AWAI Writing Challenge Honorable Mention:
The City of Dreams – Bombay
The posh skyscrapers loom large, overshadowing the squalor of the shanties. The queens’ necklace, Marine Drive, has been lit up at sunset to kiss the sun farewell for the day. The waves crash into the boulders startling lovers parked along them, and making them run in frenzy. This is my city. A city of love, laughter, of pain and happiness, built from tears, sweat and blood, and bonded by threads of dreams. The best thing about the city of Bombay lies in its spirit, the resilience, the bonhomie and the dreams of the citizens which keep the city alive …
The place was Gujarat, the year was 1932. A small boy was born to a modest school teacher. At the age of 16 the boy moved to Yemen to work as a distributor and returned to Bombay in the early 1960’s to trade in spices. Making meagre profits he decided to capitalise on the demands of the economy and in 1968 set up his textile mill and start his business in trading polyester yarn. You may have heard of him? The name of the man is Dhirubhai Ambani, the Doyen of the modern Indian Corporate community and his dream of his own enterprise resulted in what is now known as Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector enterprise with a net worth of several billions. Featured on the Forbes list of Billionaires, this is our very own rags to riches story. People come to Bombay in pursuit of fulfilling their dreams, the flesh maybe weak but the spirit is ever willing and ready.
Let me tell you another story to give you an example of the enchantment of the city of dreams. A young awkward boy moved to this big bold city of lights and glamour, from the quaint roads of Delhi, in the year 1991. A thorough sportsman through his schooling years, an avid theatre performer, he landed in Bombay looking for his big break into Bollywood, the world of Indian cinema. There are several thousands of youngsters who flock to the city lured by the lights of the big screen, yet only some are fortunate to get a single on-screen credit to their name. He was perhaps one of the lucky few. His foray into Indian cinema won him accolades across all continents with every movie of his, he had no Godfather supporting his every move yet he was christened as having the Midas touch, for every movie he acted in was loved by the masses and the classes, the critics and the tradesmen alike.
He has been a part of Indian cinema for nearly two decades now, and his fan base has grown across the Indian subcontinent and reached far shores such as Canada, America or even Malaysia. You may have heard of this boy, with the crooked smile and the twinkle in his eye. He is the superstar Shah Rukh Khan. And what sets him apart is the belief in his dream and how this city gave him refuge and allowed his dream to grow phenomenally.
Just as there are two sides to every coin, similarly Bombay has two sides. A side of glitz, glamour and success is contrasted by corruption, lies and failure. Yet the spirit of the city never dies. The year was 2008 and the date was the 26th of November. A normal day for most people turned into a severe reality check for the city. The city was held hostage for almost 60 hours, killing nearly 200 people and wounding over 300. The facade of security was ripped at the seams as the terrorists hacked into the system and destroyed heritage structures and took innocent lives mercilessly. Yet the city stood firm and didn’t succumb to the pressure of the madmen. Having survived the worst, Bombay arose like a phoenix from the ashes and proved that resilience and determination flow within the veins of every citizen of this city, irrespective of caste, religion or sex. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’, is the motto of every Bombay-ite.