In the Amol Palekar movie, Baaton Baaton Mein, there is a famous song - ‘Suniye, Kahiye’. Ask any Mumbaikar and they would say that the whole depiction of stealing glances whilst travelling on a Mumbai local is very realistic. However, this was a 1980’s reality. Today, its more about trying to desperately locate each other in the event you somehow manage to get onto the same local, thanks to the completely overcrowded train network. Some guys hold on to their girls and ‘protect’ them from the rest of the crowd while travelling. The less brave simply ask the girl to travel in the ladies compartment and the romance commences when they get off at their chosen destination. As the evening approaches, the numerous platform benches seat couples trying to find some solace in each other after being ravaged by the city. Another hot spot is the bus stop. Oblivious to the other waiting passengers, the young lovers romance, fight and even kiss and make up at these spots.
All of this is only possible if courting couples stay or work in the same area and get to travel together. Most Mumbai love stories, however, are long distance sagas, due to the expanse of the city. Even then, the local trains and buses play an important role. It’s the one-two hours commute, to and from work/college, that provides the perfect opportunity to engage in long, romantic phone calls with your beloved. Board any local and you will find teenagers giggling away into their handsets, and in some cases whispering (how the whisper is not drowned out by the general din is perhaps a special trick of Cupid!). Lovers are literally prepared to go to great lengths, often travelling close to 2 hours during the holiday period, to finally meet each other at their rendezvous. In Mumbai, it seems that parents, caste or religion are not the biggest obstacles to love, but rather tedious local train travel.
Now let’s look at another movie. In the 70’s Jaya Bacchan acted in a wonderful portrayal of a young middle class newly wed. The film was called Piya ka Ghar. This movie singularly explains why there is so much PDA in Mumbai. The movie chronicles the life of a young woman from a small town, but who marries into a Mumbai family living in a one room chawl. The couple struggle to find some privacy to consummate their marriage while residing in these cramped quarters. This part of marriage in Mumbai hasn’t changed yet. There really is no space in small apartments for couples to make love. And if you are indulging in a clandestine affair, well then there never is any place is there? The consequence? Couples at it just about anywhere in Mumbai. On the beach, roads leading up to beach, parks, right up to the underside of flyovers in dark, damp parking spaces. Any place that is a little quiet and preferably dark (a rarity in the city that never sleeps!) is a lover’s den. Of course there are the infamous beach side cottages and farm houses on the outskirts of the city, but they are not really a viable option for those searching for truly “free” love!
In short, to paraphrase an old Mohammed Rafi song, Ae dil hai muskil pyaar karna yahaan, zara hatke, zara bachke, ye hai Bombay nee Mumbai meri jaan. (oh my heart its difficult to love here, please be careful in this treacherous city).