Sunday, 27 May 2012

Mumbai and old friends

Crowded, hot, smelly, crowded, hot, smelly. Horrifying in many ways.  Beautiful in so many ways.
Difficult, in many ways too.
I used to come here as a child to spend time with an aunt. Driving down Marine Drive always infuses with me nostalgia for those days, and soursweet memories of when my Dad was younger, when I had my first kulfi, when we walked on the beach, when we stood on her verandha and watched the sea and the nearby skyscrapper, and the ships and boats and shadowy hills on the horizon. I was homesick during the weeks I spent with her. I was unable to enjoy any of it, really be there. There was something sad in the air and it infused me with a lingering, Sunday-evening ennui.

Now I rarely come here, even though, on my trips back to India, I'm three hours away and my sister lives here and there's so much to see and do that I haven't yet. I wonder whether I ever will.

The two times I've been here I've been happy just staring at the street and watching the people go by. There's so much buzzing energy on the street. Beautiful old trees, the sounds of traffic, the sounds of city birds: pigeons, crows, parakeets.

Yesterday evening was a departure from that routine though. My sister and I went to the Gateway of India, and took pictures, and shopped, and went for a boatride. We were joined by an old friend for dinner at home and then went out with him and some more people. We got dolled up and went drinking, danced. And took breaks from the clubbing to sneak in a couple of cigarettes outside, and in the dark, outside the club, after a few drinks and the exhilaration of the music, we finally talked. With some friends, even two minutes is enough: How are you really? Come here, let me hug you. On the way home, danced-out, drunk, we held hands in the dark in the cab, and I felt, for the first time in a long time, the familiar, intense, close, love that courses through deep, old friends, and flows between them with every touch, every smile, every gesture of care, support, togetherness. Such moments are so rare, and so precious, I can't overstate how beautiful they are. They keep me going. They come exactly when I need them, and they heal. Powerfully and for real. I wish I had more of that in my life. All my 'deep' friends are scattered across the world. And I guess a deeper logic than I can control or predict dictates when our paths will cross. When they do, few things are more important or beautiful. 

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