Category Archives: Mumbai

What Can A Simple Walk Teach You

I recently got a chance to go to South Mumbai. Under usual circumstances, I don’t go alone, which was not the case this time. The person I usually travel with to this area was holidaying out of the country. As a result, I went there, may be because I thought it would help me ignore my loneliness for a while. In the earlier part of my life after I left school, I was used to coming here alone, sometimes for entirely different reasons. I love this part of the city. It has a soul that you can feel by walking on its streets, especially in late afternoons. That was precisely the time I went there.

Now, sometimes I like taking an odd turn here or there. It yields fascinating results at times, other times not so. I could take this risk today, since it was just me. This area, which is around my school (Bharda New High School, CST) is not entirely unknown to me, but it is a shame to state that I did not roam around much in alleys immediately south to my school. I took that turn today in the direction of Murzban Road.

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It was not at all disappointing: old Victorian style buildings still dot the area. Though now owned by corporate houses (a building has been renamed Videocon Heritage… Eww!), these structures still look like they would in their heydays. The certain best part about the place were its empty roads, scattered with few dead tamarind leaves at the fringes. And with the kind of silence that exists here, it is a peaceful place right in the heart of a not-so-peaceful city.

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The location looked like a living allegory. The road seemed like life; the buildings, the memories. Some roads met and so did the buildings, just like two lives meet and share their memories. Some memories crumble with time, some remain. The fabric of life I was walking on contained memories that have stood the test of time. And these memories are still beautiful! This made me feel slightly less lonely, and a bit optimistic, too.

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I kept walking at my slowest pace, eventually reaching the lane which exits opposite Tata Communications. And then, all of a sudden, I was back to the real world. I turned around to see where I just came from. It was a wonderful little journey. It is amazing how just a simple walk through a peaceful street can be so soothing and ingratiating. I walked ahead, smiling.

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An Account Of My “Minor” Surgery

It is not too difficult to get jitters imagining being in a hospital. The smell of spirit, the never-ending white walls, the medicines, shrewd nurses and of course, doctors who always tell you what to do and what not to do. When I was admitted to the JJ hospital for my Laproscopic Appendectomy (swell name, eh? It is a method to remove an inflamed appendix, for those who don’t know), my fear was quite evident, too. Who wouldn’t be scared? It was the General Male Surgical Ward: The prospect of being surrounded by men with amputated limbs and diabetic feet was enough to demoralize me! Although I wouldn’t be going through all what the other patients were, it was the first time I was admitted to a hospital. So my fear was understandable. Dr. Abhishek, a newbie in the ward, was given my responsibility. He had to visit me around 5 times a day. And often, the poor fellow had to wait, as I would be busy gorging on the roadside food below the hospital building or simply roaming around. I wasn’t sorry for it at all – Hospital food is never something that I consider worth relishing. Also, I did not like to wear the patient uniform provided to me. I would wear the same clothes that I normally would at home and shockingly, no one objected.

Dr. Abhishek, I must say, was a very nice man, but often appeared too stressed. Dealing with so many patients was not an easy task, that too while working in rotating shifts. Plus he was about to get married, so I could understand his plight, and how he must have felt constantly switching lives. It is ironic how someone who is supposed to provide comfort, can be at discomfort.

Relatives would have to wait for me, too. In one such instance, I had gone to the barber for a shave (Yes, I did that!) and ended up meeting them while they were leaving the hospital building. Apparently, they were trying to locate me for half an hour. After a couple of days of my stay, even the hospital staff knew that my medicine had to be kept at the table if I wasnt there. Although I feel ashamed of it now, I enjoyed every bit of this ‘special’ treatment back then. I hated the medicines, though. I would crib like a little child at the sight of tablets and capsules! “We can’t always inject medicines, right? Your body will then get so used to injections that oral medicines will have no effect. When you grow old and have to have medicines because your veins will be too hard to find, what will you do?”, Dr. Abhishek would rejoinder. Doctors always have their way, somehow, and he seemed to prefer the softer form of intimidation.

As a few days passed, I began to get used to the place and the people. I would talk and try to motivate patients with really extreme injuries, most of which had resulted in amputations. It was painful to see their agony, as much as it was difficult to understand the exact extent of their courage. I clearly remember walking towards my cot from the loo, and finding a man (probably in his sixties) weeping, as the doctor clawed the deep, wide wound on the sole of one of his feet. When he realized that I was watching all this, he smiled at me with tears still in his eyes. I saluted the man with a silent smile, too.

Such incidents gave me much-needed courage for my surgery, although I must say, I was not very scared of it. I trusted the doctors, many of whom performed multiple surgeries every Wednesday and Friday. Needless to say, there was always a long queue of patients wearing the same bottle green clothes, complete with a bottle green skull-cap. I got a chance to try this attire on a Friday. It was also the day when I came to know that ‘Laproscopic Appendectomy’ meant they would put a camera inside me through an incision. I was told that it was a safer option than the conventional method of opening the side of the patient’s torso. This added more to my already-brimming stock of self-assurance.

