There is a collective sadness in Mumbai. A huzun. In the building across, an old couple sits near the grilled window, sipping their tea, while their clothes on the line flutter in the wind, promising two more days until they will finally dry off. A milkman makes his rounds, playing around with his cycle bell. I play old blue songs on Saavn and we are all sad. The sun is out and it is drizzling. Don’t expect to see a rainbow, because the buildings are too high and too many and there is no terrace or open balconies where you live.
The autowallah will advise you to study well and not get involved in relationships. “Where is the love today, beta? It is all money” And you will agree. The restaurants across where you have dinner on weekends will get you change for the 2000 note you hand them for a Rs. 50 dosa you had. And they will waive off your GST. The dogs you feed will come running to you for Parle G. An aunty will save you a seat in the local. And you will be highly obliged. In night locals standing on CST, the driver will stop for you, if you rush towards an already crowded 22:50 CST-Panvel, a Vada pao in one hand and the dripping umbrella in another. The policeman inside will smile at you and stand up to give you his seat. And you will say, no uncle, it is okay. At Vadala, when everyone gets down, you will have space to stretch your legs and listen to the rains outside. You will have the space to breathe in the smell of wet earth and to look at the aunty watching Crime Patrol on Hotstar. A local will slowly pass by and you will lock eyes with someone and suddenly you will not be alone. It is pouring now and the lights will go out. The train will stop and you will be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Out of the dead silence, someone will start to hum a Marathi song and you will be reminded of home and long chats with your family. When the lights come on, the singing will stop and you will be left looking at faces around you, who have been jolted back to their lives long ago.
You will be lost in South Bombay, looking for Yazdani Bakery. You will ask a passerby,
“Do you know where the Yazdani Bakery is?”
“No. Sorry I don’t”
“Okay. Thank you.”
“Wait, I’ll ask someone for you.”
“No, really its…”
“Bhaiya, tell this girl where that old Bakery is. Explain the way to me. I’ll explain her.”
And before you know, your heart will be melting at the kindness.
Mumbai is a sad city. She is content with the sadness, with the speed and with its shortcomings, so much so that if you pause at the station, everything slows down and you can catch snippets of conversations and expressions. Someone catches your eye and smiles at you and two old uncle stop to ask if you’re okay.
“Are you lost?”
“Catching a train?”
“Yes Uncle. Panvel.”
“Oho. So late in the night? A lot of rush, huh?”
“A little, yes uncle.”
“Travel safely beta.”
And you smile politely as they walk away into the sea of heads, looking like childhood best friends who have grown old together. And you realize that there is love in the city, hidden behind smart phones and double shift jobs, the hoard of colliding people and the traffic that won’t move.
When you get down from the train, the policeman waves at you. When you reach home, Pandey Uncle, the watchman, hands you your keys. You watch as a small boy from one of the houses comes rushing to him. Pandey Uncle holds his hands and makes him cross the road to the Vada Pao stall. He buys one for each of them and you see them coming back. He waves. You wave back. You turn around to walk home and step into a puddle. Someone laughs from the widow on the second floor and you laugh too. Fresh melancholies make us happy.