I can now say I am a full-time Goan, as I have been here for almost five years. When I first moved, I kept my Versova house in Mumbai and I used to shuttle between two places for about 18 months. I didn’t really need to go back for anything in the past four years. Several environmental, lifestyle and socio-political factors were responsible for my moving out after being in Mumbai for more than 20 years.
I had stopped eating fish in Mumbai because the levels of mercury in fish in Mumbai are 50 times more than permissible levels. I kept on finding this consistently—be it studies on green vegetables or salads that are grown next to railway tracks. Commuting was impossible. I had stopped meeting friends, and vice versa, because it would be impossible to meet, given everyone’s schedules and the time spent on negotiating traffic. I stayed in Andheri West and a friend of mine lived in Andheri East. The east-west commute is so poor that we did not meet for two years despite wanting to. There is a funny tailpiece to this. I had travelled to New York six times, Paris four times, Churchgate once and not even once to Andheri East. We had coined a special term for cancelling get-together plans—ARDY, or aaj rehne de yaar.
The city has become harsher. There is a loss of a sense of community. Is the famous Bombay spirit reality or myth?
I am no longer dependent on the city for livelihood. As a filmmaker I am self-sufficient. I don’t need to be in Mumbai for theatrical releases, like other filmmakers. I realised I was in Mumbai purely out of habit, because I loved Mumbai. The final factor was a back problem that resulted in a major surgery. You cannot drive a kilometre in Mumbai without great bumps on the road. There is such apathy, rampant corruption. I do not recall a single monsoon that didn’t result in waterlogging.
I came to the city when it was Bombay; it then became Mumbai. R.R. Patil and Vasant Dhoble further made it unpalatable. It is touted as a global city, but lacks a global ethos. It is supposed to be a melting pot of cultures. It still retains some of those elements but parochial politics has drawn communal lines and people have increasingly been confined to ghettos. The deepening of these faultlines after 1992-93 definitely hastened my departure. The city has become harsher; I find the lack of a sense of community. It makes me wonder if the spirit of Bombay is a myth? It also has commercialised ethos, where money is everything, and the spirit of jugaad reigns supreme.
I thought about moving for several years. Finally, a month after I filmed the aftermath of 26/11, I moved. Now I live on the outskirts of Panjim, with a river view. I still need my bookshops and movies, so I did not opt for a village life. Goa is a true melting pot. So many filmmakers and musicians are around here. Many have second homes. A lot of my friends pass through. I meet my Mumbai friends more in Goa and everyone wants to live the life I live now.
Rakesh Sharma is a documentary filmmaker based in Goa