A trip to Mumbai was never a planned one. My hubby being bitten by the running bug was hell-bent on running a full marathon at least once. Months of practice, exercises, special protein-based diets and frequent participation in almost every regional marathon run finally got him the opportunity he had always dreamed of. I was sceptic at first, more because I was worried if he might tire himself out running full 42 kilometres. But, seeing his enthusiasm and passion, I decided to encourage him and support him in any way I can. So, even when almost all of our relatives looked at us with a blank expression that seemed to say, Are you mad? Why should you both travel to Mumbai and that too for a run; we both boarded the flight to Mumbai leaving our 2 munchkins with their grandparents.
The flight was delayed by almost one hour and we sat there at the airport waiting for our flight departure to be announced. Since I have this secret habit of observing everyone around and spinning stories about them, it wasn’t much of a difficult task for me to sit and wait for our delayed flight. Be it the much in love couple who kept looking at each other talking through their eyes, or the little kiddo who was picking up a scene to make her mom buy chocolate for her, or the serious businessman who seemed to mumble something to himself with an irritated expression written all over his face; the airport was full of stories. I slowly deciphered each story and spun my own imaginary tale around each person I observed at the airport.
Soon our flight departure was announced and we were requested to head to the gate. Air hostesses with deep red lipsticks thronged the place and I wondered how they always have that perfect makeup and hair with not even one hair strand out of place. I looked at my hair all over my ash top and chuckled. What a stark contrast! As we waded through the seats to find ours, i began hoping i get a window seat. Be it train, bus, car or plane i always dash for the window seat! Yes! Renny’s ticket was a window seat. So, I immediately took my place near the window. It was already evening and soon it will be dark. So, there won’t be much to see through the windows. Still, I gazed through the windows as the flight took off kissing the cottony clouds to the abyss of saffron streaks that seemed to gush about the dusk’s arrival.
The saffron streaks melted away and all I could see was pitch black skies that seemed to safely tuck in all those dreams and memories all of us impart to the skies as we gaze up to the stars and moon from down below. The landing announcement was made and I was wondering how nice the voice sounded. Can I catch a glimpse of the person? Forget it! Why do you always have these weird ideas? I rebuked myself.
As we stepped outside and walked towards the parking area we could see that the whole area was swarmed with cabs. It was chilly outside and I hadn’t even taken my pullover. I had asked my colleague and also one of my dearest friends Uma about the places to visit in Mumbai but the whole idea of asking about the climate here never crossed my mind! I wished I had packed something warm, at least one jacket. Soon our cab came and we got inside. He was talking in Hindi and Renny stared at me with a puzzled expression. I immediately translated whatever I could understand thanking Yash Chopra, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Subash Ghai, all in one breath. See, this is why I tell you to watch Hindi films, i teased him with a grin.
The trip to our hotel was longer than expected. The whole streets were swarmed with vehicles and our cab was moving at snail’s pace. I was getting hungry and all I could think was about some nice, warm food. Renny asked something and I glared back at him. Oh! I know that look. You are hungry? He asked, laughing out loud. Yes, you better get me something, I retorted back as he sat there looking amused.
Finally, we reached our destination and we quickly scampered inside the hotel like wet puppies looking for a warm abode. By the time we reached, it was past dinner time. So we decided to keep the bags in our room and step outside to get something to eat. As we walked through the yellowy passages with glinting mirrors on one side i could whiff the tangy aroma of lemon pickles. Why would a hotel passage smell like a lemon pickle? Am i imagining things because I was hungry? God knows!
We quickly kept the bags and again went down through the lemon passages. Yes! I named it lemon passage as it was golden yellow in colour everywhere and had the aroma of lemon in every nook. As we stepped outside, the chilly breeze made us shiver. My teeth were chattering as we walked through the roads towards the nearby hotel. It was a small yet clean place. An old man with a long white beard and even longer kurta that seemed to touch the floor smiled at us, nodding his head and directing us inside. The waiter came and asked us what do we want. We took a quick glance at the menu and ordered Naan. Curry? He asked questioningly. I again skimmed the pages and decided to go for chicken tikka. I looked back at him and as i just uttered the word chicken, he filled the rest. Tikka? Well, if you have mind-reading abilities, why ask me?
