It was raining incessantly. Bombay rains. They never stop. They are unusually white and misty. It blurs your vision. Makes you dizzy if you stare outside for too long.
I was perched on top of the window seal of my little rented Borivali apartment, and gazing outside. There was a smoke lit up, and I was puffing absent-mindedly. He creased his forehead and gave me a disapproving look and went back to photoshopping photographs on his laptop, as I threw my head back and laughed.
All this looks like just yesterday, when I first shifted to Bombay.
Light and darkness would play inside our small, crampy bedroom, and form long shadows on the wall. As we would lie down, we could listen to the rains outside. The thunder. His heartbeat. And the incessant pitter-patter of the raindrops, dancing on our glass window. I would wake up early in the morning, and find him deep in sleep. He looks like a child when he sleeps. Immortal. Happy. Content.
I never thought I would settle in Bombay. Back in college, when the world used to be my oyster and I literally had a spring in my step, I thought I would travel the world. I did not want personal relations to decide my plans, or worse, tie me down. But in a way, it did. I came to Bombay and started working. It has been a year and a half now.
I was told that Bombay grows on you. That I would never be able to stay anywhere in the world, if I start staying here. He used to laugh and tell me that Bombay is his first love, and I come a second. Bombay is his muse, the other woman? Initially, I was curious to find out what’s the hullabaloo all about. But I eventually got heartbroken. The stench. The crowd. The overpriced property rates. The blasts. What exactly was lovable here, I pondered?
I have had my share of struggle in this city. I have cried nights on end trying to find a firm foothold. Staying alone, away from home, family and my lovable Calcutta wasn’t exactly easy. I have cursed him days on end complaining about, “YOUR Bombay”.
The blasts on 13th July 2011 shook me. What shook me more was the attitude of the Mumbai-kaars. They were strangely nonchalant, chilled out in fact. “It happens. What’s the big deal?”, “Life moves on. Nothing stops Bombay,” “Yeah, SO?” are the various reactions I got from them after the blast. And the city did move on. So fast, that I was startled, a little disappointed even.
Coming from a city like Calcutta, where a tiny issue can result into a ‘bandh’, that can result in cancellation of national examinations, closing of schools, colleges and offices, THIS was completely new for me. The next day on my way to office in the same old overcrowded local train, I felt numb while looking at people around me. They were still punching on their blackberries and making nasty faces, they were still nudging and pushing people, asking where they will get down. The morning rush..the urgency.. It was all the same.. As if nothing happened last night. I failed to understand what exactly is the ‘spirit’ of Mumbai that people keep talking about, because honestly speaking, my spirit was sucked right out of me.
It was amazing to see the city move on so fast. Nothing ties them down. Nothing bogs them. It was like watching human robots. I missed the soul. I missed my Calcutta.
As days passed by, I slowly started realizing what the hullabaloo was all about. When I was new in Bombay, I used to dread getting into the local train alone. I used to clutch his shirt tightly and get inside all scared, ready to be molested. The two cities were so different. In Calcutta, if someone picks up a fight in the street, rest assured ten people will gather around, leaving all their important work behind, in order to chuckle and enjoy the show. They will even try to understand the whole crux behind the fight, and enquire, “Arre dada ki hoyeche?” (What has happened?). In Bombay, thousands of people will trample you and walk away if you stand still during rush hour.
He showed me all around the city. The obvious and known places; and the not-so-known ones. The chaat wala in Borivali, who gives extra ‘sev’ and makes you lick your fingers dry. The malai gola wala, where I learnt how to wash hands with ice. Yes, ice. I was surprised beyond compare.
There was this small restaurant near our house, though restaurant is too flowery a term to describe that place. A shanty–shack more like it. It used to serve yummy, piping hot chicken tandoori and biryani. The post dinner walk back home, would remind both of us about our beautiful Lavale campus, the life that we had left behind. The life where it had all started.
I have to mention two of our favorite biryani restaurants here, BBC- Borivali Biryani Centre, and Lucky, Bandra, that serves the awesome-est, yummiest and extremely rich, oily biryani. Do try it out, if you guys haven’t yet.
He also showed me Marine Drive. When I first saw it two years back, I was awestruck. The beautiful Queen’s necklace. The aura surrounding it. I remember sitting at Marine Drive for hours, and staring at the sea, as the wind would play with my hair and mess it all up. And then, it used to start raining. We would get drenched head to toe. By the time the rain would stop, we would look at each other and laugh while shivering.
It looks like just yesterday when I was a ‘New Girl in the City’. The memories are trapped in that flat in Holy Cross Road at Borivali. I am not even sure, who stays there now. It is trapped in the sweaty local train compartments that ply everyday from Borivali to Churchgate. And at Marine Drive. At BBC. At Bandra’s Lucky. At Bandstand. Inside those numerous autos where we have sat and yapped. In the pitter-patter of the Bombay rains. The shadows on the wall. And the long walks.
And inside me. My head. And my heart. I am carrying a piece of it with me, wherever I go…