Travelling from Malad to Nariman Point has been really painful. I mean though I have a chauffeur, but still it seems like a never ending road. Be it Link Road, S V Road or the Highway (probably India's only Highway which has chocobloc traffic), the road just doesn't end. It's been more than two years that I have been requesting PNC's Chariman Pritish Nandy and Creative Director Rangita Nandy to shift their office to somewhere midway like Bandra. That would have solved a lot of problem. But I guess, they prefer South Bombay for some reason unknown to me. Travelling from Malad to Nariman Point takes nearly 3 hours (one way) and the same (or even more) while returning. Considering that most of the film industry offices are at suburbs, I really can't fathom the fact that why aren't they moving out. I mean, travelling has becomes wastage of time. Imagine if you are supposed to travel 6 hours (average) everyday? That's killing!!
But guys, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against South Mumbai. I have somehow landed up in working at organizations which has their base in South Mumbai. My first job in Mumbai was at Stardust - Film Magazine. 100/E Old Prabhadevi Road. Though I belong to suburbs, my memories with South Mumbai have been always sweet.
When I shifted my base from Kolkata to Mumbai, I was very excited. For me, Mumbai means opulence and glamour. I guess, that's a general conception. I was worried about my accommodation in Mumbai, but Mr Nari Hira (owner of Magna Publications) offered an accommodation at Prabhadevi. It was a studio apartment (actually a chawl) just next to Stardust office. It was a small one room apartment, just livable for a bachelor. In fact, I enjoyed staying in that building for more than two years. It was fun... and the neighbours were extremely good. And how can I forget the local stationary store owner, who would even cook lunch for me once in a while. My office was at walking distance and I remember how my colleagues used to envy me, all in good humor.
The first day when I reached office at sharp 9:30 am, no one was there. Mr Hira called me in his lavish office room and we discussed story ideas. Then I had a brief meeting with Ashwin Varde (a sweetheart) who also briefed me the kind of stories Stardust does and their expectation from me. Around 10:30 I met the editor of Stardust Sonali Kotnis Jaffar. I remember clearly that, Mr Hira had called all my colleagues Hiren Kotwani, Dhaval Roy, Archana Aitthal and Suguna Sundaram and he was very upset about the fact that none of then reached office on time. Basically, Mr Hira didn't want me to get the feel that no one comes on time to work. But he would be right on time everyday. They all were furious at me, because I came on time. Later it became a joke that I would come on time even if there is an earthquake. Once in a while when I used to be late, Sonali would jokingly say, "Bahut traffic tha?" But, frankly speaking it was just like an extended family, which I miss till today. I have grown in terms of experience, I am happy with the kind of work I am doing, but I feel that I miss all my colleagues from Stardust!
My colleague Archana would always bring in humour with her bitchy statement. She is someone whom I really like for what she is. The 'care a damn' attitude makes her loveable. Every time she would come to office, she would start her day with: "Uff... aaj train mein na woh ladki ne..." Yes, that's Archana. Full of energy and humor. She would narrate a very serious incident in a way which would bring in smile. She used to stay in a beautiful bungalow at New Bombay. For me, New Bombay was just a place, I didn't have any idea about the distance. I would listen to all her funny stories, about her co-passengers and her daily trauma. And if I would say anything, or even comment something, she would immediately stop me saying, "Tu chup kar, pudak ke office chala ata hai.. Mumbai ka traffic aur train ke bare mein koi bhi idea hai?" Though she would have hundreds of problem with train service, still she loved travelling in train. "Ab yehi sacchchai hai meri zindagi ki..." she would mimic in Meena Kumari style!
Hiren would come from Mira Road, Shashank would come from Vashi, Dhaval would come from Borivilli, Sonali would drive down from Andheri and Suguna would come from Goregaon. Soon I started realizing that they all travel from far, and I am blessed that Mr Hira has given me accommodation. Loads of memories, which makes me smile every time I pass the lane. From the kulfiwala to dosa stall, from the small Sai Baba Mandir to laudrywala, those are the little things which make that dingy lane really colourful.
Later when I decided to move out from Stardust and join Times of India (Mumbai Mirror), I had to leave the accommodation. I started looking for rental place around Prabhadevi, and realized that it was just beyond my budget. Any decent apartment would cost anything between 20,000 to 50,000 and chawls would cost 10,000 to 15,000. Finally, I decided to shift to Andheri Lokhandwala. My new one bed room apartment was at Montreal Towers. I was very happy with my new pad, it was small, but beautiful. But soon I realized that I had to travel from Andheri to Town. I had to join my office which was just opposite Victoria Terminus (VT). Now that's far beyond Prabhadevi. Each day, I would travel, I would feel for my Stardust colleagues. I realized that what trauma they must be going through. I guess lakhs of people across the city are facing the same problem. And we really don't have any solution.
From day one, I had this phobia of travelling in Mumbai locals. I preferred to travel by air conditioned bus. Now that used to be another experience. The bus would take the longest route to reach Churchgate. That helped me in understanding each and every lane of South Mumbai. From Mahim dargah to Mumba Devi, from Babulnath to Haji Ali, from Naaz Cinema to Fashion Street. The magic of South Mumbai was growing on me. Frankly speaking, it's actually South Mumbai or popularly known as Town, has its own characteristic. The Gothic buildings, the Victorian monuments... all add specific character to the city. But it would take more than 3 hours to reach office. I would immediately rush to Times of India canteen to have lunch. (They would serve 6 to 7 items at just Rs 2.)
Mumbai Mirror was also fun. I was reading Khalid Mohammad's blog where he aptly mentioned that his tenure in HT can be compared to a film production. Even my experience with my colleagues, editors, PRs, stars and their secretaries would make enough fodder for Page 3 sequel. But I decided to move on, and joined Pritish Nandy Communications. Meanwhile I got married, moved to Malad and now I am travelling from Malad to Nariman Point. The crowd that gathers during the lunch break. The stalls... having masala dosa with my colleagues and subway salads. We witnessed 26/11, we were scared, but then we all came back to our regular life. Nariman Point symbolizes the heart of Mumbai. The first impression on this city. Though, South Mumbai is far, but somehow it's close to my heart.
I look at the streets of Mumbai. I see everyone is travelling, from one end to other. People are frustrated with everything, from roads to trains to buses. But still we are travelling, doing our duties. Every face comes with a different story, every day has a different tale... we need to live with these stories. More cars, more traffic and still we will move. Nothing stops in life... its about how you decide to move. The one who knows the right step, lives longer. Others perish!