Night is here, but I am sleepless. Still a few more hours before dawn breaks, but I want to hold on to something, and the fear that it could disappear if I shut my eyes, keeps me awake. Right now, at this moment, I am biding my time. And why not? This is possibly my last week in Mumbai this year.
I am leaving the city to re-live an old memory and though, it is what I always secretly wanted, it has just dawned upon me that what I am about to leave will now be another memory that someday, like the other, I would want to live again.
When we move on, we leave a lot behind us: Family, best friends, good friends, not-so-very-good friends, college-mates colleagues, enemies, well-wishers, acquaintances, and all the many stray incidents that remind us of them. In fact, just today, I happened to catch-up with the initial set of friends I made, when I first came to Mumbai back in 2003. In the span of a few nostalgic hours, I was taken back to St. Xavier’s College, where I first studied, before my mind rattled into the present.
What it did was project to me a 10-year graph of how Mumbai came to mean what it does to me today and what Mumbai made of the Jane, who is fortunately or unfortunately, so different from yesterday. When a city does so much to you, you don’t just feel obliged to it, but also begin to absorb it in your veins and make it your own. Its pride, fears, comforts and insecurities begin to course through you, and then before you realise, you two are inseparable. You become it, and it becomes you. Today, I owe to the city, as much as it owes to me.
It owes me time, that I could never have enough of, and I owe it gratitude that I have always grudged to part with. But now, as I lie awake, sleepless in Mumbai, I feel the urge to give the city its due, even as I secretly hope, that it would give me a little of something from its kitty: some more time.
Time to do what I didn’t do; time to tell some people that I love them; time to tell a few others that I may always hate them; time to get to know some people better; time to give someone a chance; time to see a place that I never bothered to seek out; or may be a little more time to hoard all the good memories I had here, so that I can pack them up in a suitcase and take it wherever I go.
Like the day when my three best friends Tess, Blessy and Nadia and I walked the entire stretch from Marine Plaza to Churchgate at 4 am, soaking ourselves in the first real heavy showers of the monsoon season. We were the only four girls on the streets of the city, and were quite enjoying our unexpected night-time stroll, when Nadia suddenly panicked and suggested we take a cab and head back home. It was the only real-adventure we had as a gang, and how I still miss it.
Then that trip to Essel World with Tess, Blessy and my family (Saby, Steven and cousin Karen), and how we bravely took on every single ride, despite some of us threatening to launch on a puke-fest, now and then.
Not to forget that ticket-less train journey from Pune to Mumbai with Deba and Nadia, and our brilliant plans of hiding in the Indian toilet if one of us saw a ticket checker approach from the other coach. And also that trip to Matheran, with me and Neha singing ‘Gazab ka hain din’ as we walked through the woods, even as Hiral gave us a cold shoulder and refused to have anything to do with us. Or may be that 23rd birthday of mine, where we played Taboo all through the night, till as early as 7 in the morning with the D’Costas (Edric and Brian) trying all the possible tricks, even those not mentioned in the books, to see themselves through a victory. I also saw some of the most forgettable films with the cousin duo, which happened to make those memories all the more worth it.
It is somewhere during the same time, that I had a period of musical bloom as a mezzo soprano/alto in the choir group Singspirator. During my four-year journey with them, every Christmas season took on a different hue; the sheer wonderment of performing for a houseful audience during the carol nights at the NCPA, paved the way for a beautiful festival season. Not to mention that it made me more musically sound.
Then there were fond memories with colleagues (now friends): Of those after-edit meet walks with Aru, our heart-to-heart discussions about everything under the sun and the mouth-watering stops for daabeli or saabudana wadas at Maamis; Of my 27 hour-long train journey with Ipsi…her never-ending nuggets about her personal life, interspersed with the crazy food-binge at every halt, made that trip one of my favourties till date, Of those after-work parties at Megha’s house where Tasneem once slipped down the window and tried to walk up the balcony grill, and where Aditya happened to get excessively involved with Megha’s loo, refusing to even come out.
And lastly, how can I forget my first real adventure in the city: when Lisa, Kruti, Saniya and I, along with 100 other students from the Science batch in junior college, mass-bunked to watch Love Actually at Regal, lapping up Colin Firth and Hugh Grant like remains of chocolate sauce on a spoon.
Yes, I am taking them all with me in my tiny little suitcase of memories. And no, may be I am not leaving this city forever, but then what can a sleepless and bored girl in Mumbai do better than recalling these, and many other good old days of yore, and penning them down. Now that fatigue has set in due to the arduous packing, I shall end here. I may not sleep yet, because the city still owes me time. But I did my part, and all I feel now is plain gratitude.