Teja was taking a taxi to CST. Well, it always seems a shame to waste a free taxi ride into town. And my friend, Space Bar was having a poetry reading there. But as usual, I dawdled until the last moment.
Having spent years of being there for Dhanno in the evenings, unless I was working, I find it almost impossible to step out to do something on my own, unless it’s work. Dhanno said, “You’ve got to learn to go out without me.” Well, well, I guess that’s only fair. Seems just a while ago, when I was saying the same to her.
I tried making excuses,
which Teja was inclined to believe,
and Dhanno pooh-poohed,
and a few minutes after the very last minute,
with Teja and Dhanno yelling at me, I put myself together,
leaving odd bits behind,
and chose the highest heels in my shoe rack to venture out into the world.
Appropriate enough with my wonderful sense of imbalance.
The thing about Mumbai is that halfway through wherever you are bound to go, you tend to forget, under the assault of filth, noise, traffic, smells, heat, sweat, why you had set out in the first place. It seems the taxi forgot that too, just as we were about to reach the JJ flyover, and collapsed. Don’t blame it, for I was feeling a bit like collapsing, myself.
It seemed to be getting later and later. Space Bar’s reading was going to last only 45 minutes, and I was wondering if I was going to hear her at all, and whether I hadn’t been foolhardy to make a 2 hour trip for something I was going to miss anyway. After dumping Teja and his luggage, unceremoniously on the main road, to make his way to the train station, I decided to get lost on my way to Theosophy Hall.
Leave taxi at the wrong point.
Totter, totter, totter on high heels all the way up Churchgate Street, right up to the end,
ask directions of an incredulous woman, “Where on earth is the Theosophy Hall, and who on earth could possibly want to go there, on a weekday evening” kind of a look from her,
cut through the train station, without a ticket,
grab the first taxi for a half kilometer ride,
tumble up 3 flights of stairs,
and see Space Bar in pink.
Thank God, she’s wearing pink. Because it seems, the rest of the place has worn down over hundreds of years to grey, grey, grey. I try hard to listen to Space Bar, but before I can catch my breath, she’s done. I look admiringly at the people who seem so much at home at a poetry reading. I wouldn’t be surprised to see such people in Pune, or Hyderabad, or Baroda, but here in Mumbai they seem superhuman beings. Madame Blavatsky stares at me searchingly with her grey eyes, and I smile back apologetically, knowing I fall far short of any such superhuman tendencies.
However, there’s beer later, at Brabourne, an ancient Iranian cafe, where legends more than make up for it’s comfortable shabbiness. Space Bar reads some more poetry, which makes it all worthwhile. Then a train ride home, pretending to the people I am with, that I always take the train. Always? When – since I never go out without a ride? But it seems to be a day for doing things I haven’t done in a long time.
Late at night, crossing the bridge, striding along, comfortable now in my heels, the beer does cure my imbalance, not so hot anymore, I feel brave, as if I have done something grand. Ridiculous, after having seen all those women in the ladies’ compartment, exhausted, at the end of a long day, doing this day in, day out.
Just as I finish writing this, Dhanno comes in with her friend, Shi. Shi’s mother is in hospital again, she had a relapse after a surgery for appendicitis, because she couldn’t rest enough, and had to take the train into town, everyday to work.