Mumbai…Meri Jaan (my life)

6229056564477d66d04bbc68b5d79641Having lived in multiple cities, countries, continents the one question that we get most often is which city was our favorite? Where did we like living the most?  The daughter is noncommittal, the husband smiles but doesn’t divulge anything and the son rambles for a while with commas, stops and exclamations… I love it here, no but I love Melbourne too. And then he gives a disarming smile to exclaim and Oh I love Mumbai!!!

I believe we can love any place we live in if we wish to. It can be the glitziest city with the most hi tech unimaginable convenient amenities or a tiny village with frequent power outage and water shortage. We have lived in both the extremes  and the in betweens too.  I joke with the husband that he is stuck with me for life and much more because our marriage will survive anything since it survived six months in a small town of Ghana where we were challenged everyday with power outage, water shortage, mal- functioning phone lines, no neighbors and long hours at work. There were more birds and animals around us than people. The daughter had her first birthday there and spoke her first word too- gooaaattt! Yes, I kid you not, goat came before mum! Wonders don’t cease, do they?

Prior to this during our stint in Lusaka, Zambia many of the husband’s colleagues and our friends had mercilessly pulled our legs guffawing at multiple  imaginary scenarios of us running away, back to Mumbai on the first flight from there. I must share that this was the only country that we lived in where safety/security was a huge issue, political scenario unsettled, medical facilities questionable and one in four locals were said to suffer from HIV. I had the ‘privilege’ of being mugged in broad daylight and the husband’s colleague lost all that he had on him to a ‘sweet friendly’ 7 feet tall guy with a swagger who put his arm around him as they walked on a busy street as though best friends for life while relieving him of his wallet, watch, rings, belt leaving with a loving parting shot of, “if my friends down the road trouble you, just tell them Simba took it all.” Simba indeed turned out to be the king of day light robbers.  As I said before, wonders do not cease because we thrived there, loved it and made amazing friends right from the CEO of multi national companies to the neighborhood cab driver.

imgresIn Malaysia for the longest time I took the bus to go to work with the husband dropping me and picking me on his way to and fro from work. Every time I got onto the bus the driver changed the music to Hindi/Bollywood songs with a nod to me. Our neighbors introduced us to Malaysian delicacies and customs and soon we could gorge on ice kachang and nasi goreng while nodding sagely to agree on the goodness of everything by saying good lah very good lah! Twenty years plus since we left Kuala Lumpur but I don’t bat an eyelid to switch to yes lah while talking to Malaysians/Singaporeans.

Japan, what can one say about a country where respect, reverence, humility, consideration, courtesy come from birth and go on literally till death does them apart. Right from the Japanese baby to the octogenarian next door were always super courteous saying their Ohaiyo Gozaimashita (good morning) bright and early as I pushed my baby boy’s stroller, walking my little girl to school.  The same neighbors were super excited to see their Indian neighbor, read yours truly pregnant when the baby in the stroller was expected so much so I would be taken aback when they would pat my baby bump with love and excitement wondering whether it was going to be a boy or a girl and even when he or she was due. Their excited chatter was contagious enough for me to smile and nod despite lack of clear comprehension. I knew that they meant well and they knew that I had full awareness of their feelings.

Melbourne endeared itself to us with its chic, casual, laid back yet go getter charm. Just last week the son and hubby were on a California golf course trailing a couple of Aussies and got talking to them. While one  was from Brisbane, the other was from Sydney and on hearing my boys connection to Melbourne, they very somberly said, Oh Melbourne, so sorry mate! Nothing and nobody really can top the Aussie sense of humor- it is unique because of its subtle yet conspicuous nature.

mumbai-slangMumbai, my one time home! I think the only city in the world which has ‘meri jaan’ suffixed to it is Mumbai. Meri jaan literally translated means my life. Songs have been written on places like New York, California, Denver, Chicago, London and lot more. Movies too have been made on plenty of cities. Similarly, countless movies have depicted the spirit of Mumbai, songs have been written on the unique yet multiple specialities of this city- the city that has a heart, the city that never sleeps, the city where you are one in a crowd but still don’t lose your privacy. A city which is as casual as you need it to be or and as sophisticated as you want it to be. It embraces those who make it their home adapting to the multi cultural, multi lingual, organized chaotic crowd.

