It always feels a bit discomforting to get back on a chair and type out this letter to self about past experiences and thoughts. Let’s just accept that this blog isn’t really the kind that gets updated with a predictable frequency and I am going to partly blame the phone-driven social media for me not able to find time for it. Held hostage by AI driven feeds of seemingly infinite potential, in past few months my literary contribution on the personal front got limited to occasionally posting photos on instagram and retweeting thoughts that I wanted to share but had already been captured succinctly. Writing blog posts in comparison seems like a mega project, something that needs not only unwavering devotion but also cosmic blessings for me to be able to publish a post end to end within a weekend.
But no, really it has been me! Often I’ve thought, if part of the purpose of the blog is for me to document my past experiences and thoughts, why can’t I just remember them. The assuring feeling that I’d remember is the strongest just past the event, hence the reluctance to not document it. What a naive thought, you should be wondering, well, I agree with you, now I do.. The other purpose of sharing my opinions, travels and stories remains. But I must prioritise learning over reflecting, so whenever I am taking a break from the blog, it’s safe to assume that I’m learning something new. In this case, it was the city of Mumbai.
I shifted to Mumbai, from Gurgaon, in August 2017. This time from a small company setup to a big one. Now, if I go back on my own timeline, I did write about my decision of shifting from Bangalore to Gurgaon. where I mentioned why I quit my MNC job and shifted to product operations, in an e-commerce setting. Then why the shift again? And this is a question that I got asked often as I was building my new network here at workplace, it had almost become a way for me to introduce myself. The short version is that I realized to make any sort of impact on the world, I had to narrow down to an industry, choosing a function was not enough. More so for me, as my functional preference sits at the intersection of operations, digital product management and business intelligence.
While e-commerce seemed like an obvious choice when I jumped into it, I realized that it is more of a channel of customer interface than an industry in itself. The product being sold through the channel, was the one which defined the industry. This is how I chose transaction banking as an industry, for its nodal position in financial relationships between service providers ( commercial banks, paymnt banks, NBFCs and other fintech startups) and the end customers (retail consumers, merchants and corporates). Could I have deduced this logically before I actually interacted with interviewers on the other side of the phone, no way! So much for careful data analysis and pre-determined paths!
I got an offer to join-in as a product manager for CMS products within the Transaction Banking ecosystem at Axis Bank. Given how the industry is at an inflection point of digitization, it seemed like a good first step for me in the right direction. I packed my bags and started out for Mumbai.
I had a very bad impression of the city when I had visited previously, mainly because of the density of the old areas, piles of garbage on street curbs, stinking alleys and the shabby state of buildings. Little of that has changed in the last 5 years, and while these things still bother me, I’ve also found reasons to love the city.
I’ll list some of these things below but before you proceed, I also want to take the opportunity to introduce the revamped page taxonomy. If you look at the menu, you’d see 3 headers – lists, travelogues and hobby network. I’ve decided to publish some of the content on these pages instead of posting about them in posts like this one. It keeps the geek in me happy to use the latest apps available in the market and in a way, have this blog as a place where it all comes together. You should start with my Mumbai Travelogue where I’d be pinning all the places I’ve been to so far, from my base in Mumbai. I’ve done similar maps from my previous bases in Pilani, Bangalore and Gurgaon. Back to why I don’t hate mumbai as much then..
Option to walk/run by the sea, feeling the breeze, has to be #1 reason! My home is at walking distance from the worli seaface, and I often go there for my morning runs.
But whenever I am able to get up in really early on weekends, I head out for the hills away from the coast, for rides! I usually board the local train from the closest station at 5 minutes from home and in 2 hrs I can get away from the city. It took awhile to find the good routes and I did stop once it got a bit too hot, but I am looking forward to hitting back on those roads in the monsoons!
The hills are not just for cycling, there are numerous hike one can go for in these hills. I went for a couple as well, just after the rains ended, which is the best time to visit.
The way Mumbai is different from Bangalore and Delhi is that it is much more commercial and dense. The business areas in the southern part of the city, where I live, were in previous era the spots where most of the textile mills were located. Changing economics paved way for financial institutions and other offices to take up the mantle of leading employers but the worker force didn’t just leave with the mills. Here and here are 2 insightful posts that you can read on this topic. Those families evolved with time and there is a distinct sense of entrepreneurship and dhandha mindset which you wouldn’t see in the native citizens of other major cities such as Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, etc. So, although I am not very appreciative of the pace of gentrification, one can only wait for bureaucracy and economics to sync. My hope is our newer cities, by the time they grow as old as Mumbai and Kolkata, hopefully would have figured out a smoother transition plan.
Nonetheless, the way old and new buildings have come to be in Mumbai, the sight is deplorable yet amusing. If you like cityscapes, you should check out shots taken by Sanjog Mhatre, an urban architectural photographer who specializes in such rooftop shots.
My vantage points and shots are much more humble in comparison
Moving on, even though the noise gets to me at times, but I love the celebrations here, be it Ganpati or Durga Pooja or just a local wedding. Each city has a culture of celebrations, especially the bigger festivals, but the community driven ground level celebrations here are unlike what I’ve seen in Bangalore and Delhi.
And it’s not just limited to strangers celebrating on the road, there are more thematic performances, live music events, stand up gigs, theatre shows, marathon races to participate in. Weekends and nightlife can be fun here if you want it to be! The people have been friendly as well so far. But I doubt that’s a city specific trait since most of us are migrants and I guess the lives of people in plush apartments doesn’t really change much with the city. There are more things to talk about but I didn’t start with a list of top 10 items in mind, so I’ll just end this one here..
Oh, and because I’m writing after this long while, I must cover my trips in my next posts before I forget about them. I’ll start with the tour of Madhya Pradesh, the extended trip that I made just before relocating. Part of it was exploring the famous spots along with parents and post that I did a 4 day cycling tour in the hills of Satpura! So, come back next weekend for that story..