The view from our living room window is at odds with October in Mumbai. It's overcast and drizzly, more like a pre - winter day in Delhi than a post-monsoon hot October day. The view is also new to us as we have moved, all of five hundred metres, from not-so-shabby Nariman Point to also not-so-shabby Churchgate. Because Mumbai is a city of neighbourhoods and buildings, with their own distinctive names, rather than streets and house numbers, a move can mean a life altering change of dhobi, sabziwala, phalwala, kabariwala and newspaperwala.
The dhobi we were ok to change, although the new dhobi is a bit nocturnal and non-plussed, ringing the doorbell at 10.00 pm to return my ironed shirts. The new sabziwala and phalwala rolled into one turned into something of an aggregator of fruits and vegetables, bringing us what he had managed to procure from other vendors as opposed to what we had ordered. Two such deliveries and it was back to Premchand Tamaaterwala from Colaba. The previous kabariwala has probably retired on the stuff that he dragged out from our old apartment, so we're looking for a new one and the newspaperwala, Mr. Yadav (of course), we're guarding with our life, because who else will keep track of our mix of Times of India during the week and the Mint Lounge, the FT and Navbharat Times on the weekend?
The confronting thing about this move has been the re-acquaintance and re-confrontation with our accumulations of the past twenty eight years, and some unmarried years before that. My bride calls me a hoarder, which I think does me injustice. I like to think that I curate history as it passes us by, if not for humanity at large then at least for our family. That said, the patterns that have emerged in our collections are illuminating and sometimes confronting. Books on India becoming great, having been great, making it work, going down unwinding roads, India unwinding and India calling, as if buying all of these books will in and of itself will India to achieve the greatness that is its due.
Books on Chicago from the sky, Chicago planned, Chicago unplanned, Los Angeles from the sky, San Francisco from on up high and, from a people who are probably tired of being high, Ecuador From the Ground.
A truly inordinate number of books written by Dutch people for non - Dutch people to advise them on how to better get along with Dutch people, as if the biggest fear of the Dutch is to have their fully attuned lives disrupted by non - Dutch people, which as it happens, it is.
Certain authors float to the top as we discover that we have accumulated more than a few of their books, not all by design. Mr. John Irving, Mr. Naipaul, Mr. Stephen Fry, Mr. William Dalrymple, Mr. Amitav Ghosh and Ms. Isabelle Allende, to name but a few. But the winner by a stretch is Bombay / Mumbai's own prolific and erudite hometown boy Salman Rushdie.
As a family that has lived in five countries we have of course every electricity and power adapter known to mankind, most of which are not of any use to us now. Close contenders for non - useful items are these things called ties.
Or caps, definitely not not useful but always in the dog house until the annual summer holiday.
Remember maps, from the pre - Google era, those huge beautiful paper things that you unfolded on the car bonnet to find out if you were on your right way down the autobahn? The nature of quantity of maps by country is fascinating. The Americans love them and every self respecting town has one, pointing out areas of interest, with local pride and self awareness shining through. The Dutch have some particularly detailed ones, often focusing on bits of nature such as mud flats that they think are or should be of interest.
The Indians for years didn't have any but the most perfunctory maps, rough broad outlines of the country, all driven by the fear that the horrible Pakistanis might actually figure out where we live.
It's only recently that we not only have maps of cities but even of neighbourhoods, showcasing historic sights and local retail. For now we're getting used to our new neighbourhood, adjusting to the view from the window, the shorter run to Marine Drive and the longer walk to the Oval Maidan, all of it still a hop and a skip away.
My missus had the idea to group our collection of Lonely Planet books acquired through the years, leading to the realisation that at least against our collection of single publisher travel books Mr. Rushdie has been outranked. The books are, as they should be, earmarked, bookmarked and literally stuffed with post-its and local brochures.
*from Ahem, as in 'you forgot something' and addendum, an add on.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.