Mumbai Diaries 12 :Beyond the Gates
There is nothing more energizing, more soothing or more spiritual than a walk at dawn. This is how I feel. If you are someone who feels the same, then you understand what I’m saying. And if you’re not, then this post isn’t for you.
In an attempt to ring in 2019 and make it a better year than the previous (isn’t that what we all want?), I took stock of the changes in my life, that were not working for me : A) Changes that I couldn’t do much about and I had to live with and B) Changes that I could fix. And I decided I would aim to start working on the items in Group B before the end of January to set the flow for the entire year.
In category A are moving to the country (which I am actually happy about), not being employed anymore (which again I’m not too unhappy about except for the fact that I’m not really used to not earning my living. Hell! I was born to be a worker 🙂) and having my privacy encroached upon because of a full-time house help (where I need to keep reminding myself that she makes my life easy in a house with an ageing parent and the barrage of questions and interruptions are a small price to pay).
In category B, is the one little thing that is actually not so little for me. Its a ritual that had kept me afloat during the last 15 years and had helped me balance work, home and kids. But moving to the country had brought it to a halt. The ritual had unconsciously been moved to the evenings and It hadn’t occurred to me, until the end of turbulent 2018, that, I just might have been missing it.
Family walks with kids had taken the place of my morning ‘me time.’ Those solitary moments which I held dear once and which set the tone for the day had disappeared in ‘going-with- the- flow.’ Added to this, was my fear of ‘The city.’ ‘The city’ being synonymous with ‘The Unknown’.
After 6 long months in the new city, I finally broke the mental barriers and fears holding me back and mustered the courage to step beyond the gates at the wee hours of the morning, when the world outside is still dark, the street-lights are still on and one can count the number of people on one’s fingers (quite shocking for the world’s most populated city).
At 6.06 a.m. leaving my children in bed, in my tracks, I tip-toed out. Out of the safety of my home, out of the building’s common area which has been my sanctuary and out of the gates into the world outside. Alone! The security guard wished me “Good Morning,” and I reciprocated with a smile.
In a city that has earned the nick-name, “City that never sleeps,” my neighborhood is a misfit. All but one or two lights in the tall sky-scrapers are switched on. The street dogs lay curled up on the sidewalk, in sweet slumber. My foot-steps aren’t enough to awaken them. Leaves blown by the breeze lay fallen on the pavement as the street- cleaners are yet to come. There’s no machine here that picks up the trash on the street unlike the developed countries. The job is done by people and they do a great job of it.
A few car cleaners are busy washing the cars with a cloth for cleaning and a bucket of water.
A man jogs past me. I can not see his face without my glasses but feel relieved with his presence. I spot a woman walking ahead of me and it settles any uncertainty I have of being the only woman on that dark road. Crows caw overhead. I don’t know if it is just that one crow that’s followed me as I walked, flying from tree to tree, happy to have me for company or is it a family of crows perched up on the trees overhead. They are the only ones busy at this time of the day, as busy as they are at end of the day before they retire for the night.
There are no flowers lining the streets here. Shrubs, palms and some other trees, whose name I do not know ( I am not really good in differentiating between plants or for that matter cars or birds or fish. I’m not proud of it.) line the pavement and while I feel the chill of the last days of winter, there is no breeze. The leaves are still and yet it’s not stifling. The morning air is in simple words ‘pure’ and refreshing.
A lone policeman stands at the turn. I’m not sure if I must wish him. I don’t know if its the accepted norm here and I’d rather be one of the crowd and not catch any unwanted attention. If my husband was accompanying me, I would have wished him confidently (Oh my God! That’s another block in my head, which I’ll have to work on.)
I turn into a lane that takes me home but instead of entering the gates, I walk past. And there’s a smell I recognize, one that tingles my nostrils and brings back memories. The smell of burning firewood mixed with the smell of dawn reminds me of grandma’s home- the cauldron being heated using firewood, for our showers; and I feel a sense of belonging.
A little way further is a garden managed by the B.M.C. I’ve been there before. But the gates are closed at this hour. There’s no point in going further as the end of the road opens onto the highway.
It’s 6.45 a.m. now and the sun is still in hiding. But the veil of darkness has lifted, if only slightly. There are a few cars and school buses on the road, reminding me that I have children who need to go to school too and I must return.
I enter the gates to the building; a sense of liberation at having broken the walls that had held me back, a sense of achievement at having realized a personal goal and a sense of satisfaction that it was something I could do every day now. I had finally crossed the threshold.
As I walk into the building I see the cleaners are now drying the cars. The sun has not risen yet. The sky is still a blue-grey. Opening the door to my home,it seems the sun has been playing hide and seek with me. For now he’s not hiding anymore. From my bedroom window, I see the sky has changed its apparel. A tinge of crimson and orange from the dull blue, marks the beginning of another day.
That’s all from my side today. Wishing all of you there a very Happy Tomorrow!