The doctors were literally on a surgery spree that day. After all, patients had to wait for an entire week for one of these two days. By the time it was my turn, it was afternoon and I was already famished. They had prevented me to eat anything since the previous night (which is good, or they would have discovered that I ate outside food). I walked inside the operation theater alone. Here too, the walls were white and the entire room was well-lit and extremely clean. And then, I saw the operation table. It was not very wide and just about the length of my body. I wondered where I would be resting my arms. My imagination conjured images of corpses with their hands resting on their stomachs, and kept inside coffins about the same size as operation tables. It was the time of my life when I would do some act of cleanliness to ward of my nervousness. I can say I began to get really nervous, because I was washing my hands (arms, rather) all the way up to my elbows, without the slightest clue why. I could hear my bravado draining. Hell, I must have pissed tens of times in my mind! This feeling of mental incontinence was overwhelming.

“What are you doing there?”, said a voice from behind my back. I turned around to see a group of doctors standing before me. “Just washing my hands… I thought since this is a surgery, I should be clean… Am I right?”, I responded. “Mr. Shamsi,” said an old female doctor in a motherly voice “We are performing your surgery, not the other way around. Any way, you are too clean already.” They all laughed and I followed suit, but halfheartedly. I know what she was talking about.

Earlier that morning, I was given a shave from my chest, all the way down to my knees. The process, which I consider too shameful to speak in-detail, was appalling at best. I was happy with the end result, though. At least chances of infection would be slimmer, I thought. But the happiness was short-lived: They sprayed a solution on me (read: my shaved area) which, they said, would form an anti-bacterial coating. It also turned out to be the time I screamed my loudest in a medical facility. I feel it would be futile to make my readers understand how painful it was – I just cannot explain it!

My doctors asked me to lie down on the table. I did so, with my panic seeping out at places. I asked that motherly voiced lady about what would they do to me during the surgery.

“Nothing. We will just put you to sleep.”

“You mean you will inject something that will cause my Serotonin levels to go up? And how will I wake up? And will you be putting THAT camera inside my stomach?”

“Just relax and… why are your palms sweating?”, she said while injecting something.

“Oh, that is just the water I couldn’t wipe.”

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When I opened my eyes some hours later, the light bedazzled me. I must have died and reached heaven, I thought. It did not take me much time to figure that the room was too well-lit for my liking. I was still half-asleep. A guy in bottle green-clothes walked up to me and showed me a little glass jar. It contained my inflamed appendix, and it looked absolutely horrific, as far as I can recollect. I realized it was Dr. Abhishek, and my eyes closed. When I regained consciousness again, I was no longer in the operation theater. But wherever I was, I was not alone. I could hear people moaning in pain, myself included. I tried to lift my head, and realized that I could not do it; not without having to experience more pain, at least. My hands were positioned exactly where I had imagined on the corpse, but they could move, which was relieving. I lifted the sheet that covered me to see the extent and number of incisions. The sight was shocking. I could not believe what I was seeing. I was aghast at how incapable my doctors had proven themselves.

“Where the hell are my clothes?!”

These were the first words to come out of my mouth after my surgery, and sadly, they were addressed to myself. I could not speak properly, may be because they had inserted tubes through my mouth. I was disgruntled. Which idiot wearing only a hospital shirt, after a painful surgery, won’t be? The night brought even more pain, as the effect of anesthesia faded. The only thing that helped me cope up with this pain was the presence of my mother, who sat beside me throughout the night and kept saying that everything would be alright. I was discharged two days later, as my surgery was “minor.” I thought otherwise but didn’t really care a bit about the term, perhaps because I was too busy bidding farewell to my fellow patients and wishing them speedy recovery. Most importantly, I was just happy to be heading home.

Image courtesy: dlflowtech.com

The Promenade of Hope

Marine Drive – what are we reminded of when we think of this place? The sea, the breeze, the sunsets, and the lovers (and their antics, too). True, this place is popular for all this, no doubt about that. A lot of people come here just to have an eyeful of the romance they find people indulging in. Perhaps, it is entertaining or just plain too arousing (I am sure people who have witnessed some serious PDA know what I mean). Yet, every few yards one can find someone sitting alone, most likely from a recent heartbreak, sometimes with that empty look on their face, sometimes with tears in their eyes, but always quiet and isolated from their surroundings.

Foursquare Check-in: Marine Drive.

Comment: “Two reasons I come here – when I am alone, when I want to be alone. Reason 2 this time”

Of course, I didn’t mean it. There were others reasons why I would come to this beautiful place. For me, this promenade has mostly served the purpose of connecting with myself. Perhaps, it is the only place in this entire world where I don’t have to stress on NOT thinking, concentrating instead on the sound of the waves and noticing each change in the notes of this wonderful music of nature. There have been times when I would engage in a conversation with the sea for hours, to the extent of considering it as one of my most honest friends. For hours, I would just ‘talk’ to it. However, whenever I was with someone (Yes, I have performed my own set of antics here, as well, minus the PDA!) this sea would keep listening to me, choosing to answer only when I diverted my attention to it.

