Mumbai Diaries (June 2003):
I woke up to the usual morning raga of struggling to find myself in a new city and the world in itself, coming to terms with this culture shock where even an ant seems to be an alien. It’s been a little more than ten days in the city of dreams and flung into a universe kicking you in the bum. Yes! Mumbai is the land of opportunity but it does things to ordinary mortals, making you recoil like a snake on the defense.
The first Monsoon was a sheer delight as I stared in bewilderment at the clatter of rain hitting people on the face like the tiny grain of salt and brick of stone. Trees shook furiously and branches whooshed with siren like sound. Monsoon has hit Mumbai quite early, they said. The branches broke into tiny small pieces with the rasping sound of quilled papers and popped balloons.
I walked at leisure pace, waded out of the hostel at Churchgate facing Marine Drive but the moment I stepped out had to beat a hasty retreat inside the comfort and confine of the hostel. It was scary to brave the rain. A huge pool of water flew like current formed in front of the road where vehicles mumbled slowly on C-Road at Churchgate. There was no way I could traipse my way at Marine Drive. It could spell danger, my mind feared.
You stand at the crossroad, the famous hostel entrance door when you are assailed by the rain and wind thrusting you backward as you struggle to open your umbrella that spun and twisted. You know the rain is the messenger when the phone trilled at the reception and the mama (security) calls your name which got you wondering who is calling in this wet morning when you trying to be a warrior battling fiery rain. It’s Parveen aunty, one of our family contacts, who informs that she is reaching the hostel in another 10 minutes to take you to her house.
It made you wonder how to stand in the rain and overcome the sea of water not to spoil your shoes, struggling with an umbrella for minutes before aunty lands in front of the gate. It becomes the mother of all tension during the first tryst with Mumbai Monsoon. It felt like swimming in the pool filled with branches, papers, used cans and garbage. Finally, the car screeched past the gate and your name is called by a beautiful girl, “Vishal! Get inside.” You hesitate as if someone is coming to kidnap you with the rain lashing at you as punishment for a crime you never did. You are shouted at, “Just get inside man, jaldi.” You muster all courage and come what may, jump in the water, almost slipped and a splash is heard behind as you throw yourself in the car, drenched in few seconds.
The yellow-and-black cab swirled its way past Marine Drive as you witnessed the inhabitants drenched and dancing in the rain, trees gyrated like it’s a dance party, water rising and waves crashing. It’s a beautiful sight which makes you feel good inside where you are separated inside the car from the people doing the happy somersault and soaked from top-to-toe, the hair becoming taking the shape of thick mound.
It’s an enjoyable ride to feel the water knocking on the rear window of the old Ambassador and dry leaves stuck like glue on the windscreen as if monsoon whispered into their ear that it’s their private property. The car sauntered its way inside the Parsi colony at Mumbai Central when you are shaken off the dreamy layers of Monsoon to realize that the rain has mysteriously disappeared. You trudge the wooden stairs to make way inside the simple but spaciously done Parsi house and amazed at the ostentatious display of love in abundance and familiarity when uncle came back from work at Air India and the bonding with the niece that I thought was their daughter. There is no substitute to love.
A cup of hot tea warmed the stomach as we sat on bed reeling with laugh, gossip and watching TV that distracted the mind away from homesickness and battle with finding a foot in Mumbai. It was the first brush with the heavy rain that would usher in similar experiences, waiting to be drenched, traipsing past Marine Drive and strolling the entire area from Churchgate leading myself to Fort, Colaba, and Nariman Point.
The start of an everlasting love affair with the Mumbai Monsoon that stayed with me forever and memories crafted as I hark back with a smile on the drenched days.