Now we are in California and I am reminded of the time I first heard the song ‘California Dreaming’, never knowing then that it would be home one day. The hubby was jumping off the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe over the Zambezi river – The highest natural Bungee in the world off Victoria Falls- with a rope tied to his ankle- they called it Bungee Jumping. Now very popular but a couple of decades back it was relatively uncommon. The song the organizers were playing as the jumpers jumped was California Dreaming. I do not see any relevance of the lyrics to bungee jumping off Victoria Falls but today as a resident of California I do identify with the song…”All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey, I have been for a walk on a winter’s day, I would be safe and warm if I was in L.A, California dreaming on such a winter’s day…..”

Do you have a favorite city or a town dear to you?  It is memories that make a place special, that carves a place for it in your heart and mind. Is there a place that warms your heart on a winter day? Share your favorite city story and why it is so….and I bet it would be because of the people.

Picture courtesy: Jeff Stahler , &



Lost but not lonesome…

I am a woman enough to laugh at my navigation skills that are allied with the presence of the sun. The moment it disappears, my navigational skills become alien to me and unfortunately am yet to read the stars to perceive a sense of direction after sunset.

So, this is in the previous millennium when we lived in Tokyo and more importantly Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were yet to come up with the I phone, requiring people like me to ask strangers for  direction when lost, which was often enough for me to write a diary.  An Indian woman does not hesitate to ask for direction, though one could write volumes on the resistance of the men in doing the same.

When lost in Tokyo, I would excuse myself and stop a passer by to ask for direction and the response was always the same. The stranger would come to full stop in a world which hurried around us. He or she would look at me and the kids to say- ‘you follow me’ and the person would slowly navigate the busy street around people returning from work, rushing home and every few minutes would stop to look back to check if I was following with my two children in tow. Yes, I would be walked home, bowed deep at and bid a respectful adieu.

This happened not once but many a times and I truly doff my hat to the Japanese hospitality, helpfulness and willingness to go out of the way to help a lost soul. I have walked with or followed perfect strangers, both men and women, often engaging in conversation in some English on their part, bit of broken  Japanese on my part and lot of sign language from both. I sure set a poor example for my children in a world which tells them to not talk to strangers!

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 6.38.53 PMIn India when one gets lost one usually asks a passerby, ‘hey brother/sister can you tell me how to get to so and so’ only to hear the direction combined with vigorous hand movements showing the road, directing a left or a right with the hand turning either ways while two more passerby might join to add their inputs. All kinds of landmarks including big trees, tall buildings, short buildings, colorful houses would be mentioned. ‘Yes, you go straight like this, turn right (with the palm showing the direction of course) at the big brown building, walk for five minutes and you will see a big tree, walk further etc etc. In Australia I have had a very exasperated GPS repeating over and over again, almost as if admonishing, ‘make a legal right turn when possible’ and that too in a city where one turns right from the left most lane!!! Yes, in Melbourne CBD in a right hand drive car, one has to be in the extreme left lane to turn right when the signal changed colour! To the Americans when the light changed color

Now I live in the United States where directions are quite scientific with replies like go north about two miles and turn east on Sunset Boulevard and so on. For a woman who has spent majority of her life in common wealth nations, I take a while to figure the two miles into kilometers and of course with the sun down, north? What north? Where is north? Oh where is my phone! But then nothing comes close to the time when yours truly asked the driver in Accra, Ghana if we were lost and if he knew where we were, only to see him ponder deeply, think a while more, look around, turn back and confirm delightedly, “madaaam, yesss, we are er here”!!! And then I knew I was truly lost!

Have you ever been lost? Come now, we all get lost, sometimes without the phone on person! Did your experience humor you or exasperate you? Share here to get some laughs and few sympathies….

Picture courtesy: &