Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bombay diaries

What started out as a very scary and hectic little trip, came out so well that it deserves a post.

I was to go to Bombay (i like that name) for a Schengen visa interview. The meeting was at 8 am and I had to reach even earlier. So I chose a train at midnight, it would reach Bombay Central at 6 sharp, enough time I say. This was the first time I was travelling alone on a train. While I love trains, I was unsure about how this would feel. But the minute i got on it, I knew. The feeling seeped in like I always knew. Trains and the way they move have always fascinated me. They put me to sleep faster than anything I have tried in life. They were all men in my compartment but that hardly mattered, I dont feel that instinctive fear that a girl in my country should by now. Not yet aleast. Very soon, JK Rowling put me to sleep.

The alarm woke me up at 5.30, when I brushed my teeth, combed my hair and even changed my shirt inside the train loo! Another first! All this was necessary because I had to head straight to the consulate office and am sure the Germans wouldnt want it any other way. Once there, Bombay's early morning welcomed me with fallen flowers, some on their way to the ground, a lot of healthy dogs and a few marathi manas sitting on the pavement of the visa office already. Obviously, I chatted them up. They were very interested to know what, why and where of my trip. Not just that, when I asked them how to go about the city, they suggested a few places and said 'Bombay to bekar hai, kantaal gaye hai yaha reh reh ke'. I wondered what they thought of Ahmedabad. Ahem.
By 7.30 am, the whole place filled up and I soon found out my early morning friends were not there to visit europe but to help others do so. They were agents who ensured your visa requirements were correctly submitted. In my head, I realised the people who have expertise on these matters may never see outside of their cities ever. That is where the 'Mumbai is boring' line had come from.

My interview was over as soon as it started and I have a feeling they just want to look at applicants? Decide if I get the visa on the basis of my looks? I seriously do not know. I was just asked where in Europe was I planning to go to. That’s it.

Out on the streets by 8.30 am, I had a whole daytime to look forward to. And no, his cousin sister's house was not appealing just as yet. I walked to Nariman point’s sea line and sat there for a while. Health freaks jogged, people walked their large, imported breed dogs, some youngsters left home early to meet up their lovers before college started. That typical wind that blows near the sea blew, making me feel as free and as happy as ever. Water is therapeutic for me, it makes me a better person.

Then I called a friend living there, found out Cafe Leopold was close by and headed there. It was warm and inviting, the old and high ceilings, the typical Bombay cafe chairs and I took the table right next to the freshly baked pastries. Yes, I sat there, opened my novel again, ordered a cold coffee, chicken hotdog and fries and sat comfortably for an hour or two, I dont know. Reading, sipping that bitter coffee and no rush to be anywhere. As a Kolkata bangali would say, 'ultimate lagchilo'.

I then decided to visit Siddhivinayak, a very endearing orange coloured Ganesha who sits snugly at a place called Dadar. Spoke to the newspaper vendors and the shopkeepers who were just setting shop about my options in transport. I chose to ride a local train. As all the crowds travelled to the opposite direction in the mornings, I found my train, especially my ladies’ coach to be charmingly empty. Women read, sew, chatted and I made a girl remove her Ipod shuffle to talk to me instead. From there, I took a shared taxi to the temple in Prabhadevi. Inside the taxi, a college couple got up who kept calling each other idiot throughout their conversation. The guy was protective, asking her about her Saturday plans and the girl kept asking him to ditch a family wedding to meet her. I saw them in the big line for giving puja in the temple as well. She had wrapped her chunni over her head and he was hoarding her so that no one could brush against her. A cosy love story right there, I thought and smiled.

After speaking into the mice’s ears, I was content. From here, to anywhere I thought. Went to Bandra and fell in love with the summer collection of clothes and shoes I saw there. Bought a lot of tops, a jumpsuit, a pair of chappals and funky pyajamas in a little less than an hour. With no one telling me what is in fashion and what I ought to buy, this was the first ever truly freeing shopping session ever. I knew one thing, if Greece, Venice and Rome was happening, then I was going to have a super wardrobe. If not, I was still going to have a super wardrobe.

His cousin was now calling incessantly, wanting to know if I was lost. With the pressure of saving face and doing in-law duties, I headed to her place. Caught glimpse of a cool looking pub called Three wise men, and stopped for a pint of beer. The first afternoon pub experience in ages for me. Importantly, the first one ever by myself. It was truly liberating to be sitting in an Indian pub without anyone staring, wondering or trying to take advantage of the situation.

Knowing I had done enough, I sat in an auto and reached her place. Typically, had a lunch consisting of aamras and roti and khaman and bid them bye after an hour.
I don’t know what it is but Bombay recharges my cells and makes me a happy spirit, something I cant quite put my finger to. It releases shackles which Delhi always put. It makes me uninhibited, something Ahmedabad will never mange to do. Eight hours in this city and it can easily be called the best mini vacation I ever gave myself.

PS-I did get the visa later that evening.


  1. u have written this very beautifully. I got my perfect 'break' reading through this.

  2. Hey! Is this your blog? You know I have been reading this blog since like 3 years now. Wow. :-) So hows life? I got married and have a son who is 15months :-)

    Very nice to catch up with you here!

  3. bombay is awesome. delhi is not. end of story.

  4. Bombay is good, indeed... but dilli is not too bad either ;-)

  5. Love, love love the post! And it makes me want to go to Bombay even more :|

  6. @Raj, if we are really going to be immature about this, then here: Delhi rocks \m/
    @Sage, yes cos thats where we met ;)
    @Anjali, together one day? :*