“Mumbai is a cruel city,” you’ll always hear them saying that. And perhaps the famous quote from the not-so-famous recent comedy flick, “The Hangover II” applies to Mumbai more than Bangkok- “Mumbai has her now.”
I am going to be evicted from my apartment in a month and I have no place to go. Mumbai does not rent out to single men or women, especially not a single woman running an NGO where she houses and educates marginalized women. “Sirf family ko hi dena hai,” apartment owner after owner tells me. Sometimes I get hopeful, when, after much explaining to them of the good cause and pleading they say they will consider or consult. But then I don’t hear back from them for days, and I know. From Bandra to Borivali…same story.
I cannot afford to buy an apartment or a house or land in Mumbai to circumvent the owners who do not want to rent, because I cannot afford the most expensive real estate in the world. And I can’t get a loan because I don’t have a corporate job to show for. Oh wait…I can get something on top of a hill in Mahabaleshwar or an island in the Arabian Sea…I can afford that. But there are no schools or hospitals or transportation systems there, I exclaim! “Arey, Madam. Aap inko khila pilake zinda rakh rahe ho, ye bahut badi baat hai. Padha kikha ke kya karoge aap?” the broker asks. There was also a gentleman, much renowned in the social sector, who once told me, “Why don’t you keep them in an old factory or garage?”
On the 10th of August, I have to leave my current apartment. And I will be on the streets with 8 young girls.
Sumaiya started counting in December and was doing long division in May. She started learning the alphabets in January and was reading Enid Blyton in June. Pinky was reading Dr. Seuss in January and is reading C. S. Lewis in June. Yet, my girls can’t get admitted into any school in this city, because they don’t have a birth certificate or a school leaving certificate from their previous school. But more importantly, because they don’t have DINK parents working in the IT sector and fair skin. I have spoken to 12 schools, no 13, I forget, there are so many, they mesh in my head like a giant brick and mortar monster, and they all deny my girls education.
The Mantralay hands me a sheet of 23 documents I have to submit to be able to get government support. Amongst them is proof of functioning for 3 years. But how will I function for 3 years without their support, to be able to apply for their support 3 years later?
I am alone, and Mumbai has me now.