I am currently in Mumbai for working, learning how the same job I do in Chennai is done here. I was excited to come to Mumbai; it was a place I really wanted to visit while we were in India, and while our weekend in Colaba was wonderful, the work week has brought homesickness. I miss Chennai.
On Sunday afternoon, I dropped Elise off at the airport. As I kissed her goodbye in front of the domestic terminal and the cab pulled away from the airport, I was immediately saddened. I wanted to go back to Chennai with her. Sometimes, it takes getting away from the incessant chaos to remind oneself that lying beneath the din layer there are smart, funny, and kind children making all that noise.
I found the apartment in which I would be staying, a bachelor’s pad (not mine) in Bandra West, a tree-lined neighborhood that was supposedly home to several Bollywood stars. According to locals, it had at one time been characterized by quaint bungalows decaying before one's eyes beneath the effects of several decades--if not centuries--of monsoons. Those were now, however, being snatched up by hungry real estate developers and demolished. Modern residential high-rise towers were now rising from their ashes.
I was unimpressed with my new home. I didn’t like the idea of staying in someone else’s apartment, but I tried to think of it as an Air BnB. Which was hard to do with poop in the toilet, dirty dishes in the sink, and laundry strewn over the furniture. I walked to the market and bought a fifteen dollar jar of peanut butter and a bunch of bananas, along with six bottles of Kingfisher. I vowed to eat well this week, but it has been hard. I am ashamed that I have become less self-sufficient than I was when I was single.
By far the highlight of the week has been my morning runs. Sunday night, I slept no more than three hours, but I still got myself up at a quarter to five to go running. Surprisingly, there was less traffic on the cobblestone streets of Mumbai at this hour than there was in Chennai. No cows munched trash on the side of the road, though I did hear a rooster crow from inside a dark and seemingly abandoned building. I ran under the full moon, the morning surprisingly cool. I ran west to the Arabian sea and found a promenade that hugged the edge of the land.
Eventually, the promenade ended, spitting me out into a fishing village. Sleeping auto rickshaws lined the road, and out of each one stuck a pair of bare feet. I heard the occasional snore as I ran by. I watched as villagers tip-toed over the rocks into the sea to bathe or go to the bathroom, holding their cellphones in front of them to light the way. A hundred tiny emerald lights floated above the water like a cloud of fireflies.
After my run, I made coffee, showered, and got ready for work. I called home and talked to Sam. He had gone to library and checked out two new books, Star Wars and Tiny Titans, fittingly titled. I wished I could read them with him.
I know getting outside of one’s comfort zone is good. It keeps one mentally nimble. But I traded efficiency in the office for a chance to come to Mumbai. The systems and processes are different, sometimes in simple, surprisingly frustrating ways. The office is located in a new industrial location, an office park built on top of a filled-in swamp that is now like a desert, treeless, lifeless and far, far from any urban amenities. It’s not easy to go for a lunchtime run from my office, smack-dab in the most bustling part of Chennai, but here it would be impossible.
The office itself is enormous and so new and modern as to be sterile and without character. In Chennai, our building is old. We trip over each other. We hear each other’s conversations, and our cubicles are practically stacked on top of one another, but in that there is charm, and the lack of space necessitates we get along. This room is as big as a football stadium. But they do have a nice gym with three working treadmills and a commissary that stocks $12 bottles of Absolut.
I am a little disappointed in Bandra, as well. I was hoping for something a little more hip, a place to grab a really good hamburger, or a bar. Instead, there is more noise, more traffic, more people than Chennai. The fruit stands do stay open later, but the Starbucks I was hoping would be around the corner from my apartment is still on the other side of town.
Perhaps, I am not being fair. Maybe it is not about Mumbai or not having easy access to a frappucino at all. I’m guessing it has more to do with not coming home to our little Hall of Justice filled with Tiny Titans and the woman I love.