At the end of a rainbow

Lucy found her diamond sky

Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan

on May 21, 2014

Bombay or Mumbai as people call the place, swearing all the while that a name makes all the difference has inevitably brought a scowl on my face. The simple reason being that it stinks—Apart from the unique sights and sounds of the place to which I will get to later, the amazingly heady mix of dried fish, sea breeze and ever increasing garbage was enough to jolt me out of my senses the first time I set afoot in this land. Whatever followed next seemed like LSD induced nightmare for the city felt like a giant ant colony abuzz with movement; a rush that would never stop, a din that would never reduce, a societal current that would sweep you off your feet. I felt like the proverbial Alice in Wonderland being told by the Red Queen, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Oh, and running I was, from rabid buses, hooting rickshaws, people who always had a train to catch and of course the sudden sauna treatment called ‘rain’ here. So, when it came down to choose where I would want to settle down with my partner, you can well imagine where this city ranked. My mistake I realise now, was to make my distaste public news by announcing to all and sundry that Bombay was the last place I would literally stick my nose in. Murphy heard it all of course, and four months later, much to my chagrin I was packing my bags to head for what should be called the most populous marsh on earth. My partner wasn’t any bit happier for the city held no charms for him either, yet as the familiar sweat trickled down our face and the ‘creek (ki)’ smell hit our nostrils we knew there was no going back now. Besides the sights, sounds and smells of Bombay, the other unique problem of this city lies in housing. For a price that can get you a spacious home elsewhere, Bombay will throw you a hovel as if it were doing a favour by keeping the walls in its place. Even this has to come via brokers i.e devils incarnate who ensure you are broke by the time the deal is done. My partner had been running pillar to post in search for a suitable home, and in the process fallen sick due to exhaustion (duly euphemised as weight loss) before cosmos decided to bestow a roof over our heads. What we had got was a barsati but given myriad childhood memories associated with such type of houses I immediately liked it despite the fact that the terrace was larger than our room and bathroom combined. Bathrooms in a typical apartment in Bombay deserve a separate entry but here’s a bit about them—they are made for pygmies. I am curious about the postures adopted by the old timers here because it is possible to relieve oneself only by entering in a particular angle and subsequently placing the posterior end on the commode in a manner to ensure that contents of the bowel are flushed away; all this while the walls press against your knees and in my partner’s case the head too! Being rather optimistic by nature, I can appreciate the fact that the size discourages most people from carrying electronic gadgets inside to enable them to sincerely answer calls from nature for a change. Slowly but surely as I became familiar with the surroundings, I couldn’t help but notice fragments of harmony amidst the seeming chaos in the form of strangers smiling back despite the crazy jostle, girls dressed brightly as if mocking the fatigue due to the heat, the unique defiance of spirit in a place that constantly leaves one at the mercy of time and chance. Despite my wild anxieties comes a beckoning of the setting sun to explore new horizons and a promise that tomorrow will be a new day. And yes, there is much to enjoy in a dabeli while on the run. Acquiring taste? Guilty as charged.

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