Living in Mumbai might as well be likened to jumping into a river and trying to swim upwards a stream; it carries you even if you don’t want it to. It’s not surprising to find this city inspire many to make movies, write novels or compel one to write blogs such as mine, each hypothesizing the resting place of the city’s metaphysical being. 4 trips to the city, 3 in the last two years have earned me an official entitlement to make attempts at capturing the city’s spirit as well. But where do I hope to find it? Where have I decided to find it?
I can’t help but fear being tipped over in the presence of the air of safety that grazes through the city as I stand at the doorway of the Mumbai local with the wind blowing through my hair, my legs weak and heart fluttering in the face of transcendence. There are thoughts in my head which all of a sudden feel more like deep seated beliefs. I can feel the city carrying me, making me hyper aware of my vulnerability as I watch the city go by while I stand with my feet trying to preciously hold on to the ground as the train cuts through speed and time exemplifying the pace of life in the city of lights. The wind is sheltering my head from other racing minds, helping me hear myself better. So maybe this was it- the soul was meeting the spirit but as the train stops the protection is lost and my thoughts cross again.
I remember trying to read Mumbai’s history in the dominant towering Victorian architecture of South Bombay which I felt so small under while I was walking down with my best friend the other morning, taking in the sounds and the smells of the city. I felt its presence there for a second, only to lose it again as I got distracted by a fabulous top I didn’t buy. Maybe it was the feeling that I got listening to the taxi driver’s tirade about Mumbai traffic while attempting to drive through the city roads that reverberated with the sound of drums on Janmashtami. I also remember feeling pretty good, sitting on Marine Drive overlooking the Queen’s Necklace with the sea trying to chime into each of the hundreds of heart to heart conversations it was hearing ashore. Maybe it was brunching with old friends at quintessentially promising cafes such as Madras, Churchill, Leopold and Pali or maybe the Andheri auto rides under warm street lights and the effortlessly dapper traffic policemen who could put any Delhi boy swagger to shame (not difficult). It’s maybe the bandstand lovers and numerous others who’ve built their livelihood around them, providing plenty of scope for affordable dates since years. Maybe my search is too commonplace and it really is engulfed in the souls of psychotic killers like Raman Raghav and the ‘Once upon a times’ that film directors so fondly narrate or the important lessons on fidelity and compromise which Madhur Bhandarkar brings with him, imparting the need to be protected from the people more than the place or rather the people that come with the place. (Wasted plane ticket when I could have accomplished feat with a movie ticket).
I could just settle with the most commonly agreed and out there point between me and many others. It really really… for sure! For sure, lies in the grueling everyday struggles and stories of the numerous middle class households who haven’t managed to move beyond mere subsistence over generations. So is it really the ordinary instead of the extraordinary that won the contest? But then how was it that I came within reaching distance several times with the city’s being before losing it completely. Was it the city’s spirit that I was reaching out for or just mine- harnessing moments and feelings closely for all I wanted was to be pulled to the present from wherever my mind resided. Maybe the encapsulation of my own spirit in various faces of the city lay in my vulnerability while I carried myself.
P.s. #402- Advanced.