Back to Bom

6 Nov

I realise, precious readers, you know that I am now writing these posts from Sydney, catching up on the run “back to Bom“, as one of Salman Rushdie’s characters exclaims…

Bombay was a gorgeous city in many ways, with Colaba reminding me of more of gentrified Potts Point than anywhere in India or Asia. We’d planned intentionally to visit India as our last country so we could “toughen up” before arriving. We’d been bombarded with plenty of OTT anecdotes, all of which finale with the unprepared westerner being swindled, bamboozled, and eventually defeated by the intensity of the experience that is “India”. So far, though, I hadn’t felt it, though I’d been jostled, ogled, harassed, guilt-ed, frustrated, baffled, and very, very hot, I’d never felt completely overwhelmed. Until we were wondering down a wide avenue near our hotel, around 10 at night. It was a lovely street, with big old trees, big old government buildings and big new hotels. And people were calmly making up their beds for the night on the footpath. Getting settled, arranging their things, tucking in babies, everything you’d expect to do in your bedroom before sleep. These were not crazed, drug-addicted or otherwise unstable people. Not uncivilised or anti-social, or even very poor by Indian standards. But this was their lot. This was their life. And it was easy to forget as I dodged touts and friendlies and souvenir sellers and rickshaw drivers, thinking I was clever and crafty and had this India thing all sewn up. The fact is I am now in my nice house with all my nice things, worrying my nice worries, oh-so-important. And those people, hundreds of thousands, millions of them, make their beds on footpaths, with a life so different to mine it’s kinda hard to comprehend, even though really, they’re just the same as me.

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