People often say, and I have heard it myself, that life in the USA is soooo hectic, and so not worth it; that all you do is slog and really have no time to have fun. For a long time, I strongly considered this perspective and believed that my life in the USA, was indeed a rat race…..until I moved to Mumbai, where I have now been living here for a year and a half. And I can safely say, to all of you that try to console yourself about life being less hectic in India than the USA, please get a reality check! Life in Mumbai is the mother of all rate races!
Having lived in both countries, I do believe there are pros and cons to each societal and cultural structure, each country having its own set of demands on its citizen. But there are some factors that set the “rat race” in Mumbai apart from the one in the USA. For instance, let’s consider the fact that, in India, there is no legal minimum wage that a working individual is entitled to. Yup! You are paid whatever your employer deems fit; and when the supply is more than the demand (in the workforce), you tend to grab what you get. So, what’s the common man to do? If his one job pays him a pittance, he then needs to probably work an extra job to support his family. This same person may not have to scrounge about in the USA, where each state has a minimum hourly wage that appropriately reflects the cost of living and other economic factors, such as inflation.
Mumbai also happens to be a city where people have no patience; everyone is chasing the big dream, and anyone who gets in their way, better pray for their safety, because no one will be spared. Let me illuminate this point, if I will. Sometime last month, I was walking with my 78-year-old grandmother from Church onto the main road, in the bleak hope of getting a rickshaw to the house. It was pretty apparent that the lady I was with, was old, hunched, and unable to support herself. She clearly needed a ride home. But alas, because the ride was a “short distance”, no rickshaw driver was willing to stop and take us home. No one was willing to help my grandmother out and take her home, only because it meant covering a short distance! It was pathetic! Finally, one of her building neighbors, who also happened to attend mass, gave us a lift home. Clearly, the ride from church to home was not lucrative enough….so why would the rick drivers bother helping out an old lady?
Everyone in Mumbai is busy….I am busy, the maid is busy, the neighbors are busy, the street urchin is busy…..we are all busy trying to survive in this mega city. There is no time to slow down and ponder on our existence; to take in and reflect on our purpose in this world. I believe there is something in this city that makes you want to get competitive and fierce. If, your competitor gets even so much a hint of anything less than competition and fierceness in you, you are done!
The flip side to this madness is that, with the fierceness, you also develop a keen sense of fearlessness; courage and self-belief are also important accompaniments on this journey. This city does make you stronger than you think you are capable of, as long as you are able to go with the flow. The moment you resist it, be prepared to be crushed. Mumbai waits for no man, or woman!
I am trying to be more mindful of my every action and not get sucked into the rat race, even if that means that I will have to give up certain career or personal opportunities for myself. It’s always important to look at the bigger picture instead of being seduced by the monotony of life. Rest assured, life will become more meaningful and purposeful, and I will be better able to appreciate the finer things in life (even if it is in Mumbai!)