See You In Versova At 6 o’clock
I wrote this in 2021 a few months after the second lockdown. I had coped by hosting daily Clubhouse rooms, lovingly curated conversations and connections formed just through voices. My friend Tehmina Khan suggested the prompt ‘Golden sun’ for the weekly Alphabet Sambar Themed Mic room. Her prompt was a tribute to one of the things that unites us – we’re both tropical island girls who also knew the perils of the big city. This is for her. *Milte hain Versova pe, chay baje.
When I was a student, I invited a boyfriend to share a romantic sunrise with me on the beach. It was my favorite place and the only spot I could think of, that could be called romantic. I always liked the cleanness of mornings. In Mumbai, it was always early enough to give every waking creature space, physical & emotional. This needed careful planning in a world before kadka students had mobile phones or desi parents’ permission to romance. Milte hain Versova mein, chay baje, I said. We sat on the sands of Silver Beach and talked. It was nearly 8 AM when the prickling at the back of my neck made me turn. And behind us, high above the buildings, the sun was up. I realised, feeling very foolish, that Mumbai was on the western coast of the country. The sun doesn’t rise over the sea here. It sets.
Sunsets are a reminder of things unfinished. An alarm bell announcing you’re already late. A reminder of how time-poor you are and at a time when that poverty really bites. Along with the mosquites. I did not like sunsets.
In the next few years, I fell into the Mumbaiker rhythm of chasing jobs, deadlines and corporate goals. I spent my favorite part of the day in cramped trains, busy roads, bustling lanes, plastic offices. I was able to visit my favorite place only rarely and with much crowd & residual noise & garbage around. I learnt to eke out poetry in an urban life. I chased beauty in sunlight on a broken windowpane. I found inspiration in day breaking over a defunct textile mill. I told myself sunrises can be great wherever you are because they signify a fresh start. Through the day, the sun would drench every living thing. We all knew to get out before it began scalding, before the poetry evaporated.
The legend goes that the goddess, she blessed these seven islands. Islands of plenty. No one would lack here, none would ever go hungry. But she also warned, never could the wealth be taken out, never would the blessings leave. And many times, I’ve ventured forth for other jobs, more charismatic men. The city holds me back. The bonds break, from distractions to disappointment, I have had to come back. And now I know, in this wealth is my being. In this surrender, is my grace. To Mumba devi’s blessings, the city I call home & the self I call mine, belong.
You can’t see the stars in the Mumbai night sky. There’s too much pollution. And there hangs above the islands, an afterglow of neon signs & tower lights. Through the haze, they twinkle. The stars in a diamond skyline. Wealthy ever.
For twenty-one months now, my alarm clock has been silent. What is the point? With difficulty I open my eyes & with reluctance, I open the curtains. My east facing window is a speedy furnace. And outside, the pulsing city I once knew lies in despondent ruin. Even in the scorching sunlight, there hangs a pall of gloom, invisible like the virus. Yet, some mornings, there is a flower in the pot on my windowsill. The sun leaving behind a message for me. Stay strong, child. Life still is.
Today I stood on Silver Beach. Sand, modest sand, brushing my clothes & passing in the merest kiss on my skin. Mask, sanitizer, plastic debris beneath my feet, the sound of waves in my ear. Above me, only sky. The sun keeping its promise, now an angry furnace no more. A gentle friend leading my wizened self to the edge of water. I was just in time to see the golden sky kiss a silver sea hello & goodnight. Drop the bejeweled sun into her bosom.
Through my toes, I felt a rivulet seep. Blackish, gutter water of course. The city flows back home. As I did. To the silver sea, mother to my tropical island city. Giver of all blessings to this Mayanagari. From her we come, to her I will return some day. Golden sky & silver sea, the twin protectors of Mumbai city. To be their child is to know that you are not even your own forever. All things change, the sea takes everything back and the sky watches.
Both sunsets & sunrises are illusions of planetary movement & light. On this island, there’s a daily show. Golden sky, silver sea, a kiss of sun. If you want romance, milte hain Versova pe, chay baje.
* See you in Versova at 6 o’clock.
A lovely romantic spot .On of the few clean beaches in Mumbai. I go here a lot! It helps me get a lot of peace.
@Xxfan: Indeed! Though you have to be an insider to know where the clean parts of the beach are. The popular spots are very crowded, filthy with broken glass and other trash.