We were behind a couple of cars waiting for the signal to turn green. It was extremely hot yet still windy. As refreshing as the cool breeze was, I still wanted to call out. I spent the next few minutes trying to get rid of hair out of my face. I sighed. It had been ages since I had last sat in an auto rickshaw. Even after all these years, I wasn’t sure if i loved Mumbai or hated it.
At the corner of my eye, I noticed a strange old man staring in my direction. Of course, I had to stare back. It’s always awkward when you know someone’s looking at you and you’re not looking back at them. So…I looked. He didn’t look too happy. I noticed his lips slowly opening and closing. Was he saying something? Oh well, I was too busy listening to music, peering out of the rickshaw and obviously, pretending I’m in some Bollywood movie. Yeah, I’m that dramatic. As I looked towards him again, I noticed he was yelling. I don’t know why I decided to stare longer but I stared enough to realize he was yelling. Yelling at me. He began to wave his arm in the air, continuing to yell some more. Now, he was just being rude, making me pause my music and all. Crazy man, said my auto-driver. Yeah, I replied all confidently, almost like I didn’t care but a huge part of me was praying desperately for the signal to turn green. Now, please!
The old man began to move closer to my auto, almost putting his leg inside. This is it, I said to myself. This is exactly how curiosity killed the cat. In that moment, however, I felt sort of numb. It wasn’t fear. It definitely wasn’t alertness. I almost wanted to wait and see what exactly was it that he wanted to do. I began to laugh- I know. Idiot. I bursted out laughing because I couldn’t believe what was actually happening. As soon as the signal turned green, the rickshaw sped. It’s fast movement almost pushed him off and we made it to another stop. That’s when reality hit me hard. My laughter immediately turned to hatred and fear. I was convinced I hated Mumbai. In that faint second, I hated its madness, the unfamiliar faces, the loud noises and lastly, being here. I wanted to go back home. I knew I didn’t belong here at all. As we made a couple more stops, I rudely shooed away anyone who tried to sell me anymore roses or books.
As I sit in my balcony writing this, there is a new type of love I’ve discovered through a bizarre experience. Here I am back in the city where my blog began. Mumbai. Mumbai is not for the faint hearted. It’s a intimidatingly massive city. It’s crazy, it’s bold, it’s dramatic, it’s annoying yet there’s something about it that’s so loveable. It has a strange way of connecting people that come from all walks of the world. Rich, poor, educated and uneducated. It teaches you patience in the most infuriating ways possible. Yes, I’m talking about the traffic. It also teaches you time management- the importance of losing even a second. There’s beauty behind these old painted walls, the torn movie posters and the messy sidewalks. It doesn’t make you feel lonely for there’s people all around you even when you want some alone time at 2am. Sometimes, the honking can even be supportive. It reminds you that you’re not alone in your journey but you’re also not the only one that needs to get to a destination, other people too have their own destinations to reach and i mean this in the bigger scheme of things.
It’s never love at first sight but it’s a city that embraces you and makes you feel right at home. Indians are well known for their hospitality, and they should be for they really do know how to pamper. I’ll always have an ongoing debate in my mind, questioning if I really do even like this city- at the end of every trip, a part of me is always leaning to say a yes.
As crazy as this city might be, there’s something about it that’s so incomparable to any other city.