Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sleepless in Mumbai

It's 4 a.m. I have spent the last 5 hours trying to sleep, to no avail. The butterflies in my stomach just won't let up. They are alternating between creating havoc in my stomach and attempting to climb up into my windpipe and choke off my air supply.

So what's keeping me awake? To start with, all sorts of last minute shit is hitting the fan. The car was sent to Hyundai for a touch-up job over 10 days ago. They were supposed to deliver it back on Thursday. On Thursday, they said they would get it to us on Friday. Yesterday, they came up with a cock-and-bull story about the paint not having dried because of the cloudy weather (?!) and expressed their inability to get our car back to us before Tuesday. One day after we leave. (Thankfully, the car is on a separate truck so we are trying to get the packers to pick it up directly from the service station). The Siemens technician was supposed to come yesterday to screw the washing machine drum in preparation for transit. He didn't show, his phone is switched off and customer service is enjoying their weekend. The Tata Sky dude was supposed to come yesterday but has promised to come tomorrow now. The admin chick in my ex-company chose last week to wake up to my request from two months ago to tell Vodafone to transfer my number from the corporate plan and despite a very clear e-mail spelling out the same, sent them a mail asking them to deactivate the number. Much calling and running around happened and it's back on. God only knows what surprises today will bring.

And there is the big, humongous, life-changing move. This time tomorrow, I will be sleeping in a service apartment in Mumbai. This time on the day after tomorrow, I will be sleeping in my mom's house in Jaipur. This time next week, I will be sleeping in a hotel room in Hyderabad. This time next fortnight, I will be sleeping in our new house in Hyderabad. All of this sleeping, of course, assumes that the butterflies would have moved on to greener pastures.

Some people like to move. I don't. I had a wandering childhood. I never went to any school for more than three years in a row, lived in many towns and cities, went to boarding school and even stayed with my aunt for a couple of years. It made me yearn to settle down in one place and grow some roots. For me, Mumbai has been that place. Eleven long years in the city have made it my own, my home. It's the longest I have lived in any place, but it is much much more than that.

I came here in 2000 as a young trainee, fresh out of MBA school and a year spent in a rigourous cross-country training program. I moved into a company-provided chummery. It was a blessing - I didn't have to keep house or cook. I came and went as I pleased. I went out a lot, sowed my last wild oats (the ones that had survived MBA school) and enjoyed the kind of carefree freedom that few other cities in this country could have afforded me. I went out on debauched nights on the town (often with the girl gang), took public transport at the oddest of hours, saw the latest of the late night shows at the cinema and in general, waltzed about the city with supreme unconcern for my safety. Really, I couldn't have done it anywhere else.

In 2002, a few months after our wedding, Jai finally moved to Mumbai. Since I was in a conventional, stable job at a company where people tend to spend their entire careers, my career became and stayed the lead career till I upped and quit, so moving away from this city was never even an option.

Once Jai was here, the chummery was no longer an option and we finally moved to rented digs. We bought furniture, hired a maid and got a couple of dogs. We worked long hours, ate out a lot, watched a lots of movies and pretty much lived the DINK (double income, no kids) dream.

2005 was a watershed year. Ayaan was born. And life was never the same again. The littlest human being in our family became the biggest priority. All preconceived plans and notions went flying out of the window. I struggled with the decision to go back to work and finally did. We hired a nanny. We had to send the dogs away; thankfully my mother was happy to take them. We bought a house (flat).

Much of 2006 was spent doing up the house. I love this house. Leaving it is one of my biggest sorrows. We were lucky to buy it when it was still under construction and were able to do it up as we wished. The coloured panels in some of the rooms, the bright yellow wallpaper behind Ayaan's bed, the cheery red tiles in the kitchen. the fish motif in Ayaan's bathroom, and so much more. It's not going to be easy to live in an impersonal, rented house after this.

We moved in on New Years' Day in 2007. It's been four wonderful years. Yes, there were fights, tantrums, moments of doubts, and all the little inevitable downs of life. But above all that, we made a ton of memories here. Some of them reside only in my head, others have been captured on camera and still others left their physical mark - like the stains on Ayaan's door from all his sticking and the grubby finger marks on the walls - some boy-sized, others baby-sized. In the next few days, the painters and polishers will get to work and wipe out most of the physical reminders of our stay here and another family will move in and make the space on their own. But the stuff in my head, in my pictures folder and the blog will stay.

