It has been over a dozen years since I left Mumbai in the quest for both personal and professional life in a city that was unknown to me or even my entire generations of family could even think of, a city that was known to have only three climate, Bad, Very bad and “Ahmedabad”.
Without even knowing the “A” of “Ahmedabad” I, set of enthusiastically only to meet a friend for life “Murali” in Karnavati train itself (my tryst with train continued). We knew immediately that we have found in each other a friend for life. He was ever ready to help and a lot of credit goes to him for helping me to settle in this unknown city right from finding a hotel to stay till the set up of our first house.
Ahmedabad was polluted and the driving sense was pathetic (I should say it is still pathetic) with drivers pointing their legs as a signal when taking a turn; even the drinking water was heavy. There was no public transport and all were travelling in either their own two or four wheelers. I was told if I do not have a two wheeler it would be impossible to survive in this city. Left with no choice I purchased my first two wheeler (Kawasaki Bajaj) and learnt to ride, subsequently after a few years also learnt to drive a four wheeler (when I upgraded from a two wheeler to first free car of my life a FIAT of my editorial colleague Manas Dasgupta).
In Mumbai our life revolved around either a 7.55 AM or a 7.59 AM suburban local train for office and on our return journey it was a 7.36 PM or a 7.47 PM train. Local trains are the main life line and it was survival of the fittest, even a fraction of minute late the train would have chugged the railway station with your daily train-friends. We used to rue and dread thinking of even missing our daily specific local train.
In Ahmedabad life was terribly slow, laid back and to top it the Corporates were un-professional and it was very difficult to adjust with the professional background that I carried. Any business deal revolved only on contacts but yes the biggest advantage was because of the reduced travel time I had quality time to spend with my soul mate and friends. Families till date spend evenings together, as this is considered a luxury in a place like Mumbai (unless you are lucky to stay near your office).
During my initial days in Ahmedabad I stayed in a hotel named “Metropole” opposite a prominent landmark of the area – Bijli Ghar and from there I used to commute to the office. I found two generous media-friends in Rajesh and Rutesh; who used to work in Anand Bazaar Patrika group then, and they were a great help to me.
Slowly I, got accustomed to the customs and tradition of this city and I, was ably helped by all citizens of Ahmedabad be it in personal life or professional life. Like there is a saying in Mumbai - Mumbai absorbs and gives a fresh lease of life to all newcomers who come to the city on a look out for a livelihood, similarly Ahmedabad absorbed me.
In Ahmedabad I started visiting residences of media friends and used to be in regular touch. Slowly Ahmedabad also became fast paced (though it will never match the pace of Mumbai) but yes the entire skyline of this city has changed for good, the roads, the infrastructure, the attitude, and the professionalism (though still a few people will never learn that). The pollution levels have come down drastically, and for experiencing Ahmedabad you will have to visit and feel this city to experience Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) which by far is the best in our country.
In Ahmedabad after a few years I got introduced to a community member Mr. Ramani and since then have been involved in lot of socio-religious programme and would want “Shree Asthika Samaj” to achieve greater heights in days to come. Through the samaj I, came in contact with many like-minded fellow South Indians and we will always want to be under a single umbrella for the betterment of community.
So Ahmedabad has definitely given me many things which I cherish. I used to frequently visit Mumbai and recently re-visited Mumbai for four days and this trip became a revelation. I was reminded of the good old days of catching the train on time and had to travel during the first two days by the 7.29 am, the 3.33 pm, and the 6.46 pm local which actually refreshed all the memories of Mumbai and reminded me about the time I spent in this wonderful city.
We really miss those deadlines of running after public transport like train; buses etc life in Mumbai was always great. It was always survival of the fittest in Mumbai, you love it or hate it but the local train is indeed your true friend
During this trip, I also, was fortunate enough to meet my childhood chums Sunil, Kishore and Francis and felt truly elated.
Suddenly I felt I was never away from this city. It was almost a decade that I spent away but Mumbai remained with me forever. I always used to think that if I stay longer away from Mumbai I, will slowly start forgetting Mumbai but somebody has rightly said you can take a person away from Mumbai but Mumbai cannot be taken away from him (the Mumbaikar in me still remains). Mumbai is the place where I met my soul mate who really has played a bigger role in changing our life (Seen the Hindi remake “Saathiya” – perhaps the Tamil movie (Alaipayuthey) director Mani Ratnam took leaf or rather was inspired from our story and he is a celebrity), this could possibly summarise why a Mumbaikar life revolves around Local train. Saluting 157 years of local train service in Mumbai.(NEXT TAKE ON RAINS AND MUMBAI)