Last week, days and nights rolled together to form one long, wet continuum. In such continuum, sometimes there was respite. I’m writing about the experiences I had during that respite. The exact date and time I do not know. I just remember those moments as the time when the rains had stopped and the air was filled with mojo.
Wee hours, Marine Drive
It’s an even indigo sky. Rain falls softly like scales of a silver fish. The sea is torrid but is generally behaving itself. The roads look freshly coated with paint – that’s how wet roads look when they don’t have potholes. This is Marine Drive. It now looks neurotic and beautiful – like the brink of sanity; like the psyche’s twilight zone; like the rim of a whim. This is the unreal Mumbai where there has been no flooding. Rain and its attendant despair are still meiotic.
My friend and I have driven here in silence listening to Dire Straits. We get out of the car and walk towards the Drive’s breastwork. Every time I walk with someone on Marine Drive, I slow down and observe this: who goes and sits down with the back to the sea and who remains standing looking into the distance. In my experience, it is always the one who sits who begins talking. The one who stands generally scans around looking for dreams this city is famous for; all kinds of dreams – old, new, lost, forgotten, stolen, broken, borrowed, own, unknown, familiar; all sorts. City of dreams. Stand and scan around. They’re there.
We both remain standing, monarchs of all we survey. There are few other groups milling about. A couple sits next to us and is arguing the way couples do. The woman shrilly says why something will not work out and the man infuriatingly stonewalls. Both are sitting with their backs to the sea.
Somewhere else a guy addresses his coterie of friends dressed in mustard yellow and rani pink and other colors you find in Jaipur palaces. He flails his arms and hollers a claim: ‘I’ll own Mumbai’; ‘She’ll be mine’; or something like that. People often say this on Marine Drive to others who sit with their backs to the sea.
I spot a guy on a cycle selling tea, coffee, and bournvita. My pal and I get our cups and talk about this and that. Meena Kumari and Waheeda Rehman actually – its weird, the things you associate with vanishing sea spray. Then I ask him about the last significant memory he had of this place.
He was there many moons ago with a girl. They had been friends for a long time and she was going away to follow her dreams. He knew she’d make it. She knew she’d make it. There was only one million other people she had to convince. Anyway, she’d made it. They were not in touch anymore.
I was there a couple of seasons ago with the person I was in love with. We were discussing home loans and where we’d shift and how we’d raise our children (okay, that’s what I talked about while he agreed.) Then he reached across and held my hand – and I had my first inkling that this was probably not meant to be.
We scanned around and went back to Dire Straits.
Some Saturday night
An interesting observation about Mumbai pubs, discs, lounges, restobars, or similar mutant variations – something called Insomnia will put you to sleep; something called Bed will keep you awake.
Speaking of Bed – the place has unearthed the kinky punster in so many of us. Sure, the Bed guys asked for it but then, it gets rather tiring after a while. ‘Will you go to Bed with me?’ (Wink! Wink!) ‘I was in Bed with three of my friends.’ Yes, yes – I grinned sportingly the first hundred times I heard it but now…blah!
Oh! There’s another club in Bandra called Squeeze and it’s amusing to see how people want to get witty about that.
‘Let’s go dancing?’
Hmm, it IS rather difficult to weave a name like that into a conversation.
Anyway, about Bed. S.H. had got his car that had spent one and a half days submerged in water. It was reasonably dry but still reeked of ..well, stuff that cars reek of when they’ve been under water for two days. So Doe, I, and S.H. headed for our night out. During the drive, our behinds were getting damp; and pretty noticeably so.
Doe: ‘Where are we going?’
S.H.: ‘To Bed’
Doe: ‘For what? To wet it?’
Sigh! You can get imaginative with a name like that.
One Monday morn
There’s a cute corporate graffiti that goes like this: ‘In times of crisis, some people turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.’
But it’s funny who all go to work in Mumbai when the tracks are flooded, the roads are overflowing, and gutters are spilling over.
Anyway, there I was in office with only two other people. One of them was reading Time Out, the March edition. The other one was watching Shrek 2 on the computer. I was stupidly waiting for more people to arrive.
Dana chortled and snickered and laughed eerily. Somehow, watching Shrek 2 in an empty office seemed sordid. Dunno why but…
Sanjana was reliving the time Mumbai was hot and scorching and dry. When people would actually venture out to check out a Ragz jean sale and go for a morning show at Fame Adlabs.
I was bored. And when I’m bored, (like when I’m sad or happy or agitated), I suggested that we go to Mocha.
A couple of reveries snapped.
‘Are you crazee! In this rain!’, they squawked. ‘It’s raining!’, more squawk. ‘Do you know how heavily it’s pouring?!’
Here’s the thing about my pals – to say a thing well and to say it once is not their virtue.
‘We have umbrellas’, I patiently explained.
‘Sure! And THAT definitely means we won’t get wet!’
‘Mukta, no idiot would have stepped out of their houses to come to work’, Dana said with mock brilliance, like she was voicing some real original thought.
Dana sheepishly looks about. No-one else around.
‘Okay, let’s go.’
Anyway, Mocha was open. We ate, drank, and made merry. Then these women started thinking about ground realities. They had to buy some alum because the water they were getting could only be used to peel off nail-polish. But, would the alum shops be open?
‘Mocha was open,’ I zenly stated. (It is indeed a glorious day when I get to have the last word.)
So off we trooped around Hiranandani. Grocery shops – closed. Chemists – closed. Dispensaries – closed. Doctors offices – closed.
The only shops that were open were opticians and jewelry stores.
Sanjana was flummoxed. ‘They expect people to buy glares to shield themselves from the rain?’
Dana: ‘And jewelry? Lets take gold chains and boil them in water. I think Romans used to do that or something.’ But that’s how Dana explains any ridiculous idea under the sun. The Romans – her eternal scapegoats.
Seriously, it is strange – the kind of people who turn up when no one else does.