Here Lies The City of Dreams
I'm sitting in a city that's falling apart and is barely held together by the dreams and delusions of those who have gritted their teeth and made it home. Why do people come here? Why do we stay on? Why is this wretched overpriced urban mess the place that artists come to in the hope of inspiration and success? What is it about Mumbai? How does it manage to feel promising despite everything that's wrong with it? Why does it feel like home?
"What’s needed is art: good, challenging art, not good-taste art, which is the chief enemy of creativity. Problem is, most of our culture comes to us via a small number of conglomerates whose sole purpose is the bottom line. Our entertainment industry is trivial and banal: glitz, glamour and an illusion of perfection and enjoyment that’s very far from the truth. Cinema has become like Chinese food: it gives you cheap, instant pleasure, like an orgasm, but it’s not very healthy or interesting.
The future must be different. I want it to be an uncontrolled place of beautiful chaos, where everyone can create their own universe and is free to speak their own mind, without being overseen by big business. A place of free speech and free access." ~ Nicolas Winding Refn
"Aesop looks pleased. 'Don't you see, Sprite,' he says, gently for him. 'We are storytellers. We tell stories for the fun of it and that's how the stories proliferate.'
'That's not all,' I protest. 'When things aren't right, we have to tell stories that say they aren't right!'
He sighs. 'All right, Sprite. I'll try harder, but we can't lay down the law.'
'So I have to go back to my own world?'
'And what will you do?'
'I will be free,' Aesop replies.
'Free from what?'
He looks surprised, as though the answer should be obvious. 'From you, Sprite. From your unreliable books and prescriptive fantasies. From your wanting to confine me and my work to a fixed, unalterable thing. We live in time, Sprite. Don't you understand? The dream mutates and shifts.'
Then he takes my hand and hurls me back to my broken world." ~ Suniti Namjoshi
While I type, the monsoon sky has exploded over Mumbai, a mangled metropolis of broken bridges, tired people and loud rain.
Somewhere out there, parts of the city are crumbling and being washed away in the downpour. Maybe tomorrow morning, we will hold hands and call upon the spirit of Mumbai, which is really just a numbing cocktail of anxiety and habit. Once upon a time, the spirit was a more tangible thing — it was the infrastructure that didn't fail its millions. And so come rain or bomb blast, the trains ran, cabs plied, buses hurtled and people soldiered their way through nightmares on the conviction that the city was their support system. Now, though, that fragile skeleton of infrastructure is broken at different places. It still holds the city upright, but barely.
The spirit is dead, long live the spirit.
At yet, in this absurd ruin of a city of dreams, someone's crafting a story that they want to tell and they're having fun with it even as it torments them.
Because while Mumbai collapses and becomes a jagged mess, there are two things that this city still gives to those who are stupid enough to turn a blind eye to its ugliness and fall in love with it — drama and freedom.
Here it is, our island city; our uncontrolled place of beautiful chaos where the crassest rubs elbows with the most elegant; our broken world peopled by those who want to change the world, those who want to have fun, and those who hope to do both. Here it is. Home.