Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bombay times!

I first visited Bombay at the age of 16, for a cousin's wedding, way back in 2003. Up until then, I was somewhat fascinated by the city, owing to my love affair with Bollywood (Yes I was weird back then- still am actually- but I grew up abroad, gimme some leeway!). I had also heard that Bombay was a lot like New York City, and I l.o.v.e NYC, like l.o.v.e. So in a sense, I was always prepared to love the city. And it didn't disappoint me. We did very touristy things back then, did the usual darshan of Siddhi Vinayak and Mahalakshmi, went to the beaches, had vada pao, did the open bus ride around Gateway in the night (lovely btw), saw the Queen's necklace, went by the local train even.

Last week, I visited Bombay for the third time (my second trip was a brief transit visit) I had been planning this trip for a long time, as a break from the insanity which my life had come to represent for the past so many months. For a long time, it was just a hypothetical situation, existing only in my head. But as all the madness in my life (weddings, thesis, exams) started to diminish, I knew I deserved and needed a break. And Bombay was perfect. Plus I got to see two of my closest friends in the world, who I usually don't get to see very often. So after much deliberation, much planning, many doubts ("what if this happens while I'm gone?") and a not-very-happy set of parents later, my tickets to Mumbai were booked.

I didn't go to Bombay with any expectations, all I wanted was a break from Delhi, from the usual monotony of life. But whatever little expectations I might have had, they were surpassed- and HOW. In every which way. Like the Bandra-Worli sea link. I fell so deeply in love with the sea link that I insisted on going on it regardless of whether it was required or not, which led to some pretty pricey cab rides- but so totally worth it. The fact that it was raining like all-the-time while I was there, resulted in the sea being a tad rough, and thus an absolute beauty to see from the sea link.
Oh-so-gorgeous :)

I stayed at Carter Road, which I was told, and later saw, was one of the posh-est areas in all of Bombay. My dear friend P, has a beautiful cosy flat there, and it was a privilege to stay there with her for four whole days (she's written a lovely blog post about her house, which can be read here) The post doesn't do justice to the loveliness of the house, home rather, but she has done a better job than I ever could. The bestest thing about P's house was that the Carter Road promenade, a sort of a walking track along the sea-side (seriously, how awesome is that?) is a stone's throw away. My first morning, we went for a walk, and came back all drenched- fantasy experience for me, since the only thing I had been getting drenched in in recent times was sweat. During my stay, I was a regular at the place, and spent hours just walking, looking at the sea.
Imagine seeing that every morning *sigh*

And then there was my most favourite part of Bombay, Marine Drive. Oh, how I could kill for an hour at Marine Drive, every time that I want some 'me-time'. The first time I went to Marine Drive was during a very heavy downpour, and P made me get out of the cab with a measly umbrella and made me stand there looking at the sea, so I could 'enjoy' it. I was drenched by the end of it, but how totally I had fallen for the place. So much so, that I went back to Marine Drive on my remaining two days, just to sit there, looking at the vast expanse of the sea. The experience of just staring at the sea, of the waves crashing and hitting you with droplets of water was something which I can probably never ever put in words. It was magic- truly magic.
Favouritest e.v.e.r

Bombay had one other thing which I absolutely loved, especially because I had never ever experienced it in my life- safety. I have spent 9 years in Delhi, and a majority of these years have been spent travelling about the city on my own, at all kinds of hours, in all modes of transportation. And I have never ever felt as safe in my own city in all these years, as I did during my 4 day stay in Bombay. I went around the city on my own in autos, and taxis, without a care, without a worry. It was so strange, and so awesome. I wish I lived in a city like that, I wish Delhi was half as safe as Bombay felt.

Then there were the people. P and I have been friends for 9 years. She has known me since I was 15, and has seen me through many successes, and many disappointments, and life in general. Yet, this was the first time that we were spending so much time together, since school. And it was wonderful to be able to spend that kind of time, and space with one of your closest friends. She was a fabulous host, planning my days perfectly, taking me to all her favourite places, and making sure that I cover everything there was to cover. She motivated me to get out of the house and explore the city on my own, all the while calling or BBMing every few minutes to check on me. She balanced my trip with her super-hectic office hours, and never once let the smile leave her face, except for when she made horrid faces while I was thanking her. So one last time P, thank you- you made the trip a HUGE success, and you are right, I do have a home in Bombay :)
Then there was A, who I refer to as "the sister". She's someone with whom my closeness can't really be defined, and with whom my relationship is one of the most solid things in life. She got married recently, and I wasn't there :( but luckily, I got to meet and spend some wonderful time with her- talking, listening to her words of wisdom, catching up on life, gossiping, bitching about the people we know and don't know. She came early in the morning on the day I was leaving to say good bye- and she's NOT a morning person. I even got to meet her absolutely wonderful better half, one of the few people in this whole wide world who I liked instantly (the fact that he's Tam-Brahm had nothing to do with this btw), and it was so heartwarming to see a couple who are so real, so honest and so wonderful.

