I'm here. Home. Mumbai i.e. It was necessary to specify because just a few days ago I was looking for something in my suitcase and said that I had forgotten it at home (i.e. America) - My mom's face changed colors and dropped her smile when she realized what I had said. "HOME?" she said with that scary arched eyebrow.
It feels weird though, I dint just fit back in like nothing had changed. I dint just pick up from where I left off. Mumbai has moved on without me, its swelling burgeoning population and traffic woes and me-first attitude has left me behind a little bit. My friends are the same in some regards, I see the same light hearted attitude, the same childish jokes and taking each others cases, albeit with a slightly somber vein - everyone's looking to get hitched. The one's who are seeing someone are getting married (I'm attending two weddings this month) and the one's who are not are really really wired up about finding someone. I feel slightly disconnected from them too, in a way. Last night at a dinner party, I was the ONLY single person in a room of 6 couples. [ Dear Bridget Jones, I NOW understand your pain ]
But most of all, I feel like I've drifted away from me. Gone is that girl who woke up bubbling with conversation and ready to get going to meet a ton of people that day, and here is a girl who wakes up and wants to have her tea quietly reading the newspaper for the first hour of the day. I didn't realize how used to myself I had gotten, and while I'm still a very people's person my definition of 'space' has altered significantly. While a few years ago it would be those few minutes in the day when I'd steal some time off, now its my mornings and my evenings before I wake up and before I get into bed. Here is a person who is still as big as extrovert as she used to be, maybe more, but who now gets her energy from intraversion. That time when I get back home everyday to my big clean room and just space out? That's recharging time. Which I dont get here AT ALL.
Watching TV, Surfing the internet, reading the paper are all activities which are freely interrupted by people and questions and phone calls and mom and dad and I've realized I need that space. It scares me a little.. the implications of this. How will this translate into married life? What if I ever have to move home?
At the dinner party on tuesday, one couple living and working in Seattle has been plagued with the 'should we move home' question. They want to start a family and think living around grandparents instills values in children which nothing can compensate. ALL of the people in the room that night have studied in the US, (save for me who is still doing so) and have moved back, begrudgingly. Naturally the conversation erupted into a cacophony of protests (NO, DONT even think of moving back), dismay (ARE U SERIOUS! u want to move back to this hellhole?), advice, and pros and cons. I kept quiet - I dint know this couple well enough to impose my opinion and also wanted to see the discussion evolve from the point of view of people who've seen both worlds, and moved back and adjusted to life here. The result was unanimous : except for one girl, everyone else (sample size 11 people) was of the opinion that given a choice, they'd live away. Be it the moral bankruptcy, corruption, breakdown of infrastructure, traffic, pollution or the bureaucracy - there was a reason why everyone hated Mumbai. Resigned to their destinies of having moved back and now left with no choice almost. When did this happen? When did Mumbai become a place of resignation and so much subdued angst? It is pertinent to say that this conversation took place on the 10th floor of a very posh flat in Breach Candy in South Mumbai, the most luxurious part of Mumbai, and each couple in the room lived in the stretch of land between Cuffe Parade - Breach Candy with Mercs and BMW's for cars. Point being - this is the opinion of people living in the lap of luxury - I shudder to think of the Aunty getting on the Churchgate - Virar local everyday.
In the last decade, Mumbai (or India as a whole?) has slowly gone through a process of degrading its quality of life, confidence in politicians and systems, a slowing down (and eventual breakdown) of infrastructure, an exponential increase in pollution and decrease in civic sense.. something I was blind to when I was madly in love with this city. I still love it dearly, but now there's a certain wistfulness in my gaze when I look out at marine drive and long for the clear skies and the sun kissed horizon, and am instead met with a blanket of smog. I look for that occasional interesting conversation with the cab driver and am instead met with a bitter fight over one rupee of change.
I've changed... Mumbai's changed.