Am back (for those who care ;-)), but still in transition!

The last time I lived in Bombay it was 2005. Seven years later I find myself back in the city, just a lane away from where I last lived, starting a new Life – that’s twice in a space of 3 years…sigh. But, c’est la vie!

The city feels different – not as friendly as before, the people – more on edge and aggressive, the traffic – chaotic as always and the rickshaw drivers disappointingly rude 😦 I don’t remember them being that before. Can’t wait until we finally manage to hire a driver – it’s a necessity rather than a luxury. Or perhaps it’s just that seven years being a long time, the City’s tell-tale signs of wear & tear, are now more apparent to my critical gaze. It could also be that the last time I was here; I was in my thirties, free of children and raring to go. Life was all about working and travelling and having a good time. A far cry from who I am today, above all, a mother concerned about her child’s safety and education, although travel and fun are always on my menu 🙂 Still with everything that Bombay struggles with on a daily basis, I suppose the fact that she survives is in itself a victory of sorts. I hope to survive too – emerge victorious and phoenix-like – conquering the chaos and craziness – finding my own sanctuary of sorts. Not too much to ask for, surely?!

But on to pleasant things and thankfully there are those too 😉 The fact that I finally have the freedom to run my own household and more importantly kitchen, is a feeling I would not trade for anything J I’ve always enjoyed setting up house and although this is the first time I’ve done it with a 4-yr-old in tow, it’s still been exciting! Ishaan has been quite the peach – as well behaved and obedient as a child going through a huge change can be expected to be. He’s changed house and school with an ease that makes me so very proud and yet inexplicably sad, perhaps coz it means he’s really growing up and I didn’t think it would be so quickly!! Children really do bring a whole new perspective on Life – they make the hardest things seem bearable and yet manage ever so often to complicate the simple stuff 😛 Walking, talking paradoxes 😉

The 15 days we’ve spent in Bombay so far have been largely about setting up house and getting Ishaan accustomed to his new school. The latter had me worried, not the least because he was moving from a small, protective environment into the big bad world of a ‘Proper School’, by which I mean a large school with older children, something he’s never experienced in Goa. And yet, after the initial week of crying – he’s taken to it like a fish to water 🙂 He’s learning too and at a speed that never fails to take me by surprise! He’s showing a serious interest in writing (almost overnight!) and finally much to my relief and unbridled joy – in reading 🙂 Hallelujah!!! His own transition from a toddler to a pre-schooler has been thankfully smooth so far!

And what of mine from ‘side-line observer’ back to ‘woman of the house’? Happily – it’s been smooth too and expectedly effortless 😉 This whole move has made me realize once again that most of the stress and fear of change is in our minds. It’s all a matter of perspective and attitude! That’s not to say that’s it’s been a cakewalk, not in the least. Just that by concentrating on the positives I’ve learnt to deal with the considerable negatives. My worst fears were of leaving my Goan circle of friends behind – a group of mothers that have provided me with succour and support and endless amounts of fun!! Don’t get me wrong – I have friends in Bombay – good solid ones that I can count on and love to pieces and am assured loads of fun with, but that doesn’t lessen the pain of leaving behind the girls that have pretty much made life over the last year lovable. I miss them and I confess that the thought of meeting up with them during holidays will see me visit Goa much more than I probably would otherwise!

There’s one thing that’s made me very happy in our new home – the fact that because we’re on the 5th floor, and surrounded by the leafy tops of several coconut palms and other trees, there are birds on call outside the window 24/7 🙂 True, mostly crows and pigeons (not my faves although I’m learning to love them), but there are robins too and bulbuls and one evening a whole flock of parrots flew as if possessed, in screeching symphony before settling down to roost. It was awesome 🙂 And then one day I spotted a copper-breasted barbet that I had never spotted in Goa! Small miracles – what would Life be without?

We’re back in Goa now for the holidays and we’ve slipped back into the slow, lazy routine that so irked me before. This time though it’s a welcome relief from the daily grind in Bombay and I’m grateful J I’ve been out with friends and am having a ball, but I am looking forward to Bombay with much less trepidation than before, if not with explicit eagerness 😉 How quickly we adapt if only we allow ourselves the freedom!

So, here’s to Transitions – with their good, their bad and their ugly. May they be ever educational, stress-free and welcome. And for the bad bits – remember there’s always a Mojito waiting at my place 🙂

P.S. I never thought this piece would be quite so upbeat when I first began to write but am so glad that it turned out the way it did!! Unexpectedly pleasurable 🙂 Probably coz I’m posting this a good month after the actual move 😉


Bombay, Bypasses and Burning Questions

This last week has been spent in a tizzy. I left for Bombay last Tuesday to be by aunt’s side, while my uncle went through a quadruple bypass surgery. Even as I type out the reality, it feels dreamlike. Perhaps it’s my consciousness trying to soften the harshness and the suddenness of events.

