Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 9

This morning I woke up and sneezed. Like half a dozen times. And then didn't feel great. But I had some half-baked plans to meet someone at Churchgate and I have been feeling alarmed by how little I have accomplished in my first week so I dragged myself to town. To see this book sale at Sunderbhai hall I'd heard about. It was amazingly nostalgic to walk over to Sunderbhai hall. However, the book sale was a bummer. I didn't see anything I wanted to read...

The half-baked plan didnt take off and I found myself in Churchgate at 1 pm with no real agenda and feeling a bit droopy, I wasn't sure what to do. I decided I should at least find some books I wanted to read and began to walk toward Strand Book Store. The walking here is lovely. Mostly shady, and lots of distractions. I drank a coconut water and then walked through Cross Maidan. Two pretty good book sellers on the Cross Maidan gulley allowed for some book buying. Two more near fountain, and these guys had like towers of books in tight piles. They pulled out all the esoteric spiritual texts they had and pretty soon I had bought about 8. I walked back to Churchgate and popped on a train. By the time I got home, my irritated throat was hurting terribly and I realized I couldn't talk without severe pain. Bummer. I'm now sipping some home-remedies and feeling flu-ey. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 8

Today I took my cousin Shaz and her husband Cyrus to the city. Metro-> Fast Train -> Walk to Wadiaji Atash Behram. It was her first time on a Bombay local train which kinda blew my mind but then she's lived in Pune and rarely came to Bombay. Pity. Cyrus is a Bombay boy so we were happy nostalgic.

We did a bunch of errands that took us to Nana Chowk, Bhaji Galli, and then Chowpatty where we ate some delicious cheese pav-bhaji. Then errands were complete and it was my turn to take over the show and we took a bus to Colaba, going via Marine Drive which was pretty. Smoggy but pretty. I bought some things at Colaba, including some wonderful books, like this one. Finally we went to Mondegars where baby sister Azmin joined us and we shared a pitcher of beer and some delicious chicken lollipops which I'd been craving. Sorry Dr. J, I'll go back to healthy eating in 14 days.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 7

Wait what. A week already?

Today I got a haircut. I had refrained from getting one of those in the US because a) I am broke and b) haircuts are cheaper in India. My haircut was still expensive - Rs 1200. I think that's expensive but by the way things have been, throwing Rs 500 at every interaction with someone selling something seems normal. Anyway, I quite like the haircut. My hair had reached Hagrid-like proportions and is now better.

After my haircut I took the metro train (woo!) to Andheri Station and walked the long bridge over to the west side looking for D.G Ayurvedic, apparently a store full of Ayurvedic medicines. On the way I found that someone had figured what Facebook smells like which was cool.

I found this famed D.G store and was excited, it looked big. Alas, I was pretty disappointed, it really was full of superficial natural cosmetics and other naturalish-herbal things tagged as ayurveda. Thanks but no thanks. I asked for some Ayurvedic meds and they directed me to another store. The arya-vidya kottakal store, which was far more impressive and sold the authentic kerala formulations. I took a photo and bought some grithams (medicated ghee).

I went back home and hung out with my cousin and her husband who were in Bombay from Chicago dealing with visa stuff. We bought some beer to celebrate successful biometrics at the Embassy (who needs any real reason to drink beer in hot ol' Mumbai?) And I was happy to remember that the beer I had been thinking of but couldn't remember was Kighfisher Draught. It tastes like mostly water but I enjoyed it.
Later, I heard from NJ who invited me to go hang with her in Bandra. I declined at first because I've been in the 'spend time with family mode' but family said I should go. So I went. Her BF was there too, and it was nice to catch up with him after like 7 years or something. The only time I'd met him before was in Firangi Pani in Hyderabad, when the three of us had a fun, drunken night of dancing to 80s pop. YES. Good memory we agreed. We shared some beers and talked about writing books, and teaching yoga and enlightenment and living in Bombay. It was good to catch up. I eventually got back on a train and came home. 

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 6

The only thing I'm going to share about today was that I watched "This Is It" for the nth time with the family. And I had a profound realization while watching the movie that might shape the rest of my life. But perhaps more on that later, to make sure it was not just a moment. 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 5

Today we did yoga together. Mom, Azmin and I.

