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Walking in the Monsoon


MUMBAI—I walked today. I left and turned right, made my way south and west, following my instincts and occasionally my compass. Two blocks from our apartment the hard rain began. It rained and it rained and there was nothing to do but be wet and try to not think about what might be in the standing water and overflowing gutters I stepped through. I walked and kept walking and there was a division between those who were dry, those trying to remain dry and the others, like me, who had long ago given up. I knew that if I kept going south I would find myself in old Bombay. If I kept going west I would hit the Arabian Sea. Mumbai is on a long, curving peninsula with a point here and a hook there. But it is neither particularly long nor very wide. At one time it had been many islands, long ago filled in, connected and reclaimed from the water. The water seemed intent on taking back what it had lost. I walked steadily past train stations, over bridges, down tree lined avenues.

IMG_2655I finally was almost at the sea. I could tell it was just over there because behind the buildings facing me was nothing but blank, grey sky. There was no farther line of buildings and it almost felt like that grey and featureless sky that must be the end of everything. But I couldn’t get to that emptiness. The buildings formed an impenetrable wall, saving ocean views for those who had paid for them. I kept walking. I passed a temple carved entirely out of marble. Smoke from its fires escaped in perfumed streamers, joining the rain and clouds. I noticed the gnarled roots of the dripping trees often contained small shrines to Ganesh. A man sat in his living room with the shutters open to the day. He was reading the paper and smoking a pipe. He waved to me from his dry place. I waved back from the rain and kept walking.

Finally the wall ended, opened up to the long curving sweep of Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach. The Arabian sea was the color of tarnished lead and out where it met the sky there was no line separating the two. I kept walking.


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