Sunday, May 25, 2008

Breaks:

I don’t look forward to the future. I am comfortable with the present. But it’s the past that makes me stay grounded. A quick break back to Delhi helped me reign in the directionless thoughts and clear a few cobwebs from my mind. It’s that time of the year when the brilliant orange gulmohars starts fading and the sunny yellow alamtas brighten up the roads. The heat during the day was stifling but the nights and morning saw a spate of thundershowers. A few easy hours spend with friends at places where I had left a thousand memories; a quick shopping trip for friends back here in this city and a couple of days spend with my sister and parents…..all simply took away the fatigue that was slowly seeping in.

I hate the fact though, that it started pouring in the city just a few hours after I left it.
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I went with D and a few city-sleekers and first timers for a moonlight beach hike. We started the walk at the dead of the night through a completely empty stretch of beach, tree-lined road and a quaint Portuguese style village. The air was muggy with just a whiff of breeze here and there. But the almost full moon that shone on the water was utterly surreal and illusionary.

When we reached our camping point after 4 hours, everybody in the team immediately went off sleep. I and D went behind some rocks to change and when we came out, we saw the most spectacular sight ever. The silver moon had now turned golden and huge as it lay very low on the horizon. It blinded us with its light and I felt as if I was in a strange planet in a far away galaxy. I looked at the sleeping figures on the beach and wondered how anybody could go off to sleep on such a beautiful night. I stayed awake looking at the stars, the dark clouds rolling in and out, the sky lightening and the stars fading, the lone villager going past in his bullock cart….feeling a strange sense of awe, loneliness, contentment and detachment all jumbled together.

When the first rays of the sun hit the hill behind us, I drifted off to an easy sleep.
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This is going to be my first monsoon in this city. I am dreading the four months of no sun shine, fungus, water clogging and stinking taxis. But I am waiting eagerly for those four months of rain, brilliantly green hillsides, wet roads leading to stormy sea sides, sitting by the worli sea-face when the first dark clouds roll in, feel the sea spray on your face when it dashes against the wall at marine drive while getting drenched in the rain.

This will be my first real, actual Indian monsoon. And I am waiting.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mumbai Chronicles: Contd.

It’s almost nine months now….and I’m finally warming up to Bombay and living on my own. Random people still ask me the same question….which is better, Delhi or Bombay….and I still give them a clich├ęd answer about traffic and infrastructure and people and all that blah.

Over the months, my reactions to this city have mellowed. I have stopped comparing everything to what it’s like in Delhi. The apartment which seemed tiny when I shifted here now seems luxurious in comparison to flats in the suburbs. I still crib about traffic but now I have found many lanes and by-lanes leading away from the traffic. I know where to go in order to avoid rigged autos or taxis. I know the taxi chart by heart. I can even give directions to a Bombay-wallah. I know shops which sell original perfume at half the price, salons which gives fantastic head massages, cute lingerie stores, melt-in-the-mouth home made ice-cream parlours, markets for buying good yet cheap curtains and bedcovers, yummy muslim food joints. Despite what other people say, I still like Haji ali’s strawberry and cream than the Bachelors’. I know how much time it takes to reach Town at 5 and at 7 in the evening. I have learnt to take a taxi or auto ride home at 1 in the night without sitting on the edge of the seat all the way. I like watching canoodling couples in the back seat of the taxis. I have realized that Bombay gives you lot of personal space while Delhi gives you only physical space. I like the vastness of the sea and the fact that I can sit alone for hours without being bothered. I have found that this city is full of evasive melodious koyals. But mostly I like the attitude of the guys here….who unlike Delhites will not think that you are looking for sex if you touch them when you speak.

But what I yearn for the most is the closeness to the Himalayas. I have stepped out of the city a few times but nowhere have I got the high of the clean fresh air of the mountains. I love the fact that I know the mountains like my own backyard and that most Bombay-wallahs don’t. Somehow I feel that they are immensely unlucky that they have never known the mountains. How else can I explain what it feels like to take a bus in the night and wake up to a crystal clear sky and pine scented air; what it feels like when the cold mountain wind tousles your hair and your skin begs to feel the warm glow of the sun? To look at the millions of stars in the cold night sky and feel the warmth of the silence around you. To go on those long walk with friends without feeling the need to speak or those crazy laughter sessions over a nightcap, that echoes throughout the little town. How can I explain that standing there facing the snow-peaks, you feel alive like you have never felt in the city; that it’s the only place where you can be you.

Delhi will always remain one-up for me in this regard. Bombay still has a long way to go. One day when it makes me pine for the freedom of the sea….then I’ll completely belong.