He came to the city, wide-eyed. This is awesome, he thought, big, bold, buzzy Bombay. To get away from the prying eyes of his inquisitive, incestuous tier II city of Moradabad. So many diverse people, what amazing energy. As he entered his one BHK Yari Road PG accomodation, he felt at home immediately.
The perfect city to make new friends.
Days morphed into weeks, he made a few acquaintances, but no asli dosts.
The city not quite as welcoming as he’d hoped.
Everyone seemed to have their own groups of friends. Building bonds, college chaddi buddies, tough to break into those ‘inner circles’, or ‘cliques’ as they were called in Bombay.
He’d often work late, just to be around people, hear voices, not just those in his head.
Back to his rented reality, he’d play tic-tac-toe with the take-away menus pinned to the old Godrej fridge -- tandoori chicken, tacos and tortillas from the Mexican-Gujju eatery down the road. Or tofu from the ‘Hungry Eyes’ fast food joint.
He wondered if it was an out-of-towner thing, this feeling of alienation.
But there was his colleague, a true blue Bombayite. Dynamic, driven but single -- singlehood, especially for women, clearly a stigma in Bombay. Other women looked at her with pity, men leered at her predatorialy. But this was meant to be an open minded city, not like his repressive Moradabad.
He overheard her on the phone one night, crying, a clandestine lover no doubt. He was, of course, unhappily married but couldn’t leave his biwi of 20 years. He was clearly giving her the, “Give me time, you know I want to be with you,” gyaan.
“You’re still heading back to your insane kitty party wife, and your fat, Kung-fu Panda kid. And I’m heading back to Masterchef. 9 pm to 10 pm,” she barked between sobs.
He returned to his empty flat, to try fill another evening.
He bumped into his rickety landlord. “Beta, this month’s rent is pending”
“Yes, uncle, two days.”
Time seemed to hang heavy, for the old man. Well 64, not an old man yet. But 64, a tricky age to be alone. Not aged enough to sink into senior citizenship.
And not young enough to easily find love again. Why did widowers handle loss so much worse than their female counterparts. Men just seemed to fall apart, showing none of the steely survival instinct of the widow. Some daytime television, some cooking, the odd phone call from one of the grandkids. He clearly missed companionship.
“No one has time, beta, the city too fast, no one has the time to slow down.”
Yeah, he figured, Bombay is the city of dreams, but a nightmare if you’re alone.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.