What makes Pune and happy city, while Mumbai lags behind? We try to find out

Can happiness, an inherently abstract and deeply personal concept, be quantified? As per the 2020 India Cities Happiness Report, compiled by Rajesh R Pillania, a professor of strategic management, the happiness of cities can be measured by six key parameters — employment and professional growth prospects, relationships, philanthropy, religious or spirit orientation, and impact of Covid-19 on residents’ emotional state. This study ranked Pune as the happiest city in Maharashtra and the 12th-happiest city in the country. In contrast, Mumbai comes in at the third position in the state and the 21st position nationally.

But, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And happiness is perhaps best defined by those that live and work in these cities every day. Mumbai and Pune-based readers share why they think Pune is happier, and what it will take for Mumbai to rank higher on the list.

Mumbai speaks

The city that never sleeps is known for is relentless pace and never-say-never spirit. This, however, can prove to be taxing, after a while. “Mumbai is a bustling city. People are so caught up with their daily routines and the 9-to-5 grind that they barely have time to explore the city and its joys. As Mumbaikars, our quality of life would massively improve if we had the option of stepping out more often and had a culture of throwing (and attending!) house parties. If we began to working out together in groups, prepared meals together, formed dance clubs, and went on frequent walks and getaways, we would definitely enjoy our lives much more,” says Huda Shaikh, a nutritionist.

There’s also an urgent need for a smoother commute, Mumbaikars say. “Less pollution and a larger number of green parks and nature spots would make this city more enjoyable. The traffic and time spent on commute are stifling,” says Omprakash Jha, a product manager, who also notes the lack of artistic and creative hubs.

Making matters worse are the dug-up roads and potholes, due to which getting from one place to another becomes a real drag. “Combine this with a spotty phone connection and you're spending most of your commute hollering on the phone! By the time you eventually reach your intended destination, you're already stressed out and frustrated,” opines Jeff Bathija, a retired banker.

Being born and raised in Mumbai before moving to Pune gives Nupur Lalvani, founder of Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, a more holistic perspective of the pros and cons of each city. “I have always admired the city’s famous hustle. However, living in Pune since the last few years, I have found that the pace of life here is a little slower; while it annoyed me at first, I relish it now. I can sit in my balcony (yes, Pune has real balconies) and watch my bougainvillea grow while sipping on coffee. Mumbai is far is too busy chasing and running to savour the small joys of life,” she explains.

And, finally, the city of dreams also comes with its pitfalls of intense competition. “In Mumbai, we are acutely aware that if we don’t grab any opportunity that presents itself to us, there are ten more like us who are simply waiting to charge ahead and take our place, whether in our personal or professional spheres. Even dating and relationships are stressful because there's no time to meet in person, everything is virtual and there are too many potential matches to settle on ‘the one’,” says Bindiya Talreja, a finance professional.

Fewer people, fewer problems

"I believe that Mumbai’s biggest problem is its people. Getting rid of roughly 50 percent of Mumbaikars would immediately make the city much happier. In fact, I have a list of people we need to get rid of –motorcycle riders who ride the wrong way on a one-way street, people who cross the road very slowly and don’t give a damn about cars, and groups hanging out in lanes for no reason, top this list. I strongly recommend levying Section 144 and restricting movement to groups of no more than three or four. Today, I am missing the lockdown. After so many months of seeing less people on the roads, we are now overcrowded again. We didn’t appreciate how good we had it with the restrictions. I was so much happier then," says Cyrus Broacha, comedian, theatre and television personality.

Pune responds

The mantle of happiest city in the state is a formidable one, and Mumbai could certainly learn from what its neighbour is doing right. Trishla Rane, a media professional believes that much of Pune’s secret lies in its smaller size and laid-back attitude. “It's easier to commute in your own vehicle and even the police are much more cordial and courteous. Pune is all about its people — with the right contacts, your life is so much easier. You can also become popular much faster as it is a smaller city as compared to Mumbai. Lounges in the outskirts are open until dawn,” she says, adding that the geographic location of Pune presents a distinct advantage. “The climate is much more comfortable as compared to Mumbai. Even a person from a lower-middle class background can sleep soundly without the need for a cooler or air-conditioning. To replicate Pune’s success, Mumbai could use a better sewage system to the olfactory senses!” she exclaims.

Vincent Lim, a corporate trainer agrees with her observations. “The many destinations around Pune makes it the best place to be. As a biker, there’s nothing I enjoy more than open roads and places to ride to. I enjoy frequenting destinations such as Lonavala, Sinhagad Fort, Kaas Pathar (Valley of Flowers), Lavasa, Malshej Ghat, and Mulshi. There’s just so much to choose from. The city also has a vibrant young crowd, which was my main reason for moving here while pursuing my studies. This dynamic made it easier for me to connect with others like me. Even my transition from a student to a working professional came with the same ease.”

Santoshi Jain, on the other hand, says that less traffic makes the city much more aesthetic. “I find that staring at a car's rear end in endless traffic in Mumbai is an eye sore. In contrast, Punekars can feast their eyes on all sorts of shapes and sizes on two-wheelers!” And finally, there is a strong case to be made for a better work-life balance. “People here aren't stressed about catching trains and buses and are comparatively more carefree about rules and regulations pertaining to civic life. We enjoy taking breaks through the work day and spending weekends with friends and family. As a culture, we treasure our power naps in the afternoon,” observes Shirish Bhakare, a sales trainer.

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