‘Madam,’ a familiar voice calls out. I make a quick u-turn on my cycle. It’s still early hours of the morning, and I am at Bandstand. ‘Idhar kya kar raha hai re’, I ask him. ‘Jhaadu maar raha hai’, he replies, matter of fact. He’s a BMC sweeper and my daily hi–bye friend on my way to office in Khar. ‘Shift ho gaya kya?’ I ask. ‘Haan’, he says. I tell him to quickly shift back to apna area and both of us get back to whatever we were doing.
‘Kaay zhala,’ asked Anil Ambani. It was 2004. ‘The bank won’t pass my loan,’ I replied. ‘Why?’ ‘Kya pata, all my papers are in place but gym equipment for a college is not making sense to the bank manager.’ ‘Kitne baar na bola?’ ‘Har baar.’ ‘Morning and evening you are working right?’ ‘Yes,’ I nod.
45 days of doing that and the bank manager approves my loan for the full Rs 5 lakh. When he sanctions it, I weep in happiness, the bank manager weeps with me.
It’s the Friday afternoon namaaz and Milan flyover is packed with traffic and people praying. ‘Nikaal, nikaal mere ko,’ I say from behind the wheel to the guy who is managing the traffic in his rolled up jeans, skull cup and unbuttoned kurta that displays both hair and chains with equal aplomb. Without looking at me, he signals to his friend across the signal to let my side of traffic go. I raise my hand to say thank you to him from the side view mirror. ‘Bas kya, no problem’, he gestures with his.
I have opened the office door but Saif stands there still reading his book. ‘Hello,’ I say. ‘Oh! I am sorry,’ he says looking up. ‘You know I am almost towards the end and it’s the oldest storybook on earth.’ ‘Ok, you finish it and then we can chat.’ ‘No, let’s chat and get the diet done.’ We get the diet done and he tells me the story that he has read till now. Even I want to know how it ends now. Saif messages me the ending 20 minutes later.
I just about manage 1-rep max on 80 kilograms on deadlifts, good technique, and form, but the second one I only manage to lift mid- shin, struggle and then bang the bar down on the floor. Kamlesh, my trainer, looks at me from the mirror and lifts his eyebrow to say impressive. I put my head down to say sorry that the second lift didn’t go through. As I walk towards the water cooler, another guy who trains at the same time as I do, walks up to me, looks me in the eye and says, ‘you are one hell of a bad ass.’
These are the men of Mumbai for you, the Mumbai manoos. If the women here are comfortable just being themselves, a lot of the credit goes to our men. Our aggression doesn’t make them feel weak, our determination doesn’t come in the way of their pursuits in life. As a society, we have learned to celebrate each other’s success and stay focused on what we do best, jenu kaam tenu thai.
The much vaunted Mumbai spirit is not about ‘thoda aur seh lete hain’, it’s the men and women of the city rooting for each other as a way of life.
Here’s to the man in every woman and woman in every man, may we always be there for each other.
Rujuta Diwekar is India's leading nutrition and exercise science expert.
The views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Bloomberg Quint or its editorial team.