One of the busiest Bombay suburbs, Kurla got its name from the East Indian village of Kurla. Well, if that doesn’t explain much, the village Kurla in turn originated from “Kurli”, the local name for crabs, which were found in plenty in marshes in this village.
The first word that comes to mind when we think of Kurla is madness. The place is perpetually overcrowded no matter whatever the time of the day you happen to venture across its alleys. A place dominated by followers of Islam, in Kurla it seems all the Muslim women covered in burqas have set out on some impossible mission.
Squalor, dirt, filth – all the elements of nastiness fill up the place. A place where there are absolutely no rules, Kurla seems the perfect representation of Hell with all its seething fury. Passing the lanes en route the station, a woman can easily be run over by any vehicle, spatted upon, molested, teased, and the worst part is she cannot complain. Kurla is perpetually running, where all the voices are lost in the crowd.
After spending a year in Bombay I got introduced to this chaotic suburb, because of its proximity to my new office. As it goes without saying I hated the place the first time I set my foot there. It was dirty, crowded and disgusting. My stomach lurched at the thought of going through the ordeal at Kurla of catching a train.
But slowly, time acted as a balm to the wounds I incurred at Kurla. I slowly started appreciating the things I formerly resented. Slowly familiar faces would crop up now and then in the crowd. I slowly built up rapport with the shopkeepers, sweepers and even beggars in this fanatical suburb. With time I realised it’s easy to hate a place but it takes a hell lot of courage to actually like it.
I tried finding a rhythm to all the chaos that I faced every day at Kurla. Among the din, the disorder and pandemonium, I realised there was hidden a reason for millions to hope. The beautiful architecture at Fort, the expensive shops at Colaba and hobnobbing with the classy socialites are not all that encompass Bombay. Just beside the ‘oh-so-cool’ Bandra is this battered suburb that is crying aloud to survive. Kurla is a true reflection of the resilient human spirit that rises up against tribulations again and again.
Now when I stare at the hundreds of fully covered Muslim women in the sweltering heat amidst the honking cars and autos out to brave the Kurla markets, I am not filled with a sense of disgust but a new-found respect for those beautiful women who decide not to bow down to fate, no matter what it offers. So why will I be so disgusted with Kurla, the mess, the dirt and heat there and hate it? I can also be resilient like them and accept Kurla the way it is. Now whenever I am stuck in a traffic jam, I often look at their only visible part, their lovely kohl-rimmed eyes that speak a thousand stories and try and imagine the lives they must be leading.
My Kurla encounters are still on. I am in search of more interesting anecdotes that this overcrowded suburb offers. As of now, I can say that in my mind I have finally managed to conquer Kurla.