27 February 2014

The Rhythm of the City

I was feeling the rhythm of the city today. The trick is to get out early, have a leisurely breakfast, get some work done, and then return home to escape the heat of the day for a few hours. Then, at 5 or so, head out again, and enjoy the Mumbai evening. Today, I did leave my room early, mostly because I was asked to, in order for the maid who clean the apartment I"m staying at could get in, change my sheets, and tidy up a bit. It's a little weird, but she comes with the apartment, and that's how it's done here. So I went out for coffee and breakfast at a place called Mochamojo nearby. It's done up in full 70's decor; vinyl booths that look like the back seat of old cars, bean bag chairs, end tables that look like Rubik's Cubes. The coffee was quite good, and for breakfast I had basically a Spanish tortilla; eggs and potatoes baked together in a pie. Over breakfast, I had a long phone call with Sonali, whom faithful readers will remember as the head of Dreamcatchers NGO, and who is getting used to the idea of becoming a mentor for younger people who are called to service but don't know how to begin. Truly, she's been a mentor for many for a long time, and is one of the most inspirational people Ive ever met, but of course no one sees themselves from the outside quite as others see them.
From there, I did go home for a few hours. The last few days have been very hot and humid, although it's still quite pleasantly cool in the evenings. I left a little earlier than usual though, and headed up to Juhu, the part of town a little further north, with its wonderful beach and grand Hare Krishna temple. The last time I was there, I discovered, around the corner from the temple, a Thai massage shop, and I went back and treated myself. The first time, I got a traditional Thai massage, and this time I opted for the classic Swedish. Sixty minutes, as professional as you'd want, for US$20. I could get used to it.
After the massage, I went to the Krishna temple, one of my favorite spots in the city. It's a whole complex, with a hotel, restaurant, snack stalls, library, and other services, but the centerpiece is a giant, white marble temple which displays all the grandeur and beauty befitting Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. The statues of the deities are lovingly cared for by a crew of volunteers, who dress them, cover them in flower garlands, and burn sweet-smelling incense to please them. All the while, devotees chant Krishna's name in the background, and we all join in, call-and-response style. I love going to the temple. It's a beautiful, peaceful place to give thanks for being here, for being alive, and it's always among the first and last places I go when I visit this country.
A new baby Krishna light I got at the temple.

From there, I headed to the nearby Juhu beach, which is always crowded with locals and Indian tourists who bring their entire families and baskets full of food. Some people swim, some sit together on the beach, lovers stroll along the shore, and children run and play freely. I watched the sun set over the Arabian Sea, ate some Pav Bhaji, and when it was dark, headed to my old neighborhood of Khar Danda.
There, I visited my old friend Sachin the saloon-keeper, for it was time for my weekly shave. And then I visited my old neighbors, the DJ brothers Sachin and Pravin. They were not actually there, but their sister and father and uncle were there, and I hadn't seen their father since I've been back, so it was great to catch up with him. He's had a really rough year, losing his wife and a younger brother within a few months. (I told him I understood.) And now, his daughter Poonam must take care of the father and the two brothers, because they are a poor village family, and that's how it's done. I wish she had the freedom to leave, continue her education (she did finish college), find a husband of her own, but they are a traditional family, and with the mom gone, she feels it is her place to take care of her father. She's perfectly happy though, and thinks it's weird that American families don't stay together forever and are scattered around the country. Indian families stay together, she says, and who am I to say that's wrong. It seems like she's happy with the decision, and doesn't feel forced into it, although it's hard to tell because in some ways it's expected of her. But she says she would choose to do it, even if she did really have a choice, and she certainly seems happy.Not everyone has to become a big shot or become super-productive at business. There's something to be said for a quiet, simple life, too.
From there, I tried to take the bus home, but I must have missed my stop, because before I knew it, I was at the last stop, the Bandra railway station. No problem. I hopped in a rickshaw and headed home. My apartment is near a Bollywood film studio called Mehboob Studios, and it's a great landmark that all the drivers know. I locked up the gate, as I do each evening, and headed upstairs. All in all, a great day in the city.

Tonight's sunset at Juhu Beach: