1131   08/06/2016

Goodbye Bombay

The ordeal is finally over. Everything is done, sold, transferred and locked. It barely leaves me with a day and half to breathe.

And so I spring into action. A much needed lunch with my best friend and his family. Time evaporates over vegetarian kebabs and hot gulb jamuns. As we talk of the past and how our lives have branched out I am happy just connecting with him. These are the friendships I miss in the city of gold!

I start driving around my old hangout joints and realise the whole imprint of Bombay has changed. Old tea-houses and Irani bakeries are replaced by Starbucks and shiny malls. No more old familiar restaurants where I knew the menu. I must now embrace the concept of Frappuccino’s over Darjeeling tea once sold in the small teahouse on Churchgate. I see many new restaurants where you can eat everything from Sushi to Koran barbeque. Deep down I am sad. This is not my city anymore. It’s being taken over.

Rhythm house was one place where we saved money to buy audio tapes when in school. I continued to go there for 25 years buying dvds of foreign films and even took my better half many times to show the shop. It was not Virgins. It was small and personalised. I knew the manager who would make small talk with me. People who were music lovers worked there and always guided me to sections where I could find good Indian classical music. The place was not new but it had soul. I pass the shop and realise it has closed it doors after years of filling our lives with joy. I feel deep sorrow in my heart. It’s the age of downloading now. No more cds or dvds required. One click and you are connected to the world. There is no place for the old and outdated anymore.

We stop by Starbucks for a coffee. There is a line to get in!!!! I am shocked at how crowded this place is. The whole shop is filled with teenagers and young couples laughing over lattes and cappuccinos. The air is filled with smell of coffee and grilled sandwiches. To capture the heart of Indians, Starbucks has introduced some Indian classics in their menu – Chicken tikka sandwich, and grilled paneer rolls adorn the counter. Vegetarian options dominate the food choices.  My sister graciously grabs a table while I must wait out to order.

So many choices to make in that single second – hot or cold, full fat or low fat, sugar or no sugar, small – medium or large, drinking here or takeaway, cash or credit, grilled or warmed, cream on top or plain, iced or blended………………

I finally settle for a latte while my sister is a fan of iced coffee. As we sit down sipping I feel old among this young crowd. They probably don’t know what its is to climb a mango tree and travel by train to Gujarat in hot summer months. They are now immersed in the world of Internet and will never know a joy of watching coloured television for the first time. The walls of this Starbucks are decorated with lovely photos of Indian women in sari sipping on coffee. A beautiful mango design is imprinted on the yellow walls to give a look of a gone by era. Starbucks here feels so different than Starbucks in Dubai, Korea or Thailand. It feels very Indian and yet one sip and I know its the same coffee I drink on 5th avenue!

I must now start packing and head for dinner with an old school friend who I have not seen in 25 years. We meet first awkwardly and then the ice is broken over traditional Gujarati food and lame jokes. I sit with him and his family until mid night discussing everything from literature to feng shui. A new bond is formed and with a promise to keep in touch I leave.

The next day is hectic. Last minute shopping, packing, buying an odd piece of jewellery and before I know it I must leave. I pack everything, lock up and load things in the car. Mom is in tears. Some things never change. My sister hugs me tight and kisses my cheek gently.

As I wave goodbye I feel a sense of relief. I am going home. Home to my cats and my better half! No more sound of horns and the madness of the city. I am going back to the land of sand where I bought my own home, grew roots and will live until life takes a different turn.

I somehow can’t bring myself to call this city Mumbai. To me it’s Bombay!! The city where I once lived, learnt to fly solo and never returned. The city that taught me to embrace diversity and to think on my toes. No matter where I live, deep down I will always be a Bombay girl.

I might not have forgiven the city, but the city always forgives me!



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