Give me a house with bay windows, and curtains of mint blue. Give me a rug so that I can walk bare feet and a dog to sleep on it. Give me two flowering pots- a periwinkle and a touch-me-not. Let there be a jumble of wires where creepers grow and from where sparrows and parrots can keep an eye on me. Then, my friend, give me a lamp with three feet, a little rickety and unsure. Fit me a multi colored bulb. Give me a side table which is always ready to crumble down under all the weight that is piled on.
Spending half a year in Mumbai had somehow led me to believe that no other city in no other part of the world could be as awake and active as Mumbai is. I had witnessed tea vendors taking their spot in front of the mall at two in the morning and I had been awestruck. I had forgotten that not very far away in a village is a farmer who is waking up under the starlight at this very hour. I had forgotten about the newspaper hawker back home who wakes up at 3, cycles to the newspaper office and by seven in the morning, he is folding and throwing papers in balconies on the fourth floor. He is awake enough to throw mine right at my face causing me to either duck or to catch it in mid air, which also gets me a “Nice One!” from him. I think he thinks it’s a game we play.
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.
Little Sparrow. Hi.
We named you Bhondumal, remember? It means, “an idiot”.
That was because you flew right into our ceiling fan.
Come let me show you my home. The home I am going to bring down and plant a new one in its place.
I tried to work the TV today.
No, not rewire it or something. The TV has been switched off for some months now and trying to work it, is a bi-annual ritual we perform.
You don’t know me. I am the person who comes to you once in a while, scoops you up, ruffles your hair, coos at you and goes away. But it’s more than that. I know you. And I know what it means to have you around. And so many of you at that.
November is dawning. My favourite time of the year. Not because it’s Diwali or Christmas.
Because it’s winters.
Tyger Tyger. Tiger in the Tunnel. Project Tiger. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
I have read them all. And yet, my favourite remains a children’s book, back from my childhood. “The tiger who came to tea”.
So I am basically going to talk about today. Its not interesting.