This house has been witness to Ayaan's journey from toddlerhood to boyhood. It welcomed Tarana into its arms when she was born and watched her leave infancy behind to become a vocal, active toddler.  It has seen my transition from wannabe supermom to struggling SAHM. It's been home.

I guess it's time for goodbyes. Mumbai, I will miss you. I may come back to live here, I may not - the future is uncertain. But you have a special place in my heart that no other city can take. Product of a mixed marriage and a nomadic upbringing, I always struggled to name my 'native place'. After eleven, long years, I finally have the answer to that question. Thank you for that and for everything else.

Thank you for welcoming me into your arms. For not judging me. For protecting me when I was silly or less than sensible about my own well-being and safety.

Thank you for seeing me through my transition from footloose single girl to married woman to working mom to stay-at-home mom.

Thank you for enabling and nurturing me through ten years of a fulfilling career. I don't know what lies ahead but I do know that those years will stand me in good stead, no matter what I choose to do.

Thank you for helping me maintain and build some of the best friendships of my lifetime. For making sure that my best friends from college and MBA school have been in and out of the city. For the friends I made at work, who made office so much more than job.

Thank you for being kind to my children. With all your constraints, you have ensured a happy early childhood for them. You gave us trusted maids who cared for them with affection. And schools that we didn't have to fight for but were wonderful places for Ayaan to spend his pre-primary years. And friends, playdates, parks and so much more.

Thank you for being you. I wouldn't change a thing. (Except maybe the traffic)

In the immortal words of John Denver:
So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go

'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane
I don't know when I'll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go

Au revoir, Mumbai. Till we meet again.


  1. Oh Rohini! It is indeed very disheartening to leave home, esp the one we create(d) and have some one else inhabit it. I remember how it was when we moved from our old home to the one we are now. It was very painful for me to see the other family settle in there (I promised myself that if we ever leave this house, I will not hang around for any reason to see the other family settle in).

    Then of course the cliche says, "home is where the heart is". I am sure you will make yourself comfortable in a new home and enjoy the new city. Take care and big hugs to you and the kids.

  2. Beautifully said, Rohini. A lot of what you said resonated with me - for example, what Bombay has given to me is exactly how you've described it; and I can never ever think of doing some f the stuff I did in Bombay in another city in India. Never!

    I too have moved all my life; but strangely, have never had the urge to settle down. In fact the ~ 5 years we've lived in this house in KL is the longest I've lived in any place in my life!! I am constantly chewing Alok's brain to move "somewhere". LOL. Wonder when I'll want to settle down.

    I hope Hyderabad will be another day, another chapter, more beautiful memories.
    Take care

  3. aw ro, this was such a beautiful post. big hugs.

  4. Ro, i hear you. its never easy but it will be very exciting. i am sure you will make many more memories in the new place as well! ATB, in the end it will all be smooth and wonderful!

  5. So beautiful. I love your choice of John Denver's lines - cities are like lovers aren't they? I am sure all these hitches will be sorted out and soon you'll be putting out little roots in Hyderabad. All the best!

  6. I agree, that really was wonderful. What an amazing summary of recent life, i really wish you well.

    Let the butterflies fly, I am sure there will be new and prettier ones when you reach Hyderabad!

  7. Aww baby... despite all my cheeriness I'll admit I've hated every move I've ever made. But I do know that I eventually settle down and like all the places I reach, hopefully you will too. Hyd has its quirks but it's a darling city.

    Home really is where the heart is. Feel free to bop me for being such a cliche-spouter, but you'll find it's true. Hyd will be the place where the kids grow up, perhaps, and it'll always be dear to you because of that. (I hope.) Hugs.

