First off, I will not say ‘Mumbai meri jaan,’ because we both know that I am yours.
I have been away from you for too long!
You didn’t notice when I left, you were preoccupied with other things. At the very moment that I swung my bag into the overhead compartment on a London-bound plane, there were teenage lovers kissing in Phoenix Mills. A birdwala was feeding his peacock-coloured sparrows in Crawford market. In an expensive old building near Nariman point, a family had gathered to watch as a Brahmin baby took his first steps.
My leaving was no different from these happenings, and all of the other happenings in your spaces at that time.
You didn’t notice when I left, and you will not remark when I come back. Anyways, someone is always coming or going from Bombay. How many come and go and stay every day?
You welcome everyone. You don’t care what their last name is, how fair-skinned they are, or what scandals are in their family history. You don’t care if they come empty or full, lost or found, thank goodness! If you discriminated like some places do, most of us would not be able to come at all.
I will stay in your spaces and won’t make a mark on you, but you will more than mark me! You will define me. And now I come to you again, to try my luck at life. Like so many have done and like so many will do.
They come for money, for protection, for opportunity. For a name, for anonymity. You don’t know their names; they make no difference to you. But you give each what she or he comes for. As quickly as they can receive, you give. In hope, in money, in happiness, in children, in rain, in whatever else could be desired or expected or wished for.
You, Mumba Devi, are a goddess. But you make us humans feel as though we could do anything! And this is what makes you so powerful. You do not offer equality or even respect, but you do offer hope and opportunity, unlimitedly.
You are so beautiful and give so freely, but, no other place has been known to demand so much.
In Taslima Nasreen’s book ‘French Lover’, a French man says to his Indian lover Nila:
“You do not love me. It is only I who love you, insanely.”
How many slaps in the face have I taken from you, from your officers, your people in charge! But I come back to it every time!
I have been turned down at the visa office, discouraged at the consulate, delayed at the airport. Every force that you have tries to drive me away from you, but still I am stubborn, and I manage to find my way to you.
So able and so fiercely independent, I have never been in a relationship as unfair as ours. And how funny it is that you so encourage and celebrate all of those qualities in me, and yet push me away so much!
But I am your devoted lover, and I feel that you don’t mean it. So I will forgive your hurtful words:
The visawala, when he said ‘You have no option. We cannot grant you a visa on any basis.’
The doorman, when he said ‘You will have to come back again. (and again, and again…)
The university, when they said ‘It will take a lot of time to gather everyone into a meeting, maybe next month.’
I am dedicated to you, and you are passionless towards me.
I say “I love you” and you say “I don’t care… but yes, you can stay here.”
You say take it or leave it, and we take it.
I have a lot of hope.
You, Bombay, are not created by your people! They are created by you. And now that you have beaten everything out of me by not allowing me to come to you, I am an empty cup. And now that you will finally allow me to come to you, I am running towards you like a maniac to drink water.
I will forgive you, and every force that kept me from you. And I will run into your arms. And this time I am confident that you will receive me, with as much love as I have for you, if even just for a moment… because I (and everyone else in any unfair relationship) live for that moment.
Because the dreams that you offer to me are worth more than any amount of time, money, anguish or difficulty that it takes to get me to you.
Yours faithfully, in love,