On November second, I am still in Vancouver and not Mumbai. Kya baat hai. As much as I can think that things are going wrong though, they can never really go wrong.
Today it’s sunny and beautiful and 14 degrees outside. Some leaves lie crunchy on sidewalks, others (that had fallen a longer time ago) are reduced to paste mixed with rain. Ground into cement by shoes and the elements, like a paste of cilantro, green chillies and garlic ground into a board by a woman’s marble rolling pin.
The person whose shoes helped crush the leaves into the sidewalk could have been walking his dog on a foggy morning, tugging at the leash as the dog sprang to chase squirrels who were roaming through dew-laden grass. He could have gone home and wiped his dog’s muddy paws on an old towel on the porch before going inside to have a bagel and read the newspaper.
The person who made the cilantro paste to be thrown into hot oil could be the wife of any man in India. She might have tucked her long sari pallu into her petticoat at her waist and squatted to grind spices between marble and wood. Afterwards, she might have mixed atta with water for chapati, and then gone outside to pull the clothes off the clothesline.
Even on the nicest day, people in Vancouver are inside shopping malls, looking incessantly for something they’ve been convinced that they need. I know, because I am also there in a rush to get everything I need before I leave. Where the rush is, I don’t know, because as of now I’m not staying here or going there or anything.
In Mumbai, people are pushed by the same mentality to buy different things.
Anyone and everyone can be found in a mall in Vancouver: Vietnamese teen girls, whole Arabic families (veiled wives pushing strollers with dark-haired sons) hipsters, hippies.
Those shopping might very well be daughters in a lower-income family, spending the day at the mall because it is fun for free. They might have text messaged friends to come and meet them there. They could have tried on clothes made in China from the sale rack in a shop, and taken pouting pictures of themselves in the changeroom’s mirror.
Those in Mumbai could be upper class ladies, shopping for saris at a shop near Crawford market. They may have sat drinking tea while the salesboy wrapped himself in zardozi-embroidered saris to model them. One sari is worth more than the salary he receives in two years. The women might have fluttered their hands in discussion over which draping style and jewellery would be most appropriate for the upcoming event before leaving the shop and enjoying dahi puri in the street.
Since leaving the hospital after the typhoid bacteria to left my body, I’ve been walking and running around the city, and eating avocado sushi and sprouted bread, and so regaining strength. At night I sleep more deeply than I ever did in Mumbai, sleep re-wrapping the unravelled ball of wool that is my health.
In Mumbai, a labourer would also sleep as deeply, because he has worked so hard during the day. He could as easily be a family man with four children as he could be a bachelor. As a bachelor, he might sleep on the edge of an eight foot wall lining the road, underneath an overpass. He has two feet of wall width on which he can toss and turn, so doesn’t move so much in his slumber. As dawn curls its rose fingers underneath the overpass, he scratches his stomach and keeps his eyes shut even as he is awake, savouring the last moment of rest for the next sixteen hours.
The person sleeping so deeply in the night is me. In the safety and warmth of my family home, I have my own room. The whole house is heated uniformly, through the floors. The blinds on the windows are specially designed to block out all light: no rose-coloured dawn fingers curling around them.
The labourer labours because he has no option. I run and swim to expend my energy and build my muscles because I am rich enough to have the time and energy to do so. I can do anything I want; who else can I say that for.
As much as I feel I would love to run back to Mumbai, maybe, just maybe, things are as they are because it is how they must be.
(One would think that I should have learned this by now, but like most people, I have a tendency to avoid learning the things that allow more wellness and less worry into life)
Maybe I need this time: to learn to live with uncertainty and realise that while things could always be more perfect, they will never be bad. To remember that I have been born into a life is so beautiful that every place I go will welcome me: that wherever I run, and whenever I have to pause, I will be relentlessly pursued by blessings of all kinds.