Tuesday 15 May 2012

Summer in the City

It is at this time of year that we can observe the migratory
patterns of the ‘Lesser-Spotted Firangi Bird of Mumbai’ as
she prepares to fly west to escape the monsoon.  Before the
journey can begin, an elaborate titivation process usually 
occurs in the spas and salons of Mumbai, ensuring she is in
tip-top condition for the flight.
Then, as the monsoon draws closer, an eerie silence descends
over mah jong and bridge tables across the city. The
chattering of the sparrows is but a distant echo and
tumbleweed sweeps though Palladium Mall. Nature’s Basket
is empty and Powai is a ghost town. Save for a few hardy
souls, the expat ladies have flown the coop and will not be
seen again until August.
I have been planning my own migration for some months
now and I am counting the days until I fly. Don’t get
me wrong, I am very happy to live in Mumbai most of the
time but when it gets this hot and humid I have had enough.
I am exhausted through lack of sleep as I spend my nights
turning the AC on and off. One minute I’m boiling, the next
I’m freezing. I wake up drenched in sweat and pretty much
stay that way all day.
I have nothing but admiration for anyone who goes out to
work in this heat and even more for anyone who goes out to
work and is actually productive. Mick had to change his shirt
twice before going out this morning; it was as much as I
could do to lay face-down on the sofa under the AC. I
wouldn’t go so far to say that my husband hates me on these
mornings but there is definitely a simmering resentment in
the air.
 “What are you doing today?” He asks. It sounds like an
Let me see…yoga, coffee morning, facial, meet friend for
lunch and shopping, nails then home in time to watch ‘Come
Dine With Me’ circa 2005 on BBC Entertainment. Hmm, a
busy day then.
Obviously I can’t say any of that as it would make me look
like a frivolous lady-who-lunches without value or purpose.
This is not how I see myself but I realize this is how it might
come across. Also I am far too hot and bothered to justify my
existence to him now.
“I am going to take your suit to the dry cleaners, buy
something lovely for dinner and call the plumber to fix the
This placates him for another day and I am free to go about
my business unscrutinized.  Samir and I can get that little lot
done in about two minutes, no probs. To be honest, I don’t
know where the time goes. When I first came to Mumbai
three years ago, I brought, in my shipment, two suitcases
filled with thousands of loose photographs going back 15
years. I was going to buy some albums and arrange them all
in chronological order. In the days when I used to work, I
dreamed about how nice it would be to have the time to do
this but not only have I not even started the job, but during
the past couple of monsoons, the photographs have all stuck
 together, each suitcase contains one amorphous blob. I’ll
wait until after this monsoon and then I’ll tackle it. I promise.
So this year, the plan is to head off to Cornwall for a seaside
holiday with some old friends. We are very much looking
forward to some sea air, beautiful scenery and sitting in a
pub having a good laugh. I will look at them and envy their
settled life in rural England, their home-improvement plans
and their pets. They will look at us and envy our
international jet-setting but I wonder, if it came down to it,
would any of us really want to swap? At this moment, I am
sorely tempted.

Sadly Mick has to fly back to Mumbai after a week while Polly

and I go on an extended tour of Europe, visiting friends in

Italy and Spain. Apparently there’s going to be a lot of

football on the telly in June so he won’t miss us. I know when

I come back, everything in the apartment, including Mick,

will be covered in monsoon mould but that’s all part of life

here in Mumbai, we’ll laugh about it one day.

I have just seen this month’s Mumbai Connexions classifieds
and it seems that a lot of people are leaving for good this
monsoon. The ‘staff available’ section is chocca-block with
folk recommending their maids, cooks and drivers.
Hopefully, a ‘fresh batch’ of expats will ship in after the rains
to employ them all. I have spoken to several people who are
moving on to places like Canada and Australia and they
seemed more than a little demob-happy. I must admit to
feeling a tinge of jealousy listening to their excited talk of
clean air, countryside, homes and gardens.
If nothing else, Mumbai has made us realize how much we
miss all that stuff. Perhaps we didn’t appreciate just how
much until we came to live in this polluted city. However, I
am guessing that within a couple of months of setting up
their dream homes elsewhere, there will be things about the
Maximum City that they will miss. They just don't know it

Wishing you all a fabulous summer, wherever you are.