I’d like to make this easier for you: I sit by the water, cool and rippling, in my favourite worn pyjamas, pink and white striped, Victoria’s Secret from when I was sixteen. The sky is blue and slightly pink, like the hint of gums when a baby laughs, and the sun, yellow-white, hot and forgiving, slathers me in warmth. I don’t like reading morning newspapers, not for the violence in their pages, stripped bare in black ink, fresh on creased paper. This country is jaded, the city, bitter, and I’d like to lead your exhausted bodies to the rush of the sea, lapping at our feet, inviting us to stay for some chai. Maybe we could meet under the banyan tree, lone and forgotten, and remember why we wake, brush our teeth, put our socks and shoes on. I wish for everyone to have a safe place, and maybe yours can be me.
Now, the city, grey and disassembled, no longer frightens me. I used to think of Mumbai as one heaping, stinking pile of bodies, hopes and dreams. I could smell the acrid smoke and smeared garbage; it clung to the fine hairs in my nostrils, until I crinkled my nose in disgust and rolled the windows up. I cannot shut you out because you are in my my blood and my bones; my blackened lungs have breathed your air, my hands have felt your gravel under my soft palms. I used to imagine running away, to cold mountains and quiet mornings, but I am made of the metal and concrete I so despise, born of the grey-blue sea and tree-lined streets; I share my home, my air and my city with the beggars that sleep on yellow-red tiled pavements and dart between honking cars at traffic signals, and I cannot run far from where I come.