Actually, you have to feel it..(pic: author)

Groups of young, well heeled boys and girls in their trendiest walk along animatedly, almost purposefully, as they dodge and wing past saree-clad ladies, impatient toddlers tugging at their bags, haggling with the vendors standing behind their vegetable carts.

A white Maruti Zen slows down, music pounds from within, the teenage driver and his three companions appear suitably nonchalant, like they couldn't have guessed they are the cause of the distraction that's caused pedestrians and passers-by on both sides of the street to inspect them, albeit momentarily.

The Zen moves on, the throbbing beats fade out, other sounds take over, a stationary bus shifts gears noisily as it takes on the last passenger from the bus stop, right behind the carts. The honking resumes with gusto as the bus moves out onto the road and a small traffic jam develops. A delivery boy on a cycle dashes madly past, the wooden box affixed on the back sports the name of a tandoori joint a furlong away. A group of scooters wait expectantly outside a pizza joint, ready to tear off into inner lanes with fresh orders.

Suburban energy

This is 7 Bungalows in the north-western suburb of Andheri in Mumbai, one of Bombay's many `golden quarter miles', Over a dozen restaurants of various sizes and hues can be found on this strip and on a normal day at around this time, 8.00 pm on a weekday, they are mostly or close to full. On Sundays, scores of patrons hover on the pavements outside, in eager anticipation.

Walk around 7 Bungalows on such a day and you are enveloped with an all pervading sense of excitement, of heightened activity, purpose and near carmaderie with the dozens of folks milling around or passing through. You not only want to spend time and possibly money but also come back, if nothing else, to hang out. A first-time visitor might use the term `buzz' to describe his or her emotions.

Is 7 Bungalows unique in imparting a buzz when you arrive there ? Well, not quite, hundreds of spots in the teeming metropolis of Bombay give you a similar feeling, with varying degrees - a lady visitor from Delhi, returning to the city a few weeks ago, after almost a year, remarked she felt the buzz the moment she emerged from the airport terminal.

To feel a buzz at Mumbai's airport, when the first and present reaction ought to be a combination of frustration and disgust at the mess created by the reckless construction and the pile-up of arriving and departing passengers, luggage and vehicles that drop them off and constantly whistling guards shooing away parked cars is interesting to say the least.

I Love NY, now you know why

Yet, Bombay does that to you. On every other parameter of liveability, it would score between 0 and - 10 except buzz. Most visitors over the years say they like Bombay because it has a buzz, they stay on because it does so. I would confess that I can feel the lack of it more strongly than I feel its presence, try going to Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Hyderabad. Once again, Bangalore, I can grandly pronounce, is beginning to display the first strains of a city that has `buzz', albeit in some parts.

Is Bombay alone ? Well, no. Emerging into the bright sunlight from the underground New York Penn Station on to Manhattan's 33rd street, between 7th and 8th Avenues, you get hit with a buzz blast that, in my mind, is tough to replicate anywhere else in the world. Walk down further, on New York City's famed sidewalks and you can feel the electricity surging, traveling up your feet and into your senses.

NY street energy is of course, well documented - You feel elated, with it, removed, happy and just kicked to be there. Keep walking and you are almost one with everything around, the traffic, the fast walking commuters. Leicester Square in London comes close, on ocassion. Morning or evening, high powered waves of energy, rather than mere air seem to be coursing through this Square, which if you were to analyse clinically, is a small piece of real estate with nothing more than a few movie halls and a restaurants located around a garden.

There are of course many buzz zones, small and big, in and around where you live and of course all over the world. Bombay by night, Madrid by midnight, London by day, New York anytime !

People of the world unite

So, what constitutes buzz ? If, in most cases, it is nothing but an aggregation of hang-outs, like 7 Bungalows in Andheri, Bombay or to stretch the analogy, Leicester Square, then what really injects that form of energy into any location ?

People could be one, obvious, answer, often young people, but it does not seem to be as simple as that. Lots of young people congregations do not necessarily create a buzz, whether its a permanent location or a semi-permanent, temporary hang-out.
A Greater Kailash II hang-out in New Delhi is similarly populated at a given time, socially, demographically but buzz levels (if any !) may not be as strong as the Andheri (W) scenario described earlier.