  8. Such an awesome post, Ro. I didn't move much as a child, we had one totally life changing move when I was eight, from London to Delhi. Since we had not visited India at all during our London tenure of six years, it was a huge change. We were in Delhi- the subsequent major moves all took place after I got married. It isn't easy, I can totally get your apprehension and the sleeplessness, but I can promise you that this move will enrich your life and your children's lives immensely.
    All transitions are tough, but they do lead to huge growth. And thanks to technology, you can remain in frequent touch with old friends and new.
    Huge hugs as you bid adieu to Mumbai, and all prayers and love to see you through the Big Move.

  9. Anonymous11:41 am

    The house becomes home with the memories we build there. You had such a beautiful time there, I know how painful it is to leave the comfort zone. I hope you build similar memories in Hyderabad too, People around you is same :) Big hugs to you ROh, I hope you can catch up some good sleep real soon..

  10. Ro what a beautiful post . Like you I moved from place to place as a child and I know it was never easy for my Ma to dislodge her roots wherever we lived because she created beautiful homes (and gardens) . Her garden still has plants from wherever my Dad was posted You'll eventually settle down in Hyderabad and carry a part of Mumbai and your years in the city always . Hugs and all the best, my dear

  11. Pavan Bedi2:15 pm

    Great post Ro. Couldn't have put it better.
    Now that we have our own place I know exactly how much it tears one to say goodbye. Didn't realize it earlier but the house comes as next-in-line after Anaya whenever we talk of a move.
    Glad to have been a small part of the good memories you have of your time in the city.
    You will be missed.
    PS. I am assuming there will be a spare room for us in Hyd. Want one overlooking Sangeeta Bijlani's backyard ;)

  12. Gave me the goosies - those last few lines. I feel the same about London - maybe because thats where my babies grew up.

    But yes Mumbai has a very special place in my heart as well - first job, first few years before/after we got hitched, first baby. And there ain’t no place like it.

    May Hyd give you lots of happy times too!

  13. This was such a poignant, beautiful post. Like you, I'm a product of a mixed marriage and have moved pretty much all my life since my dad was in the Navy. Mumbai (where my mom's from) always seemed like home coz that's where we'd go for the summer hols each year, and it is also the place where I've lived the longest (5 years) and where my daughter was born. It was tough leaving it when we moved two years ago, I still miss living there. All the best with the move. I hope you make loads of happy memories in your new home!

  14. Read this post while listening, curiously enough, to "Leaving on a Jet Plane"!!!

    Hugs, babe. I will feel exactly the same when we leave our present apartment. Your post made me cry.

    And how you can think and write so clearly with those butterflies fluttering? You're steadier than a rock.

    All the best. It's what's special about you that makes a home...anywhere :)

  15. oh Ro! This is so much like the mental post I have written to be posted on the day before I leave. sigh.
    Onwards and upwards, girl! ATB!

  16. Oh its such a lovely lovely post..I had goosebumps when you describe mumbai :) Hugs dear and hope Hyd becomes another home for you! Wishing you the very best in life and hope the transistion is smooth enough

  17. Moving is never easy; but you'll do just fine. Take it from me, babes, I have moved enough to last a lifetime! I know you will miss Mumbai a lot, but I'm also sure you'll find Hyderabad to be a lovely place to call home. Hugs.

  18. Chooch1:34 pm

    All the very best on your move..with your kind of groundedness,there's no doubt that you'll make a home of wherever you move..I think!
    Loved the post...brought a lump to my throat.
    You rock,seriously.

  19. Awww... Ro! I wish I knew the exact words that would make you feel better. Hugs! May Hyd hold as many good memories as Mumbai...

  20. Anonymous9:48 pm

    You have such clarity of thought even during such stressful times. Beautifully written and I really hope you get to do more freelance writing after you are settled in. All the best.

  21. Good luck, Rohini! Your post brought tears...... I moved into Mumbai and spent my initial footloose fancy free years the same way and have made this my home and I love it more than Chennai where I spent 25 yrs of my life....

    Mumbai has a charm that no other city can offer you. But, making a house a home is in the hands of the mother, and I can already see you cracking it in Hyderabad.

    Will miss running into you, Ayaan and Tarana in Bajaj Park, but your blogs will keep us in touch.

    Take care.....Hugs!