The trip was one which was away from my comfort zone in many ways. It was my first ever trip alone, without family, without an itinerary, where I was in charge, I decided what I wanted to do, what I wanted to eat, where I wanted to go, or not go, or go again and again. I met people who are so unlike me, or anyone who I usually hang out with, who come from very different worlds. Maybe that's why the trip was so fabulous, and so different.

While having breakfast on my second morning with the sister and her husband, when I casually mentioned that I quite like Bombay, the sister immediately snapped back and said "Don't stay at Carter and tell me that you like this city. Go by the local train, live the Bombay life, and then tell me you like the city". It's true what she said. In my four days, I was just a tourist. And from the little I saw of life in Bombay, it's a goddamn struggle, in every which way. But despite all this, despite the fact that perhaps living in Bombay is very different, I had the time of my life.

Bombay is not the city of my birth, or the city I stay in. It is not a place where my memories are, or where my life's biggest events have happened. I don't have family there, nor any childhood experiences. I didn't study or work there. In a sense, I have no emotional connect with the city. Yet, there's something about the city which has always intrigued me. And having spent four days in the city, and a considerable amount of time exploring it on my own, my intrigue hasnt diminished. Its a city which I loved and disliked in parts, a city which fascinated me in the things I liked, and the ones I didn't.

It's difficult to verbalize what Bombay represents to me, as of this moment. But for now, lets just say that the Bombay trip of July/August 2011 was out-of-this-world awesome. In every which way :)


demystifying me said...

It is for nothing that I respect the way you write. I was welling up while reading this piece on Bombay.
I feel like re-experiencing Bombay, despite of the crowd and the local trains. Despite everything I want to give Bombay a second chance.

This is the reason you should write more. It is heartwarming and honest like you.

To more blogposts like this


Runjoo said...

Trust you to say you feel like re-experiencing Bombay, after all the "Gawd it's such a stressful city"! But seriously, I am sure its a city which will surprise you every time, and still leave you curious to know more.

Thanks sister :)

creyzeee said...

if i'd lived in Bombay like THAT, i might've liked it too!!!! :D
u make it sound so cool! great post! i'm glad u got ur much deserved break :)

oh n if there's ONE thing i wish delhi had was the sea. i can stare at it for hourssssssss. i can even sit next to it with my eyes closed for hours! everything around u just disappears when ur 'with' the sea :)

Runjoo said...

@creyzeee- yess the sea! i actually did stare at the sea for hourss on two days during the trip...its crazily addictive and the time just disappears.

Vivek Krishnamoorthy said...

Enjoyed reading your post. We must must catch up again.

Delhi next time hopefully. Anki can't stop gushing about it. The food, the winter, the roads.

Any plans of swinging by Banglaore/Mysore? Here toh you'll stay with us. We're soon to be Mysoreans. :)

Runjoo said...

Mr. V- what a pleasant surprise to see your comment! yes yes, we MUST catch up, delhi winters are amazing :) try taking some time out in november. and thanks for the invitation, i shall take up the offer definitely!

Nima said...

Awww, thanks baby. That was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I am glad you had a good time and I am glad-er that you finally agree that you have a house in Bombay and glad-est that you fell in love with the city. Mumbai as a city, grows on you - atleast it grew on me - and because of all those things you said about it - the security, the safety, the independence, the I don't give a damn attitude of the city, the sheer hardwork that people here are used to, the daily struggles of getting on a train, the insignificance of life here is strangely warm, the monsoons, the pride!
I am sure next time that you come, you would discover more - both bad and good things like any other city - but the uniqueness in the ability to go out and discover on your own!
Love much, come back again, NOW.

Usha said...

Nice post Ranju... I was told by my Bombay friends (I can never call it Mumbai, it will always be Bombay to me)that the city will make everyone fall in love with it. I vehemently denied it when I was there, but now I must say they were right - I really do miss it: the sea, the a-ma-zing street food, the convenience - you can get anything under the sun there, people who mind their own business... Of course it has its problems - which city hasn't?

Another point in your post that resonates with me is the travelling alone sans agenda bit - I did that a teeny bit when I came to Delhi/Bombay last May and it was really exhilarating... I plan to do something like this when Bujju is grown up :-)

Runjoo said...

thanks all of you!