Written decades ago and reflecting the distinct character of Mumbai (then Bombay), as the lyrics of an obscure song from the film Kya Yeh Bombai Hai unfolded in my mind in Rafi’s melodious voice, it progressively dawned on me how true these lyrics hold even today.

Two lines of this song from the archives of my childhood suddenly surfaced in my mind –

Ye Bambay sheher kaa badaa naam hai
Par gadbad ghutaale kaa har kaam hai

It’s elder sibling ‘Aae dil hai mushkil jeenaa yahaan, Zaraa hat ke zaraa bahchke, Yeh hai Bombay merii jaan’ from Guru Dutt’s popular film CID is much better known while this one is lost in obscurity. It is from an equally obscure movie Kyaa Yeh Bombay Hai (1959), although more recent than CID (1956), for it has no claim to a big star cast. The film starred Maruti (comedienne Guddi Maruti’s father according to a comment on the song on YouTube), Nishi (Bigg Boss contestant Armaan Kohli’s mother), Tun Tun (known at least to the Boomers) and Hira Sawant (no clue).

The opening lines ring so true even today. Mumbai kaa Naam abhii bhii badaa hai, par gadbad ghutaale kaa har kaam hai. If anything, the gadbad ghutaalaa has magnified manifold. Look at the traffic and pedestrian chaos on the roads; and the ghutaalaas are now christened scams.

Andhon ko suujhe yahaan duur kii
Aankh vaalon ko miltaa nahiin raastaa
Suntaa nahiin koi majbuur kii
Kisii ko kisii se nahiin vaasataa
Suno bhaiyaa meraa ye paigaam hai
Bambay sheher kaa…

The visually impaired find their way travelling in buses with practised precision while people with two (and four eyes) are lost for directions in spite of GPS and Google maps for these too can confuse the dickens out of you. Helpless accident victims too are indifferently left to die and even next door neighbours take it as an intrusion if you happen to ring their bell with something nice made at home you’d like to share with them.

Aaluu ko bole bataataa yahaan
Namaste ko kahte hain taataa yahaan
Amruud peru aur andaa hai baidaa
Yahaan par huye hai naye naam paidaa
Ye jisko bulayein karein chshh.. chshh..chshh
Hairat kaa yaaron har ek kaam hai
Bambay shehar kaa…

Bataataa, peru
is still very much the Bambaiyaa lingo while andaa may have inched closer to baidaa (it’s still baidaa paav anyway). The chshh.. chshh..chshh way of calling a person has perhaps given way to a more brash sound (normally used to fondle a child by the more refined class) by some roadside punters (again a typical Bambaiyaa term).

Kahiin Raj bhaiya kahin Baby Nanda
Satte kii maanin hai
Filmon ka dhandaa
Jo lag jaye number
To ban jaaye bandaa
Jo number na aayaa to
Maangoge chandaa
Zaraa bachke rehnaa suno meraa kehnaa
Agar meri mano bura kaam hai
Bambay shehar kaa…

Raj (Kapoor) is now probably replaced by his grandson Ranbir and Baby Nanda by Raj Kapoor’s grand-daughter Kareena or a Priyanka Chopra. But the rest remains the same; only, the film line is now the film industry and the satte kii maanin has embraced the entire world of showbiz including the TV industry.

Bijlii se chaltii yahaan gaadiyaan
Traamon bason kaa ajab saa hai khel
Jo kismat se in mein jagah mil bhii jaye
To dhakke pe dhakka
Nikal jaye tel..hanh..hanh
Badi bheed hai badaa shor hai
car valon ko aaraam hai
Bambai shehar kaa…

Electric trains are still the lifeline of Mumbai while trams have given way to metro and monorail. The travel conditions have become still worse and what happens is sirf tel nahin nikaltaa par haddiyaan tootne kaa bhii dar rehtaa hai. We have no choice but to tolerate and find our way through the crowd, noise and chaos, though unbearable and it’s equally harrowing for car-vallas.

By Ullhas Bhimsen Kulkarni

Ullhas is a thinker, a doer, a simple and content man who loves his routine family life. From being a pharmacist to heading Communications for a Mumbai – based company, he is on the threshold of a new phase in life. The writer in him now writes for himself.