A small kitten was playing near the door and as I sat gazing at its antics, the waiter brought a plate and placed it in the midst of us. Again lemons! Mumbai and lemons have some strong connection! I made a quick conclusion and stared back at the plate. Cut pieces of lemons, onions, chilly and red, juicy lemon pickle was neatly arranged in a circular shape. Renny soon started munching on the onion slices as i sat there observing the way in which the lemon slices were cut and arranged. In my hurry to eat something, I had left my mobile in our room. Otherwise, I would have definitely clicked a pic of that plate. The food arrived and soon we wiped our plates clean. It was yummy and as I was hungry, it was double yummy! As we finished eating, the waiter again came with the lemon bowl for us to wash hands. Lemon! I made a mental calculation that I myself will smell like a lemon by the time I leave Mumbai. Soon we walked back to our rooms and I literally crashed on my bed and slept like a log.
The next day as I woke up, I quickly took my mobile to check the time. Thank goodness, it was not too late. I had to do the work allotments. Being too lazy to walk up to the table, I sat there in the bed itself wrapped up in blankets as I opened my laptop. Renny was still asleep. I quickly finished my allotment works and poked Renny. He was still asleep. The next option was to kick him. That worked! He sat up looking at me with half sleepy eyes, is it morning? Yes! It is 9 am! Definitely it is morning! Soon he was up and we went downstairs for breakfast. As we finished breakfast and strolled upstairs, I took a look at the itinerary Uma had prepared for me. Since it was the day before the run, Renny will need rest too. Maybe we will just go to one spot and return back to our rooms. We also had to go to get the bib for the next day’s run. As we again walked through the lemon passage, I tried to find the source of this lemon aroma, but in vain.
Soon, we were out travelling in a cab to the bib collection point. That is when I noticed that the roads were filled with black and yellow cabs. For some reason, I found it nostalgic and sat there gazing at the cabs and the cab drivers who shouted at the top of their voices in Hindi. Nope! Yash Chopra didn’t come to my rescue then! I couldn’t understand even a bit of what they were shouting about. Maybe it is the native dialect. You guys need to follow exactly the film language. Otherwise, how am I supposed to understand?
We reached the bib collection point and that is when reality dawned on me. It was a huge event! Runners from all parts of the world swarmed inside the place making it difficult for us to even move through the crowd. We collected the bib and made use of all the photo booths available to click pictures. Where next was the next question. We decided to head for the Gateway of India and also find a place nearby to have our lunch. Again we found a black and yellow cab. It was a shared cab which already had 2 families inside.
We hopped inside and the cab zoomed ahead deftly through the busy, noisy streets of Mumbai. That is when i caught a glimpse of Mumbai’s beauty. Each and every building stood silently as architectural marvels that make us go wow! I felt as if i had opted for a time travel and had gone back to the days of Maharajas, palaces and kingdoms which I had till now only read through history books. Each building stirred memories in a weird way as it was the first time I was seeing them. Still, it was as if I had been here sometime before. The buildings seemed to hush tales of the past, of wars, or victories, of laughter, of pain, of deceit, of love, passion and pangs.
We reached Gateway of India and strolled around to find a Burger King outlet. We quickly grabbed some burgers and headed to Gateway of India. Photographers were literally following every visitor just like how bees buzz around flowers. Finally, we gave in to one of the photographers as we also wanted some pictures to carry home as a memory. Pigeons were fluttering all over the place and they seemed to make more noise than the entire crowd there. The Gateway of India towered up with pride and history written all over its walls and pillars. The pretty grillworks made me want to climb up there and peep through the holes. Maybe they know people like me will have such crazy plans. So they had clearly set a boundary with chains.
