpetrators faced the consequences of their actions. The past glamourised Bollywood, but few know the struggle to make their dreams come true.
Fortunately, we can say that the future of Mumbai will soon change. The youth have taken charge of the narrative and will tear apart any illusions. They will ensure that the city will become worthy of the superlative, “The city of dreams.”
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