This is from my (much missed) Mumbai Mirror column and it is a true story of me and a rickshaw ride and it is even more specially appropriate now because from my study window I can see straight into the flat of the people living in the building opposite and every evening, it's most charming, when the mosque sounds out end-of-fast time, I see my window people go and eat and it makes me feel happy to see people on a schedule. I just hope they can't see all our shenanigans (our house is lower than theirs and it's harder to peer downwards, something to do with physics) and me in my boxers and a t-shirt. I do avert my eyes often but they ARE right in my vantage point and they're this huge family, lots of kids, some young women, a matriach and a patriach. I love my Window Family. I saw Mr Window outside one day when I was coming home and he was parking his car (their boundary wall is the same as ours) and I didn't recognise him until he was in the window again.
This actually has very little to do with my column, in retrospect. Oh well, two stories for the price of one, eh?
“We call this stretch chor bazaar,” said an exceedingly talkative auto driver to us the other day as we put-putted our way past the Bandra Reclamation stretch. I don’t like talking when I’m commuting, so I made a non-committal mm-hmm noise, but he wasn’t to be discouraged. “Do you know why it’s called chor bazaar?” he asked, chortling at the thought of the punch line he was about to deliver. I shrugged. “Because it’s full of the thieves of love!”
It was an interesting way to look at it. At any given time—rain or shine or horrible mugginess—the picturesque stretch of ocean and land and the winking of lights from the promised (EDIT: This was back in the day, but you know what I mean) Bandra-Worli sea link call couples to it like homing pigeons. They’re everywhere, these thieves of love, sitting huddled under umbrellas on a bike or if they’re lucky, parked in cars, so all you can see is the silhouette of two heads leaning towards each other. And it’s not like they’re doing anything very raunchy either. They just add to the landscape—usually a man standing up and a woman lying across his chest, her arms around him.
“How does anyone in Bombay ever have sex?” I remember asking a friend of mine when I first moved to the city. There seems to be no empty spaces, and practically everyone who grew up here continue to live with their parents because of the astronomical real estate costs. Unless you’re an immigrant or are lucky enough to have inherited masses of property, chances are your scope for ‘action’ stops with the furtive grope behind Rizvi College.
Why are we as a nation so conflicted about sex? Sex is everywhere—it’s in the billboards you see on your way to work, it’s the cut of a backless blouse or the shimmer of a bronzed shoulder, it’s the patting your fellow player on the bottom after a game of cricket, it’s in the young men on roadsides and on buses who don’t hesitate to undress and rape you with their eyes and it’s even (yes!) in your parents, as fuddy-duddy as they may appear to you, the fact that you are here in a country of teeming millions surely is testament to how much people are having sex every day, every hour, every second? And yet we hide it away as much as possible, pretend it doesn’t exist, pretend that copulation is so far beneath us that a pure person of “good moral values” may never ever think about creating other pure people.
It’s the elephant in the living room mentality, I guess. Since it is everywhere, we feel no need to talk about it. Since we can take pretty educated guesses about the activities of couples on the Reclamation road, we feel there is no need to discuss it in polite society. And, possibly there isn’t. It doesn’t exactly make for excellent dinner party conversation (except most dinner parties I have been to make a career out of talking about this very thing) and it remains in the wink-wink nudge-nudge arena of dirty jokes. You are only permitted to think, talk about and actually have sex when you’re safely, happily married to a safe, happy person, but if you get knocked up? Uh-oh, the looks of embarrassment abound, sometimes I’ve even noticed the lecherous looks on trains and things, and I think, “Really? Maybe there’s a pregnant chick fetish I haven’t heard about.” Apparently, there’s masses of pregnant woman porn on the internet (why am I not surprised?). I guess the logic is, if you’ve had sex with one person, you should be okay with having sex with several.
That brings me back to Talkative Rick Driver. He continued his little Bandra tour as though he could not hear me muttering about how long I had lived in Bombay and how I already knew all this stuff. “The cops come and arrest them!” he said gleefully, “And all those poor chutiyas have to go to the police station!” He slowed down a little bit so we could gawk at this part of Bombay tourism. The couples didn’t even notice us. I felt suddenly like we were visitors to a zoo or something and at any time were about to toss peanuts to the performing monkeys. There were even some forlorn looking sets of boys alone, looking wistfully at all the loving that was going on around them, chugging Coke out of bottles and chain smoking. It was a suspended parallel universe which I with all my oh-I-live-alone-and-oh-I-am-liberated-and-oh-I-can-say-sex-without-flinching had no part in.
