A Bombay Morning

Bombay looks beautiful in the morning, I whisper to myself. The view from seventeen floors high is spectacular. First rays of the summer sun are slanting across thin, tall buildings. In the far distance, the mangroves are already simmering. A pigeon flutters into view, it’s peculiar whitish grey feathers offset by an outrageous twin striped forehead. Is this a pigeon at all? Down below, the temple bells are signalling the cacophony of the day ahead. An autorickshaw pulls up to the entrance of a building across the road. From it come three people, two of them alive. The other draped in white, shoulders and upper torso stained in red. Three women wail and beat their chests. A crowd gathers but soon disappears. No time for the dead. The 6.29 fast to Churchgate waits for no one.

On an adjacent roof, eight people are still sleeping. Sheets in all hues, wrapped right over their heads. The temple bells are now roaring. Pigeons are fighting for sitting space. Bombay affords little of this for even them. Two women, one of them wearing a bright orange salwar kameez, come up on the roof. Both of them carrying brooms. One walks to the edge and starts sweeping. The other uses it liberally wake up the still sleepy. I can hear silent howls as the sheets are parted and eight people suddenly come to life. Inevitable pulling and pushing at the staircase. One person hurriedly pulls up his slipping underwear.

I can smell coffee.

One express train whizzes past the station. Staccato blasts from the horn telling people to get off the tracks. A slow, local train too starts. A push cart seller of papayas rounds the corner and disappears. His dark, swarthy appearance contrasting the bright blue shirt and white cap he is wears. One middle aged man, with a large belly, on his morning walk pauses for a breath. Hands on hips first then hands on knees. A red towel to wipe the sweat off.

The coffee tastes just right.

Reading Thomas Keneally now. Out in the living room, a mother and daughter are tickling each other away. Short giggles with loud guffaws from both of them with a protesting “Mamma?” from the child thrown in between. A moment across walls.

It will remain my favourite memory for a long, long time.