Bombay Mere Hai - I



For various reasons, I decided to travel to Mumbai (Bombay) again and do that in a hurry. I have had very pleasant memories of Mumbai and it was time for me to visit the city of dreams, and lost dreams of many Indians and others again. I had no intention of contributing to the fat salary of a useless CEO of SriLankan Airlines, so I decided to travel by Jet Airways of India and contribute to the economy of India instead. It always makes me happy to meet with the viewers of News 1st, Pathikada. It happened as expected from the gentleman who issued the boarding pass, to the immigration officer, to the airport security officers. We all spoke about the situation in the country and how no politician cared for the poor. Immigration officers were fighting their own battles and I told them we would give a voice to them soon.

It was 14th February, Valentine’s Day, and the beautiful Jet Airways stewardess did melt my heart during the flight. It became chocolatey at times. I had only smiles to offer her and she did the same in return, in addition to serving me with a tasty Indian meal. The service was good. She did smile more than any Sri Lankan would these days. I did flash my half smiles back. That was all up in the air. The flight landed earlier than I expected. Mumbai airport has changed drastically. An amazing change. I liked everything about the place. Immigration Officers were kind, very courteous. The airport even has a separate section for the business class traveller. It was quick too. To my utter surprise, my baggage was there no sooner I walked to the belt. Miracles do happen after all.

I walked out of the airport and found a taxi counter and made the booking. It was the Shree Sai Rent a car service. He charged me 1,200 Indian rupees to travel to Colaba and issued a receipt and told me how to reach the taxi guy at the ground level. As I was walking looking for lane three, some chaps shouted and waved at me. I didn't expect ‘shout outs’. They should have come up to me, I thought, and I walked up and down, even asked the policemen who were clueless. After some time another person said those were the cab people. I told them first, I don’t understand Hindi and don’t like when people shout and when shouting please do shout in English, too.

Then, without asking me to get inside a car, the cab fellows were discussing and arguing among themselves. There were plenty of cabs belonging to the company. I figured out that none of them wanted to go near the Gateway of India, where I was going to stay because of morning traffic. Finally, when I shouted, the supervisor asked one driver to take me. Grudgingly the man agreed. On the way we tried to speak in our broken English and Hindi. He was hostile at the beginning and said I had to pay another 90 rupees for the toll. I said the man at the counter did not tell me and I wasn't prepared to pay more. I told him "Take the normal way. This is cheating." Then he said "I am only a driver". I responded by saying that the man at the counter had cheated me and I didn't mind going through the streets of Mumbai because I had all the time in the world.

The cab driver’s name was Narayan. He was from Uttar Pradesh. He told me that a Yogi was the Chief Minister now and the BJP was doing well for India, having captured power in nearly 80% states. He was full of praise for Prime Minister Modi; he said the Congress hadn't done anything for India. He praised Modi for pulling out the black money from the rich. I wouldn't know how much it has helped India though. We became friendly as he drove me along both poor quarters and affluent sections of Mumbai. I saw several slum dwellers on polluted streets. I always feel at home in India. There is that special energy in Incredible India.

Narayan then spoke of cricket. He said "I am not surprised Sri Lankan cricket failed after Kumar Sangakkara. " He was too big. No one can replace him". He spoke well of Ranatunga, Jayasuriya, De Silva. He was happy that Malinga was still with Mumbai Indians even as a coach. Narayan surprised me by showing 300 Sri Lankan rupees. He told me a passenger had given it to him the day before. He was planning to travel to Saudi Arabia via Sri Lanka. I told him he was always welcome in Sri Lanka. Passing the Marine Drive of Mumbai, Narayan said "See all those boys and girls not going to school. All couples". "Why not? Today is Valentine’s Day. Let there be love always". Narayan did flash an innocent smile. We both laughed.

Travelling in Narayan’s cab brought back so many memories of Mumbai to me. Taxi drivers worldwide got so many things to share and they know and understand the world a lot.

I remembered most places in Mumbai and how I used to walk around happily. I first traveled to Mumbai with my friend Haadia and stayed with her husband’s sister’s family. Shabir’s sister Nafisa is married to an Indian from Colaba. It also brought me sadness when I saw places where late Miss India, Nafisa Joseph, who I was very fond of, took me around. She is no more, having taken her life because of lost love and sadness. She sure must be an Angel now, though Bollywood and Hollywood (Mumbai and Los Angeles) are not the Cities of Angels. The day I arrived in Mumbai was the Day of Valentine.

Next Week: Gateway of India to Royal Bombay Yacht Club


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