I found it extremely futile to understand the exact reason of not only commenting on my check-in like that, but also the check-in itself. To top it all, I shared it on Twitter, too. I knew I had just broken up with my girl-friend, I knew it was painful, I knew I needed to be alone for a while to convince myself that things would be okay if I wished they were. But what prompted me to post such a comment still couldn’t be figured out. It was like Math. I sat there facing the setting sun, with tears in my eyes, quiet (Right, I was isolated, too, just like I previously mentioned – why would I waste almost a paragraph on it, if I didn’t feel it myself?) Staring at the sea but choosing not to converse this time, I wept slowly, making sure my sobs did not escape. It was difficult, but even more difficult was trying to accept the fact that I had just broken up. It was like breaking a house I had painstakingly built, brick after brick, for 4 years. I recalled making a sand castle at Chowpatty (not too far from where I was) when I was a child. I remembered sitting there and staring at my ‘achievement’ for a long time, even as my playmates frolicked in seawater. I must have sobbed the same way when I had to leave it back there in the evening.

The waves crashed the tetrapods harder, as if urging me to speak and relieve my heart of the heaviness it felt. I gazed at them with the same vacant expression I had since I spoke to her on the phone a few hours back. I had come to the Hutatma Chowk, one of my favorite places in the entire city – partly because I loved taking walks here and partly because of the famous large open second-hand books library near Flora Fountain. I have always loved the books over there, though not as much for reading as for the large piles they were neatly organized in. I found being surrounded by these piles immensely fascinating.

I went to one of the book-sellers and asked if he had old National Geographics. Nodding enthusiastically, he guided me inside through the maze of papered knowledge, pointing at a pile of yellow-bordered magazines as high as I stood. The other piles behind it were even larger, and many such piles acted like walls of the ‘room’ I was in. I expected myself to smile at this lovely sight as I often did, but I did not. I could not. I crouched and pretended to carefully examine the spine of each book, as if looking for a specific issue. As I saw the book-seller leaving, I wiped the trails tears had left as they trickled down. I felt it was better to get inside an open book shop and weep, rather than walking on the road and doing the same. Perhaps I was being too much of a ‘cry baby’, but I knew that it was all I could do. It was hard to believe that minutes earlier, I was absolutely happy, with everything to look forward to… Because minutes earlier, I had someone I was sure to spend my life with, though a bit scared because there was a marriage proposal for her, which her family had approved and the guy’s family were highly likely to follow suit. Minutes earlier, I had someone who would rejuvenate my hope when it faltered because I knew that with her by my side, I would never lose.

But I lost. The very rejuvenator of my hopes had to extinguish them by saying that the nuptial was approved and that she couldn’t do anything about it. She said she loved me but could not go against her family. I was still proud of her, because she chose to obey her parents over me. Not for a moment did I feel betrayed. Instead, I felt that she was being as honest to me as she had been in the past 4 years. But yes, I was extremely sad. I listened patiently to all that she said, by the end of which I had reached Flora Fountain from CST station. I hadn’t spoken a word and, worried, she asked if I was alright.

“I am going to the Marine Drive.”

“Why?”

“I want to be alone for a while.”

“Okay. Please take care, and call me when you can.”

The waves still tried to coax me to speak, but everything I experienced since she had called me was playing in an endless loop in my mind. The sea roared louder, attempting to distract me. “Why did this happen?!” I exclaimed slightly louder than I did in the course of the day. Half an hour later, my phone vibrated for the third time. It wasn’t her as I had expected, but another girl, an ex-colleague who replied to my check-in on Twitter.

“Why alone on Marine Drive? Where is your girl friend?”

“I don’t have a girl friend anymore.”

“:O Ohho! #Facepalm”

She then messaged me privately to ask for my phone number. I replied back with my number at once. I got a missed call, and I politely messaged that I had no balance. She then called me and asked me about what happened, and I answered. I went walking all the way back to CST, talking to her. Apart from asking about me, she also spoke a lot about herself – How she was, her own break-up and how she had to deal with it, how she believes in the Zodiac, her love for the clouds and how she thought they conversed with her. By the time I got the train, I realized how better she made me feel just by talking to me. I was still sad about my break-up, but not as sad as I had been at the Marine Drive.

I still go to this promenade, but never alone. The sea still talks to me, sometimes making me close my eyes so I can concentrate on what it says. This happens when the person in my company talks to the clouds because she loves them. But she loves nothing else the way she loves me. This person is the same girl from Twitter. She gave my life a new meaning, teaching me how to feel free to express without inhibition. It is not that I didn’t know how to express, but she perfected and polished my expressions by helping me remove each spec of fakeness from within me. She completed me.

Whenever I come here, I remember my state on that day, and I wonder what made me check-in at Foursquare and share the same on Twitter. Perhaps it was in this manner I was destined to meet my cloud-lover, at least in theory. But whatever it is, I am happy. And in the end, that is all that matters.

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