Orhan Pamuk describes it beautifully as a city's huzun. Loosely, the word translates into melancholy. To me that is a dominating aspect of a city's life. Its what gets left over about the city after the tourist sights have been visited, the malls gawked at, food eaten, the history understood, the promenades admired, and the weather commented upon. It is to be found in everyday life lived in by residents as they go through their daily affairs within the city.
Of course, every city would have its own unique huzun. Delhi's huzun would lie within the cramped up quarters of the old city- seemingly busy, commercial and non-decrepit; but the ruins, crumbles of old monuments, and the elderly who would have seen a more glorious past telling a different story. Bangalore's huzun would be in the eyes of the old pensioner- who in the short span of a decade saw his sleepy township metamorphose into an unruly, ugly metropolis. Guwahati, the city i grew up in and the city which has seen most of its youth emigrate to other parts of the nation to be able to earn a living, is discovering the huzun of its elderly- who are left all alone, waiting. Waiting the whole year for the next bihu, or the next puja when their children would hopefully return and their lives will be complete again- for a short period of time.
Where then does Mumbai's huzun lie? Or does it even have one? The city of dreams and hopes where everyday about 2000 people emigrate with just the hope of becoming movie stars perhaps wouldn't even have time for anything as ponderous as melancholy. Where everyday life itself is a struggle against the odds, and any let up on this struggle being fatal- maybe people would seek to ignore such subtelities. And instead drown themselves in the momentariness of pursuit and the celebration of the immediate. This may be an explantation for the profusion of tabloids within the city. Residents desparately seeking a blanket of glitz and glamour as a cover for the underlying grime of their lives. A daily 50 pager dose of opium to tide over rains, crowded locals, long commutes, stenches, bad bosses, and office food. This is why the opium also stays lite and colourful, breezing over the daily trials and tribulations of city life.
Though sometimes, inevitably, and as an undeniable truth, the huzun creeps in. In the look of a well dressed executive unable to board the last but crowded local train to home (which would be 2.5 hrs by road); in the sight of a funereal procession slowly winding its way through one the crowded city roads on a weekday- the sight of which seems to make time stand still; in the loneliness of one of yesteryears moviestars-alone and frailly sipping his coffee outside one of the city theaters. I comes out while observing elderly Parsi couples walking hand in hand in one of the city parks- seemingly at odds with the world but very content with themselves. And this creeping in of something so inevitable, inspite of brazen and unecessary attempts to hide it, is what makes the event deeply poignant and beautiful at the same time.