My uncle, being  a long-standing diabetic and a recent sufferer of Parkinson’s, has always been particular about his health and my aunt’s one-point program has always been to look after him to the best of her abilities. She’s been devoted in that aspect and together they’ve managed to stave off major complications. Perhaps that’s why we were all so shocked when she called us late morning on the 5th of Jan to tell us, they had taken him to hospital with breathlessness. I remember the moment with that peculiar clarity that seems to accompany such moments. Moments when you know that Life as you knew it is about to change and nothing is ever going to be quite the same again. Moments, that cause you to hold your breath and shut your eyes. Moments in which you find yourself praying (if you’re a believer and sometimes even if you’re not), and hoping that what you’re going to hear is not bad news, while your sixth sense is telling you that it is. The proverbial ‘sweaty palm moment’ before you decide on ‘Fight or Flight’. I’ve had my fair share of these and perhaps that’s why I recognized this one instantly and knew what I had to do.

I’m thankful that once I knew what I had to do, circumstances conspired so that I could indeed do it, not always a possibility. I’m referring to Ishaan of course and the fact that I would have to leave him with my Mom and Pushpa, while I travelled to my aunt’s side. My boy is a gem though and he sailed through with flying colors, barely missing me if my Mom is to be believed, and certainly not missing me nearly as much as I missed him! He made up for it though with much hugging and kissing and smiling on my return 🙂 Good boy! But I digress.

The operation lasted approximately four hours, and I am happy to report that they were four relatively tension-free hours because we had such great company. This is when family needs to rise to the occasion and I’m glad & grateful to those that did, couldn’t have done it without them. I can now happily report that the operation was successful and that my uncle’s recovery has been without major hiccups. We’ve been lucky so far and all I wish for now is that our luck should hold and his recovery be completed without further complications. Minor hiccups are unavoidable though…aren’t they always? He’s been a little disoriented and drowsy because of low sodium levels, just like my Dad was after his hip surgery. It’s a very common post-operative imbalance in the elderly and one that you need to watch out for and keep in mind if you have older relatives. But the hospital has provided excellent care (unlike my Dad’s time) and things are getting better.

I spent most of days just being there for my aunt. We got to spend time together especially for the first two days when my uncle was in Intensive Care where no visits are allowed. We spoke like we always do about everything and nothing! And happily we found that we could still laugh together J I was even able to read two books. The Squire, His Knight and His Lady by Gerald Morris and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, both easy, enjoyable reads. I’ve had a lot of time to think too, while sitting around and waiting. So much of time spent in hospitals is about waiting. Waiting for doctors to arrive, for nurses to leave, for tubes to come out, for reports to come in, for tests and results, for evidence of recovery and signs of deterioration, waiting and watching and staying alert to every nuance, every change, imagined and unimagined in the patient’s condition.

I’ve been wondering about several things this past week. How are senior citizens in India expected to manage without any help or support in a medical emergency? It’s not like the Government has any infrastructure in place that will help, nor do I see such a service developing in the near future. India has so many burning issues right now, that the care and need of its older citizens, is hardly a priority. Sadly, I’m talking about this myself only because I am now surrounded by several aging family members, many of whom cannot expect help from family, whether by choice or through misfortune. I do hope though that someone, somewhere, who can do something, will take notice. I would love to be able to help somehow.

The visit also served as a prelude of our move to Bombay this summer, and it’s not a pretty picture. I didn’t expect it to be, but I am saddened by the speed with and the extent to which Bombay had deteriorated since we were last here seven years ago. The city is bursting at its seams and no one seems to care, not the people and certainly not the Government. Traffic is horrendous, hygiene non-existent and corruption rampant. These aren’t new problems, just old ones that seem to have strengthened their strangle-hold on this seamy Metropolis. It makes me sad, as I see Bombay being buried under her own debris. The spirit that all Mumbaikars are so proud of, apparently only surfaces in times of crises, and although I’m thankful for that, I wish it weren’t so.

