It was a sudden trip to Mumbai last Friday. My father had had an accident. He was unhurt (knock on wood) but everyone else was shaken. My mother is usually alone at home. I always seem to forget about that vulnerable spot until something like this happens.
Also, there was an old friend who was visiting from the States. It had been very rushed at work so I hadn’t had the time to meet him in Mumbai. And frankly, something inside of me had changed after I left the city. Bombay somehow feels like a scab that has fallen off. I don’t feel the need to go there. I don’t feel the tug. I don’t feel the pull that I had earlier felt when I had moved cities. As long as my parents come to visit me, as long as I see them often, it’s all fine. I am not in touch with any of my Bombay friends anymore – or rather, nothing more than facebook air kissing. So we like each other’s statuses on facebook, maybe share the occasional Ganpati greeting or ask about a Diwali holiday...but it feels like we have drifted apart. Each one of them from me and me from each one of them.
I’m reminded of an evening in Carter Road. This was when I had started falling for someone – very hard and very deep. He had been my friend from years ago, from college. He was a Bandra boy and an avid runner. He ran everywhere. He used to run from Khar Danda to Juhu beach and back every morning. We used to meet at Carter Road in the evening and sit on the promenade. He was really good at chess and Carter Road has these stone tables which have chessboard markings on them. People get chess pieces there and sit and play by the sea. We did that once but I was no good at it. I knew the rules but was far too impatient and short-sighted to be good at the strategy game.
I loved the way his eyes used to change from honey to mahogany as he thought, made a move and slowly grazed at the scene in front of him. Then he’d knock over my king, give an easy, lopsided grin and say ‘And that’s how it’s done, Mukta.’
One evening, he was late. I walked on the promenade and sat at a little amphitheatre type of structure. The sky amazed me that evening. It had flecks of green! The standard brushes of orange and pink were there, of course, but there was also a distinct, subliminal bed of red underneath. Like a boiled red moon was waiting to peel back these covers and come shining out. I saw the colours merge and separate, meld and bleed onto the rim of the marsh. The sea seemed to be on a different kind of earth. It looked like a tray was filled to the brim with grey water and placed in front of a colourful canvas. People walked, sat, talked. I got the distinct sense that although these people were with other people, they were by themselves. Interesting how the topography of a place washes over its inhabitants. I remember thinking how, only in Bombay, would one see for sure how much of an island a human-being really is.
Anyway, coming back to the night of the trip. A friend and I had decided to share a cab. She was going to pick me up and I manically tried to wrap up work in office. The cab was late so I got a few sandwiches and drinks from Cafe Coffee Day. The trip was swift and snappy on the Expressway.
Then we crossed the toll. We crossed the toll to enter Bombay.
The roads were wide, the Palm Beach Road was pretty and lit up, cars zoomed, trucks heaved, large buses drove past and I saw the people. So many of them in so many places doing so much. So oblivious to everything. Like little, fragments of island. They had floated in from Carter Road from five years ago and were caught in my net of now.
My eyes saw that crazy headless chicken energy and the ‘take no hostages’ grunt of traffic. They also took in that unmistakable expanse of open arms.
I reminded myself, “And that’s how it’s done.”
It was a lovely trip.