I came here as a nobody. I’m still a nobody.
I had promised myself, I would never do this. I would not be one of the countless number of authors who write about the ‘maximum city’.
I will not write about a damned city.
But I have already broken this rule once (see appendix, if I’m not too drunk to add it), and now, that I am independent, and alone and so very ‘happy’, the one entity I would want to share this euphoria is her. This city.
I was thinking about her, this evening, driving next to marine drive (I can see you now, rolling your eyes, going ‘marine drive’). But I was thinking about her, and how, even after my friends have left, and I have no family here, and every Friday is some sort of liquor and myself, that still, Mumbai keeps me in her thrall. There is a distinct physical reaction when my boss talks about giving me Gujarat as a region, or when I think about Kolkata as the city where I will eventually live, and my first thought is ‘it’s not Bombay’.
For me this has been a city of magnification. I came as a girl. And I was magnified into a woman. I lost my virginity here, and I lost my heart for the first time here. I saw the sea and I lost my heart all over again. I turned into someone who is supposed to be capable, and I was the girl standing on its roads at two at night trying to recover a lost relationship. And all this city did was to magnify my each and every emotion. Walking on its roads, I felt too capable. Alone in a two bedroom house at night, I felt too vulnerable. And when I looked at the men I loved, I felt too inadequate.
That is maybe the problem with this city. There is no rationalization. Traffic jams are not stuck for a normal duration of time, loves don’t a lifetime, and well, emotions turn around so fast, they become magnified into super emotions. Those great moments when you look back and feel a surge so strong, you wonder if it’s maybe just you. It’s not. It’s this city.
It’s this damned city. It magnifies emotions, until they look like distorted pictures of themselves, like when you stare at an image from too close. The colours merge, and you think that it’s abstract. But it’s not. There is a picture. You just need to be see it.
Appendix 1 :
Back to Bombay.
I walk down an insanely crowded road. I have sweat running down my back and there is a slight breeze trying to mitigate the effects of an entire city’s effusions.
I haggle over a hundred grams of some vegetable, and eat half a guava on the way. I shoulder away random men who can’t help walking too close. I see dried fish being sold in packets, and cry myself hoarse in trying to get a cab to stop. I shrug, and just keep on walking.
I walk down one flyover and go up another. I have a rhythm in my walk now, and the steps have stopped being a burden. I buy some water, and drink it, with some children already begging for the non-empty bottle. I see people fighting and I do not stop to find out why. I fight for my space on the narrow corridor and keep my purse firmly in hand. I make sure that I have a place here. I feel a moment of absolute elation. Then I shrug, and walk on.