A caricature of disproportionate dimensions of what the world lives day to day. The remains of time and space that preceded the consolidation of what we now perceive as the universe, resides here, in the form of utter chaos...and sucks you in when you've been there long enough. The crowd, the ancestral customs and the climate are just parts of the whole equation, which gives form to this unique place in the world called Mumbai. A caricature, because everything comes in extremes: people, customs, colors, buildings, work, weather, food, traffic, history, religion, education, flora and fauna....a whole civilization which resides in the brink of living and dying. Everything is either black or white; there is barely a rising presence of grey in the middle class of society... the younger ones, who have to deal with the burden of global competition, old unchanging traditions and a system of no order that begs for constant change.
Mumbai is a city of sizes and quantities, where presentation is overlooked and lost in the midst of outstanding activity. From loud horns and heavy smog of the traffic, to the immensity of linguistic variety that anyone can possibly hear on just one alley...to the eager cries of crows and stray dogs throughout the day...Mumbai's voice is a particular one, which only a few outsiders would withstand. Smell carries that eccentricity too, along with a dose of unattended poverty odor that impregnates wastelands, water canals, street pavements and roads, and heavily slummed urbs. Sight is as heterogeneous as it can possibly be on any place on Earth; you just need to look no further from Bollywood and Diwali. There is no wonder why India is the most diverse country in the world demographically, racially, culturally, ethnically, religiously and linguistically. Mumbai is probably the best representative of such diversity. And taste doesn't fall short either, gastronomy being strongly linked with the aforementioned qualities.
Fascination comes to those who look at Mumbai from the outside. Frustration, exhaustion, pain of knowing better...to those who come from inside and step out, perhaps visit the West and unavoidably compare. Idleness, uniformity, even comfort on the disorder...for the inborn, happy ones....perhaps some of them ignorant too, predestined to lead a life according to what the overpowering caste system has dictated for them...or too afraid to rebel against it. All of this, once again, comes in extremes: the smartest children of the future, as well as some of the most disfavored conditions in which a population is trying to survive...all colliding in one conglomeration. And with all this, an outstandingly great amount of love: family bonds, marriage relationships, and Gods worships...and, as with anything, abundance can have a potential to do harm. Millions hold the view of respect and sacrifice wholeheartedly, which can be a double edge sword of honor and love, as well as repression if faith is blind... like pressed brake pedals for those who seek privacy, independence, and an identity of their own... A good lot of the grey section of society is relying on hard work and education as the means of a better life...and devote a whole lifetime to pursue that, or at least ensure that their children will carry on the legacy and achieve the objective. And at the same time that wives worship their husbands, children obey their parents for life, and friends become as good as family if not better... a good lot condemn those who try to be shepherds and not the herd instead...prejudging from individual past experiences and do not make any attempt to question the rules and regulations....or the lack of, for that matter.
The mentality of no order has invaded Mumbai with strict laws of nature. Rickshaws are coexisting with cattle in the asphalt...buses don't bother opening or closing doors, and trains get jam packed like beehives...the constant race of who gets first and who leads the run never ceases. There is no time for "excuse me's", "sorry's", "thank you's" and "please's"...you'll be eaten by the mass need and greed if you wait for the value in them to expose...it just doesn't work like that there. And is all logically justified too, contrary to the belief of human rights bystanders who try to make big fuzz about it all: how the hell are you supposed to control such a huge mass, without some austerity?
Modernization in India is coming by the need of giving people a place rather than comfort of living. The latter is just a luxury, the former a priority. Mumbai is a metropolitan city unlike any other, because abundant projects are taking place, all at the moment in their skeletal phase....an initiative to make a jump from third to first world country, which right now is on the rise, but with a lot of room to still overtake. It’s a much better contender to the title of “sleepless city”, and a much bigger apple than NYC. The sparkling glows, the colors, the festivals, the activity and the transit make it beautiful, loud, life-full, and energetic. But behind this curtain of awe there are also some of the most subhuman places on Earth, some of the most impoverished families, and some of the filthiest, most rejected and punished members of society...which cannot even afford to be part of the beautiful city lights when you see it all from far away at night, through an aircraft's window or a sightseeing spot like Marine Drive.
“Mumbai Frozen” is the title of the video I’ve attached to this article: a subjective portrait of a tiny fraction of my odyssey in this part of the world. Humans give a soul to this megalopolis, and among the overwhelming and bustling vivacity I stood with my camera passively absorbing as much as I saw. My habitual sketching attempts and still photography were not enough to accomplish what I wanted: to deliberately suppress the uncontrollable flow of life that people displayed, and to appreciate its uniqueness bringing it down to my own speed of perception. It is a humble view, from an outsider who’s unknown yet deep roots were seeded in this city; a self-conscious look into the contradictions and the marvels; the exuberance and the idiosyncrasies; and the purity with no course that has shaped every single corner of this polis. The rich and the poor, the secularity and the orthodoxy, the tough grind and the lack of choices, the give with no take, and ultimately the exorbitant pandemonium make up the essence of one of the most bewitching places ever, that will spellbind you for the most unexpected of reasons…
My words fall way too short in comparison to face value experience. Even the video is no way a fair justifier of my need to express and share. Yet somehow, I felt the compulsion to act upon the sentiment and this is the best I’ve come up with in my endeavor. I hope you can at least see some of Mumbai “frozen” as I saw it…and empathize with my raw feelings towards the curiosity to learn about ourselves and the whole world.