A Day in Mumbai

Mmm feels like coming home now – how interesting is that .. only a short time ago Mumbai felt like a big and strange and impossible to navigate, city of crazy drivers, manic horns, terrible pavements and incongrously majestic buildings stuck between the falling down heritage mansions.  This morning as the overnighter SRS Travels Non AC sleeper bus manoevered its way through the traffic, the ‘sweeper’ or bus boy yelled the stops as we neared the centre of the city.

I felt comfortable .. I knew where I was – I was prepared to get off.. it would be the right stop.  No more nervous indecision about: ‘is this the right place’.. yep Google maps helps but also I am way more familiar with this huge city now than ever before.  It almost feels like home.

After 12 hours on the night bus now for a bit of a trek across the overpass walkways that take you through the highrise slum of Bandra station area  to find my hotel.

IMG_6990-smallWhere slum dwellings are built one on top of the other to a shaky 4 and 5 story height.. and on the other side of the walkway there is a field of brilliant green of ‘palak’ a market garden of spinach in the city.
IMG_6989-smallAnd out the other side of the tracks, and down the stairs into the melee of the bus station.. oops nearly got backed into by the rubbish truck.. no beep beep of backing sound just the banging of the flat of the hand on the truck door to warn unwary wanderers behind the vehicle.

Still not certain of which direction to go.. a helpful Auto rickshaw driver points me in the right way and I negotiate rubbish, broken pavement, myiads of motor bikes, pedestrians, dogs, rickshaws and buses to wend my way up the street.  Its early but very busy.. and there a chai stall with a friendly stool to sit on.. I perch myself and sip the sweet hot milky brew out of a tiny glass.

And there just a little further on is the ‘Rat Hotel’.  No its not really called that.. its just that here is where I did the epic rat rescue so from now on in my mind its the Rat Hotel.  Actually I like it.. a bit of a hole in the wall.. the people are friendly.. they remember me.. they take care of me and outside the frenetic rush of the railway station road is a feast of sounds and sights and life intensely there.

Market stalls, vegies set out across the pavement, any number of food stalls, busyness, shoe shops, dogs, grocery shops, pan beedi shops, the lassi wallah, people everywhere of all shapes sizes and creeds, wending their way through the intense street life that is right outside my door.  A quiet hotel? .. No not really, but I have ear plugs and where in Mumbai do you find quiet with over 20 million people living in this incredible city of contrasts – chaos and life.

These days I can manage to relax into Mumbai and to begin to understand why people really like to live in this immensely incomprehensible city. A city that that will blow your mind in a moment and show you her face of generosity, of wealth, of desperate poverty – piles of garbage, street children, transvestite beggars, high rise gloss – and always in a flash of a smile and the connection of eyes, the depth of her heart.

 All this is Mumbai – a city of dreams.

Looking for a Home…

Who knew that a home was so important?  I forgot. Silly me.  No rush I kept saying – I am fine where I am.. its clean, comfortable and relatively cheap.

But I wasn’t feeling right – I was questioning a lot what am I doing here?  Is this the right place? Am I ‘over’ being in India? Is it time I was out of here for a while? All of that stuff and the answers kept coming through that what I am supposed to be doing is actually what I am doing right now.. otherwise why would I be here?  But still I was not relaxing into it.

Then last night I found it .. nestled into a corner of a courtyard – a low roofed round shouldered small house – well a room really – filled with dusty furniture, cobwebs strung from the ceiling.  In definite need of some white wash – but there it is.. it looks like home.   Big coconut palms shading its surrounding clean swept courtyard .. with pot plants!

Perfect – no.. but home .. yes.  Its a definite feeling – somewhere I can make my own even for a short time – somewhere I can make tea for friends and invite them in – somewhere I can tack pictures to the walls, throw some bright colours around and settle in.

What is home?  Actually its a feeling.  And I have it now.  Now I can relax and be with what I am doing here.  With thanks to all who conspired to discover this place –

This is not it.. but this place too has a feeling .. see what I mean? home

Wonderful kids

Leaving – a piece of my heart

On Thursday afternoon I took my leave of the children at Shikshangram.  How to go? how to separate – how to divide the space in my heart – an impossible task as each responded in a different way to my departing.

Kajal – always my friend glowered at me – she would not come near me, she was angry – she knew but didn’t want to believe that really I was not returning. And at the last moment she ran to the side of the school bus and caught my hand through the open window, holding tight and pouring all of her love and longing into the grasp.  Her hand print stays in my heart.

The boys came to the station – joking and taking selfies in the bus, Juggernaut leapt onto the bus at the last minute and sat as closely as possible to me.

The boys at the station

The night before at the farewell event, half the children came and gave me hand drawn farewell cards – some with weeping trees, and all with messages of come back and we are sad.  I had to promise to return and of course I will but now it is time to take some space and discover again who am I?

Hug from ShubhamWhat is this journey of life that continues to throw this never ending ultimate question at me?  Who am I? and where is my purpose in this winding pathway I follow?  Now it is again letting go time, time to follow where I am called and as that evolves, so to the patterns of my life will form around me again.

and now .. feeling the pain, feeling the loss, feeling the missing of the small arms that hugged me and loved me so much .. knowing that I need to feel this to allow it to heal.  That no pushing it down or away or ignoring it will make it any easier or help it release more quickly.  The pain is the growing, the pain is also the pain of the birthing of the new.

Thank you dearest children for you have given me your hearts and through that my heart has grown far larger than I ever imagined possible.  Without you I would never have found this huge part of myself that now I carry with me for ever.

Love – the love of one child is a tremendous gift – the love of 120 children an overwhelming avalanche of joy.

Time Out and Down

We are clean and clear again after being the object of an attack on all of the sites that I work with just before Christmas – as a result our sites were down for some time and also blacklisted by Google. We are now cleaned, protected and back up and running.

It is interesting as this attack came at a time which was a huge transition time for me personally – a time when I have been moving more fully into the arena of water harvesting and have had much turmoil of parting from my beloved family at Shikshangram. So while being unable to write during this time, I have also had the tools of my trade.. the websites .. disabled and a mess! Clarity is coming back – I am moving ahead and the writing will come again.

Meanwhile please Google – let our friends and seekers know that we are clean and clear again!!

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Morning Rises

The morning rises again
faithfully each day
no questions asked – it comes with the rising of the sun
Who asks – Will it come?
Why? How?
It simply is.

IMG_6611-smallWould that I too
realise the pattern of the day
and follow that of ‘simply is’.
Rising in the morning
unconcerned by mists or clouds or clear skies
Simply rising.