Dinner with family. Just family. Decorating the tree with them, brother showing up really late, talking to parents, dad dozing off just as I’m getting ready to click, and running out of film just as dad wakes up.
Brother stays over. Driving through streets of Bandra on Christmas eve, watching men looking dapper in suits and women looking chic in dresses and satin gloves. We have coffee at a place over-run with kids in Santa caps.
SS visits, after a lifetime. We window-shop. Hungrily. There’s no store on SV road that wasn’t devoured. Mango was the tastiest dish, though.
J and Cy land in Mumbai. (Cy is all of ‘seven’ now – a figure she announces loud and clear, holding up the right number of fingers for good measure.) SS and I are at the airport to pick them up. Cy sits forlorn on a trolley and tells me, “My mother never gave me any food.” I tell her that I’m her real mother, and J is just an imposter who got lucky. So, she retorts, “You’re not my mother. You never ever ever gave me any food.” I suppose all those French fries that seamlessly passed on from my plate to hers never counted.
Walking with J on Pali Hill, late at night. We took a wrong turn and reached Carter Road to witness a strange sight. Strange, yet exotic and beautiful. Like a Latin poem on a road sign. The moon was halved – looked like an upturned bowl, and it was red. A dusty, gritty red. It seemed suspended in the sky, as if it were just about to get plunked into the dark, inky sea.
J, Cy, and I watched our first play together at Prithvi: Kashmakash. I thought it was quite nice. It tackled the subject of a man who fakes the freedom fighter status to get money from the government. But later, his life takes some troublesome turns, and he is forced to confront his situation head-on. The lead actors gave solid, nuanced performances. But I did think Cy might have enjoyed something lighter than a play on the triumph of conscience over convenience. She wanted to come back, though, for another play, so one can’t really tell.
We went to Juhu beach thereafter. It was around twelve at night. Man! That place doesn’t get old! The beach was lit up and full of people and clean. Cy and I ran around on the beach. The sea looked like it had molten platinum mixed in it. The moonlight was that radiant on the surface. Cy and I splashed about, while J walked along the shore, shivering daintily. How she grew up in Delhi, I’ll never know! (Or as she says, “Not Delhi…South Delhi.”)
The night was cold. Just when one had given up hope of having a winter, it didn’t just get pleasant in the city, it got c-o-l-d! We walked to a portion of the beach where some people were playing football. Cy took some rides. J took some pics. And then we hit the stalls.
Getting to the stalls at Juhu beach is like entering a nightclub. That buzz, that noise, the hurling and shouting, and laughing, and thumping on backs, and cacophony of music…it’s brilliant! We ate hot, spicy, overloaded with butter ‘tawa pulao’, paav bhaaji, ragda pattice…gosh! It was so good!
The air had a bite by then. We walked along some more, I got a cup of coffee, and then came back to my cozy, cocoon-y home!
Next night, J, Cy, and I had sushi at Global Village. It’s a nice place. The sushi is affordable, and they had a Christmas menu with roast duck and all.
Later that night, we walked along the dark streets of Pali Hill. Tumbling trees, cobblestone paths, yellow, wax-type lighting from the streetlights, purple flowers dangling from ivies that resembled tendrils of a young girl. I told them of a spooky incident that had happened to me when I was a child. When people didn’t walk on Pali Hill without lanterns or torches in their hands.
Cy had fun at the play-pen on Carter road. It was filled with kids, some shoving past others to get to the swings, some flapping about to reach the slides faster…and the guard gave up trying to get the kids out by eleven-thirty. So he just went back to his cabin and snored away. When we left around twelve-thirty, the kids were still at it.
We reached home. J and Cy went off to sleep. I wanted to do a little bit of reading. But ended up contemplating instead. As I had another supper of warm sooji-halwa, roti, and strong coffee, I thought of this world, my life, 2009, 2010.
There have been so many moments like this in the past - where suddenly out of a crowd, a few people stand out. Or in a snapshot, every single meaningful moment in one’s life gets captured to tell you something. Time, if anything, blurs. It diffuses. Boundaries melt. Sharp edges get rounded. And you think, in surprise, how over the years – who all became family…and what all became home.