Thursday, July 14, 2005
Postcards from an evening
It was Niharika's birthday.
Anumita, Chandrika, and I get into a busy train. Chandrika finds a seat and wedges herself in it. Anumita and I stand near the door. It's better to feel like a sardine in a crowded fish tank than a dead one in a can. A tells me these incredible stories of her early years in Mumbai. We find that I'd applied to the office where she was working many years ago. Big city but small world, I think to myself.
We reach V.T. and catch a cab to Marine Drive. On the way, A & I point and shriek at those quaint places in 'town' that you visit when you're either studying or underpaid. We gasp at a pretty Japanese rock garden in the middle of a road. They've even styled a gnarled tree-trunk to look like a magic lamp. Chandrika, through it all, wonders what the big deal is.
Anumita, Chandrika, and I are walking towards Niharika's building. Mumbai's skyline looks all grey, opaque, and misty. The lights have just started coming on. Our hair whips about in that humid, strong, breeze and we feel pretty.
Niharika shows us her beautiful, big house on Marine Drive.Her house is huge and old and quaint - where genteel people stay; where children play the piano after dinner to entertain guests; where, if you rummaged through drawers, you'd find a pair of black, silk gloves that someone wore to an opera. The bedrooms are roomy and have letter tables. You think of jewel encrusted snuff boxes and solid, gold monocles when you look around.
We settle in the balcony. Niharika has gone off to try the chandelier ear-rings we've gifted her. The sky is now inky-blue and the skyline seems to have hundreds of colorful firelies clustered around black, solid hives. Niharika peeps in- and her profile, with those mauve chandelier ear-rings, makes her look like an actress from the '50s.
We talk a bit while Anumita finishes her drink. We talk of birds. Nihariks tells us of one grey swallow with a blood-red chest. Anumita tells us about a one-legged pigeon.
We go to dinner where we exchange occult stories. Despite my resolution to be vegetarian this year, I have the chicken and fish. Sorry - Korean chicken, and sizzling fish.
On the way back, we board an empty train. Anumita does a cute Rumpulstiltskin jig (she looks cuter than the character though). A & I sit by the window. C sits next to me. We talk of this and that. As the journey wears on, A slumps comfily and I lean my head by the window. I tell Chandrika that the sound of a night train taking you back home is so soothing - that, and the sea - what I achingly miss when I am out of Mumbai. A smiles. C smiles too - though I think she still wonders what the big deal is.