Posted in Life, Mumbai, Nature, Places, Quick Thoughts, Travel

coming back home

Still immersed in the smells and sights of my trip, I came back home yesterday after twelve days. On way back, I was a little irritated by the return journey and worried about going back to normal life. An unclean house awaited me with an empty kitchen and fridge. The suitcase in my hand reminded me of mandatory upcoming laundry time. My mind indulged a bit in the memories of the people I met and places I saw. But the discomforts of the trip would soon be replaced by convenience of a home. I was looking forward to the familiarity of home while missing the strangers and friends I left behind.

Every time I come back home, there is a mixed set of feelings. Happy and sad. A little annoyed. Sometimes tired and numb. Followed by confusion. But as soon as I enter home, there is always something that brings in a sense of comfort. The turmoil inside settles down.

Mostly its a small item kept in my room that spells home for me like the Ganesha idol on my dressing table or a pile of books lying next to my bed.

Yesterday, it was just the balcony and the view outside. It started raining as soon as I entered home. The vast landscape was covered in mist. I stood there for a while soaking in the sound of heavy rainfall, cool breeze, misty view and gorgeous patterns of streetlights in rains with city melting away in the background.

Mumbai in rains. Life is back to normal.




Posted in Life, Mumbai, Quick Thoughts

Empty Swing

I recently moved in a new building away from the heart of Mumbai. Even though it’s a beautiful convenient residential complex, it was an unpleasant change for me. I am away from the sea view, my favourite bookshops and cafes. Over the years, I had mapped a set of routes for my morning and evening walks. I wouldn’t go every day, but there was always somewhere peaceful to go when I needed to break away for a few moments from life.

My new apartment is near a highway and next to a construction site. There is a constant cloud of dust and noise of machines. After long day of work, the only tiny break I could get was a walk in my society near the pool and a small garden.

This building has more children than anywhere I have lived before. This is a pleasant change with all the positive energy they bring. But at times they can get annoying also. There are three play areas near my walk route.

My evening walks coincided with the play time of kids, that hour of restless energy just after the sunset when the sky is still blue, the kids are well rested after their afternoon siesta and excitedly waiting for the parents to return home from work. The playground is filled with joy and cheer.

One fine day, I met the 2-year old daughter of a family friend in the playground. She showed me around her play area and her favourite activities. We spent a few fun moments before she went back.

She started to recognise me after a couple of days. I would meet her almost every alternate day in the playground, mostly just following her instructions and trying to ensure her safety. It soon became the favourite part of my day. She would almost always start with the swing. She is an adventurous and courageous kid. She flies high and fast. I can see the swing from the lobby of my building. Even before I enter the playground, I could see her flying and hear her laughter. Often I would directly go to the playground on my way back from work.

On my difficult days at work, I wouldn’t be able to wait to reach back and hear her laughter. Her childlike wonder and joy opened my heart. She gets excited just looking at the water fountain or jumping in the pool or swinging. She walks around with not a care in the world. I learned to laugh more and smile more.

Every time I come back from work and she is not there, I take some time to recover and fill my evenings with other activities. I dread the days when I come back from office to find an empty swing.


Posted in Life, Mumbai

Trapped in City Noise

Honking cars. Drilling machines. Knocking of hammers. Train running on tracks. Flight taking off. People screaming. The sounds of a city. Noise. There is a constant screeching in the background. There are no pleasant sounds. There is no music. There is an incessant never-ending assault of loud unpleasant sound bytes. You can only choose to distract yourself with something pleasant. But the ears are forced to take the abuse. The noise never stops.

All Day and all night. Every moment of my city life. I hear noise and painful cries. While my ears are abused, my heart is panicked. I feel helpless and frustrated. A part of me cries continuously asking for a release and screaming for help. I wonder if the noise drowns out my prayers. I wait, search and pray for a moment of peace. At least one moment. I haven’t yet become comfortable with the noise. I have learnt to ignore it while I go about my daily life. The moment I take a break from work, the ever-present noise reveals itself. The noise has become so deeply embedded in the fabric of city that life cannot escape from it anymore.

Sometimes, in search of silence, I even avoid contact with other humans. I don’t even want to hear myself talk. I don’t want to hear pleasant music or a soothing prayer. I don’t want to hear a baby laugh or a bird sing. I crave for silence. I crave for peace. At least one moment. A moment when noise cease to exist. A moment when I can hear my breath and my heart’s beat.


Posted in Life, Mumbai


I am not much of a homemaker. It’s not news. However, it feels like a new version of my reality because it cannot be ignored anymore. I think on some level deep down, my family and I had hoped that some day perhaps I might be able to make and maintain a beautiful home… perhaps some day I would be able to walk down the path acceptable for women, especially Indian women. It wasn’t meant to be.

I prefer outdoors over indoors. I like open spaces. I am closer to villages than cities. I like gardens more than high-rise towers. I don’t like to accumulate things. I don’t like elaborate furniture and furnishings. I like minimalism because it’s convenient. It suits my mind for the peace it provides and my heart for the beauty of open spaces.

