I wish i had been to Mumbai but even if I had, I would have not been able to explain vividly the changes happening there like a native citizen. Thanks to my dear friend Pranav Lal, a very capable young man in my MBA program, we now have a chance to look at another amazing city in the world.
Here it goes:
After a crazy roller coaster period of one and a half years, I finally got my break and came home. While the plane was landing on Mumbai, I could see the cars driving and some piled up in long lines at the signals. As soon as you land, the people who would earlier form lines and give courtesy would just turn into animals and launch out of the airplane. No one even waits for the plane to stop and the seat belt sign to come off.
Welcome to Mumbai, where everyone is in a rush. That can never change I suppose.
After getting my luggage, I get approached by a guy telling me if I pay him $50 he can get me cleared through the customs green channel. I had nothing to declare and had no electronic items too. I told the guy thanks but I had nothing for the green channel. He still persisted and asked. I said, “I really don’t have anything.” He abused me and went ahead. A nice way to get welcomed back home!
As soon as I am out of the airport I felt a bit nervous seeing so many people out there. Man, the people have doubled it seemed. Was trying to locate my parents and after 3-4 minutes they were able to locate me.
I was glad to sit in the car to head back home. But we had just moved like a mile and we had stopped. It was already a jam at 1 AM. Mumbai is always under construction with fly-overs and more expansions. Just too much construction is going on. A lot more number of cars and a lot more construction. By the time I get to enjoy the new infrastructure, I feel, I would be so frustrated that I wont be living in the same city.
Well the thing that changed was the number of vehicles, people and buildings.
When I reached home, I was amazed to see a 15-floor tower in front of me. When I had left, the ground was also not cleared for construction. There were more malls and more shops.
After relaxing for a few days, I took the public transport to get back that feeling. I boarded the local train and remembered the three years I traveled literally hanging by the bars to reach office. It was a weekend then, so the train was relatively empty. The traveling time had surely reduced and the train was traveling faster. People now reach at work faster!
The prices of commute had also gone up a lot. The rickshaw ride which earlier used to be Rs 11 is now Rs.13, the train tickets prices have gone up too.
I met my old office buddies and went out with them for dinner to a decent restaurant. Almost all dishes there were priced from Rs. 250 ($5). That was a real surprise. When I had left the same dishes were around Rs 100-150. The onions were at an all time high when I was there.
My friends then decided to take me shopping. There were just too many shopping outlets now. Any brand, any make is now available. The malls are filled with shops and then the employees. These malls sure have given a lot of employment to people. Indians unlike Americans depend on other people for their shop. They want people to show them the variety and options rather than look for themselves. This generates a lot of job for salesman and store employees.
I wondered how these shops would sustain themselves. But, the middle class now a lot more spending power. The pay packages have gone up. People now here spend money more openly than what they used to. More and more families are out eating and having a good time. The middle class really seems to be flourishing and doing well in Mumbai.
It’s a race still in Mumbai. People are running at any point of time to get a better life, to get money and to be happy. With so much stress and pollution I really wonder if anyone will reach the state of being happy. Do we really need to run a race? I guess we do, to feed ourselves and our family.