The Queen’s necklace. That’s what they call the twinkling lights of the Mumbai shoreline. How many have flocked to these shores seeking wealth? What is wealth and why do they come to Mumbai in search of it? Is there a spirit, a guardian, a deity even–which resides in these lands? These seven islands that have been connected together through a land reclamation project.
Mumbai is the pulse and the heart of Indian commerce. This heart is old, very old. These are days, many days, when I can feel the city and me. That we are one heart, that we are one soul. That the city exists within me and that I exist within her.
Mumba Devi. The Goddess the city is named after. A Goddess by the name of Mumba. Industry thrives everywhere in this town. Everywhere. From the tiffin transporters who bring a home-cooked lunch from home to the office, to the dhobi ghats where laundry en masse is performed for the masses.
I can’t remember the last time I was in Mumbai. But the city, it lives on in my memories. Were they fond memories? I’m not sure, but I have a memory. This memory, however, is not a coherent one. There are flashes, images, scents, sounds. The overload of all the city and its very very many inhabitants.
The port where ships docks. The fishermen and women who go out into the city to fetch their fish for the day. The street food vendors. I can feel this city’s pulse… Even though we have been apart for so long, in the rare moments that I concentrate, I can feel the city’s pulse… pulsating through me.
And if I close my eyes, and if I hear a sound, a long forgotten song comes to me on the wind… In those moments, I can almost see him. I can almost see him. His memory is so clear. Like crystal.
I see him! He’s speaking to someone. He’s staying there–at the Taj Mahal Hotel. He was not born in this city, but he died here. And I can still see him here, from time to time. I can see the memories he left behind. The life he left behind. The struggle he left behind. Because it was here in this city that he let it all go. And it was here in this city, that life was taken from him. This is the place he chose to depart this world.
It was not here–this is not the womb through which he arrived. It was not here… No, no, no.
This was the place that he chose when he chose to depart from this world. Maybe when he used to come here, he didn’t like it very much. But now I can see… I can see his memories. I see how much he longed and ached for this place after he had finally departed it. He sees all the treasures of this heaving, pulsating city and all its inhabitants. I can hear it. I can still see the images and the flashes.
The only thing is that these memories are not mine. They belong to someone else. Someone who departed from this world before I was born. But I can hear, see and feel what he felt.
I see the woman by the street who sold flowers. I can see the lingering signs of the underworld and the underground. I see… The slums, the red light districts, the Bollywood entertainment industries… I see life, I see death, I see so many things when I think about this city. Because this city is so many things.
I feel the pulse. I feel the pulse of this city and its people. And I feel it pulsating through me. I see the vultures descending over the cemetery where the Parsis wait for the journey into the next world. I see the temples, the mosques, the bombings, the violence, the terror…
The dreams that come true after people arrive here. Oh so many dreams come true in this city.
Mumbai… Oh Mumbai… The heart of Indian commerce. Your soul and mine are perhaps one and the same.
Author’s Note: This is a work of fiction.