July 22, 2018, Hyderabad @ 10 PM
Do you remember?
The night I opened my eyes to this beautiful world for the very first time in that tiny little clinic in Naughar road.
You welcomed me with twinkling eyes and the widest of smiles when some of my own looked down at me with disdain.
It did not matter to you that this frail dark lump of bones was yet another unwelcomed girl in the already poor budding family.
You opened your heart and let your shining light envelop me like warm milk.
I gurgled and crawled all over you and you shielded me like an over protective father.
You helped me take my first steps holding me and guiding me, each time I fell.
The lullabies you sang to lull me to sleep long after my mom had drifted off to sleep all tired and worn out from my nonstop cries.
All those nights spent in the tiny balcony of that little house in Mulund East, stretched out counting stars and trying to scoop the moon into our palms.
Those kids from the opposite building who we couldn’t wait to go and play ‘Laghori’ and ‘Running catching’ with ?
And all the other kids from the nearby colony I would shoo away to have you all for ourselves.
All those summers sucking mango rinds and licking the pulp off ourselves.
Us, hiding and yelling our lungs out and scaring that peeping tom from the 4th floor.
Hiding in the balcony and listening to the maids of the other houses and learning to converse in our own concoction of a mishmash of languages
Do you remember our first visit to the park on the other end of Mulund?
The day I realized you had a park full of friends and glowing red with jealousy I retreated to a corner and did not play with you the entire evening.
And my unbridled joy when you chose to come back home with me and let me sleep beside you as you always did.
That tyrannical aunt of mine who made me do all those chores and how I would come running to you weepy eyed?
Not a day went by without her hurting me and not a night went by without you comforting me to sleep.
Bidding bittersweet goodbyes every summer with promises to meet the next summer.
Earnestly meeting each summer, me taller and prettier and you wider and handsomer than the previous summer and spending hours chattering away about all the sweet nothings of the past year.
That movie in 1989?
When we fell in love at first sight with the young man running towards the sunset?
So many nights spent gushing and dreaming about him together.
Gluing ourselves to the Dynora television set hoping to catch a glimpse of his glorious face.
Singing the entire soundtrack of the movie back to back.
Do you remember that pav bhaji thela(cart) near the station road beside the Shiva temple?
That Bihari bhaiyya with long weird hair parted bang at the centre like Salman Khan?
The one with that funny accent whose incessant cringe worthy rendition of Tere Naam could never stop us from tucking into his piping hot butterlicious pav bhaji?
Is he still around?
And that tiny shop at M.G Road ,which sold those creamy Softies for 5 bucks?
Did you know that the old man who swirled those delicious softies for us passed away?
Whatever happened to that dreamboat of ours? The guy who manned the Xerox machine next door to the Softy shop?
The one with those long dreamy eyelashes? He must have a shop full of little dreamboats of his own by now, right?
All those hours gorging on Sev puris and staring away at him and not one glance did he deem to send our way!
Our very first taste of Amul Cheese and Vada Pav.
April evenings spent on the ferris wheel at Juhu Beach trying not to think of a fatal fall into the sea.
May visits to Tikuji ni wadi in Thane with that beautiful cousin of mine.
And what was it that she ordered every time?
Schezwan fried rice served with a huge red chilli right at the centre!
Do you know that kid sister of mine has this amazing Chinese looking kid of her own?That cutie pie is already 4 now!
That dizzy trip to Essel World the summer after college, that left us reeling from those insatiable topsy-turvy rides.
All those sepia toned photographs of us together not digitized but in film of yore.
Those heady rides in the local trains traveling from Mulund to Victoria Terminus and collecting tickets that served as memoirs.
Listening to all the people crammed in the tiniest of spaces, chirping away their day’s worth of words and the little singing wonders with the begging bowls.
All that colour and glitter in the nukkads (street corners) and gallis( by lanes) of Fashion street that popped our eyes out.
Hours spent combing through the Stories of the world found in multitude of scattered books in the streets of Churchgate.
That tiring hike up to Mumbra devi temple in the searing heat of a May afternoon.
That October morning, you saw me in that cobalt blue silk saree for the first time and your heart almost skipped a beat.
Your melting eyes made me stumble into your arms and I always wondered if it was intentional…
Do you remember the hours spent staring at the horizon sensing new passions within us and spinning newer dreams together?
Pining away until we met again and again and again.
Remember all those visits to designer stores hunting for an internship?
You believing in me when I myself didn’t after every single rejection.
Those visits to that maze of a market in Kalbadevi, all the while you egging me to keep the faith and giving me wings to fly.
You promising me of my dreams taking flight someday, outside the hallowed gates of J.J.School of Art.
Remember that fateful May-day?
The day I met that friend of yours who was clad in a strange pink tee and a pony tail?
What can I say? I fell in love…
My frequent travels to his place always landing at an unearthly hour of 3.30 am at Dadar station and you always keeping me company until he arrived to pick me up.
Remember my enduring obsession of him?
Telling you fascinating stories of our conversations.
Of our unrestrained walks in the endless lanes of Andheri and Versova.
Of our uninhibited kisses in the pouring rain in the streets of Dadar and Bandra and that one special kiss at the crowded CSM Terminus.
