I arrived back in Mumbai yesterday morning on the overnight train.The rather stressful taxi and auto journey to Arunima's threatened to ruin our morning but it eventually worked out and Tom and I spent a part of our last journey together singing hymns. It was wonderful :D. It was strange saying goodbye to him after all our time together. I hope we will meet again in London, if not before.
Arunima's flat was easy to find. It felt amazing to step into a home and be so welcomed, and I immediately felt grateful to the forces that brought me here. Arunima and I spent quite some time talking where I learned about her work as a film producer (fascinating!) and her backpacker travels to the remote parts of Rajastan (enviable!) with a Swiss friend, where they stayed with locals and travelled to places not expounded on in the guidebooks. I only wished my journeys can bring me to such experiences. It's something I've yet to open myself to.
In the afternoon, Nishant joined us to see Dil Bole Hadippa!, a film following the dream of a girl to play cricket for her local dream, her dressing as a boy to get in and then eventually falling in love (of course!). It was perfect! Everything a good Bollywood movie should be like in my eyes. The costumes were ravishing, the dancing awesome, the songs and music fantastic, the leads engaging (and hot hot hot in the case of Shahid Kapoor!) and everything was mixed together in a beautiful, mesmerising and colourful ride. I sat between two translators and felt so contented!
And so to the elusive Navneeth, someone I've heard about from different sources and who I've emailed and spoken to on the phone but only now have met. We all spent a lovely, comfortable evening together, Navneeth, Nishant, Arunima and I. The 3 former had such a familiar and close relationship that at first made me feel like I was perhaps intruding. But this quickly passed as we all fell into a comfortable rhythm. We drank, ate, talked and danced and danced and danced till I collapsed in a heap on the floor below the fan. What a perfect evening! Navneeth and I eventually went for a walk in the 2am streets, surprisingly deadly serene and devoid of sounds and traffic. It was so peaceful. Only one short encounter with a van-ful of policemen and what seemed to be a prostitute rippled the calm. We came back after a short while but, both loving the outside air, decided to sit on the balcony and talked till the early hours, being eaten by mosquitoes in the meantime.
Arunima, Nishant and Milind
I had the best of companies in Arunima and Nishant. I found myself embroiled in their intricate lives and felt so privileged to have such companions. The three days spent at Arunima's was filled with little and lots at the same time. We talked, we lounged, we watched movies - all the things that made me feel rooted in a foreign land. I felt so at home with Arunima, it was difficult to consider leaving!
Milind came along on my third day via a dim sum lunch at the Royal China in Bandra with my two hosts. I've loved Indian food, especially the home cooked meals at Arunima's but having a different cuisine, and dim sum at that, was great!
Milind was all energy and vigour, with a bit of crazy kookiness added in for good measure. His many faceted personalities include model, actor and business man. The business aspect itself had many, many branches (gym, fitness programme, TV production…). He left me in awe, and I suddenly wished I had a chance to work with him on one of his projects.
A late night tour ('Bombay by Night') was my last outing with Arunima and Nishant, the latter driving us around the 3am streets of Bombay, from Andheri all the way down south then to New Bombay and back. I saw the streets as I've never seen it before - eerily quiet and sleeping. I saw many sleeping on the streets, including auto-rickshaw drivers in their own vehicles. It is apparently a very common thing, with some living together in a house of 20 or more, taking shifts to sleep at home. It was touching seeing the simplicity of their lives and made me feel silly for complaining about rip-off rickshaw fares. New Bombay, and even many parts of the original city (Juhu, Bandra to name two) were indistinguishable from cities in the West. It's a different world from the rest of India I'm told. Nishant and I sang hymns at one point then listened to Hindi music. I loved it! We all arrived back home late and slept for an hour before Nishant drove me to the station.
And there ends my wonderful Mumbai chapter. I know I will return.