Another India (23)

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We woke early that morning and almost immediately took flight. We ascended as high as we could before tiring. We had not set eyes on our beloved Alibaug for almost a year, and couldn’t wait to see her in her entirety. The winter had been the coldest for some time and our journey here tumultuous, but we had arrived safe – just the two of us – hovering above our heavenly garden in the Arabian sea. The heat was too much for many, but not us. We sang the whole day, songs of ancestors, of long-forgotten kingdoms, of invaders on the beaches, and the rajas that now replace them.

That evening we took up residence in a coconut tree that overlooked a small island resort. Three travellers sat in a halcyon garden, accompanied by music we ourselves had not heard in many years. We watched them drink, talk, and feast, just as those before them had come to do.

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My Nani’s place is everything you could want from a Mumbai flat. Being on the 8th floor means a cool breeze is always blowing across it, even on the hottest of March days. It also means the floor-to-ceiling windows display expansive views of Chaupati bay on one side, whilst the opposite affords the chance to study people on their high-rise balconies. They aren’t too different from me: drinking, talking, sometimes playing backgammon or chess, but often simply sitting away the evening in that way which is unique to hot countries. In the late afternoon you could spot children running semi-competitive games of cricket or football on the rooftops, whilst others paralleled them in the streets below.

But by the second week of my stay, the flat had begun to feel oppressive. Now my fifth time in Mumbai, my family feel little need to take me around. Yet neither am I allowed out on my own. “No, that’s too far. You’ll get lost”. “That place is too dangerous for someone like you. The blacks have moved in there”. “It’s too hot today. You’ll get heatstroke”.  I felt like an adolescent again. Everyone assumed that they knew what was best for me. But as Indians, we’re always told to respect our elders, right? Nani-ji knows best.

So all I could do during those times was carry on watching domesticity unfold on the balconies, or bury myself in a book. Now I know why many Indians favour the epic poem, or the monolithic novel. In Clear Light of Day, I found as much comfort in Bim as I did any of my life-long friends.

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My Nani’s homemade pickles absorbing sun on the windowsill.

Typically Indian. I use ‘another’ as these are just more pictures of India. ‘Another’ as they are no more or less an honest depiction of the country than anyone else’s. ‘Another’ to add to the plethora of images online.