Of that long pious walk to Haji Ali , praying for wishes to be fulfilled.
Of the innumerable hand written letters I wrote to him every week for those 4 years.
Of all those books gifted to him that were left unread.
Of the money he loaned me that I never bothered to return.
Of that trip to Globus and Levi’s for his makeover where he spent a month’s salary on clothes!
And pawned his gold chain the very next day to pay his bills!
Of the Titan Chrono, my birthday gift to him that he lost in the train to Goa.
Do you remember the night he was busy tucking into his pani puri and that monstrous yellow superbike fell on me?
I only remember me falling onto you with the bike on my chest.
Whatever happened that night?
And that late night movie jaunt to a cinema theatre in Bandra and walking the entire night discussing Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat , to reach home at 2 am!
Wasn’t that the night?
The night it happened for the first time?
You remember me gushing about it to you the morning after?
And blushing pink about it for days to come?
And the day I finally met his folks?
That sultry January afternoon with butterflies in my whole body.
The day I confessed to you of my decision to marry him.
The day you clearly conveyed it was not a wise move at all .
I dismissed you and went ahead and told my folks about him.
And then that decisive day I found those letters in that closet of his…
All from her…
Letters that spoke about all those works trips spent with her.
All those texts and messages speaking undying love for her.
You know if it weren’t for you I would never have had the courage to confront him and leave him.
Not once did you say I told you so.
Not once did you say that it was just waiting to happen.
Instead holding me in your arms like you always did and just let the river of tears flow.
But you got caught in the unfortunate crossfire that followed later and despite me knowing you were close to both of us, I was not mature enough to accept that he needed you as much as I did.
I wanted you all to myself, which was a bit much to ask of you.
I turned my back on you that day.
I regret that I foolishly sacrificed a relationship that lasted 30 years just because I could never set foot in the same city he lived.
I never looked back ,not just because of my ego but also due to the massive guilt I felt for hurting you.
And by then I had lost the nerve to meet your eyes and I admit,I shamelessly out of spite ignored all your calls that beckoned me to revive the amity between us.
My impaled heart had shut and padlocked the door to the room where you and I and our shared togetherness lived.
That part of my heart has neither seen light nor felt love and in darkness has it lived ever since.
I think of you often.
But thoughts of him would come and foul the air and I would end up thinking of you too with the same bitterness.
Have you ever heard of the book, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts?
It is very close to me and I remember weeping my heart out when I flipped the last page of that book.
Because it smelled of you, your inherent goodness and your indomitable spirit.
And that night I let a ray of light into the dark cobweb ridden recesses of our room in my heart.
It has been years since then and try as I might I still have not found enough courage to face you despite digging deep within me.
I have had various opportunities of coming face to face with you and I let them all go to waste.
Why this letter?
Why now, you might ask?
Well, here’s why…
Do you remember my birthday?
Of course you do…you were there. How could I forget you were the first one I laid my eyes on when I was born?
I woke up on my birthday to feel the blues had hit me again. I felt lost and hopeless and totally worthless. Again.
With absolutely no will to live.
All I kept sensing while meditating was this deep desire to die.
Feeling sick to my bones, I opened my eyes only to see a file folder which had some of my work from my previous blog.
I chanced upon a poem of mine titled, “The Road to Her”
It isnt about you.
It was written for him.
But I read it and you flashed past me.
Just you. In all your entirety.
The same melting eyes, the same careless freedom, the same spirit.
I saw everything we had, everything we shared, at one fell swoop.
All our laughter, all the fun, all our chatter, all our whispers, all our carefree affections, all our hugs, all my tears, all your love and all the pain I put you through.
Do you know that people apparently see their whole life flash past before they die?
My whole life with you flashed past me and by the end of it, a tiny speck of hope stirred inside me.
Now, I do not want to leave behind this world without seeing you.
Without feeling and touching the love of the entire world you hold in your heart for me.
I want to catch a glimpse of the sheer ecstasy burning in your eyes when you set them on me.
To hold you tight and never let the folds of your arms loosen their grip on me.
You were my mother, father, brother, sister, first friend, first crush, first love all rolled into one until the day I decided selfishly that I would have nothing to do with you forever.
You will always be my one true friend and my soul mate.
Because you understand me like no one else ever will and love me without asking for anything in return.
Above all you gave me the time and space to heal, all the time standing at the sidelines knowing I would turn around some day and find my way back to you.
And when I really needed someone the most to show me the light, you zoomed to me in a jiffy and lifted me off the ground and stirred me to give life another chance.
Have I ever said Sorry?
Have I ever said Thank you?
Will thank you’s and sorry’s ever suffice?
Will they encompass every song my heart wants to sing to you?
Will they be enough to forgive and forget?
Will the abyss between us ever come anywhere near closure?
I dont have the answers to any the questions.
Maybe someday we will.
When we see each other again.
So, until I see you, the hope of my dreams and joy of my life.
Stay as you always were. Full of wonder. Alive with gay abandon!
This post is dedicated to the one and only Bombay.
The City of my birth, my childhood summers, my teenage Crushes, my heart breaks, my love, my budding entrepreneurship and my unfulfilled dreams.
P.S. You will always remain Bombay to me despite your name change.