It’s a difficult city. Like an eccentric old lady with a young heart and calluses on her feet, which she squeezes into pinching heels every evening for a prance around town to the watering holes – where everyone is free and young – and when everything else has closed, to sit by the sea and stare at the glittering surround of lights and marvel, ‘Can a city be so beautiful?’
A loving city too. Not the closeting, claustrophobic love of your over protective mommy but the free, expansive and accepting love of that girl you lived with, the one you almost married, the one who left with a quiet and quick peck on the cheek in a skirt the colour of flame-of-the-forest.
She almost threw you out so many times, but then you crawled back, a little pathetic, mostly human. And she smiled her wry smile and said, ‘well, come in then.’
A dirty city. Dust on your cheeks at the end of the day, black smoke from yellow-black taxis (with drivers who are both friendly and cut-throat), grime under the toenails, the largest slums in the world.
But oh so human. The cheeky, little car wash who hangs out at your signal and grins at your disgruntlement and wheedles the pennies out of you, laughing.
The gang of eunuchs who sashay by as you sit on the broad ledge at Marine Drive eating peanuts and thinking of the future, and cheerfully bless you when you turn your palms up and say, ‘nah, I’m can’t. I’m broke’.
The vendors at Fashion Street who haggle like crazy and then chat about business being bad because of the rains.
That old Parsi gentleman (isn’t there one always?) at the Irani restaurant, slurping tea beneath the lazy fan.
Human as as a crumpled suit, children in the playground, sweat, sadness, love.
And yes! Alive. This is where the words run out because nothing can quite describe the strange, pulsating, hot, quirky aliveness of the city. It’s stronger than anything else. It makes people forget the smallness of their apartments, rush hour commute, dirt, grime, pollution, corruption, flies.
And for those, who’ve grown up there, it runs strong as blood through their veins.
* I am going ‘home’ to Bombay for a week so will probably not be posting during that time.