Which brings me to another burning question…how do I adjust to living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment? More importantly, how does Ishaan, who’s lived his entire life in a sprawling bungalow with its own garden? Will he adjust to playing cricket in the narrow compound? Or will he get bored of the game, coz he’ll have to constantly check his shots to avoid breaking car windshields & apartment windows? How will he adjust to his new school, a large set-up as opposed to his present small family-like environment? That he’ll cry is a given, for how long is what worries me! Oh I know he’ll adjust eventually, we all will, it’s not like we have a choice. But it won’t be easy, and we don’t have to like it…which is what scares me. There is of course the bright side, thank goodness! All the advantages of living in a Metro will automatically be ours…better education, opportunities, healthcare…although sometimes I think that depends on every person’s personal definition of ‘better’. Our apartment although tiny is situated in a quiet lane (in itself a miracle in Bombay), and surrounded by the green tops of the surrounding coconut palms. It is not far from a couple of parks that will have to serve as Ishaan’s playgrounds. And Goa is just a 40 minute plane ride away 🙂 Never thought I would be saying this, but I think I’m going to miss it more than I care to admit 😛

So this has been an eye-opener of a trip. It’s brought me face to face with my own prejudices and fears, but also left me with the knowledge that every crisis can be overcome with the right attitude and approach. It’s not a new lesson, just an old one that has been reinforced and now sits deep & comfortably within my conscience. And I’m a better person for it.

Road trip to Mumbai: Omkar to Keshvai

On the 30th of September, we set off on a week-long road trip to Bombay via Pune. Hubby had a day-long training session in Pune and we decided to tag along for a much-needed break. We were on a dual mission – to enjoy ourselves and to drop off my helper Pushpa, who was off for her own holiday with her family after a year apart. I was on my own secret mission, to see if I could manage Ishaan on my own, amongst people who to him were essentially strangers in strange surroundings. It was a test I set myself. A test of patience, creativity and my coping abilities…a test of whether I could look after my boy, on my own, without losing a major chunk of my sanity. I think I passed the test…but I’ll let you decide.

We set off from our home ‘Omkar’ at 9 am, with a fully loaded car and 4 happy people 🙂 Ishaan has been a great traveler so far by which I mean, he slept peacefully on our previous two road trips to Bombay, getting up at meal-times and dozing off again as soon as the car set off  🙂 He was younger then. This time was a little different. He slept, but was awake much longer and every time we left the car for a break he howled his head off ‘coz he didn’t want to get in again! Don’t blame him, it can be awfully cramped in a car-seat on long journeys and he’s old enough now to register protest! Loudly. And I mean LOUDLY! Still, between us, we managed and in general had an interesting journey. We saw a veritable menagerie on the way…herds of cattle & goats, all manner of fowl that streaked across the road in an alarming manner, dogs by their dozen, a few cats, horses, donkeys, bold troops of monkeys and two camels on a road trip of their own!! Ishaan was fascinated by the camels but terrified of them when we stopped to get closer!


Trying for the happy-face while camel munches on 😛


The first pit-stop on our 9 hour-long journey was Amboli, a tiny hill station, in our neighboring state of Maharashtra, discovered by the British (who else?!) and famous for its narrow winding road that hugs the very edge of the Ghats, one largish waterfall, fabulous views, hoards of brazen monkeys, misty mornings and hot & spicy corn on the cob 🙂 Ever since we’ve started taking this route to Bombay, Amboli has become a mandatory stop and we never tire of the views, the roar of the waterfall (especially after a good monsoon like this one) or the monkeys, who snatch bananas from your hand and raid open-windowed cars with characteristic monkey-boldness! They are a favorite of Ishaan’s (I wonder why? ;-)) and he would have been happy to spend the day watching their antics! We took pictures and then it was time to move on. One spot was rather frightening – it was the site of a major landslide this Monsoon season, and although the road had been cleared, the ton of debris still piled to one side and the eroded mountainside on the other were pretty scary. It’s a long way down to the valley!


Happiness @ Amboli 🙂


Next stop, the McDonald’s on NH-4 @ Kolhapur for lunch, again a favorite. It has food that we can rely on and clean loos!! Ishaan of course ate only the French Fries and a spoon of vanilla ice-cream (he’s not into sweet stuff!) and refused even a single bite of our burgers. Tummies sated, we were off again and except for short stops to look at the animals and tea, we didn’t stop again until we got to my aunt’s place on the outskirts of Pune, to a grand welcome I might add 🙂


'Keshvai'...My aunt's dream home 🙂



Red on Green...The Tulsi Vrindavan in my aunt's garden.



Lets play cricket! With my aunt and Pushpa.


