Monday, August 21, 2006
Lunch time. I am biting into some soya chunks plumped up by zesty olive slivers. This is the protein I need to repair the raging wear and tear that happened at kickboxing today. I felt so breathless.. and not because the asinine gym was playing Celine Dion at 7:00 a.m. I wonder if I had to do crunches after feeling wind beneath my wings or what.
Anyway, much reminiscing is due. Boyfriend, A, was here and it was excellent! He met my family, my friends, my family’s friends, and my mad-cap cousin who switches from being family and friend to foe. For the record, he had told me to stay away from any Delhi guy, especially the ones who stayed in South Delhi. (My boyfriend is a typical Delhi guy and as South Delhi as they come. Not that I can make out if a person is from South Delhi or not. All of them are unwilling to take me to Mandi house – whichever part of Delhi they come from.) Now cousin does a volte face and tells boyfriend that maybe he should be cautious of Bombay girls – what with them being so abrasive and all. (No prizes for guessing who got unlucky in love yet another time.) Cousin proposes that maybe A should accompany him to Lokhandwala and meet his other friends – all women, all good-looking – the kinds who wear spaghettis, and not eat them. Invitation was swiftly retracted. Me looking daggers may have had something to do with it.
In keeping with double standards, I, however, asked to be introduced to a Mr. Chandigarh who sauntered up to cousin and said hello. A murmured something unsavory about Chandigarh men, especially the kinds who come to Mumbai to be actors. In the list of things I had previously said about A, I think I shall promptly strike out ‘non-judgmental’.
He drove me around a little bit. We crossed the Vashi bridge – which magically seemed clean, wide, and empty. It was drizzling and there was the sea, heaving peacefully like the chest of a sleeping child. One of those rare things that constitute ‘scenery’ in Bombay. Then we got to Sion where every truck on the road appeared to reproduce like amoeba. And that was the end of anything that comes close to resembling ‘driving’.
We walked around Mount Mary for a while. I pointed out a quaint Enid Blyton-style cottage with ferns and ivies growing along the path. We stood admiring the swaying coconut palms. Or rather, I did that while he tried to locate the part of Sea Rock had been bombed in the earlier blasts.
Met up with Chands and Anumita after that. Pictures were clicked and he was actually smiling in some of them. He looks more confused than happy, but I have it on record now. A does smile and it’s not always to ward off an ‘or else!’ threat.
I was quite peeved when he did not seem impressed enough with Bandra. He said something ultra ghastly like, ‘This reminds me of Pune.’ I mean, one can be clueless and one can be clueless and then one can be gigantically spaced out and make a remark like that. Bandra is like Pune! The travesty! I said ‘Hah!’ so loudly that a couple of pigeons fluttered away in fright.
Then he sheepishly asked me if we could take a walk by the sea. (‘Pune doesn’t have that’ and ‘Where will you find all this in Pune?’ and other cajoling statements were muttered to redeem oneself.) I ignored it all with appropriate iciness.
Later, we went to Colaba to meet my uncle. I had the best, flavorful kheema cutlets there – greasy, coarsely ground, and seeped in spices. Washed down with steamy cardamom chai. A , not much of a meat-eater, nibbled on samosas and chips.
For the promised walk, we went to Marine Drive. A was quite excited to be there. That is what he meant by taking a walk by the sea. It had to be Marine Drive, not Bandra or Versova or any of the ghoulishly cute and crowded suburbs. I suppose ‘town’ is the Bombay all out of towners come to visit.
Again, with the wafting smells of roasted corn and salty, dried shrimps, melancholy set in. His last night in Mumbai, so off we trooped to Oberoi. (It is becoming something of a tradition now to go to extravagant hotels and spend the last few hours in the lobby feeling sorry for ourselves.)
A very sweetly told me not to worry about the prices and just order whatever I felt like. But I always worry about the prices, especially if I am not spending. So I had a beer because the coffee was too expensive. (250 bucks for capuchinno is simply too much if it doesn’t come with a yard of the plantation.)
It felt really nice…just being there, watching the rain from the huge French windows, listening to piano, and watching people help themselves to pastries from the dessert buffet. In the three hours we spent there, A and I may have fought and made up four or five times. I don’t even remember what we argued about, except that we argued about the same thing each time. I think it involved World Space or Mandi house (why is everyone reluctant to take me there? I am mighty curious now.)
When we were sufficiently drowsy, we took a cab home.
A, being A, was routinely suspicious of the garishly upholstered cab. I, of course, waxed eloquent about it and pointed out quite sharply that Pune doesn’t have cabs like this. A felt the satiny green seat cover and was about to tell me that it was a good thing but decided to let it be. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that. Okay, so the cab wasn’t very tastefully done up. But it sure had something.
There was a cute stub of a pink bulb flickering in front of the meter. There were plastic red flowers on top of the dashboard and a zebra-striped cushion on the back seat. I told A that it is excellent when people are unabashed about what they want their cars to look like – so what if it involves neon colors and materials that go into making toy Anacondas. He shook his head and got in. So much for good cheer.
The music, in complete harmony with the décor, was loud and remixed. I was enjoying a lusty rendition of ‘Kaanta Laga’ when A insisted that the guy switch off the music. I would have insisted but I did see a vein throbbing on his head. Magnanimity was in order.
As we zipped past Nariman Point and Marine Drive and wet roads and shiny diners and palms and lashing waves, I realized something. What I felt then was something I could not have enough of. The pavements and the sea and A’s shoulder that I put my head on. This ache that I felt even though I was where I wanted – in Bombay, with A. I wanted to hug the Byculla bridge and felt really affectionate in Chembur and held A’s hand really tight around Lilavati. What is this kind of missing? These insane pangs of not being able to speak because your throat hurts because of the stupid lump in the throat.
I wanted to tell A about this city. I wanted to tell him that ever since I left home and went wherever, ever since I was old enough to fall in love, ever since I was foolish enough to expect a grand romance, ever since all of that…this city set a benchmark for my heart. I wanted to mean to someone what the sea and the smells of this land meant to me. I wanted someone to take comfort in me the way I took comfort in it – even as a memory. And if ever, parting was in the offing, I wanted us to part the way I parted from here – with the inevitable hope and promise that I would be back because I never left it completely.
I wanted to be somebody’s Bombay.
This is what I wanted to say. A sat quietly with the pink light dancing on his fingers. I asked him what he was thinking, although I had guessed.
He looked at me very pensively and told me that there are some things he never knew could actually happen.
‘Like what?’, I asked.
‘The men’s loo in that hotel didn’t have water. They only have paper. Can you believe that?’
I think I’ll keep some things to myself.