Cities themselves create a buzz, Bombay is an example back home. Many people can relate to the lady who stepped off the plane from Delhi and felt the city's buzz touch her. Similar experiences can be had in the great Asian cities of Hong Kong, Singapore and, more recently, Shanghai.

A COO of a large Silicon Valley firm told me late last year in Shanghai that he could feel the electricity on the streets. He was comparing this visit to a previous one which obviously did not leave such a lasting impression. And Shanghai does leave you somewhat overwhelmed with its energy; manifested in the young couples on the streets quite visibly in love, the tall buildings, the cars, roads, the lights - encompassing in one city, everything about the new China that you hear so

Vast congregations of excited people are high energy and buzz centres. Watching a cricket match in a Wankhade in Bombay or an Edgebaston in England can be an exhilarating experience, to say the least. After a recent India-Pakistan match in Edgebaston where this writer was present, several desi spectators were heard remarking about the `amazing atmosphere' despite the severe drubbing the home team got. Translate that into buzz !

If its not just about congregations, what is it then ? Could it be weather ? Does moisture or humidity play a role ? Bombay is more humid so you feel the energy prickling you and Delhi, you are most probably reeling from a heat wave. Sounds a bit bizarre, doesn't it ? Guess it is, what then are the other variables ?

What according to you generates the BUZZ ?

Write the discussion continues..the writer confesses a disinct, even unfair Bombay bias versus other Indian cities !


Anish said…
Hmm Govind....I have lived in Delhi all thru my life...moving to Pune soon.Wud like to check out the Bombay Buzz....but I must late Delhi has started making an impression ....hasn`t it.
Bibs said…
Havent been to bombay but have heard so much about it. To me, one important thing that adds to the buzz is the seamless integration (again based on hearsay) that Bombay accords to all its residents irrespective of their origins (be it Madrasi or Bihari). Contrast it with Madras where you are distinctly North Indian and reminded quite often. I think Bangalore is slowly gaining that character with the number of people coming in.
But of course, a lot of my hard-core Bangalorian friends dont like to see the number of 'immigrants' (as one of them likes to call us) coming in and destroying what they believe is the small-city cosiness and character.
Anonymous said…
Yup! Bombay's gotta the Buzz! I lived in Bombay for a while i did get new perspectives towards life.

The trains run on time. Majority of auto rickshaw fellas are honest and they even return 25 paisa back. My "dhabba" always arrived on the dot. People walk really fast. The system IS smooth. Therefore, all the mental energies are focussed on the right things!

The one good thing i learnt from Mumbaikars is their great attitude towards work. Hard works really pays in Mumbai.

You are either "in" or "out" in Mumbai. There's no room for mediocrity.

But, i did notice a lotta stressed-out faces. The distances are horrible. Quality of life a lil' sad.

But the Mumbaikars know how to party hard too. I am in sleepy Bangalore these days and i miss the pace.
Jaggernaut said…
At the outset, I must confess that I have almost never travelled out of Bombay. It might be a little unfair for me to be commenting on things I haven't ever experienced. But heck, I know the BUZZ you're talking about. Most of my three day vacations to Alibag have been curtailed because of the mind-numbing absence of the BUZZ.

I never gave the source of the BUZZ much thought till I read your post. At first thought, the buzz seems to be generated primarily by the power of money. Of course, money being the single most important driver of the world. What jumps to mind immediately is this - "Money is not the only thing in the world, but its a long way ahead of whatever comes next."

What's so special about Bombay then? Money lies in Chennai, Calcutta and Delhi too (most of it stashed away in pillows and mattresses). Further thought compels me to conclude that the buzz is a consequence of the money, coupled with the attitude of power that comes along with it. 7 Bungalows there is a prime example. Dude in Zen, loud music, yes he's got the moolah; more importantly, he's got that heady voice in his head that shouts, "Go on, create the Buzz, you've got the power of the greenback!"

This post has got me thinking. Expect a related post at :
Ravages/CC said…
I think Madras has enough of the buzz. Having lived in Bangalore for a year, travelled to Bombay, Delhi and a few other cities, I think Madras has enough of the buuzz, and it is only growing.
Anonymous said…
Good blog .... also for those of us who don't want to be part of the buzz;-) Keep identifying the places we should avoid.

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