For once, I leave when the sun's almost melting into the sea. Not after.
And a sunset at Marine Drive? Yes. That's what gets them there, doesn't it? Nothing like the sun and the clouds in frenzied colours. Grey, black, hint of white here, blue there. Oh and Marine Drive is being done up nowadays. Looking all swanky. Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore. Everything but. Bombay is only Bombay. Forever.
So there's the sheng-chana wala. There's the kids from Jaihind, Sydenham, KC, HR. Man, I used to come here on weekends with my friends all the way from Bandra. You know - lets go to town for a drive. Check out the babes, the townie crowd. Sheesh. I still come here. Everyday now. For work this time.
So, there's the kids. Then there's the posh variety. Young, old. Walking their dogs, brisk walking in their track pants, furiously, staring and glaring at anyone in their way. Evening walks and all. Man..where do they get all that time?
And then the couples. Endless pairs of couples. Arms around each other, intertwined. Sweet nothings all over. Coming back from work, going back home. Meeting up at Churchgate, going to Marine Drive. Catch the sunset. Spend time together till we get married. Or don't. So why'd you come home late? You know, work, it piles up.
There's also the singles. The men. Some staring vacantly into the sea. Unemployed, employed, lost-my-job-today, came-here-to-look-for-a-job. You know, nowadays they want someone who can talk English well, these private companies.
"I don't know if I can make it here. But hey, I'm enjoying myself before I leave tomorrow. I've seen Marine Drive in so many movies. When I go back and tell them I was here, they'll be impressed. They won't care if I didn't get a job. Wish I could take a photo. But tell me, uncle, how come they're no photographers here? there's so many of them at the Gateway of India."
Man, I feel so old sometimes.
Babulnath is really jammed these days. What is it with this Shravan fasting and the daily crowd at the temple? Hah. I remember what this Gujju friend told me about his brethren. Saale. Dikhaane ke liye vegetarian, Jain, no kaanda, no meat, no chicken. Saale. Then check 'em out in the night - having tangdi at Bade Miyaa and heading out to Topaz. Sab saale aisi-ich hai. I never met anyone who fit that profile. Yet I don't know why I keep remembering that story once in a while when I pass Babulnath. Funny.
Cadbury. Mahalakshmi. Traffic cops. That one looks new. Smart guy. Young. Crisp shirt, topi ekdum straight. Takes his job seriously. Maybe he'll stop that guy in that Skoda talking on his cell, while driving. Maybe he wont.
And the street kids. I think Bombay belongs to the street kids. I remember going to the Kala Ghoda Festival coupla years back to see a Terence Lewis dance show. So, once its over, they're packing up. There's still some chairs and tables lying around. You know, for the VIPs and all.
So, everyone's clearing the table, but somewhere some music is still playing. And there's this raggedy girl. Torn and dirty frock, frayed hair. Her family's begging somewhere around. But she slowly climbs on top of this white plastic table. No one's around her and the music's still playing. And she's swaying to the music. Unaware, unconcerned, blissful in that moment of nothingness and joy to some song. Her ma finally lands up from somewhere, drags her back with her. Oh thats ok with this kid. She goes off all smiles. That moment was hers.
Worli. Bus stops. Lots of them. And the people waiting for the buses. I don't know what it is about the journey home after a long day at work (are there any other types these days?). Its just special. Leaving for home to the people you love? Nothing like it. Makes the day worthwhile. Makes that boss a bit bearable. Even if he's the only thing on your mind at that time.
I see the people waiting there. You know, leaning against the bus stop. Looking out for the 83, or if you're lucky you might get an empty 84. If only they had more AC buses. The people at the bus stop. Some of them plugged into the radio on their phones. Some talking. That hurried smile. Two words on the phone, "attaach neeghaali", before the bus thunders in. Or a hurried one-word text - "left". Or a quickly wiped tear there, wonder what she was feeling sad about. She looked cute. What kinda guy....
Then Mahim. But you've been there. You've seen them, hunched up and bunched up. Waiting..hoping?...for food. They don't go away. They don't. This is Bombay.
And before I know it, I'm finally somewhere home. That familiar Bandra junction. That chaos at China Gate restaurant which is now an entire building. The traffic jam. Valet parking. Narrow, two-way lane. Chaos. All for food. Everyone lining up to get in. Minimum half an hour waiting. And they line up. Not hunched up but a bit bunched up. They don't go away. They don't. This is Bombay.
It gets tiring once in a while. This 20km trip I'm doing everyday. But its a journey home. Nothing like it.
Or the city. And its places and its people. Nothing like them. The city. If it won't kill you, it will probably make you harder. And run faster. And fall here and there.
This city I tell you.