Since childhood I loved the idea of Mumbai. The city where dreams come true. Where dreams are allowed to be bigger than you, where the hardworking shall be rewarded and where glamour will naturally gravitate, for glamour is Mumbai's second name. Every time a visit to Mumbai was planned, I was excited. To be within touching distance of the film stars and Sachin Tendulkar and Dhirubhai Ambani was a thrilling thought.
But the moment I set foot in the city, smell and sound assaulted me. The smell of the heavy moisture-laden air, with the stench that permanently clings Mumbai, took away all my illusions of glamour in a jiffy. A yearly stay of a week in Mumbai reminded me that to keep the love and mystery alive, I had to maintain a distance.
I cursed myself for not trying hard enough, Mumbai cursed God for making things complicated with its favourite child (me!), but we both resigned to the fact that we would rather stay apart and happy than together and miserable. Then came a dreaded two month long stay for academic reasons. Now there was no escape. The city waited with bated breath for things to fall apart. It knew its weaknesses well. Weaknesses it cannot overcome, the dirt, the crowds and the climate, an infrastructural collapse and a child that it does not have the capacity to support.
I went, resigned to the fact that this proximity was going to kill the dreamlike relationship we shared. As the days began to pass I hated the crowd that was always at my elbow, pushing past. Till date I have always travelled by train when I want to go on a trip. Now going out for lunch meant catching a train. And the city drained me. We were both irritated with each other.
A smile brought new beginnings! Fellow travellers smiled at me. They pulled me in when I was late, and pushed me out when I couldn't get out on my own. The insomnia in the city protected me when I came home late and the generosity gave me 'nimbu paani' and coconut water for free. Early morning work gave me a glimpse of the roads, otherwise invisible in the crowds. The sea breeze came to wipe away the sweat and roadside chaat broke the monotony. Mumbai had lived up to its name. It refused to give up on its favourite child, it had kept away till now.
When it was time to say good-bye, unlike before, I left with some hesitation. Had I really known the city before? I was glad to go home not to leave Mumbai! For now we have decided not to stretch it and remain too close. For now we continue the long distance relationship, with a secret hope that a day will come when the two of us can be together and lead a life, of course with a promise of happiness...