‘Can I ever live without her?’ I have asked myself many a time. Her effervescent energy and unique discomforts seems to have cast a spell that I can’t shrug off.
A city, alien to me some 14 years ago when I arrived as a newly wed is now home to me in every sense of the word. The images linger on -of plastic and garbage; of fancy high-rises and teeming crowds of people; of the festive cries of Ganapati Bappa Moraya and the breaking of the ‘dahi handi’. None of it has changed over the years. It is now part of the very fabric of the city that she is.
She has it all-cramped spaces, failing infrastructure, apartments that could be termed ‘boxes’ and an existence that is not easy by any definition. She also has her efficient dabbawaala’s, ‘rasta’ bhel and two rupees ‘time-pass’. And yet if one were to ask me what is it that is so charming about my city, I would be lost for words. The charm lies not just in her vibrancy or the vast expanse of the sea that overlooks my home”; Or in the ubiquitous humble ‘vada pav’ that fills hungry stomachs every day. Or in the ‘cutting chai’that is an instant warm up on a rainy monsoon day. There is more. A hidden allure, perhaps that no one can ever see or place a finger upon but simply feel.
Life is in the fast lane, yes and stressful to boot especially when your life depends upon boarding the 8.05 local. But she also leaves you with the chance of finding your own quiet corner within or without. You just have to search for it.
A journey of discovery it has been, of discovering the value of ‘precious ‘space’ be it in an over packed local train or in one’s 500 sq ft apartment. One just learns to create space within that space. Perhaps you could even create a garden with blossoming hibiscuses and roses.
The thrill of being called ‘bai’ (teacher) by my maid when I was all of 25 years and her efficiency and time management made me understand the importance of discipline and hard work. What a world of difference it could make.
And the funniest lesson of all, when I made an attempt to call a stray dog or cat (with a kind of smooching sound reserved for animals); I had the taxi drivers and vendors in the vicinity asking me what I needed!
Over the years, I have changed homes to different parts of the city, worked and raised my two daughters here. And through it all I have learnt a simple truth. That of how easy it is to fall in love with Bombay if one were to just flow with her rhythm and accept her the way she is. Any other city would be too easy an existence for me. Call me spoilt!
‘Ganapati Bappa Moraya’-welcoming Lord Ganesh on Ganesh Chathurti
‘dahi handi’-a pot of dahi usually at a height of 20-40 feet or higher broken during Gokulashtami (birth of Lord Krishna) by a group of people.
‘dabbawala’s’-the people who carry freshly made food from home in lunch boxes to office goers
‘rasta bhel’-roadside sellers selling puffed rice usually spiced
‘time pass’-peanuts are called time pass because they are just that
‘vada pav’-vada -a hot potato cutlet;pav is a bun
‘cutting chai’-hot sweet tea served in a glass
Wrote this for Shakespeare & Co, a writers network on Ryze