Benjamin Isaac, the director of O.R.T., an international organization founded in Russia, told us the story of Krishna to explain the way his community is stretched between India and Israel. Krishna was adopted when he was very young, and while he felt strongly attached to the woman who brought him up, he always felt an eternal love for his natural mother. This metaphor shed its poetic light on some of the reasons why the majority of the Bene Israel left a country where they had lived peacefully for 2000 years. Later on, Mr. Isaac confessed a very personal paradox: although he married a Christian woman, causing his mother lots of despair, he still felt bothered when his son married a Catholic woman.
Let us now go back to Bombay, whose charming extravagance has been described in previous chronicles. Unfortunately, the global picture is much more terrifying. One should rather think of Bombay as a deserted battlefield where enchanting roses grow here and there. Mathias, who was born in Sao Paulo, often heard Westerners saying his native city was an urban nightmare. They would now define it as a peaceful shelter. Torn apart between slums and wild real estate projects, it seems like the concept of urbanism hasn’t reached Bombay yet. Very few sidewalks deserve that name, unless one enjoys walking through opened up trash bags, urine and cheaply built mattresses. Thousands of bamboo scaffoldings are used to make up the structural problem resulting from the city government’s lack of anticipation. Building sites, dust and continuous noises increase the strength of the pale fog-covered sun, which often turn to be aggressive and tiring.
Although this city is exhausting for one’s senses, Bombay survives thanks to its people’s unbreakable good mood. With an average monthly income under $120, the huge majority is doomed to living in horrifying slums, when they can avoid sleeping on the streets among the rats.
Out of this mess, we have managed to make a livable environment, especially in our neighborhood where we are regulars in several shops and restaurants. Actually, if street- crossing was recognized an Olympic sport, we could definitely be in the France team. It takes agility, reactivity and most importantly a great fate and no fear of dying to penetrate the multidirectional bazaar of cabs, buses, cars, bikes and cycles. Still, we are taking a growing pleasure in going through the experience. Would it be a sign of our becoming Mumbaikars?