Snobs and the City: The Bombay Edition

A subject that seems to seep into the slush pile of small talk – once the niceties about your name, job and item girl preference have been dispensed with – is your “native place”, or the place where your family lived, before coming to Bombay to fulfil their dream of living in a cupboard and spending half their waking hours riding the Armpit Express.

Let’s face it – as much as the loonies would like to take credit for this diamond-studded gutter that we call home, Bombay was built by immigrants (except the buildings that actually look good – the Brits did those) So most of us have extended families in small-town India, defined as ‘a place where it’s impossible to find basic amenities, such as kababs or hookers, at 3 a.m.’ It is in these quaint and homely small towns that we Mumbaikars turn into champion snobs.

When in small-town India, we’re like those annoying NRIs who, when they’re in Bombay, wrinkle their noses at sights that are dear to us, such as a man peeing opposite Amitabh Bachchan’s swank bungalow (always a rebel, that Amar Singh)

The transformation happens before you realise it. One minute you’re sitting at the shiny airport bar, and the next you’re staring at the rickety little plane that will either take you to your small-town destination, or disintegrate in mid-air if the pilot sneezes. (I went to Indore recently on a Jet Konnect flight. It was the first time I’d flown *in* a model airplane.)

I’ve spent a good amount of time in small towns. As a kid, I summered with my extended family in exotic locales like Ghaziabad, U.P. (If you want more information about Ghaziabad, simply turn on India TV and after the mandatory reports about aliens feeding on Rakhi Sawant’s breast milk, there will be a story about some dude in some place who was chopped up in a wheat thresher because it was a Saturday night and his friends had nothing better to do. That is the place I’m talking about.)

Now it’s important to turn off the snob switch, especially when you’re visiting family, because it’s offensive, plus they may revoke your inheritance (I’m really looking forward to getting some cows) This is easier said than done, especially if you have conversations like these every time:

Me: Hey man, let’s go hang out somewhere.                                                                Cousin: Now? No no, it’s too late. Everything’s shut.                                                Me: Dude. It’s 8 p.m.                                                                                                                    Cousin: (contemplates throwing me into a wheat thresher)

Of course, things are changing now, with a plethora of malls and multiplexes making their way to smaller towns, thus giving locals a chance to do what big city folk do – complain about how all these malls and multiplexes have ruined the original character of their city.

I can’t blame them, given how the favourite mall activity still involves Pappu, Babloo, Champu and Tinku, their 57 aunts, 43 uncles, 64 cousins and their dog Tuffy, trying to board an escalator all at once, even as local hotties walk around in their low-waist “jean-pant”, hoping to be recruited for Emotional Atyachaar.

Once back in Bombay, the snobbery wears off soon enough. After all, there’s no question of turning up your nose when it’s nicely embedded in the Armpit Express.

(Note: This is my HT column, dated 2nd Jan 2011)

(P.S. Do you have any weird/funny/interesting stories about your experiences in small-town India? Feel free to share in the comments section)

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18 responses to “Snobs and the City: The Bombay Edition

  1. Bombay is way ahead of any city/small town/metro in India. I am from Chennai and I behave like a dehaathi when I come to Bombay. 😛
    Come to Chennai and you will see that going to malls are considered as family outings even today. 🙂

  2. Things turn 180 when a Mumbaiya moves to smaller town. Mostly for work. You have the money to spend but no place to go!

    Also the constant barrage of “Yeah Mumbai nahi hai boss” and “I am not one of your Mumbai girls”. What do you think? Mumbai has orgies on the road? Mumbai babes have their cherries put up on the sea link to pluck??!!!

  3. I like ur article … so true about mumbaikars.

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  5. they ask ‘tera muluk kidhar hai’? muluk as in native place. fun read. cheerz!

  6. Ok. I RT-ed. Where’s my Snob Badge? Yes, I’m a Delhi-ite stuck in Mumbai.

  7. I honestly don’t believe in this ‘Mumbai was built by the outsiders’ hogwash. Mumbai was built by each and everyone who have spent hours toiling to earn that morsel of bread. So honestly, fuck off with your pomposity and trying to suck up to the left lib nincompoops who believe this load of bollocks. You rightly call RajT and his dumbfuck cronies as loonies,although aren’t you coming off equally as a loon trying to undermine the contributions of a certain sect and sucking up to a certain sect. Not having it mate,not having it.

    • I admire your talent at finding pomposity in places where there isn’t any. Just because I say that was Bombay was built by outsiders does not negate the contribution of the locals (by this I mean the Kolis. Everyone else, including many Marathi-speakers, were once immigrants.) And like it or not, just because you don’t “honestly” believe in the facts (try looking up trading communities) doesn’t mean they’re not true. Also, the process of building Bombay (and I don’t mean ‘building’ in a literal sense) is a continuous one and is going on as we speak – by people who were born here, by those who’ve stayed here for generations, by those whose parents migrated here and also by those who stepped here for the first time last week. I’m disappointed by your tendency to overlook what is essentially common knowledge (whether you believe it or not), your oversensitive, knee-jerk misinterpretation of a simple (and yes, positive) statement and of course, your inability to put across your views in a civil manner. (P.S. If you read really carefully, you’ll find that we’re saying the same thing. You just saw an insult where there was none.)

    • “Bollocks, left liberal nincompoops” seriously, that is how you begin a tirade against a sect of populace you don’t like? Please get out of your closet before the tea gets cold.

      The author isn’t undermining anything. The 20 paise a day worker did not say to himself ” I will work harder to build bombay ” . He just worked mkayy

  8. This is just to apologize what I said in the previous post. I didn’t mean any of it, I was not in my senses, I take back everything I said, I’m sorry, I’m a bastard, I was drunk.

    Now I’m ok and I love you. And Mumbai of course.

  9. Firstly, great piece as always.
    I just got back from a trip to Rajasthan with Agra and Mathura thrown in the package as i needed to “have a culturally and historically enriching experience” (as put to me by my folks). Good Lord! places shut down by 7-7:30 there(i.e. Mathura…the other two a little later) . So dinner was checked off from the list before that. And the worst part is nobody minds that. Well i guess you can’t blame the people there since they don’t have a decent enough pile of land which can qualify as the road to move around in the dark especially when there are no streetlights around.
    High time we had t-shirts screaming out ‘I love Mumbai’. 🙂

  10. you used my nick name.. its not that bloody common is it?
    on a separate note, the city phenonmenon you mentioned exists in the city itself.. the townies versus the rest of mumbai syndrome 😉

    all said and done, I see a Jeremy Clarkson in the making (physical similarities are beginning to appear as well) 😀

    • I just wrote a bunch of Northie nicks, and then realised that I’d used yours. Subconscious inspiration, if you will 🙂 And physical similarities with Clarkson? Well, I am inexplicably growing taller 😀

  11. Can totally relate 2 this….from the ghaziabad part to even understanding y u wud live in New bombay and not bombay..

  12. New Bombay part i took from a different post.

  13. The last time I went to Kerala, I went out of the house at around five to get a snack. I roamed around for an hour or so. In that time, I didn’t see a single girl or on the streets alone.

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