After clicking a few pictures and quickly messaging Anandhi few texts for SM posts we headed back to hotel as the next day was the Marathon day. The day ended with a plate of boiled white rice, dal and again, the tangy lemon and mango pickle! Soon we drifted to sleep with me dreaming about tangy pickles and ways to steal the pickle bottle from the chef’s shelf.
The next day we woke up early by 2.40 am all set for the marathon run. Since we had slept early the previous day, it was not that difficult to wake up early. We had to go to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The starting point was there. Finding a cab was never a difficult task as in Mumbai you can always find the black and yellow cabs wherever you look! They seem to rule the roads. We reached there earlier than expected and he went straight to the participant’s area. I was not allowed to go there. So, I decided to explore all the streets nearby as I had plenty of time till noon. The streets again evoked a nostalgic aura with architectural marvels towering up hushing untold and unwritten tales like the best secret keeper ever. The tea shops were bustling with visitors and the vendors were extra happy with the sudden surge of customers. The streets for a change smelled of hot coffee and oil fried crispy snacks. I deftly walked in through the crowd to get a cup of coffee and as i turned back to go, the vendor shouted out to me, you are from the South, right? Even in the midst of a crowd, I was easily recognisable! I had that typical South Indian look written all over my face. I smiled back and quipped a yes!
As i walked through the streets again scolding myself for not taking a jacket or pullover, the golden rays started seeping through announcing the break of dawn. It was indeed a great sight to watch the architectural beauties basking in the aubade rays. I decided it was time to grab something to eat and headed straight to a poori shop i had bookmarked in my mind the day before itself. The place was famous for pooris and only served pooris. We can opt for curries of our choice. The main dish remains the same. As i sat down on the cold steel benches the waiter shoved a plate full of pooris to me. I stared at him flabbergasted at the idea of me eating so many pooris in one go. As i didn’t know how to explain my plight to him in Hindi, i decided to try eating instead. (Lesson learned: Yash Chopra doesn’t come to the aid always). But, when i started eating, to my surprise i found that these pooris are so easy to eat. I wiped the plate clean within minutes and smiled proudly at the waiter applauding myself for the amazing feat i had achieved. The waiter looked at me with a blank expression as if wondering why this lady is making a huge fuss for something so normal. I realized that my art of eating is not much appreciated here. So, I quickly paid the money and waved goodbye to the 2 ladies who had joined me at my table.
I again walked through the streets at the same time tracking Renny’s movement using an app. As the time of marathon completion was nearing, i decided to go to the finishing point. Google Gods helped me with the way as i tracked down the finishing point area using the Map. The streets were all closed due to the marathon and i sneaked my way under a huge boarding to finally reach the place ( benefits of being tiny! )
The finishing point was jam-packed with relatives and friends of runners from all over the world. The roads were all blocked for the runners. So, I could quickly find a place to sit and wait for Renny. There were blind runners, amputated runners and several other people with disabilities who were running for passion. I sat there awestruck at their dedication and passion for running. Soon, Renny completed the marathon and went to collect his medals.
He was beaming happily as finally, he could achieve what he had always dreamed of. We straight away went to grab our lunch and headed straight to our room to get some good rest. After a good sleep, we strolled outside to The Marine Drive and for some street shopping. We caught a glimpse of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and Haji Ali. Marine Drive was a peaceful way to spend an evening with the cool breeze and calm waters which had slight fuschia shades as dusk was fast approaching.
Street shopping was fun. We could bargain and get dresses at really cheap rates. I searched and found dresses with Frozen theme for my girl and T-shirts with Spiderman pictures for my boy. The day ended too soon and we packed up the bags for the return journey back home the next day. We had a handful of good memories and 2 medals to take home- one 42 K finisher medal and one inspiration medal! We loved you Mumbai! We will surely return back to the city of memories to spin tales of memories yet again!