  22. Dear Ro - hugs and best wishes for the move. Am sure you will soon love that place also...once Ayaan and Tarana start school there you will feel a sense of belonging just from that...and you will also start working and before you know it you will feel like it is home. I dread moves but it is refreshing also. It is sort of like riding a roller coaster. It has its own thrill.
    Good luck to you.

  23. I caught my breath as I read your post, Ro.

    Did you say you're moving to Hyderabad? *Hyderabad*? Wow!!

    Best of luck with the move. I hope it's not too tough on you and the little ones.

    I hope my city treats you well :)!

  24. Good luck! Your summary made me feel like I've known you forever :) Funnily, having read you for so long, having been in Mumbai and even having seen you at the B-school reunion two years back, we have never really met. I really hope, though, we do meet some day. Wish you and your family the best of times and memories in Hyd.

  25. Awww...a beautiful lump-in-the-throat inducing post. All the best for the Hyd move. Wishing you a smooth settling in and all the best for the moving and packing and...unpacking.

  26. Preeti11:26 pm

    Hi Ro,

    All the best for your move. Lovely post.... beautifully written. And given that we're moving cities in a short while ourselves, resonated deeply.

    Am sorry that we did not get to bump into each other before your move, but will be in touch through your blog. All the very best again. Love and hugs to Ayaan and Tarana.

  27. Anonymous12:32 pm

    truely truely amazing maam!!!
    Just loved it!

  28. Wow Rohini.. so poignant and a lovely tribute to the city you're leaving! Hope the new one treats you just as well, and you soon settle down to a lovely time there.

  29. Hi Rohini,You must be in Hyderabad already and hope the city is treating you well.

  30. Hugs, hugs, hugs, Mumbai misses you already. And yes, it is au revoir isn't it, you will be back. Mumbai has made itself home.

    Psst: You've been tagged. No rush, do it when you've settled in.

  31. I cried after I read your post. You write SO WELL! I left Mumbai recently to relocate to Chennai (being a Tam, married to a Tam from Chennai)I thought I'd be able to call it home, but Mumbai hath cast her spell on me... and I yearn to go back too. I quite like Chennai, but it is not Mumbai.

    Good luck in Hyderabad. I am sure you'll being enjoying it. It has its own old world charm.

  32. Hey, missing your blogs! Write soon! Hope you are settling well in Hyd!

    Take care!

  33. You have a lovely blog :-) Came here through someone's comment in IHM's blog...

    Your posts are an eye-opener...
    Will be following your route someday soon. I am right now working in Mumbai. Getting married end of this month. And yes, the questions about kids, being a SAHM etc. will soon rise.

  34. awww! Here's hoping that you can feel at home in Hyd and that your kids will adjust quickly and well to their new life. Big hugs.

    I was contemplating (yet again) becoming an SAHM (after my 5-week long holiday, I am extremely reluctant to be back at work and away from my kids) and your previous post has got me thinking, like many of your other posts. I can so understand your emotions in the previous post. I think I would have been exactly the same and let's just say that it is only that we are human and that we are not 'bad mothers'!

  35. Anonymous11:56 am

    Good one..

    The No:1 Florist India,

  36. Totally missing your blogs! How is life in Hyderabad? Has Ayaan settled into school? How is Tarana? Home, maid, all set?

    Do write!

    Luv, Sai

  37. annienusha10:39 pm

    wow u r in hyd.. i read ur blog..and i ll be in hyd for the next 13 months..maybe we could meet up ..check out my blog

  38. Your current situation reminds me of my future since i am doing MBA currently.

  39. I like the way you express your feeling through words.
    Enjoyed reading your blog.

  40. How I became your mother5:55 pm

    Hi Rohini, I recently starting reading yr blogs & really like them. Especially this one. I totally identify with yr attachment to yr home. I' ve also waited for a long time to find a place that feels like home. Your description of what Mumbai means to you also struck a chord. Though having been brought up in gorgeous Goa I do sometimes hate the grime of this city. I look forward to reading more blogs by you.

  41. Hmm...been hooked to your blog for the last few hours..

    Hope you are all settled in Hyderabad by now :)

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