In a couple of months now, I am going to be back in India. And it has taken me a long four and a half years to get to this trip. My close friends say, I have changed - and they are right. I have - in many ways large and small. India has changed too - in fact drastically so. From what I hear, the thing that hits hard is just how expensive things have become. That fact along with my extended family's illusion that everyone in the US is filthy rich just because they earn in dollars - has made me nervous to say the least.
In the past whenever I have gone back home, I have done so to take a vacation and to recharge. Somehow, this trip feels different. No - I am not going to get A-range marriaged - and I am confident that once the hopefuls have figured out just how D-ranged I am - they too will adopt sanity and give up. No, the difference is that in this trip I have a lot on my mind and a lot of questions about my personal and professional life. As it has so many times before - I am hoping the rocks of Marine Drive will answer my questions in salted whispers.
I will be in Mumbai on Nov 26th. And I plan on visiting each and every one of the 10 places that were attacked three years ago. My friends tell me: "Don't make a big deal out of it" - perhaps they are right in their perspective. But for me that date will remain ingrained - it was the first time that I seriously questioned my belief in India. The events of those three days and the statements made by politicians - left me dazed and disillusioned. I had a thanksgiving break at the time - I had friends over, and other than sit helplessly in front of CNN, there wasn't much else we could do. It was then I realized that one of the most fundamental differences between the developed and the developing - is their value for human life. The contrast was stark and heartbreaking. And it changed something inside me forever. I was convinced that nothing will change the Indian political system and that at the end of the day - the ordinary citizen will remain the cheapest commodity. At the same time, it also crystallized a reality - that we have to try anyway.
Let me admit here that I have no credentials to criticize how India works. And that isn't my intent either. And if you happen to resent my statements, I understand you. I do not myself know what role can I, will I - play in shaping this country of my birth. Except that - my countrymen's judgements aside, I will hold on to this privilege and I can not wait to find out. There have been some that have given me hope. Among them is Parth - a sixteen year old scrappy kid - he has plunged head long into activism and protests - forming online forums and gathering friends to fight for the right causes. When I saw his optimism and zeal, to be honest, I didn't encourage it and in fact through my comments, I raised some pretty cynical and valid objections to his operandi. I am glad to admit - I was proven wrong. Despite popular belief - the youth of India understand their stake in the country and are anything but apathetic.
And so when I go back home, I hope to meet this young man - and I hope he will be considerate enough to guide me.
Also looming large in my mind is the question of marriage. After all, none less than five of my close friends are tying the knot this winter. But to be honest, the gravity of this decision and the weight of this institution seem overwhelming to me. In my experience of meeting people, making friends and falling in love - I have come to appreciate the infinite complexity of what makes us unique - of what defines our personalities. And I have no confidence in claiming to understand a person, despite prolonged acquaintance. To think that people tend to do so based on a one page profile boggles my mind.
It was in Mumbai when I first came to understand love. It was in Mumbai that my vision of romance was nursed and nurtured through infinite movies and soulful music. It was Mumbai that patiently explained to me what holds India together. What drives every one of us. That family playing on Juhu chawpati..... that couple stealing illusionary privacy. I hope the familiar waves of Arabian sea will explain this to me once more. And I hope they will help me reconcile a new and radically different vision of romance.
I keep having these flashbacks - a vestige of the fun times I had in Mumbai as a college student. That friend circle is not only married now, but also has kids. In a depressing way - I know with some finality that my memory of what Mumbai meant will never recur again. Its for the best, you are meant to live in the present and shape your future, living in the past has never helped anyone.
Either way in two months, I will land and buy myself a one month railway pass to CST, stand the door with the wind in my hair and hear what my beloved city has to say.