Later, I took a ride in the metro! It was pretty cool to see it is well maintained and functioning, escalators included. It reminded me of a time in Dubai airport where a family of Indians were terrified of getting on escalators and were holding back a crowd. Not here -- we're now acclimatized to the technology of a moving staircase. 

Pranav picked me up in his cute little red Maruti and we drove up to Colaba and got on a boat. A sailboat - lightning class - called Stingray. Pranav and the boatman unfurled the sails, and turned the boat out into the bay. It was lovely to see the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal hotel from this point of view. We sailed for a couple hours, moored the boat and then walked over to the Strand Hotel's terrance restaurant. Sea view, beer, masala papad and optimization of Tinder profiles happened. 

We then walked around the corner and turned onto the Colaba causeway, exchanging stories. I was craving coconut water so we got some -- patla malai, meetha pani. "Sweet water, thin flesh." The Shree Bhajan Mahadev temple was right there and because I hadn't been in there my entire life, I asked PS if he would accompany me. There was a little chamber for Hanuman, a little statue of Saraswati and Ganapati and a Shivalingum. We made our worships and prayers and posed a little wish in the ear of Nandi the cow. 

We walked through the Colaba causeway, with Pranav trying to tell me the story of a stoned girl singing (screaming, he said) the Hanuman Chalisa to him, in a quiet South Goa house. I interrupted him many, many times when I stopped to chat with an old Ayurvedic vaidya offering remedies on the street, or to look at the colorful clothes, statues, crystals, and other lovely Colaba causeway offerings.

Then we drove back, through the city, over the Sea Link, past Bandra and to home. Thanks PS for the lovely day. 

All the treats I enjoyed today were heaven sent. My bones, which had been cold for the last 6 months, are now warm again.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 4

Today is mommy's birthday. And holi. I would have liked to play but I didn't.

Later in the afternoon we went to one of the eight special firetemples (called Atash Behrams) in India, four of which are in Bombay. We took the train to Charni Road and then walked over to the Atash Behram.  A pigeon pooped on my phone which I was holding out texting a friend just as I crossed the threshold into the temple grounds. I acknowledged the gesture and put my phone away.

It felt great to step into the atash behram. I have missed the smells (sandalwood and flowers) and warmth and peace of these spaces. A sacred fire burns in each Parsi temple, and none but Parsees are allowed in. This fire is tended to 24 hours a day, and has been burning for hundreds of years.

I'm not a practicing Parsi, but I' drawn to the sacred purity of the temples. With my recent studies of the vedic traditions, including Ayurveda which talks about the elemental principles in the universe and our bodies, I felt very grateful to be able to bow my head to this sacred fire. I've found that it really is my intentions and thoughts that allow me to have a sacred moment in any space. India is so full of temples and mosques and churches in every street and for the first 20-something years of my life they didn't mean too much to me. That's changed, as it does, ironically, when you leave your country and move halfway around the world. It's good to be back.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 3

Today N invited me to a TV commercial shoot at Film City. So I went. The rickshaw took me via the Aarey Road, which was like driving through the countryside. For a brief 20 mins, I wasn't in the large-city sprawl of Bombay.

It was warm and it felt so good. To not have to wear boots and layers of jackets and scarfs. I wore my American summer do. Film City was strange... Large sheds were studios. You'd never think this is where films or TV commercials were made. Are they? I walked my way through part of the campus asking for directions to Studio 5 and smiling at the joy of being outdoors in my city.

It was nice to see N. We caught up for a bit, after what felt like years, and then we went into the studio to see what was being filmed. Some 10 years ago, I wanted nothing more than to be a copywriter or a film producer. Being on the set made me think of what life could have been like...

I had lunch on set. I had no real agenda for the day and when I saw (and smelled) the prawn masala at the buffet, there was no saying no. I chatted with an Ogilvyian about the advertising world while N worked a bit and it was a fun getting a glimpse of a life I'd wanted. But I guess glad where my life really took me...

