The thrill of being at a college festival; the attraction of working at a start-up; the glamour of living in the home of Bollywood — Mumbai’s glitz pulls thousands of students away from their homes each year, who, more often than not, make the city their permanent address.
Mumbai has perfected the good cop-bad cop routine, say students. On one hand, you find yourself stranded on a train, pushed around by the crowd, unable to reach the footboard to get off at your destination. On the other, a hardened old lady softens to show you the ropes — she pushes you down when the time comes, so you finally make it home.
On the one hand, the city eats money more quickly than you can imagine. On the other, the street vendor, the landlord, the cook willingly lowers their prices when you request a bargain.
“Things don’t come easy in Mumbai,” says Manisha Shewaramani, 19, a student from Varanasi currently studying in Mumbai. “But if you are passionate, the city shows you the way.”
Read about what makes thousands of students fall in love with Mumbai every year, and lessons they learned the hard way.
‘There’s always someone to help’
Apeksha Jain, 21, BCom student at University of Mumbai
From: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Moved to Mumbai in August 2014
It was a difficult decision to leave home, but I knew that the exposure I got in Mumbai would be unparalleled. I want to become a chartered accountant (CA), and this is the heart of India’s finance industry. Here, I am pursuing an articleship at an accountancy firm, where I get to meet clients every day, undertake challenging audits, and go beyond theory. This scale of learning would not be possible in my hometown.
Slowly, I got used to living alone — cooking, managing a budget, and most importantly, learning to navigate this big, chaotic city.
For instance, to get to my home in Goregaon from my office in Churchgate, I would initially take a taxi, but soon realised that that was both expensive as well as a waste of time. I started taking the local train, warily at first. One of the first few times, I climbed on board a Virar fast, and luckily got a window seat. On my way to Goregaon, I got up when the train crossed Andheri — but couldn’t make it to the footboard, being jostled around in the huge crowd. I couldn’t get off at Goregaon. Borivli came and went, and I still couldn’t make it to the door.
Noticing my frustration, a fellow passenger asked me, “Kuthe utrayche?” [Where do you want to get off in Marathi] — I didn’t understand the language. She repeated the questions in Hindi, and I, a little miffed, replied, “Jahaan aap log utarne doge” (Wherever you guys let me get off).
Everyone around burst out laughing. They told me with that attitude, I would never get off. A lady then told me that at Mira Road, where she was getting off, she would stand behind and push me through. This worked — I got off, and made it to my destination eventually. This was the first and last time I boarded a Virar train,but the experience taught me something invaluable. You may find yourself stuck here, but there’s always someone to bail you out.
‘The city is safe, so dont mind you working, and you achieve more’
Vachika Gupta, 21, BCom graduate from the University of Mumbai; chartered accountancy student
From: Kota, Rajasthan
Moved to Mumbai in: February 2015
Like most people, I was fascinated by the idea of the city. When it actually turned real, I was excited and nervous.
I have always been totally dependent on my parents. I wanted a sense of freedom, and Mumbai is the best place for that. I quickly realised that the city is quite safe, and this gave me independence. In Kota, everything is dead by 10 pm. But here, even past midnight, you never feel alone. So I push myself and work late nights, and don’t feel tired because there are so many people around all the time.
Mumbai has changed me a lot, in a good way. I was always an introvert, and the city has helped me overcome my hesitation to some extent. I didn’t know anyone here when I first moved in. But I met new people almost every day — at the hostel, in college, office, new clients. It really is a melting pot of cultures.
For instance, during the Ganeshotsav last year, we divided ourselves into groups at the hotel, and brought an idol in. I learned so much about the festival and the city through that experience — each group undertook different activities, and all of us, not native Mumbaiites, embedded ourselves into the city.
‘You experience new food, rituals, culture here’
Manisha Shewaramani, 19, mass media student at HR College
From: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Moved to Mumbai: In July 2014
Unlike many others, I was not scared to leave home and come to Mumbai — this was my dream city, and studying here, part of the dream.
I moved in to Mumbai on a rainy day, and fell in love with it instantly. On my way home from college, I would stop at Marine Drive and take in the irresistible city.
I have learned so much since. I decided to move from paying guest accommodation to a rented flat with a friend, and we fought so hard to get the landlord to give us a reasonable rate. We were relentless, and in the end, it actually worked. Similarly, we bargained with our cleaning lady too, and she gave us a discount as well.
I also encountered cultures I hadn’t in north India. For instance, the caretaker of the PG accommodation was Parsi, and through him, I discovered new food and rituals. He would make Dhanshak for us often — there isn’t anything else like it.
‘With so many start-ups, its the perfect place to begin a career’
Ratnam Jain, 21, BCom student at Jai Hind College
From: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Moved to Mumbai in: August 2014
Mumbai has great access to education, jobs and start-ups. I thought it would be the perfect place to start a career, but right from the beginning, I realised it wasn’t going to be easy.
My monthly allowance is about Rs 35,000, and initially, I did not realise how quickly money could vanish in this city. By the 20th of each month, I would be left almost broke. Gradually, I learned how to make a sensible budget for the month, factoring in rent, food and travel.
One thing I have learned since moving to Mumbai — categorically, the value of home-cooked food. We have a cook at our rented flat, but everytime I see classmates eat from their dabbas, I miss home a whole lot. Being independent is great, but it’s incomplete without your family.
‘If you are smart, things go your way’
Eric Fredy Kapadia, 21, MCom student at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chowpatty
Moved to Mumbai in: June 2013
Mumbai is exactly as I had imagined. You have to be quick here, and that’s what I have adopted.
It took me some time to adjust, but I soon learned a golden rule — always bargain. Mumbai could actually be considered cheap for a foreigner like me if you know how to get around. One of the first few times I went to Colaba Causeway, I was initially shocked at the price of things. When a friend laughed and told me to push a hard bargain, I was then surprised by how much the price fell. The streets offer some really fashionable clothes, and you can get them for quite cheap.