Rains have lashed Bombay for the past several days. Thirty centimeters in eight hours on Monday. Our part of town, South Mumbai (or SoBo for friends) was relatively unaffected with drains and pumps holding up, but the Northern parts of the city ground to a halt around rush hour.
At night, after work, I dash around by car trying to pick up dry cleaning, phone cards, signing on with a new ATM card. It’s dark and somewhat like driving around Chicago in a snow storm close to Christmas, trying to get some shopping in.
Colaba, the part of South Bombay to the East of where we live, with messy streets, cafes and all the shops that you need for daily life, is busy. I drive past a hindu temple where 50 - 60 people, mostly women, are standing out in the rain, barely shielded by their umbrellas. They stare intently at the temple, which is little more than a hole in the wall, but where the service is being conducted. Light from the temple cuts past the rain and beams out onto their faces.
Tomorrow it will be Krishna Janmashtmi, the birthday of Lord Krishna, who legend has it was born in the middle of the night amidst lashing rains. It’s also the fasting month of Ramzan for muslims, and people of all religions have been descending on the muslim neigbourhoods of Mumbai in the evenings to buy and eat road side food.
We’re getting to know the neighbourhood bit by bit. I went for a walk on a Sunday, looking for a place to get a haircut. I asked the dry cleaning guy, who was bald, what a good place would be, and he told me to walk a few shops down, to Vijay’s (are you sure it’s not Bob’s?), describing it as a clean and decent place.
The barber sat me down without any undue ceremony and started snipping away. This was different from the hair salon at the Taj, where every uttering and compliment by the barber was geared towards maximizing his tip, on top of the 650 rupees I would be paying. This was “No Frills Vijays”, where we don’t talk even if you ask us to.
“Head Massage??”, he asked when he was done cutting my hair. “Sure”, “Theek Hai”, I replied. I’d had these before in Delhi, thirty seconds of synchronized banging and knocking on your head which left you feeling remarkably refreshed. As I like to get maximum bang for the buck I also convince myself that these head massages lead to better blood circulation, and therefore higher intelligence.
So Vijay knocks me on the head a bit and I get up to leave. “No! Head Massage?”, he asks as he disappears into a small ante room. The other customers look up in surprise, ‘how could you possibly just get up like that?’ “Oh, I thought that was it”, I said, and sat back down obediently.
Marine Drive on a Sunday
Vijay walks back out with what can only best be described as a hand grenade in his hand. The hand grenade has a thick rubber mat attached to one end of it and six electric coils that are attached to the polar ends of the hand grenade and then weave round the rubber mat. Vijay slips his right hand between the rubber mat and the coils, plugs in the hand grenade, which comes with its heavy duty wire, and starts running his hand, which is now vibrating violently, over my head. “Electric head massage”, he says. Ah.
He pushes me forward suddenly so that my face is almost flat on the counter and starts running G.I. Hand Grenade over my back. This will be so soothing 72 hours from now, I think to myself, but right now, it’s just a little disconcerting.
Vijay pulls be back up right and starts running the hand grenade over my arms. When he reaches up to my hands our hands interweave, and we share an intimate moment, spoiled only BY A VIOLENTLY VIBRATING HAND GRENADE THAT’S ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!!!”.
Tarini had a long Skype session the other day with her best friend in Chicago, Juliette, who had just returned from France. At the end of it Tarini felt all the better for having spoken to her, or so it seemed. At bed time that night she said, “I just want to go home”. She meant Chicago.
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.