Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mumbai Memories

This will be a short entry as I leave for Kerala tomorrow morning and the week here in Mumbai has plum tuckered me out.  I don't know if I will have internet in my next abode.  It could be a few days before I check back in, not to worry......

Today I went to Mani Bhavan, Ghandi's Bombay residence and tried to soak in a little of his goodness.  I bought a book of his wisdom, so expect to hear some of that in the weeks to come.  Afterwards I walked down to Chowpatty Beach, made friends with a dog who followed me for blocks despite that fact that I wouldn't pet him.  It was nice to have a friend to walk with.

Then I took a long ride home along the sea road and came back to Patel's to pack.  This evening another of Gary's friends, Harish drove 2 hours with a buddy just to have dinner with me.  It was delightful to sit and laugh with a couple of cute boys, one English speaking Hindu, Harish, and one shy Hindi speaking Muslim, Fareen.  The folks at the restaurant thoroughly disapproved.  I didn't care.  I was so clearly too old for any thing improper to be going on.

My feelings have fluctuated all day between a sort of shaky sadness and serenity.  Taking the train south this morning, I was the only person on the first class train, while the second class train was packed.  I didn't have the energy to bustle along in a cramped compartment, so from being one of the herd on Thursday, I became solitary, different on Sunday.

Watching the now familiar Mumbai landscape rattle by I realized that I was sad to be leaving.  Isn't that something?  I was experiencing heart ache for a place that has utterly undone me in one short week.  I'm gonna miss the vibrancy, the tenacity, the unexpected nature of every twist and turn of the road.

Before I go off to bed I'll leave you with a few short images that I couldn't capture on film, or that I haven't fit into a post, images that hope to convey a little more clearly what is truly wonderful about this place.  Imagine....

* A young girl sandwiched between her father who is driving a motorcycle and her mother who sits behind her on the motor cycle, traffic buzzing around them.  The girl is fast asleep.

* The smile on my old man cab driver who gave me a small tour of Bandra and the beach.  He noticed me taking pictures of people out the window and started vying for open road space~not so he could get to my house faster, but so that I would get better people shots.  I gave him a 40rs tip.

* Men getting a shave and a hair cut on the side of the road.  I love their need to look well kept when chaos and filth surrounds them.

* The zillions of women in their sunday-best saris, lean and elegant, short and portly, bright colors everywhere.  Sometimes they are crammed on train cars, or lolly-gagging down the street.  But they are always beautiful.

* The woman who gave up her seat on a bench at Santacruz Station.  She insisted I take it, with a smile that would melt anyones heart.  I insisted we share.

* The young boy who carefully read the sign on the outside of my train car which reads "Women Only", then with wider eyes he read out loud,  "First Class," when his friends urged him to hop on to the "illegal" car.

* The old blind beggar man, no glasses, no eyes.  Walking stick in one hand.  The other hand held out.  He walked slowly and steadily forward, forward, forward.

* The Muslim women in long black burkas.  They have a gait that is always serene and steady.  Perhaps its because they can't see where they are going.  I wonder if its because they can't be seen.

* The street markets.  I could never get up the nerve to pull out my camera and snap away.  It was so busy, so many people living their lives.  It felt invasive to just start capturing them at their most ordinary, at least when I would clearly be caught doing it.

* The many kindnesses like a group of men telling me I'd dropped my glasses or the gent who gave me such specific directions to Mani Bhavan.

* The sudden beauty of Rajiv and Payel when they decide to laugh.

* Looking into a neighboring auto-rickshaw and seeing someone calmly reading while they were jostled and rattled towards their destination.

* The cows.  The huge huge cows.  Just hanging out in parking spaces.  They could pop up at any time, anywhere.  It always surprised me and amused me.  Harish just told me that women bring them to the streets everyday because in Hindu practice it is good luck to feed a cow, so why not have plenty of cows around for feeding?

You can go see my Mumbai photo collection of actual pictures.  You'll notice a lot of Window View's one of my eccentricities---I love pictures taken out of windows.  They aren't the most elegant, but they feel lived in.

Till I get settled in Kerala, I send you all wishes for many many chances to feed a cow!

1 comment:

auntiemao said...

Such fantastic pictures and, indeed, memories already...I must say that I'm honored to share an occupation with Gandhi and that the spinning wheel features so prominently in his Mumbai home.
We'll be holding our breath waiting to hear from you. Some of it will be trepidation but most of it will be excited anticipation of the next chapter. Safe travels....xo