Our stay in Pune was wonderful! My aunt’s home, ‘Keshvai’, is cozy and her garden though small is both restful and exuberant, if you get what I mean 🙂 The roses were in full bloom and her Chikoo tree was laden with fruit, although not ripe. Her rustic brick-red Tulsi‘ on the tiny patch of green lawn made a pretty picture and the swing outside the back-door offered a shady, calm chilling-spot. Next door, in her neighbor’s garden, grew a Fig, untended and covered with figs! We plucked them off the tree, from her terrace upstairs and munched happily on their juicy sweetness 🙂 Ishaan took to the house like it had always been his 🙂 wandering around the lower floor, exploring the kitchen and the ‘Puja’ room, where he would ring the silver bell used during worship, playing cricket with my aunt and Pushpa on the patch of lawn! While there, we visited a ‘Shiva‘ temple, in an ashram, close to my aunt’s house. In the compound were giant statues of Shiva, his consort Parvati and their son and my favorite deity, ‘Ganesha‘ with his vehicle the mouse. Ishaan recognized them all and was very excited to see them in such huge avatars!


The 'Lingam' - Shiva's symbol and the way he is worshiped.



Giant-sized avatars visible over the countryside...



And here, a humble stone revered!



Hanuman - The Monkey God!


We also visited the Pune Zoo, where we saw a white tiger, a normal tiger, two leopards, two elephants, a peacock with several peahens and some owls! It’s a large area that includes a lake where they have boating, but as always in India (sadly), poorly maintained and in need of better administration. Still, Ishaan enjoyed the trip and the animals, although most of them were sleeping off the afternoon heat.


Figs! We ate a few of these 🙂



The Lake @ Pune Zoo



A rose in the of many!


We left Pune on Sunday morning. I was loath to leave, truth be told, both because once in Bombay, Pushpa would finally leave; because I had such a wonderful time catching up with my aunt who is a true ‘kindred spirit’; and because Ishaan had adjusted so well and I was worried whether he would do so again in Bombay.

Our time in Bombay in the next post. Suffice it to say…I needn’t have worried 🙂

p.s. A word on Pune city…not very complimentary I’m afraid. It has the worst and I mean the worst traffic I have ever seen and that’s saying something considering I’m from Goa where the driving is atrocious!! Nobody obeys rules and it’s a free-for-all, with no traffic police in sight! The roads in the Katraj-Kondwa area, where my aunt lives are non-existent and one is jolted from one pothole into another! A crying shame!

Punctuality is NOT a strong point either…the ticketing booth for the car-ride through the Zoo, that was due to re-open after a lunch-break (they haven’t heard of shift-work apparently!!) at 1.30 pm, didn’t open until 1.50 when the girl sauntered in, completely unaffected by the long queues of visitors who had forfeited their lunches and braved the afternoon sun to get tickets!

Bombay Blues…

I love Bombay, I do, but honestly,  it’s taking more effort everyday to keep the love going!

Have been here for a week now and except for the first 2 days when the weather sucked (you don’t want to be out in Bombay traffic when it’s raining, trust me!) have had a fairly decent time of it. And yet, you won’t see me dancing with joy at being here, not anytime soon…

Perhaps it’s the traffic that’s worse than I remember, the incessant honking and crazy overtaking, the pushiness one has to suffer from inefficient staff, who seem to think it’ll make up for their ignorance and a general decline in the levels of service in every sphere. This last one really bothers and saddens me, ‘coz I always admired the fact that no-one can be as innovative as a Mumbaikar when it comes to offering services – after all, isn’t that why the city is home to 24 million people? Those who come to serve and others who come to be served! This is after all the city where my aunt in Girgaum can have her grocer pick up her eyeglasses from a shop down the street and then have him home deliver it all, with one phone call and all for free!

Bombay for all her razzmatazz and ‘happening’ status, is changing – her people are changing, their attitudes are changing and sadly not for the better. There’s a lot more ‘Me’ and a lot less ‘Us’. Isn’t that why even after a tragedy like 26/11, nothing’s changed. Nothing relevant that is – yes there’s more security in the malls but no consistency with the checking still cursory. And the people – they sadden me the most – the way they take this city for granted, spilling their garbage onto the roads, spitting, peeing at will and brandishing that special brand of ‘Aggressiveness’ (that is the hallmark of anyone who’s lived in Bombay long enough), for the most part with utter disregard for another’s sensibilities; blaming the government for all their woes, not accepting any responsibility for their part in the charade.

This isn’t new by any means, Bombay has always been this way, but it’s getting worse and I fear it’s getting to be the ‘only’ way left to be. Disturbingly, the youth in whom we all rest our hopes for a better future, seems caught up in repeating our mistakes. Money is everything, while pride in the country, state, city figures on the bottom if at all on their list of priorities, unless it’s an Ind-Pak cricket match!!

My heart bleeds for Bombay and for India, where I see huge potential wasted, tons of opportunities squandered, all because we’re hypocrites – too self-absorbed & small-minded to care…

When will it end? How will it end?

Only time will tell…