Even when I said Goodbye to Delhi last year, I knew that we will meet again but not even in my wildest imagination I had thought it will be so soon. For someone who takes time to adjust to places, people and situations, who is slow in learning and making friends, frequent movements is like a tasting menu of a restaurant - It gives you of a taste of what you will miss but does not satiate your hunger . Not a happy situation. I distinctly remember such feeling of not-being-done-with when I left Jaipur or Rome or even hometown Lucknow. And now I add Mumbai to the list.
I realise I am a person of contradictions. I have my gypsy streaks, which make me uneasy, if I stay at a place for too long and then I have incurable inertia. When it comes to leave a place ...I panic. When you suffer inertia as bad as I do , oftentimes you find yourself in very peculiar situations. Situations when you dislike leaving a place without even ticking off essential things to see and do. Situations when you wake in the middle of a night and find yourself itching to go back in time. Situations when you dislike your new office and colleagues for first few days , irrespective of how kind and generous they are with you and your bad mood . The dichotomy is that while on one hand you are looking forward to new experiences, new sights, smells and flavours.....you desist leaving behind the now-familiar surroundings , people, places .
Leaving Mumbai was even more frustrating as I was just about getting the grasp of work and looking forward to some really tempting assignments . The situation was made worse by the fact that this came as a surprise. I am not too good with surprises but I played my part with as much courage as I could muster. All those “congratulations” sounded hurtful to my heart which was in part very sad to leave and in part scared to join the big assignment at the big office . But then after all those trepidations, anxieties and blue moods, I am back . Back to Delhi, back to same good old campus with familiar faces, sights and smells and yet the tinge of sadness refuses to go away . I will be lying , if I say I am not happy- I truly am delighted about my new charge but like a greedy child I want both goodies without getting to choose and settle for one. My mind consoles me that I should be happy on both personal and professional levels but the heart stubbornly reminds me of what I had to leave behind . As a good friend of mine told me after hearing this news that it is meant to make me grow up- stop imagining the world in black and white and acknowledge the role of destiny and the fifty-shades-of-grey in life. Something like what Nida fazli very aptly puts –
"अपनी मर्ज़ी से कहाँ अपने सफर के हम हैं
रुख हवाओं का जिधर का है उधर के हम हैं
वक़्त के साथ है मिटटी का सफर सदियों से
किसको मालूम कहाँ के हैं किधर के हम हैं
चलते रहते हैं की चलना है मुसाफिर का नसीब
सोचते रहते हैं किस रहगुज़र के हम हैं "
( When do we choose our own paths/ it is the winds of life that decide our ways
The dust has a lifelong bond with time / Who knows where from we come and go?
I keep on moving as that is a traveler’s destiny / But I wonder which road do I belong)
Just before leaving Mumbai , I thought about things I loved and things I didn’t ...of the unfinished list of things to do and why I would like to go back there again. To begin with , I am happy to be away from the nerve wrecking noises of traffic- incessant honking, mostly unnecessary is such a irritant on Mumbai roads. I would also accept that coming from small towns, for me the maximum city with its too much urbanisation was at times killing. I could never like the life from building blocks like apartments and the ugly sights of clothes drying on the window bars .
Yet there were sights with which I fell in love . The magnificent clouds of monsoon gathering up over deep blue sea, the colourful fishing boats, the seagulls chasing those boats full of fish , sun setting behind Haji Ali , R.K. Laxman's Aam aadmi standing at Worli sea face and the variety of people always seen at Marine drive. Initially I laughed at those lovebirds cosying up at Marine drive , even found those sights awkward , but then I realised the necessity of it. The total lack of privacy in those smaller than pigeonhole flats , the Indian compulsions of big families / joint families and relatives flocking in due to economic reasons leave no scope for young and even not-so-young couples in this maximum city. After a while, I admit , I started finding such sights very endearing , even beautiful. The selfie queens smiling at the mobile screens , wide-mouthed tourists from rural India and rather confused looking foreigners - some of the most common sights on Marine drive and sea-face, made me smile every single day . It was also amusing to find overweight elites turning fitness freaks on weekends and landing at these places in their expensive sports gear . Middle aged men and women gossiping about neighbours , celebrities and remembering stories of the past. If you hear them, you realise that they did not start where they are today. Some of them came to city with very humble beginnings and while now they might be living in marble floored big apartments with many servants and luxuries, they still remember and even long for their old simple lives . During morning and evening walks I also met some who like me came to Mumbai as strangers and then decided to stay on. They love everything about the city- even the noise, dirt and chaos.
People with extraordinary talent in music, art , business and varied traits – who chose this city over many others to be their home, not out of compulsion but mostly love and fascination . It was amazing to my small-town-heart , how there are no too-late-to-go-out hours in Mumbai. While in Delhi I would not dream of stepping out alone in late evenings, in Mumbai it was mostly safe for women and girls . Its a pity that I could get just a glimpse of the cultural scene of this vibrant city. While I am glad I could go to Prithwi theatre, NCPA and Kala Ghoda festival , there was so much more to do in the city which never sleeps .
The most heartbreaking (surprisingly ) was leaving my Mumbai workplace . Contrary to my expectations, I found the work very much to my liking. For someone who had no idea about what is upstream and downstream petroleum , who had no interest in aeroplanes even as child – it was amazing that now in newspaper, my eyes go first at news on Petroleum and Aviation. I can’t climb a plane without noting its make, model and tail number . I know my education of these sectors is still incomplete but the credit of making me even this aware goes to my colleagues and boss. Never ever, I have seen or worked with such a dedicated bunch of people. People who despite very big personal worries will be ever ready to give their best to work . People who do not put petty egos before the interest of work and who are ever helpful and willing to teach novice like me . I know it is my loss to have such a short period to work with them .
Every time , such things happen to me, I tell myself, I will not plan for future, I will not say what I will do later, make wishlists for times to come . So I will not end wishing that I get another chance with Mumbai. But let me just end by confessing that for last 5 days in a row, on my way back from office, when I see the sun setting behind the uneven, shabby irregular colonies on Delhi- Noida highway , my heart long for a beautiful sun setting gracefully in Arabian sea a few hundred miles away in Mumbai. I am sure, I would consider myself lucky if I get to see that mesmerising sight ever again in life.