Most of my friends are at a place in their lives where they are busy setting up their homes. The conversations often revolve around buying houses, furniture or planning interior décor. I contribute excitedly for the first couple of times and after that it’s just a fake smile. I find the whole process boring.

It’s a task for me to set up a home… a task that I enjoy only for a day. Next day I like to get on with my life. I am not very fond of housework. I like to keep things clean… at times obsessed with cleanliness. If the home is not cleaned and organized within a day, it bothers me. My usual window of setting up a new house is one day… mostly one night given that I would need to go back to my job next day. This is one of the special advantages of living on rent with minimal belongings.

I don’t own a house. Every new item I buy feels like a burden I will have to carry with me. I would rather spend this money on experiences during my travels around the world. I like to reuse waste to craft interesting items for my home; and change it every time I move to a new house, which is an average of ten months. It also brings a variety to my life. I don’t like the monotony of similar things around me day after day.

After years of nomadic living in a zillion rented apartments, I have lost all interest I ever had in setting up a home. Every minute I take away from my work, painting or writing to set up a house feels like a waste of my life. I moved in a new ‘demanding’ apartment last month. It’s taking me forever to clean and set it up. And I dislike every part of the process. That amount of wasted time feels criminal. I can’t help but imagine all other fruitful things I could have done with this time. As I grow old, I value time more. The time spent in futile avoidable activities feels wrong.

Every year, I search for a house, do the paperwork, clean it, buy sundry new articles for every day use and set up a new ecosystem of maids and other utilities. Especially in the last four years, my life has been filled with temporary unstable housing. I do the work sincerely every time instead of seeking help or hoping that someone would just take care of the work for me. There was never a someone to help… family or friends. Not that they don’t exist in my life but none who would encourage me to be lazy about my life’s responsibilities and take care of me with no questions asked or no favours unaccounted for.

Now I am exhausted. I understand the responsibility of an adult and the absence of a personal genie in the non-magical world. However, I also see the futility of it much more clearly now. Life is temporary. Every subsequent home is temporary. Then why bother! I am happy with the basics. I feel uncomfortable with avoidable luxuries and stability.

I refuse to stay obsessed with home. The absence of obsessive time, money and effort to ‘set-up’ and ‘take care’ of my home is found ‘odd’. Especially because of my gender, there is an unrealistic irrational expectation from me to dedicate sufficient time to my house. The same behavior exhibited by my brother or male friends is discounted by everyone.

So perhaps, it’s wrong of me to say, ‘I am not a homemaker’. ‘Wrong’ is for a woman to spend a day thinking about ‘being a homemaker’, pondering on the disapproval of family and writing almost 1000 words about it to make sense of things. ‘Wrong’ is for most men to go on with their lives expecting some genie (or a woman) to make their living space comfortable and beautiful assuming it to be their birthright.

I understand it’s just a matter of personal choice in life but I find it quite uncomfortable to be questioned on some behavior pattern because it’s ‘unacceptable’ for women.

As an afterthought I realized perhaps problem is with the popular concept of a well-set home and a homemaker. Everyone likes a clean and comfortable living space. But unlike most other people I know, 1) I do not absorb myself in homecare; 2) My preferred style of interior décor is different from the popular one; 3) I choose to spend lesser time on home decoration than others.

So I guess I can be a homemaker but not the more commonly accepted popular version.


Posted in Mumbai, Nature, Places

Nature Reclaims. Lower Parel, Mumbai.

The history of Mumbai is strewn with unplanned inorganic growth. More than a billion people now inhabits the city, most of them being migrants from all over the country.

With changing face of commerce, government and population, the city’s infrastructure has developed a very unique architecture.

Every neighbourhood and commercial district has a very interesting story. But I doubt if there is any with more colourful and painful history than Lower Parel. I must admit my knowledge is limited to Internet. Also I am a little more interested in the story because I worked there for about 5 years. Back then, I cribbed about the travel woes and garbage dumps on the streets. But the story of Lower Parel still intrigues me.

Apparently, it was a posh area sometime in the 18th century after the official residence of Governor shifted in Lower Parel. It went through a facelift over the next few years and gradually turned more industrial. For larger part of the twentieth century, it was occupied by textile mills. In parallel, emerged a new habitat of factory workers. By 1980s, it had become a buzzing community where everyone lived as a tribe… an enlarged family with their own inside stories of love and brawls. Their festivals and celebrations were public. The streets were narrow, flanked by small community buildings with one-room houses. Their life revolved around the community. The infrastructure from houses to shops to streets developed around a community life.

And then one day, everything changed. The workers went on strike in 1982 and mills had to stop operations. After the strike lasting almost two years, community fell apart. Cotton mills shifted out of Mumbai, workers went out of job and the factory premises were abandoned.

Today Lower Parel tells a different story. The old mills were taken up by new age offices bringing in glass and steel. Builders made high-rise residential towers for the new white-collar employees of global conglomerates, financial companies and media houses operating out of there. Streets and footpaths were taken by new slum dwellers. Some old mills were turned into fancy clubs and fine dine restaurants bringing in a very unique character to the party outlets not to be found in other planned urban settlements. One of the mill compounds was converted into a shopping mall, aptly named Phoenix Mills.

