My tryst with Mumbai began with a dislike for the city, admixed with frustration and confusion. The houses and the PGs were pigeonholes, on top of which, when I went around looking for a single room, the frequent question was, “ Share nahi karna hai ? Kyun ?” After much cajoling and convincing, that some human beings (read this Central Delhi brat) need their personal space and can’t always ‘ adjust ’, I got habituated to being shown tiniscule, windowless cubes that rented at 10K per month, until I found one I could fit into. The killer humidity could put Delhi’s 48 degrees of scorching heat to shame. I did not understand the city’s obsession with vada-paos (those sauceless, mayoless burgers) and naming every third park after ‘ Naana-Naani.’ There were no excuse-mees to ask for way, but a curt ‘ Baaju !’ And shockingly, people made kissing sounds in order to beckon someone. When the rains came, it was a four month long thunderous downpour, that clogged the drains while we took the ‘riks’ and swam in muck and sewage en route to work.
A year later, I found myself as an Mch resident at Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), getting used to conquering the trials and tribulations. The green see-through scrubs with the pajamas inexplicably ripped at the bottom seams ( Was it our fatty posteriors ?… Or our gassy interiors ?) that we made a dash for in the morning, carrying a mental checklist – “ Check the naada, check for holes behind and below…” The Tuesday staple sabuddana khichhdi which the TMH cafeteria single handedly ruined for everybody. In all these years I always wondered who the 1% fasting staff was, for whom this evening naashta was intended. Not to mention, the upma and the poha, which everyone had more than a lifetime’s share of. Working for 16 hours as a first year and then getting calls in the dead of the night with a voice squeaking “ Doctor, Bed number 123 ka urine output only 800ml hai.” While some would reply politely and tell the sister not to worry, others would put in a tongue in cheek like “ Itna susu to maine bhi raat bhar nahi kiya.” Learning another language was always difficult but a few Marathi phrases got me through – “ Tikre zopa ”, “ Ghaabru naaka ”, “ Saieel soda ” ,“ Pot aatmade ghya ” and the requsite “ Thaamba!”, ” Laukar !” and ” Patkan !”
In all those five years, I never realized how Mumbai grew on me. Days were long and arduous at the hospital, but a hearty laugh expunged all the aches and pains. No matter what the patient load, no matter what the odds, things got done – biopsies, PCNs and CT scans, physician referrals, emergency explorations and OT lists. And even then, it was never too late for a sea side stroll or a movie in the city that never sleeps. When the TMH cafeteria botched up the dinner, Canara and Aditi fed the Tata inmates. Catching the sunrise at Marine Drive on a Sunday, or gorging on lunch at Pizza by the Bay, the joyride never stopped. And before you knew it, you were salivating at the sight of vada- paos and swaying to songs on your headphones, oblivious to the rain and the traffic. ‘ Chalega ’ had replaced ‘ Theek hai ’, ‘ Ek number !’ had kicked out ‘ Ye baat !’, ‘ Mast hai ’ had taken over ‘ Sahi hai ’, ‘ Baaju ’ had toppled ‘ Bagal mein ’ and ‘ Barabar ’ had usurped ‘ Bilkul.’ The years zipped by as we wrestled duties and night outs, busy weeks and Sunday breaks and exams and celebrations. But just like that, the time ran out too, jostling us out of the reverie, asking us to pack our bags and leave.
I never thought leaving Mumbai would be so hard and painful. I never thought I would end up romanticizing it to Delhiites. And missing it so. I left with a heavy heart but with memories to cherish for a lifetime. I have so many extraordinary people and so many remarkable things to thank for ! Here’s a big shout out and dhanyavaad to my family, friends, teachers and colleagues who helped and supported me, and made this a wonderful adventure.