“This is where men line up every weekend,” he said next. I rolled my eyes. My fellow traveler laughed. “Do you know why they line up?” he asked, turning around to face us and narrowly avoiding hitting a cyclist. “Because it’s Salman Khan’s house,” I snapped, hoping to snub him. Far from it. He looked even more delighted to have such a well-versed audience. “Yes!” he crowed, “And then he comes out in his towel says hello-ta-ta and leaves! And these men just wait for that.”
I remember back in high school when my school building faced a row of flats, every day for a week (until a teacher intervened) there used to be commotion as all the boys gathered towards the gate and gazed up at the faraway houses. The reason? A lady known for doing yoga naked in her balcony came out just around the time we had lunch break. I could never see her, except perhaps a faint shadow waving in the distance but I was assured she was young and hot. (Later, the story changed to old and wrinkled, but these were teenage boys and she was a naked woman, you can hardly blame them). That, I can understand lining up for. But bare-chested Salman Khan? Really? When you can see him do that with less time wasted just by borrowing one of his movies? And when most of the men who line up outside his house would swear they were straight? Is this what our twisted passive-aggressive approach to sex is bringing about?
It’s a scary thought.
Your window people remind me of one of the most awesome hitchcock films ever: Rear Window. Please go rent it!ReplyDelete
Dammit, now you're going to out my hideaway. And then all of Pune and Bombay will throng to the one pristine blade of grass left in the world. No, eM, noooooooo!ReplyDelete
I love the entire paragraph about how sex is everywhere and yet we ignore it.ReplyDelete
And, yay!! Does this mean more and frequent-er updates?? :3
A newbie in Bombay, I find it a lot like NYC! In such small, cramped spaces, people in both these cities lead such interesting lives! In my apartment, a family of five shares a one BHK apartment. Makes you wonder, especially when you see a newborn baby, how anyone gets any privacy there! :)ReplyDelete
Sex to us is something which only happens and should not be discussed!No wonder we are so many!ReplyDelete
quite a long post!!!......ReplyDelete
window people.....interesting...i have balcony people..our neighbourhood and flats are such that its easy to communicate and se each toher in our respective balconies....
i know!!!that huge elephant in the 1 BHK and ppl do it in its presence...what a hahaReplyDelete
Its a perverted society after allReplyDelete
In school hostel everyone used to wake up early to run to driver's house nearby and peep inside his bathroom window to watch his wife bathing
spotted the new cover for the book, looks pretty damn good!ReplyDelete
hey, if you happen to know anyone who needs a room mate in bombay, will you let me know, thanks!
interesting post! will surely return..ReplyDelete
Heya! Just started reading your blog (courtesy HT Cafe) and am really enjoying it! I find this surprising because i usually get bored of text heavy blogs that dont talk about art or film...your almost like the Lyn Truss of Bombay (except having a boyfriend of course, and lack of feline friends). cheersReplyDelete
today.. i had a flash back about me reading about your blog in a mallu newspaper 4 years agoReplyDelete
so here i am ......
തകര്ത്തു ! അടിപൊളി
Hello eM!I came to your blog after reading about you in a newspaper, that is some of your columns and I TOTALLY love the way you write.Ditto for the blog.Trying to read all the posts "previously" and learnt so many new words too.Thank you Miss/Mrs.ReplyDelete
You have been such a phenomenal blogger,and though this comment is totally out of the context of the post could you PLEASE do another blog on blogging itself for us newbies?And if that's asking for TOO much how about some posts at least?Please.
Been reading Toasted Mostly as well.You absolutely inspired me to start my own blog:).
Beautiful picture of the windowReplyDelete
haha so tons of ppl have been influenced by ms eM...ReplyDelete
thank you oh goddess of blogdom for setting us free :)
I heard eM wrote a book abt a Delhi girl...sad...I thought she had moved to our side (aka Bombay)...tsk tsk
this is why you are such a rage !
and really cute feet!