This was supposed to be posted on Tuesday, but my net connection was down, incapabilising me till today. But timeliness/punctuality (take your pick) has never exactly been my strong point, so I don’t think it matters.
I went to Mumbai last Saturday, mainly to loosen up a bit. Due to a variety of factors, I had, for the whole of last month, been cooped up at home or cooped up in class, with more-or-less nothing in between.
When I decided to go to Mumbai, I expected there would be rain there. Lots of it. I wanted to write the whole thing up, and I wanted to be extremely pretentious about it. I wanted to be able to say that I had spread my arms and opened my mouth to receive the rain, that I had wandered through the nooks and crannies of this beloved yet despised city, that, treading carefully through the wet streets and damp alleys, my backpack and I had received hidden knowledge about Mumbai, things people living here for years had not managed to realise. Travel-writer-y stuff, generally.
It did not rain. But I’ll try to write it up anyway.
The first thing I did on the trip was to write a poem in the bus, my first in four years, and, following Aishwarya
’s sage advice, I won’t
reproduce it here (I would’ve burnt it or something, but it’s written on the back of a receipt).
I originally had plans for Saturday, but they got cancelled, so I spent the afternoon wandering. My little black suitcase was not as effective in giving the right impression as a shoulder bag might have been, but I made do. The moment I got off from the bus, I made my way around King Circle, looking for books, and I got quite a few nice ones. I am trying to get away from my regular (popular) reading background, so I concentrated on ‘good’ books. I finally got a copy of The Outsider
, and it’s got a lovely cover (R. Duchamp
by Jacques Villon). I also got a Nadine Gordimer collection, again with a wonderful cover that looks like a Goya sketch (which it very well might be). I got a few other books that seem interesting, including Margaret Atwood’s Blind Assassin
and a book by I. Allan Sealy.
I had lunch at an Irani restaurant, which was dependably good. The best thing about the restaurant was the fact that it served something called an ‘Iranian Wrestler Omelette’, which, unfortunately, sounded too intimidating to actually order.
After a (not entirely but almost) satisfactory shopping experience, I took a train to the place where I was staying. It was afternoon, and there weren’t many people in the compartment. There was a very cute little baby sitting in front of me, bouncing itself on its mother’s lap. It would stop once in a while to cough in that special baby manner, which makes even a cough seem ethereal, and then it would begin to bounce again. After a while it got tired of that, and contented itself to pulling at its mother’s dress and pointing towards everyone in the compartment, in case mum hadn’t noticed them.
About half-way through the journey, a blind beggar stepped onto the train. There are lots of blind beggars on Mumbai trains, and they generally make you want to close your ears till they’ve left – they seem to want to irritate you till you give them something to leave. This one was different. He came from behind me, slowly making his way through the compartment, and I could hear him keeping time on some kind of little drum, and playing cymbals to embellish the music. As he came into view, I saw that he was actually keeping time by hitting his stick on the floor, and the cymbal sounds were coins jangling in his palm, all perfectly done. And what struck me was that he was a singer. He had a very nice voice, and he was singing in tune, and he was following the song, rather than forcing it to do what he wanted. In fact, he felt a lot more like a street singer (meant in the most respectable way possible) than like a beggar. There was silence in the compartment when he started singing, and it lasted till he left. Lots of people, including me, gave him money, and I, for one, felt he had earned it. The incident reminded me strongly of this post
(funny how the good stuff stays in your mind – the post is seven months old).
The rest of Saturday was uneventful. I also attended a boring family function, but those always read better when they’re not actually written about (although I should note that there was, for some reason, a disco ball attached to the ceiling of the hall – I pointed it out to many people, most of whom did not share my amusement). I also had a nice family dinner with an unidentifiable number of cousins and an uncle and an aunt. We had lots of different stuff that I observed carefully so I would be able to write it out in my German Restaurant critique essay, which I eventually had to abandon because half of it was basically Indian words.
Sunday was lots of fun. I didn’t actually do anything the whole morning, except laze around and sleep intermittently. I met Aishwarya (who was in from Delhi for a family function) in the afternoon, and we had a very nice chat, and we roamed around looking for books (for her – I’d exhausted my budget on Saturday). I’d write about it, but she’s a goddess on earth, and it would be impertinent for a mere human to even think of writing about an encounter with her. (I hope this is flattering enough. [Insert appropriately charming smiley
And then I came back to Pune with my mother, who I had thoughtlessly left trapped between layers upon layers of relatives. When I got back home, the first thing I did was sleep. Lots.
My whole trip was conducted under a glaze of sweat, hot, sticky, with an undercurrent of pallidness. But as always happens with Mumbai, after the whole thing is done, that part of the memory sort of recedes, leaving a warm, glowing and non-sticky feeling. And it’s this feeling that, in spite of your better sense, makes you want to blog about it.