Sunday, April 20, 2008

... yeh hai Bombay meri jaan...

So finally, I managed to wrangle out a trip to Bombay.

Just Bombay, only Bombay.

It was a call for a Mumbaikar.

Walked several hours by the sea. Watched fisher folks bring in fresh catch in the morning. Papa and I peeked into the fisherwoman's basket to see floundering seafish.
Mmm. Living in the middle of the US continent with access only to frozen seawater fish makes one appreciate the finer things in life like fresh, fresh, fresh bombay duck, pomfret or sardines or mackerels and rice. Mm, mm, rocking mm!

Sat on the rocks and talked about patterns in life with Bindu. Patterns of events and of our inherent nature. All those events that have a way of creeping into your past sometime somehow. All following a pattern. Do I not want those patterns? Or do I want them? Sigh.

Celebrated Papa's birthday. A milestone spent with family that traveled miles to be with us.

Walked, talked and shopped with Nita who changed her travel plans to be with me. I had last met her on her visit to my home in the foothills of the Colorado rocky mountains. Four years and individual life changes later, our meeting was near the Arabian sea and the ease to communicate had only increased.

Attended Neo's choroonal, his very first solid food tasting. Boy! Was the kid thrilled! Up until then he had patiently watched all the older folks eating complicated looking foods out of huge plates and munching away, apparently enjoying the experience. He would stare at our mouths as we ate and slobber to his hearts content. Then at the temple on Gudi Padva day, he got a chance taste these different goodies. Mmm, another foodie is born!

Celebrated Vishu with my family. It had been years since I did this. Those days the highlight of the festival for me was the search for some laburnum blossoms. Zarine (one time, Nita) and I have gone on long walks around the area and climbed walls to get to these golden bunches of flowers. That we were doing something almost illegal, definitely not socially accepted added to the thrill of it all. Those days are long gone. Sigh. This year mummy and I went to the neighboring malayali store and bought laburnums. What a let down! Well, the feast was unbeatable though!

The trip to Tiku ji ni wadi was in essence a mixed experience. I had heard tales of lazing on the charpoys under the chickoo (sapota) trees and savoring wonderful Gujarathi breakfast and lunch served hot. All you do is bring your family to lounge around, let the summer breezes waltz through your hair and play antakshari or some such game, and forget the hustle of the city life. Well, all that seems to be the past. A waterpark has been added and loud pop music entertained the kids. While it was fun at the rides, the essence of the rural touch had been lost. Oh the charpoys are still there, and so are the breezes. And the family was there too. I met with a long lost pal from high school, fate does do strange things. Nishi is still as exuberant as I remembered her, and her mom is as quiet. Mini and Diksha had a ball of a time in the water, Monu got looted for a fake tattoo on his arm, papa and mummy lazed around and the van-driver got hell for the airconditioner malfunction! All in all, a day of fun!

Watched aghast as Bhupinder Singh sang Gulzar's ghazals, struggled with a faulty sound system and got flustered and let his notes slip away. Watched a Hindi movie with the rest of the family (thanks to a very patient, kind and understanding Neo who let us watch the entire three hour show in peace). Learned Yoga and several other aspects of health from Dave. Waking at 5 am to be at Deepa's home all bright eyed and bushy tailed was an experience in itself. On the last day, the masala chai and a heart to heart with Deepa was priceless!

Realized that I have not yet forgotten how to get into a crowded bus or train or how to get off it at my station! These techniques have been learned for life!

Bombay, Bombay.
So much has changed.

Beaches have become cleaner. Traffic has become dirtier.
The airport has become cleaner. The air has become dirtier.
Malls have become larger.
Pieces of the sky between the building tops, smaller.

Zara hatke zara bachke,
yeh hai Bombay meri jaan...

ALL PHOTOS: Mumbai 2008