16 September 2018

Cumballa Hill Walk and Book Readings

What does one do to find inspiration? Read poetry? Drink Coffee? Watch TV? Meditate? Or Sleep? I did the next easiest thing... took a walk!
I dropped my kids for a class at Breach Candy. I had to pick them up again after 90 minutes. Looking for inspiration, I decided to walk. I decided to walk to the Crossword at Kemp's Corner. Read something. Not to get tempted to buy anything and then walk back. Let's see if I get any inspiration. Breach Candy and the adjoining Cumballa Hill are one if the most upmarket locations in Mumbai. There are large bungalows. Some of them dilapidated and encroached up. Others are empty and watched over by snooty watchmen who baulk at the merest hint of intrusion. A few are brightly painted over and looking over to the shining Arabian Sea with optimism. Almost all have large metal gates that are tightly shut. No, I couldn't find any inspiration looking at these. 
Then there are tall skyscrapers built on plots that had perhaps expansive bungalows once. Narrow lanes lead to these. They have rows of extra large sedans parked, some of them on to the main road, the Bhulabhai Desai road. While looking unapproachable, these skyscrapers lack character and don't have the majestic look that their neighbouring bungalows have. So, No, no inspiration in these either. 
There is a large seaside garden, Tata Park. But the setting sun is shining brightly and its reflection from the sea dazzles the eyes. Yet, the park is crowded. One dare not try to find any inspiration there. So one trudges along the winding road that skirts Cumballa Hill towards Kemps Corner. Now there are shops, big and small. Most catering to the upper-class crowd here. A shop is named Argentina. It sells woman's clothing. There is a paanwala by the name of Muchhad Paanwala and the proprietor does have stately moustaches. I shy away from shooting his picture surreptitiously. There is a big boutique clothesline store of Millionaire. Apparently, it has seen better days and is still going strong. Beyond lays the ancient bungalows of Parsi lineage, mostly. They must have looked beautiful once. Today, the paint is peeling, the grand driveways are encroached upon and huge hoarding covers their colonial architecture. Yet there is a sedate beauty in them. However, all they can inspire is nostalgia. 
The crowded Bhulabhai Desai road, erstwhile Warden Road, is choc - a - bloc with Saturday evening traffic and it would be foolhardy to cross it, let alone find any inspiration in it. The September sun is shining harshly and it has been a sweaty and uncomfortable mostly futile ten-minute walk trying to find inspiration. That seems tragic because it was here that, the great Salman Rushdie grew up and has described this locality well in Midnight's Children. 
I trundle along to reach Crossword. Here, I have been trying to read Paul Theroux's collection of essay's Figures in a Landscape. I was tempted to buy it but I realised as soon as I would buy it the novelty of reading it would be lost and the book would lie somewhere gathering dust in my house. So I promised myself that I would buy the book once I have finished reading it. 
The trick is not to get distracted. On the same bookrack as the Paul Theroux, there were rows of Lonely Planets and for some reason, I picked up Beijing, even though I have no plans in the near future of visiting that city. Only with a certain reluctance and great determination to reach the Paul Theroux did I replace Beijing. As I was carrying the book, I looked at the top ten best sellers in the fiction segment. I stopped myself from picking up the Roopi Kaur poetry book, knowing full well how I had detested her poetry the first time I read it. There was Paulo Coelho's Alchemist. It had been more than fifteen years since I had read it but I managed to contain my temptation to pick it up again. As I was passing through the classics section, a Jack Kerouac caught my attention. And involuntarily I picked it up and chided by my brain, kept it back almost immediately. This did not go unnoticed and soon I was accosted by a pleasant shop assistant, 'May I assist you?' Somehow I become very uncomfortable when facing this question and I embarrassedly and apologetically answered, 'No, thanks! I will help myself!' 
I surreptitiously carried the book to the cafe in the Crossword and started reading from where I thought I had left off the last time. I had forgotten which page I had reached. So I started somewhere in the middle, a portion that I felt I had not read. But soon I realised there were passages which felt familiar. On the other hand, the part immediately prior seemed alien. I was distracted. Instead of focussing on the book I eavesdropped on a couple who were sitting behind me. The male voice was describing a photo shoot - he was apparently a professional photographer and the female perhaps a model. The female voice was distant and incoherent. I had an urge to turn around and look at them but it would have looked rude. In my mental image, the photographer was tall, dark and with a ponytail. Now I concentrated on the book and finally got my rhythm. After reading for about forty minutes, I reckoned it must be time to leave. As I got up to leave, I looked at the photographer; he was a short stout fair guy, looking more like a bank cashier. I replaced the book at its place and walked back to Breach Candy.
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