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Mumbai – the city of dreams, home to me and million others; And I’m not just talking about those who live here permanently but the numerous others as well who work, study, visit and keep coming back for more. Home, where you’re happy, you belong, you don’t care how clean or safe or whatever, you just fit, just feel right…

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To me Mumbai has always been home, my whole world (when I was younger), where I was born and where I live. It has become a part of my personality and I actually take pride in it. Yes, it has its downfalls, and I’m usually one of the first to complain but lately, I’ve have so many mixed feelings towards this city… It’s crowded (includes traffic jams, stare-ers and dash-ers), biased, loud, dirty, un-safe (at times) but at the same time, it’s secular, people from all walks and parts of the world live here, it’s fast to react and bounce back from a disaster, and in spite of being a commercial/financial hub, has pockets of nature and fresh air right here! What’s not to love, right?! Being a regular middle class, suburb-resident of this city, I have always done all the normal things, like eat street chaat, walk through narrow shady shortcuts, and travel by trains (yes, the ‘over-crowded lifeline of the city’), buses and the infamous rickshaws.

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Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working and travelling with some expats. And I realized all that I’ve written above and that I’ve never looked at this city from another perspective; it can be so different when you do. Public transport, especially trains are big no-no for most expats in the city for so many reasons I never understood before; but after travelling with them I can see why… Commuting from Colaba to Andheri by cab is something I’ve never done before (probably never even thought of), because normally I’d take a train and be there in 40-something minutes but this way everything was different… You skip the hustle and bustle of the local trains and working class (which can be a lot of fun at times, crowded, exhausting, but fun!), the crowd leading up to the station (I prefer to walk real fast and dodge everyone in my way coz it’s fun & saves time coz I’m always late 😛 ), the loud, annoying, manner-less, personal space invading fellow commuters and instead simply enjoy the (more often than not bumpy) ride, view, sea breeze and peaceful conversations effortlessly.

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This leaves me with the realization that like beer, train travel in Mumbai is an acquired taste. And also that it’s a freakin expensive place! So it seems I have a love-hate relationship with this city. And like any other relationship, I seem to have over looked so much that it took some lovely visitors (who are also bewitched by this city) to make me realize all this…

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