An Essay by Chrisanta:
“Moving around isn’t great for putting down solid roots, but one leaves a part of oneself in each place and also takes with oneself a part of every place. One thing is certain, wherever I have lived, I never felt like an outsider.”
Her expectation from a ‘smart city’ is – “Smart Solutions for maintaining better cleanliness and movement of traffic.”
Image Source(s) – PropStory.com
Read the story of Chrisanta’s home here…
Home is where the heart is; Mine’s been in many places!
Whenever I am asked about what home means to me, I always reply that ‘home is where the heart is’. Sounds very clichèd, I know. In my case, and my family’s, however, we have moved around quite a bit, and hence our being together made the houses that we lived in, a warm, loving home.
I have lived my whole life in Mumbai – well, various parts of it. I was born in Mazagaon. This was actually a village-cum-small town that was situated close to Byculla in South Mumbai. Mazagaon in the 80s, which is the time of my childhood, was a vibrant place. Largely populated by Catholics and Muslims, the place always smelled of freshly baked bread. Both my parents were from different parts of Mazagaon and hence I spent my early childhood with grandparents from both sides in this quaint town. Both the family homes had plenty of space for a wild and naughty child like me to climb around and explore. But this is only where I spent my weekdays, when my parents were at work; otherwise, I lived with my parents in Cotton Green.
Cotton Green was largely a colony of squat buildings to house the employees of the Mumbai Port Trust and their families. My dad worked here and hence we lived in the company quarters. It was a large colony with a predominantly Maharashtrian population. Hence, growing up, I celebrated festivals of all religions with enormous joy. There wasn’t really an option! Our colony in Cotton Green was a sprawling place and an absolute haven for a child who loved to climb, swing, burrow and basically play in the dirt. I loved growing up in Mazagaon and Cotton Green and still look back nostalgically at this time. Today, children hardly play outside and housing societies lack sufficient space to encourage them.
In the early 90s, things changed. My parents had another child, my brother. Tragically, my mother died in childbirth. Besides losing a parent, I was no longer the only child. I suddenly had to be a responsible child. Almost a year later, my father remarried. Some months later, both, my maternal and paternal houses were sold, and both decided to settle in the far away suburb of Mira Road. Because our extended family moved here, my parents did too. So from South Mumbai we moved to the northern suburbs of Mumbai.
Back in the 90s, Mira Road was known for its salt pans and marshes, and apartments could be purchased for less than a lakh! Moving to Mira Road meant a new place for me and new school. A year into the new place and I had another sibling, a sister. Now, we were truly a big family. I no longer ran around. However, I was given the responsibility of running the errands and this provided me the opportunity to explore. Mira Road was expanding every single day. A new road was being laid in one place, while in another, land was being reclaimed from the marshes to build a new bunch of buildings. The tallest buildings in Mira Road till almost 1998 were only ground plus 4 storeys. Today, Mira Road is experiencing an explosion – in terms of population and construction too!
In the 2000’s I started college and a new phase of life and Mira Road began booming; towers started dotting the skyline. Since my parents were terrified to let me travel in the overcrowded local train, thanks to Mira Road’s burgeoning population, I went to the only college in Mira Road called Royal College. This took me to another part of Mira Road which was still developing and allowed me to explore some more. During this time we moved to another society which had better amenities. This was my third family home.
Mira Road was a literal cultural microcosm of India. The affordability of housing meant most families who could afford to, moved here. There were north and south Indians, Gujaratis and Sindhis, Goans and Mangaloreans as well as people from the north-east. Mira Road was everyone’s ‘gaon’ in the city. As a result, every festival was celebrated with gusto. Local stores sold fashion, spices, snacks and food from practically every state. A person’s housing society could represent almost every state of the country!
My father had been struggling with alcoholism for a while and towards the end of my second year of degree college, it became very acute. So, my stepmother’s family encouraged us to live with them in Bandra. Thus, in my final year of degree college, we shifted again, this time to Bandra. This fair suburb is truly a melting pot of cultures which is most visible on its streets, where hordes of people shop every single day, in any kind of weather. Bandra attracts residents from other countries as well. It is a vibrant place where everything is celebrated, including Bandra! Don’t believe me… check out Celebrate Bandra on Facebook… Lol. I loved living in Bandra. Most people in Mumbai covet living here and I received envious looks when I mentioned where I lived.
My family lived here for 10 years and I roamed almost every nook and by-lane of Bandra. This decade was also a tumultuous time for me and my family. While we kids grew up, finished college and started working, my father fell very ill and passed away in 2009. A couple years later, my step-grandmother, a wonderfully loving woman, also passed away. It was a difficult few years. As a family, we struggled with individual grief and family loss. But we had each other and my stepmother’s family were amazingly supportive.
We now live in Sion. It is the gateway between South Mumbai and its suburbs. All auto-rickshaws stop at Sion because beyond this travel is only permitted by taxi, cars, bus or train. I have lived here for about 3 years now. I have enjoyed living here too, because Sion is akin to a midway point. Everywhere is more or less equidistant. Multiple transport options make it easier.
Living in various parts of the Maximum City has given me a sense of Mumbai. It has put Mumbai into the Mumbaikar. Moving around isn’t great for putting down solid roots, but one leaves a part of oneself in each place and also takes with oneself a part of every place. It provides an opportunity to expand one’s circle of friends and acquaintances and more importantly to grow with every experience.
I don’t know where my family will move next. One thing is certain, wherever I have lived, I never felt like an outsider. Perhaps it is the spirit of Mumbai that just embraces everyone and makes them feel at home. Or perhaps, wherever we have moved, we have done it together and had each other for support. Home, for me, is where the heart is and my heart will always beat for my family – my mother, and my brother and sister.