Last week, I landed in a city believed to serve dreams with vada pavs. Where the Marathi murmur reassured us that there is so much left to explore. A place where some needlessly stay on their lanes, others honk in vain. While the unremitting traffic riled up the already tensed nerves, the grandeur of Marine Drive pacified my paranoia. As I dealt with the confusion between calling this city Mumbai or Bombay, I slipped into imagining a life in a place so unknown.
Every week, by the calendar, life serves me with something new to think about. Yet, despite being an average middle-class person in her twenties, I had never been to Bombay (Mumbai just feels too rookie). All the people I went with were quite flabbergasted, but shared the excitement, nonetheless. I had plans to use the right Snapchat filter, to capture the glory in my not-so-impressive phone camera and take a box of doughnuts from M.O.D.
Did I do either of those things? No.
There was a time I used to be a reader, and when I read about cities, towns, and imaginary places I had never been to, my mind ran wild. From the colour of the marbles of the castle to the crockery used, I imagined it all. Envisioning a place was never a task, as I was never mesmerised easily. Thus, my object of fable was always very magnificent.
But Bombay, how it astounded me!
For the first hour, all I could muster up to speak were a few cuss words, here and there. The traffic really does that to you. And once we were out of that diabolical whirlpool of U-turns and flyovers, we entered Colaba. The grumpy version of me was dumbfounded. I wanted to stop every five hundred meters and soak it all in. Petrichor engulfed the streets, leaving me in awe of the splendid architecture. The want to grab my phone and click a picture crept through the hair on my neck many times, but I just could not. It was too beautiful to waste a second fidgeting over my four digit pin code. The archaic gates shut close, to the dazzling ivory of the marble of a bank.
My senses were overwhelmed. The last time I felt such sheer joy was when I saw the first advertisement of Domino’s cheese burst pizza. The idea of pizza with cheese oozing out of the base? That good! Coming back to the other cheesier aspect, monsoon—despite my hatred for the weather—delighted me a little. Perhaps, it was my heightened sense of excitement, which left me beaming like a child. Or maybe it was just the charisma of this city.
Mentioning the reason for this visit almost slipped my mind. Not like it usually matters, but my love for spoken word drove me there. I am usually quite anxious before any spoken word event (Words and Voices) we host. And this was our first time outside Gujarat, you can imagine the rush. Moreover, the fact that the performance circuit there was so well developed intimidated me a little. Such were the nerves the blessed Bombay calmed. Twenty-four hours is very little time to truly explore any place, let alone Bombay. But the imprint it left on my mind seems to grow deeper every day.
The quality of the performances, the emotions that bustled like they were expressed just to reach out to you. Every artist there had a distinctive, envious style. The magnitude of both, the place and people, hammered my chest, in a way I cannot explain. Whilst I was thanking my stars for such an experience, I was also being sucked into the sapno ki nagri or the land of “often broken dreams.”
Never had I understood the meaning of bittersweet, as well as I did that day.
I boarded the train at six in the morning, ready to leave the city that never ceases to amaze. To be honest, I was looking forward to returning to the familiarity I always took for granted. But I believe, that a part of me changed or was left behind in that vast land kissing the sea.
To read more from the author of A One Day Romance with Bombay click here.