Goodbye, Mumbai

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Here it comes. My heartfelt tribute to Mumbai as I bid goodbye to the city after 21 months. If you think am going to whitewash my time here, well, you should read another blog for imaginary fairytales. We didn’t do that here. Don’t worry, this isn’t another rant either. After 11 years, am finally done with my complaints against the city.

Is that a collective sigh of relief from Mumbaikers?

Mumbai is the hardest city to live in. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When Mumbaikers claim they love the city, it is because they haven’t seen life anywhere else. Mumbai was the first city I wanted to spend the rest of my life in. That, and Bangalore (not anymore, of course). Which is why the betrayal is so hard to get over. I moved to this city with the intention of falling in love with it. It’s like when you have sex for the first time and it sucks. You assume sex is overrated until one day, it is fabulous with another person. That is when you realise there is much better sex out there but you had no idea. Until I moved to Gurgaon, I assumed that is what life is like in any city. 4 hours of daily commute, bad health, loneliness, no hobbies, friends only in suburbs close to yours etc etc.

No matter what my rent budget was I never found the perfect house. Whether I paid 13k or 25k or 31k for 300-500 sq feet of space, I always settled for the least horrible one. That is what house hunt in Mumbai is like.

Sure, there is more diversity. I live in a building with Sikhs and Muslims around me (very, very rare in Mumbai), travel through an area with fisher folk, cross a road with Muslims on my left and Hindus on my right and reach my office in a Jain Gujju dominated area. Delhi doesn’t have that.

The only way to survive in this city is with blinders on. You have to be able to ignore the dirt, poverty, zero civic sense, rude locals, lack of open spaces, traffic woes etc to the point where they become invisible. Sometimes Mumbaikers come across as zombies.

Them – Mumbai is awesome. We love the city.

Me – But you don’t even have a balcony in your house. Why are the beaches so dirty? Can’t you see the plastic hanging from the trees at Bandstand? The sea is choked with trash at Worli sea face. Why is Aarey, the green lung of the city, being replaced by buildings? Why isn’t there better connectivity between suburbs on the trains? Why aren’t there better trains? Why is there traffic at 10 pm? Why does the city get flooded every year during the rains? Why are the rents so high?

Them – Who dis? New phone.

DS and I were discussing this today. He is from Navi Mumbai so he hasn’t been zombified yet. He can see the problems like any other outsider. The apathy of Mumbaikers for their city is appalling.

Living here is a leveller. No matter how rich you are, you will get stuck on the road in the rains. Some auto or taxi wala may be kind enough to charge you double and drop you to your destination or he may leave you stranded on the road without a cover. You never know what a new day will bring. Kindness or cruelty, you need to be grateful and thick skinned in equal measures.

It is the only city where rains bring people together. Friends and acquaintances will throw open their houses for the stranded. Twitter will have a 24/7 helpline. Every person in the city will offer help. Adversity brings the city together for a few hours after which everyone goes back to the business of earning a livelihood like nothing happened.

But there is one reason why Mumbai is special and I have and will always keep coming back. I have always lived here on my own. Every decision, every friend, every battle, every house has been mine. I like Delhi but am not a Delhite. It isn’t a category of people I would like to associate myself with.

But when I hug Mumbai, our bodies fit together. No matter where I come from, there is 300-500 sq feet of space somewhere I can call home that is mine and mine alone.

I, me, myself.

From darkness to sunlight

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Last year this time was one of my lowest moments in a long time for many, many reasons. I didn’t mention it on the blog because when you are living a nightmare, the last thing you want to do is talk about it. Any distraction was most welcome then.

It would be unfair if I didn’t mention the upward swing in my life. I have spent a lot of time ranting about so many things. It would be ungrateful on my part if I didn’t acknowledge the good things that have happened or are happening.

It is amazing how we are aware of our sadness but happiness goes mostly unnoticed.

Don’t get me wrong. My shift to Gurgaon has very little to do with this change in my demeanour. Last year I was at the point of quitting. I had the choice of giving up and becoming complacent or fighting back. I chose the latter. My ego and pride were not happy.

Everytime I feel a connection with someone I have to remind myself that this person may or may not be in my life a year later. Relationships have to be nurtured. It amazes me how beautiful a relationship can potentially become in 8-10 years. When you first meet a person you can’t imagine how much value they can add to your life. How little steps taken in the right direction can create a lifelong bond.

