India Diaries 4 : Its a month!
I haven’t written a post in a long time. It could mean one of two things or both, a) I have been busy being entertained with little or no time to spend behind a computer, punching keys despite my love for it or b) I have been neck-deep battling life’s daily trials and both my hands have been busy keeping me afloat which leaves me no free hand to sit down and write; that which I love to do.
Thankfully, it’s not been the latter entirely but a combination of both, like on a see-saw close to the ground but just not completely. Well, it means I’m ok. Me on the see-saw mid-way up, legs dangling, wind in my hair may sound happy for most but not for me. I like my feet on the ground.
A month in Mumbai
Thanks to the city, I feel everything’s alright, perfect even. This despite being relegated to the house after a career spanning 2 decades, with a maid who has made me realize maid management is far more complex than team management and a father who is seventy-nine going on eighty and is immensely preoccupied with his bowel movement and his appetite. If you’ve watched the movie “Piku,” you’d understand (a Hindi movie in which Amitabh Bachchan plays an old man who is plagued with constipation.) Well, if you found the movie endearing and your heart went out to his daughter; then you definitely understand. I need not explain further.
Yet, I’m loving it here…
I’m not sure if it’s because the house is airy and has a lot of sun-light streaming in through all the windows. The windows are unobstructed and I can see the vast blue sky with a view of green tree-tops and the lake below, a far cry from the sands and shrubs that my eyes were wont of seeing while I lived in the Gulf or it’s something as mundane as the changes in the weather- warm and salubrious (I’m getting used to the humidity that comes along with it) one moment and cool showers the next, so much better than the blazing middle-eastern summer sun or the easy accessibility by foot to you-name-it, that’s taken my fancy.
I haven’t been able to lay my finger on it, as to what’s steadied my otherwise volatile heart and mind. It’s not the Mumbai that I heard of or read of or saw in the Oscar Winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ It’s not even the Mumbai of Bollywood or stinking rich business families. It’s a part of Mumbai that’s definitely not representative of the entire city but is very much a part of it – clean footpaths for people who love to explore by foot, gardens, coffee shops, restaurants; all a stone’s throw away with the tranquility of the countryside. It wouldn’t be wrong if I said, it’s as if a slice of Europe with its cobble-stone streets lined with cafés has been transported right here in the middle of this city-that-never-sleeps.
However, being Mumbai, one is never far from reality and the truth is that it only makes one feel more grateful for the privileges one has been bestowed with. From the very same terrace that I see the sun peep through the clouds and buildings with dome-shaped tops kissing the sky, I can see blue roof-tops in the distance, a sea of blue tarpaulin which marks the slums of Mumbai- home to a staggering 45%-50% of the population. 4 walls and a roof that provides just enough place to sit or sleep (you can see them everywhere) with a curtain for a door, narrow alleys, children running around playing with cycle wheels and food being cooked in stoves outside the mud walls. Though it sounds depressing, you find people living there smiling and celebrating festivals too, in fact with more gusto than those in high-rise apartments. Little boys smile baring all their teeth while their hair may be a disheveled mess and their clothes maybe ripping apart. They live and dream and some of them even manage to beat the drudgery, rising to respectable positions. Stories of children from the slums becoming dentists, doctors or joined the administrative services is not uncommon here. That’s the magic of Mumbai. There’s something in it for everybody and nobody’s really complaining. They’re busy. Busy making a living. Busy living. It teaches you a lesson or two in living.
Mumbai grows on you. Before I landed here, every Mumbaikar who spoke to me had given me a peek into the city. Actually not so little. They’d invariably begin explaining the city and the conversation would run for hours, continuing with same energy, jumping from food carts selling delicacies to the erstwhile dabbawalas who have found their place in none other than the books of Harvard, the Mumbai maids and the Mumbai local trains which run non-stop every day of the year carrying millions of passengers. More on the trains once I do manage to get into one. Well, actually getting in or getting out of the crowded trains is not a challenge apparently. You just need to stand on the platform in the direction of the train. Before you know it, you will find yourself in, thanks to the crowds. And when you want to get off, again you just stand in the direction of the exit. You will be pushed out, again thanks to the crowds. That’s a peek into Mumbai through my eyes.
Until my next post on ‘The City and it’s ways’, “Goodbye. Have a great day! Be happy!”
PC: Pictures have been taken from the net
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