Tuesday, May 10, 2011
There are flashbacks in my head. I’m sitting at a bus stop outside Xaviers and waiting for 119 to get home. I’m with my friends outside Marine Plaza, sitting on the promenade, singing ‘leaving on a jet plane”. We aren’t singing well. But we don’t care. Not one of us.
We are a shameless bunch of people who have recently found eachother. We have things in common. I have company in unapologetically stuffing tissue paper and facial wipes from restaurants, cafes and on many occasions, the Taj.
My house (if I may call it that) was at a place I couldn’t ever afford in Bombay. It faced the sea in town. The hall had many windows and made for the best place for poets, lovers, writers and alcoholics. From the fourth floor apartment the glistening sea front kept me anonymously unaware of the perils of the shanty that was right at the fringe of the shore. Coming from a place I hadn’t been exposed to ‘bastis’ I would always be curious to peek inside those tiny huts to see what they did for entertainment. They had television sets. And radios. And washing machines even.
The college being in town, I got a chance to explore townside. Weekends at Mondys, Regal, strand, marine drive, nariman point, Apls, the cross tucked away on fashion street, mahalaxmi race course, ghettos, the clubs that are too unworthy to mention now, Kala ghoda, NCPA. I think I must have my cot behind the counter at VT Barista even, for the entire year I was in college. Then soon after student life ended and the fervor to work started brewing inside me, I took up a job at an agency that doesn’t even exist today. It was a run down, tiny advertising agency in lower parel. A good reason to hang out at phoenix mills. I was moving further from home. And slowly being prepared to make a tiny ant-hole of my own. I shifted to my favourite suburb-Bandra. At the time I shifted there, I didn’t give it its due share of importance. I mean how was I to know back then, that Bandra is where everyone who doesn’t live in town (south of Bombay), wants to be in. Or that there were rhyming jingles and jokes written about it. Or that the locals from there would give away their address at social dos with their nose pointed toward the glitzy chandeliers.
I was earning an embarrassing salary but didn’t relaise it until I went to give a bundle of clothes to the laundry outside the apartment. I mean after the house where everything from food to cleaning to cooking was taken care of by a domestic help, I didn’t imagine the real world outside the artsy sobo. Atleast not when I insisted over a telephonic conversation with mom that I want space and privacy and that I am moving out. The tiny place I lived in Mount Mary church steps was my first experience of living alone. I did it up with little pictures on the wall, with my belongings strewn all over the studio and with a borrowed stereo that played my music. It still never felt like my own place. It could never be the house I grew up in and I knew it never would come close. But what I didn’t know is that despite the house, ill start liking my life in it.
Soon I got a job in another agency back in town and started using the local train. While my new pad taught me how to avoid conversation with the land lady, the daily train commute taught me the importance of carrying a body spray handy at all times. I was finally learning what it means to have a breaking back pain while one retires to bed. And how well one can sleep thereafter.
I made more friends in my new workplace. Friends, who spent Christmas with me, took trips together and whose birthdays I was expected to remember. Never mind if there was no home-made meal waiting for me at home, there were friends to go out and grab a burger with. Soon I realized that my initial hesitation to go out and eat alone seemed juvenile to myself. And just like that, I figured out the neighbourhood and moved to another house in the same building. I liked it there. I liked my job, on most days.
I started liking the mucky monsoons in Bombay. Despite the toe infection it gave me, I would give the credit of my first anesthetic experience to the monsoons. After all, before the toe surgery and many visits to Holy family, I’d always managed to avoid hospitals like Osama did, the US army.
I liked how my neighbourhood would swell with joy during Christmas and how American express bakery was selling marzipans delicacies wrapped in packs of immense joy. And those four years there replaced the town side Barista and disposed me to Candies on every weekend. I loved the place I stayed in. Despite my building looking like a earth quake survivor or that it could be soon signed for a rehabilitation project by some big builder any day.
I moved my job and the moved my home. My new home was not so far from my old neighbourhood. And my new office looked swanky. I made new friends again and learnt new roads. I got stuck in traffic jams on Tulsi Pipe road during ganesh Chaturthi and I saw the serpentine line of people outside Lal bagh ka raja.
After so many years of living in a city that made me most aware of my losses and blessings, I can not summarize this love affair in a blogspot. I surely can’t do it in many either. But it will always be a place I made some close friends who I wish, accompany me on family holidays when we’re middle aged. It’s going to be where I had my best college life, outside of college and in it. Where I learnt professional conduct (or the fact that how unimportant it is in my life). And most importantly, found love. So Bombay, if you’re not too busy this weekend staying up making inebriated speeches to a pool of happy faces and going to a fancy hotel for pizza and coffee to sober yourself down, I am saying thank you. Did you hear me? You fishy city, I really treasure our wakeful nights together.