For those who are unfamiliar with our series on duality, we’ve been chronicling young individuals who split their lives into two, constantly searching for that perfect balance between their dreams and stability. Metal drummers who double up as advertising professionals by day and celebrated home bakers who put in their 9-to-5 at a call centre to keep things abreast. But inspiring as these people and their stories may be, the fact that a major portion of society is being neglected for doing the exact same thing became too glaring for us to ignore. Especially when you consider that all of these people were working more than one job, not to thrive but to strive, and certainly not out of choice either.
Mumbai is one of the most expensive cities to live in across, and the growing population explosion is not making life any easier. In 2030, Mumbai’s population is estimated to grow from 21 million people to 28 million to become the fourth most populous city in the world, which in turn is going to make it even more difficult to make it here than it already is. Here are a few people that we happened to interact with, who will do whatever it takes to survive in this highly competitive and expensive environment. From the house maid who is also a broker, a home nurse, a masseuse and a mother to the real estate brothers who also own a cigarette shop. In their own unique ways, each one of these individuals encapsulate the spirit of this city like none other.
I. Moolchand Yadav | Dreamer. Determined. Happy.
Who: Moolchand Yadav is a 38-year-old man from Allahabad who loves his performing arts and makes money by acting in plays back home. To give his family a better life, he moved to the city 14 years ago and started working as a watchman.
Moolchand calls himself a ‘Kalakaar’ at heart though, and he has been singing and acting for 18 years now. Every time we broached the topic of ‘nautanki’ his face would light up. The hardest part of the journey he said was to balance it all out between two different lives in two different cities. He still hopes that he will get his big break in the Bhojpuri film industry one day and that his children will not have to choose between their dreams and reality.
II. Deepak (62) and Sunil (58) Matani | Honest. Sincere. Hardworking.
Who: Deepak and Sunil Matani are brothers that run a real estate business out of their cigarette shop in Bandra.
“I wish I was your age”
These brothers started their cigarette shop in 1983, grew this business steadily and exactly 10 years into it they started a real estate business specialising in corporate leasing. They mostly work out of they cigarette shop complete with a computer table and wifi. They also own an office not too far away used only for meetings. They almost opened an African restaurant in the ‘80s but the venture fell through, still the Matanis are proud of everything they have achieved in the professional and personal world and are content with where they are. They did not want to be photographed.
III. Raju Singh | Survivor. Tactful. Truthful
Who: Raju Singh is a 32-year-old chai seller in Bandra. In his spare time at night, he also drives an auto rickshaw to be able to get by in Mumbai.
Raju is from the Banswara district of Rajasthan, and he moved to Bombay 18 years ago in search of a better life for himself and his family 18 years ago. Raju sells chai via a hole in a wall shop in Pali Naka and drives an auto rickshaw in the nights. As he admits, “Bombay is not an easy city to live in. It is really expensive, and I make barely enough for myself selling tea. I have to send something back home and I want to see my kids doing better than myself. I would also like to bring them down here to the city one day.”
IV. Ajaz Mansuri | Never gives up. Workaholic. Strong.
Who: Ajaz Mansuri (43) is a mobile phone repairman who also runs a business of selling second-hand cars.
Time is hard to come by for Ajaz yet he personally repairs every phone that he gets. As for his second business, he admits “it’s very unstable. I can get a call at any time. I also have to take out enough time for my wife and five children. If you ask him what he dreams of doing, his answers are tangled up with events of the past and future. “I used to work in private bank till ‘97 till I got let off. I took that as an opportunity to be my own boss and started dealing in cars in ‘98. About 8 years later in 2006, I opened this shop but I am still not satisfied because the growth is slow. I wish my business would grow faster.”
V. Sajid Khan | Dexterous. Go-Getter. Family man.
Who: Sajid Khan (30) works as a masterji at a small tailor shop on Hill Road and runs an Ice delivery company simultaneously.
Sajid is a through and through family man, he has one baby boy and an another baby is on its way. He used to work in the costume department of Bollywood films, most notably in Saawariya. Sajid came across as a very positive man, hell bent on doing what it takes to get rich. He works as a tailor from 10 to 10 everyday and manages his network of ice delivery boys via his mobile phone. What does he hope for in the future? “I look forward to the day I can open my own ladies boutique store full of clothes made by me,” he smiles.
VI. Meena Gharami | Devoted. Always looking ahead. Happy.
Who: Meena is a 46-year-old mother of three. She mainly works as a house maid but is also a broker, a home-entrepreneur, a masseuse and a home nurse.
“ It is hard to keep my house running. But i do it with a smile”
Meena is a mother whose life revolve around her three children, and she hopes that they will not have to struggle like she has. She works five jobs to make ends meet, not to mention be able to properly educate her kids. Meena lost her first husband due to natural causes and then decided to remarry to be able to give her child a better future. She wakes up at 5 AM every single day and cooks for the family before she heads out to work at 10 AM. In the evenings, she spends her time taking care of the children and of her other businesses (Meena also sells home made Achaar). What does she want from the future? “I would love to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss.”
VII. Mustaq Sheikh | Dexterous. On the move. Generous.
Who: Mustaq is a Rickshaw driver in the day and works as an SRA Project Manager in the evenings.
“No work is too hard for me.”
Mustaq Sheikh is a 44-year-old father of two who wants to make no compromises on his children’s future. He has been working two jobs for 3 years now to be able to educate them in English. As a result of his hard work, his elder son is now studying BMM and majoring in Animation and VFX. He rides his rickshaw from 7 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, after which he works till 9 PM at an SRA centre where he helps mostly with accounts. It is hard for Mustaq to be able to afford the school fees every month so the only future he wishes for, or even has time to envision, “is a comfortable one for my children.”
[Note to readers: We will be continuing this Duality series over time. If you, or someone you know, have a story of survival in this city to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘MUMBAI DUALITY.’]
Words & Photographs: Karan Khosla (@thekhos)