For the past week or so, Ive been waking up every morning with aches. While the ache usually stems from the personal changes my life has undergone, and the past couple of days have been the ache that stems from excessive alcohol, today I woke up with a new kind of ache : Homesickness.
My parents and I have spent our lives in constant conflict over our two homes. When we are in Abu Dhabi, we miss Mumbai, and when we are in Mumbai, we miss Abu Dhabi. Today, I missed Mumbai more than I usually do.
I awoke in a daydream of Wilson chai with SS, of cheap Chinese food at Mamma Mia’s with Harry, of Kashmiri Kahwa at Tea Centre with F, of the calm of Aamir’s Wadala Home, of singing pop songs at Bandstand with Vijayeta and Zoya, of scouring Bandra for food with Nirja and Girish, of Priyadarshini jogs with Mani, of sitting on Wilson’s balcony ledges, of claiming coffee shops with SS as our own and making her house my own as well, and of heart to hearts with my aunt over the comfort food only we enjoyed.
I missed the distinctive Bombay smell, the smell of dreams and possibilities, the smell that banishes all boredom and restlessness. I missed the feel of books at Strand and at Fort, I missed discovering beautiful record players and records in backlanes of VT, I missed the immense peace of sleeping on my yellow couch and waking up to trees and my aunts plants. I missed Sterling and Gaiety Galaxy, and fighting with the same chappal guy for 3 years over the same yellow chappals I wore throughout college. I missed my extensive bindi collection, donated generously by both Harry and my mother, and my extensive toering/nosering collection, donated generously by SS. I missed escaping to Matheran with SS, and I missed waiting for the rains to break the heat waves that we’d ran away from in the first place.
All this missing, made me realise I had two options. I could mope over all that I missed, and hope for the days and months to fly by, till March when my favourite piece of Mumbai would live with me for 2 weeks or so (SS) and the summer where I would bask in Mumbai-ness for many months, OR I could embrace the Mumbai-ness in me, without having to physically be in the city itself.
I declare this next week as official Missing Mumbai week. I have spent the morning digging out my softest, most faded of kurtas, my prettiest of patiala pants. I have dusted my most loyal of yellow chappals. I dug out my box of toe and nose rings, my bag of bindis. I dug out my entire collection of Bollywood music and movies, I found my old teapot and am going to start brewing chai again, I removed my Bumble box from my cupboard and have spread its contents all over my room, and found all my old Polaris posters. This week, I will adopt and embody everything I possibly can of the city that I left behind. For one whole week, I will forget my aches and woes, and delve into the part of me I love the most: The girl who misses her Mumbai.
“The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India. I was excited and delighted by it, but I couldn’t and didn’t recognize it. I know now that it’s the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate and it’s the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It’s the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. It smells of heartbreak and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It’s the worst good smell in the world, and whenever I return to Bombay now, its my first sense of the city – that smell, above all things – that welcomes me, and tells me Ive come home” – Gregory David Roberts.