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 2

I woke up to the regular noises. Someone squawking loudly to clean their throat, crows cawing, dogs barking, and of course, the traffic honking. I was sleeping next to my sister and I woke her up with some tickles and giggling and goofing which is our standard form of communication. It feels great to be able to be silly.
Today was lazy. Sister and dad went to work and I hung around at home, unpacking and showered. I dozed off after lunch (which was a feast -- home made food!) and woke up three hours later. I texted my arrival to my friends and then we had family from Pune who were in town briefly drop by. I was happy to be tired by 11 pm and passed off into a deep sleep again, for almost the whole night. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Bombay Diaries - Day 1

It was dark already when my plane crossed the Arabian Sea and I spotted land under. Pinpricks of lights and cruise ships. We flew over the towns in the suburbs near Bombay and I tried to guess where we were. The flight tracker icon on my screen was going around in slow circles as the air-traffic control in Bombay delayed our landing by 30-40 mins. Typical.

80 degrees. Hazy. A dull grey cloud of smog hung over the city as we landed and I realized this would be my first time at the new Mumbai International Airport Terminal 2, which was exciting. The flight attendant announced that we would have to get off the plane and take a bus to the terminal. Again, typical.

I stepped off the plane into a light breeze of perfect temperature, expecting a waft of stinky Bombay air. Instead, a pleasant fragrance wafted to me and I looked up to see the moon overhead. Tears welled into my eyes as I felt enveloped by the energy and warmth of my motherland.

The new airport is impressive -- nicely designed, but more important, efficient. I sped through immigration and by the time I got to the baggage carousel, my bag was floating by. I rolled out of the airport where my parents and sister eagerly awaited. I was home. This time, more relaxed and open and eager for a taste of India than ever before.

Bombay Diaries - March 2015

I wrote my first series of "Bombay Diaries" in the winter of 2007. I was working in Hyderabad at the time, and took a month off from work to help Brad and Karen from make a movie in Bombay. It was an exciting month and I promised myself I'd blog everyday. That itself turned out to be a fun experiment.

I'm back in Bombay for three weeks. This time from Seattle, where I've been living the last four years. And 7 years after my first Bombay Diaries, I'm eager to do this again.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Our dark, dark sides

It's ok to surrender to the dark moments. The loneliness, the despair, the utter darkness. We all have it in us. Sometimes it's the best thing to do, really embrace it.

When I first read about the "dark side", I didn't understand it. I hadn't recognized my own dark side. It took me until very recently to actually see it, even though I've know it my whole life.

The loneliness that never leaves my side. Sometimes vanishing, but its always lurking. At most times manageable. Sometimes overwhelming. There's this self-hatred that crops up, this lack of self-faith. There's some evil, and selfishness, and emptiness. My journey to learn who I am is obviously going to mean I have to see and acknowledge, and maybe appreciate my dark side.

A friend recently shared that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was on the phone with him and even though I was upset and worried, I instantly realized that I was not surprised to learn that. And I guessed nor was he. We were familiar with his dark side. But here was this loud, big label. A hoisted flag, the "disorder".  I didn't have to think, some voice was speaking for me, some ancient old part of me.

I said we all have the capacity to be bipolar. I have been a millionth of a millimeter away from madness. I have sat and despaired and sobbed until I couldn't move. I have felt madness rise in my blood to my head. Sometimes followed by a rush, a high of the same intensity.

We all have moments of insanity. Some of us are doomed by our genes to be more susceptible. Some are doomed by our habits, and lifestyles and circumstances. But we all can understand what it means to be "bipolar." I'm not trying to take anything away from the those who suffer from infinitely more than many of us, I'm feeling like I can relate, understand and connect. Maybe I can't help, maybe I can.

Maybe all it takes is knowing that it passes. That there's more to us than the darkness. Breaking habits, patterns is hard, I know only too well. It can't be done alone. I've learned that we're a species bound to one another, meant to love, to share, to touch, to teach. And for all the loneliness that follows me, I deeply appreciate people and the magic of genuine companionship.

