Thursday, November 26, 2009

Salaam Bombay

How does one fall in love with a city?

It's pretty similar to falling in love with someone actually. First there's the idea - the misty, subconscious conditioned tinted glow. Then there's the actual tangible meeting. There's like and dislike, strong like and strong dislike, and then the succumbing to the fact that despite and inspite all that you can put down on a two-page list, there's no escaping this person. Love it must be then, for the lack of a more evolved word.

That is how it is with me and Bombay. Or with any small-town kid and India's only true metro. It was Rushdie who stoked the first sparks of love - till I came to see it and got all run over by the dirt and the smells and the people who seemed so 'lost' within themselves and their city. I worked there for a bit - and learned to love the smell of sweat, the pushing and shoving on the local trains, the sweet Muslim cab-wallah-uncle who ran up three floors of the TOI to return my recently-acquired solitaire engagement ring. I remember the first time I was robbed, by a friendly faced girl on the local, how I sobbed all the way to Powai, and how the rickshawallah offered his silent looks and patient wait till I hounded down acquaintances for fare money. I remember walking out of a theater by myself at 2:00 in the night, feeling the same kind of security as I felt back home, the fact that this is perhaps the only other city where I'm safe despite my gender. Mistaken fact, but still, almost true.

I saw its glitz and glamour, its astounding riches and it's quiet alleys of pain. It was the pace that took my breath way - the purpose in the walks of the hordes who met me at CST. The talks of the women who left home at 5 every morning. The reason for all that jostling for space. The need for self-survival. I marvelled at its pride, and I understood my antagonism of how every Mumbaikar I'd met could not look beyond their city - and I understood why. I loved it and then I couldn't wait to get away from it. And it remains, like a dear ex-lover, with enough warm nostalgia to make it my own. They say if you can recognize and reconnect to someone through an insipid and stupid name-change, you're meant to be connected.

Mumbai, I mourn you still. The scabs over your wounds maybe falling off, but I feel your pain still. The pace was soon set, but I honour your pause still. The despair must make way for determination, because I remember your fear still.


OJ, whose twitter feed on 26/11, connected all of us who were away from Mumbai to its fears and hopes and tears, writes about picking up the pieces, here.

Prasoon Joshi and Amitabh Bachchan's plea to stop, to pause, to question, directed to a city that tends to pick itself up easily, here.


Anonymous said...

Hey Nino's mom, what a poignant post on Mumbai! Last year's events refuse to leave our minds. The cover page of Outlook carries a picture of a grieving relative, whenever I remember that pic I think this happened as if life is easy in our metropolises. So many injustices heap. Scary, heartbreaking, and so much more all at once.

Thanks for all the links!


Henri said...

I like the way you compared falling love with someone to falling in love with a city! Mumbai remains my very favourite memory. I lived there for two years. And yet, as every year I hear about the rains, the blast and finally, last year 26/11...I selfishly thank myself for not living there. The glitz and the filth and the rush and the ambush...I left it all behind. Now just as a bystander I watch the world rape this city and others paying homage to if that were enough...but what else can we do? I feel nothing in my heart today for 26/11. Sad, but true. Because I cannot go back to having nightmares about people ravaging the street I live on, so I do what the rest of India does, push it out of consciousness and continue...but thank you for writing this post :) I loved Mumbai once, now like you, I mourn it.

Guddi said...

De-lurking...Very well written. I'm passionate about the city. I mainly love it for it's faults and the utter arrogance of bouncing back. It was good to read it, especially today! Thanks...

Fatema said...

Have you read Shantaram? Your opening lines reminded me of the opening lines of that book.

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