For the strangest of reasons, I find myself suddenly feeling very small. Not just in person, but in dimensions of space as well. Kind of like I’m collapsing into myself. The familiar feeling of nonsensical sadness sweeps over me and I walk over to the balcony aimlessly. I know I’m searching for something, but I can’t tell what it is. I take a deep breath, take the city into my lungs. It smells of exhaust fumes and fine cement, dust and fatigue.
Two years ago, this is how I built my familiarity with Mumbai. In her smell. She smells like a fake bride, I remember thinking, though I still don’t know what that really means. I got off the plane, collected my baggage and walked out into the city, excited, nervous, upset.
A friend had arranged a home for me in Mumbai. I was told it was impossible for a single woman to land a good place, unless it was in one of the flashier suburbs. Nonetheless, he found me a nice place that fit my budget. It overlooked a hill and was in a pleasant neighbourhood. There was an ATM five minutes away, and a share-rickshaw stand just outside the building. You could only share a rickshaw with others if you were riding to the Central Station. It cost only Rs.4 per passenger. That’s a mere Rs.120 a month. From there, I’d take the train to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, an hour away. That would cost Rs.520 a month. So together, that’s Rs.640 to get to office. Plus Rs.900 a month to get back to the station and take the train home.
I have no idea why I’m thinking of this right now.
I look down my balcony again. The vegetable vendor I buy my groceries from is still there, outside the gates. The cigarette guy I frequent is also around, looking down at the street. I wonder if he and I are seeing the same thing. Of course we are, I think. Nothing has changed from the last time I looked around consciously. Cars are still flowing like a lit waterfall down the road, the skyline is still ablaze with yellow white lights. People are still rushing to get someplace in a hurry.