One other thing I know and I hope is true, is that I also have this intensely strong light in me. The light that won't let me sit in despair too long. The light that drags me back to the day, to fresh air and blue sky and green grass. I'm infinitely grateful I have that light that fights to live. I hope I can share it, and light up more lives than my own.

Tonight I want to declare my love for life in me and in those around me. Dark and light.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Drunk, etc

Every now and then I get drunk. And today was such a now-and-then. I noted a couple lessons.

After spending a delightful maybe-last-summer-day that involved a fair amount of drunk, I got on a bus toward home. I soon realized that I was incapable of producing an edible dinner, and decided it would be best to get a take-away.

And thus, I stepped into QFC. I walked down the 'Pets and Household Cleaning' aisle and felt the urge to pee. A friendly face in the QFC uniform said, "Down the aisle, and through the doors on the left."

The doors down-the-aisle-and-on-the-left indicated "Employees Only". Hesitating for a moment, I saw another friendly face in the 'see-through' doors and asked him if they restrooms were here. He cheerfully said, "There behind those crates."

That was my first lesson. This friendly face was pushing a large stack of crates on a hand truck. There were many piles of crates waiting for him. I was glad that I wasn't pushing them and felt grateful -- he let me use the bathroom marked "Employees Only -- No Public Use" and also made sure that the box of cereal was waiting for me on Aisle 12. True, honest gratitude as I pushed through the doors into the restroom. I suppose I wouldn't have felt this emotion if I was sober, just focusing on my need to pee.

I guess intoxication gives you that room to be disconnected, and if you allow that disconnect to become awareness, it can be special.

I went back through the aisles, and paid for my pomegranate and butter. While walking out the door another face said, "Have a good day." "You too," I mumbled in my fake-normal voice and wondered why we had to go through that charade. 10 years from now, no -- 10 minutes from now, would my life be any different because of the polite "Have a good day"? That was my second lesson.

PS: I appreciate the polite moments. Earlier today, (when I was sober) I got off a bus and my driver said, "Have a good day now". I felt, hey, this driver actually is proud that she delivered me to my destination safely. Maybe there's a line between the employee who says it because it was in the training manual versus one who says it because they mean it. I could tell the difference.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Celebrating femininity

I read somewhere recently that in all our attempts for equality for men and women, we've really only pushed women to have to be more like men. More ambitious, more aggressive, less willing to let up on her physical limitations. And while this has had the positive effects of giving women a lot of freedom and independence, on another level, this has created an imbalance in the masculine-feminine balance of the world. The qualities of gentleness, compassion, unconditional love, the more feminine aspects of human nature, are overpowered by greed, lust and compulsiveness  And mind you, by masculine and feminine I'm not indicating men and women, but the aspects of masculine and feminine that are in us all.

So, going back to what I was reading, the text said that when the balance of the world tips to being more feminine, that's when our suffering will diminish, that will be the first step toward a peaceful planet and a flourishing, nurturing humanity.

And so I say, let's explore and express the gentle, compassionate, loving qualities in us and in our women. Let's celebrate femininity.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Of cooing babies growing up

Lots of people around me are having babies. Well, not directly around me, but in my social circles, far and wide as they may be. And at the same time, lots of people around me (me included) are pretty, fairly, honestly, lost. Our value systems are eccentric, our ethics are questionable, our priorities are selfish. And so when I think about the next few generations to come, it scares me.

I'm not a parent yet, and while my friends are all turning into loving, giddy-eyed parents, I hope and fervently wish that they take some time to really think about what kind of people they want their kids to grow up to be. Not what professions they choose, or what hobbies they take up -- but some of the deeper stuff. Like how they will treat those less fortunate than them. Or how they will treat the planet when her meager resources depend on the choices they make.

So don't put an ipad in their hands before you put some discipline in their heads. Don't teach them to be cool before you teach them to be humble. Don't expose them to fantastic superheros before you show them some real heros. Give them the chance to grow up knowing that life gives back what you give life. That way they don't grow into confused, superficial people to whom life is about as interesting as the next funny tweet.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Borrowed -- Autobiography in 5 chapters

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it's a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

by Portia Nelson from the book There's A Hole in My Sidewalk.