A little over a year ago, I was in the south of France. I had been away from the coast for six months. Back when I lived in Hyderabad, I didn’t realize the extent of this geographical distance because I made monthly trips to Bombay. But the full realization dawned when I returned to Paris after a weekend trip to Nice-Monaco. I had tears streaming down my face when I knocked on Flavia’s apartment door. I was so visibly upset that she thought my relationship had finally crumbled. “What is it, my love?” she asked. “The sea..” I mumbled.”It was so blue! Relief washed over Flavia as she laughed at me – “Oh but naturally, you are a Coastal Girl!”
In early December, I moved back to the city that continues to overwhelm me on a daily basis. Bombay is everything I wanted to get away from – crowded, loud, unapologetic, pushy, and yet over-the-top loving. The weather here is no different, moody at best. It was like going back in time. Nothing had changed. We were still arguing whether to have dinner in the good old neighborhood of Dadar-Matunga or try something different in Lower Parel. My brother, sisters, and I immediately planned our annual Strawberry Fest dinner. Namrata and I went back to watching early morning movie shows. But something was amiss.
I was still dreaming about drinking Chinese tea in the balcony of my Indiaranagar apartment, walking to Sapna on 80 Ft road, stopping by at Kitschdi on 7th Main, and solo movie dates at that mall near 1MG Road whose name I keep forgetting. After three years in the south, I had forgotten the concept of humidity. Now, the slightest hint of maddening heat pissed me off. The love I harbored for BEST buses had suddenly vanished. One trip to Borivali squashed all my love for the city that held a permanent place in my heart. And just when I had resigned to accept that maybe I was not a Bombay person, it happened.
Blame climate change if you must, but for me it was the welcome I had long awaited. The identity I thought I had lost, resurfaced so strongly that I wondered if it had ever left me. There are some things that you just cannot forget about your home. For me, it is the fragrance of the wet earth after days of scorching heat.