I fell off the wagon for a bit. Visitors, work, excuses, etc. It’s Ganpati Chathurthi now, and with Ganesha on every corner, I can feel the obstacles disappearing. Here’s to a new beginning.
This is a video from my ride home after open house.
If you’re up for it, play this quietly in the background as you read. This is what my evenings often sound like.
Silent is not a word used to describe Mumbai.
This is not a silent city. Nor is it still. However, as I mark my first month here, silence and stillness define my time.
Maybe it is because of the never ending sound and movement. I think it is me instead.
At night, sitting in the strange corner of my 3rd story kitchen counter, window open, I can watch the fruit bats awkwardly maneuvering on branches 20 feet away. It’s like watching turkeys try to fly. Below them is a small building. And old woman lives there with her husband. She sits outside on a plastic chair and watches the fruit bats too. We’ve only made eye contact once. She looked up and caught my eye. We both startled, awkward. Now we carefully watch the night and the fruit bats, instead of each other. I close my window quietly, so as not to disturb her.
Much of my non-school time is spent like this, in silent spaces within the noise of a city that never, ever stops. I take great pleasure in the balance. Yesterday I walked the streets in the evening, stopping to browse a bookstore called Title Waves, and buying 100 rupees of sunset coral gladiolas. I smiled at the stares and giggles of small children and ignored other, less friendly, looks. When I got home I poured a glass of wine, sorted the flowers into a water bottle, resolved to purchase a vase, and set about rearranging my living room. Alone with the faint honking of rickshaws on Hill Road.
These silent personal spaces are what I recall from moving to Kanazawa. Afternoons walking my new neighborhood, marveling at discoveries, getting lost, going days without real conversations. Evenings spent dripping with sweat as I stood watching ducks in the rice paddy out my window. I didn’t think about it as a choice, just accepted it as inevitable.
Now I notice that there is a choice to be made, to reach out and make plans and fill my time with people.
And I will. Eventually. But for now I am moving slowly, enjoying my silent period like a child thrown into a new language. I am watching. I am listening. I am enjoying the freedom of choosing silence. And though I am solitary, I am not alone. The grandfather on the balcony across from mine waved good morning today. I smiled, waved, and we went about our rituals. Later the grandson giggled at me as his grandmother brushed his teeth. We exchanged the smiles women share over the heads of children (and men).
I have the entire city for company.
Forgive me. School officially starts tomorrow, and I spent Wednesday through Saturday in bed fighting for my life (102 degree fever ain’t nothin’ ta… well, you know) . The Stomach Demon has been vanquished. Please accept my photos in lieu of written work.
Not all photos are mine. Some credits go to Kyla.
Has it only been a week and a half? It feels like so much longer. Maybe it’s all the brunches. Seriously, there have been SO MANY BRUNCHES. I skipped a brunch because I was overwhelmed by all the brunches. I didn’t even know that was possible. Apparently it is. In addition to learning that I can actually have too much brunch, I have managed to accomplish some other things in the last week and a half. One of the things I did not accomplish was taking any particularly interesting photos. Whoops. Here are some things that I did accomplish.
During this last week and a half I have…
…developed a solid sense of direction in and around my neighborhood.
…purchased 7 plants.
…not adopted a single stray cat.
…started a waving friendship with woman on the balcony across from mine.
…begun to tell time by the calls to prayer.
…been woken up by the ravens on an almost daily basis.
…hired a housekeeper. (Yes, that’s correct. I have a housekeeper, and she’s amazing.)
…made some teacher friends.
…walked down Carved Wooden Things Row and found that handmade wooden furniture is now well within my budget.
…rediscovered the meaning of traffic.
…caused one person to gasp in shock. (To be fair, she stopped right in front of me and turned, so I nearly bumped into her.)
…been continually surprised and impressed by the vision and day to day practices of this school.
I have also finally taken a photograph of my living room worth sharing, so here it is. Promise to take more interesting photos from somewhere other than my apartment for next week. 🙂
It’s hard to look at more than my feet lately. I’ve spent the last three days with my face tilted forward, not towards my smartphone, but towards my feet and the murky puddles on all sides. You see, it is monsoon season in Mumbai, and I am new to this. Today I worked on keeping my chin up, scanning for puddles in the distance. Planning. Someday, I think, I will walk effortlessly down this uneven sidewalk, dodging puddles and people with the grace of That French Woman that Kate talks about, perfectly placing each black stiletto heel on the welded metal joints of a Parisian Metro grate.
Until then, this is what I saw when I did look up… a couple views from my first three days in Mumbai.