Most people are selfish and afraid. They are so scared of getting hurt, they won’t take a chance on another person. They are so afraid they assign motives to everyone’s actions. It is exhausting dealing with such self involved people. Sometimes I want to yell at them, “Nobody cares. Seriously, nobody does. You aren’t important enough for me to hurt you”.

Then you come across someone who holds his heart in his hand and gives it to you. “Do what you want with it”, he says. If you are careful with it, it will be the best thing that happens to you. If not, well, it is your loss entirely. Who wouldn’t want unconditional trust in their life?

I may sound like am rambling. Maybe I am. But the person am writing this for knows what I mean.

Cheers to good conversations. You never know which good conversation or connection will last you till what stage in life. I always, always seek out good comversations. With strangers, acquaintances and friends. Whether it is with my ex’s ex or a random stranger on social media. You never know where it will lead.

Cheers to little things we can and should do to make someone feel special. Friends, acquaintances, strangers. What is life if not for the little, thoughtful things we can do.

Cheers to being made to feel special. Especially when deep down you feel like a crappy person.

Cheers to people who take a chance on others. Even when they’ve been hurt and betrayed, they wear their heart on a sleeve.

Cheers to being open to new people, their lives and their experiences.

Cheers to new chances and some goodbyes.

To new beginnings.

To some endings.

To the shutting of a few doors.

To the opening of new ones.

The Bohri Thaal

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On Holi I had been looking for things to do and came across The Bohri Thaal on bookmyshow. For Rs 1500, you get to eat an authentic home cooked meal. It sounded fantastic. I was surprised the Kapadias were hosting a meal on Holi. I booked tickets for KC and myself a day prior. Of course, we were the only ones who didn’t have plans on Holi and the meal was cancelled. Nafisa (junior) was kind enough to contact BMS and initiate the refund.

This weekend I spotted their event on, booked the ticket and promptly mailed Nafisa inquiring if they had enough people for the meal. She assured me that the lunch was on. Whew!!!

Mrs Kapadia’s son Munaf wanted to keep his mother busy and away from the television and he invited 30 people for a traditional Bohri meal at home but at a cost. 10 people turned up and that’s how the Bohri Thaal started. Now they cater at events, deliver food across the city and have pop ups at restaurants like the one at Kaitlyn’s in Bandra on 31st March. They catered at Hrithik Roshan’s birthday where guests shared food from 2-3 thaals.

I received the address and the menu yesterday on WA. The meal would start promptly at 1 pm and I was to wear expandable pants. I arrived at 12.30 pm in a leafy part of Colaba, climbed 2 flights of wooden stairs and was welcomed into a large, airy, well ventilated house by Nafisa (Jr). I met Munaf and the other guests started arriving soon.

There was a family from SoBo (not very different from South Delhites) who now lived in Bandra and their friends, a young couple, another couple with a kid and a bunch of colleagues from Nashik, two of who are firangs.

I was offered a welcome drink which was coconut water churned with malai. It was simply brilliant and am going to make it at home soon.

Every course would start with Munaf briefing us about it and then us digging in. A big Thaal with different chutneys was placed in the centre of the room. Traditionally, people eat from the same thaal. At weddings, you may end up sharing food with absolute strangers.

The thaal had boondi pineapple raita (yummy. Must try this), dates chutney, bhavnagari stuffed mirchi etc.

The first course were the smoked mutton kheema samosas. They are supposed to be very famous in Mumbai.

For the vegetarians there were hara bhara kebabs and corn cheese kebabs. This was a departure from the norm since it’s a purely non vegetarian meal.

The meal is a mix of kharas (starters), meetha (sweet) and jaman (main course). Malai khaja were served as a palate cleanser and that is what am going to call my dessert next time.

Next came the hero of the evening. A rann in red masala marinated in spices for 2 days and cooked for 3-4 hours. The meat was so soft it was falling off the bone. It was sprinkled with salli. My favourite dish of the day. I sucked at the bone like I’ve never sucked a dick

The dirty jokes are necessary for the hits

This was served with rose sherbet with sabja seeds.

Next was beetroot halwa as the “palate cleanser” before the main course.