The streets are still narrow. Some chawls, old buildings with one-room houses, still exist. The entry to a few office complexes is through eerily abandoned mill compounds. New expensive residential apartments stand over small clearings near the slums.

The juxtaposition of new, old and refurbished in Lower Parel feels like a sore to the eye and baffles the confounded mind. This place has seen grandiose, flourishing jobs, happy communities, hunger, violence and dawn of a new world. It’s also a reminder of unplanned urban development in an ancient city of traders.

In this urban jungle with its complicated history of human colonization, I found a forgotten citizen living in oblivion… a tree trying to find a little space of its own. It makes its presence felt vehemently with the roots spreading all over the wall in what appears to be a desperate attempt to live.

On my way back from office a few months back, my colleague’s driver pointed out, ‘doesn’t this look like veins in a human body?!’ Beautiful.





Posted in Life, Mumbai, Nature, Painting

Nature Reclaims

During a discussion about a new project on environment, someone shared a few online pictures of nature reclaiming its space from man. They included some shocking images of trees and shrubs growing through abandoned cycle, cars, ship and railway line. Most of them are interesting and amusing. It might feel unnatural initially to see a cycle embedded in a tree trunk. A moment later, it feels silly to call ‘nature’ unnatural.

The image that moved me the most was of tree roots growing through a pavement. It’s less dramatic but more impactful for me. I have seen similar growth in Mumbai many times before and I used to be fascinated with the natural pattern of tree roots. That image felt much more real than the almost unbelievable surreal images of man-made vehicles buried in a jungle of dense trees. It was closer home. In an inconceivable moment, it was easy to simultaneously see the joy of growing life and the agony of life fettered in chains. The growth of these roots finding their way through the pavement is an example of the struggle for survival. Life finds a way.

When I saw a whole bunch of these pictures last week, something changed for me. I kept thinking about a tree I used to see almost every day on my way to work last year. The roots of this tree are spread over a huge wall like a network of veins in a human body… a grotesque yet incredibly beautiful piece of art created by the forces of nature. Now wherever I go in Mumbai, I see more trees with roots sprawling over pavements, roads, fences and buildings. That’s all I see now every time I step out of my home. It’s beautiful and gloomy at the same time.

There are so many of these trees all over Mumbai trying to find their space in the sun. I could easily imagine a forest covering this land a thousand years back that was gradually cut down to make space for traders, capitalists and warring kings. The trees then were happy and healthy. They lived as a community. Now they are restricted and separated. They are alive but slaved. I felt like we took away their home. The spreading roots aren’t a form of revenge; they are attempts to get little more sunlight and space required for survival.

I found this tree growing through the boundary wall of an old building near my home yesterday.

Tree roots sprawling over a wall of an old building (Mumbai, Sep’16)
Trees roots sprawling over a wall of an old building (Mumbai, Sep’16)


My head is spinning with multiple questions. Is Mumbai even a fit place for humans? Is the environment of Mumbai meant only for a jungle to survive? The city is a port and significant for traders. We grabbed the land, its resources and started to flourish. But in the process, did we create an ecological imbalance we were not supposed to? Do these stifling trees exist in other urban settlements across the world? Is this something to be worried about anyway? May be that’s just how its supposed to be. Perhaps this is the harmony of jungle and city. Perhaps this is the best way for us to coexist. As a city dweller, I want the roads, buildings, railways and other infrastructure. But it bothers me to see the trees being tortured. We took their home. And now they are trying to take it back in an attempt to fight for survival. I wonder what the trees are feeling.

I have never studied biology after school and have no knowledge of the environment. I don’t know much about the trees of Mumbai and the ecological implications of human’s treatment of trees in urban areas. I don’t have answers today. But I can’t get the images out of my mind. Trees and the ever-growing roots are now my latest theme for art. I am fascinated by the patterns of tree roots and the conflict of our coexistence.

While I try to learn more about ecology, I took some time off to paint.

Dusk in a jungle (my imagination of the land of Mumbai just before humans took over… healthy and happy trees soaking in the sunlight)

Dusk in a jungle

Roots bleeding through the walls (trees trying to breathe in a city with ever growing concrete and cloud of smoke)

Roots bleeding through the walls

Last leaf (Is this how the future looks? Burnt dry tree retaining semblance of leaves only through our imagination)

Last Leaf


Posted in Life, Mumbai, Places

The city lights




Deep in the heart of city nights

I find million flickering lights


I stand by my window at night and feel the pulse of city lights. Lights fade in and out. Lights go on and off. Shadows move quietly around the dim streetlights and dark corners.

The city lives. The city breathes. The city is awake. The city waits for sleep and a moment of peace. Drowned in sorrow, the city weeps. Sometimes the city dances with joy and celebrates life.

The city hides behind those tiny lights. Who are the people looking out of those tiny windows? What are their stories? Why don’t they sleep? Do they dream with open eyes? Are they away from their loved ones?

Billion stories hidden behind those tiny lights. Billion awake or dreaming. Billion counting the stars and wishing.

Billion tiny lights. Billion stories.