..but here goes.
I remember moving to Mumbai, unpacking, stepping into my balcony and feeling the most obnoxious kind of disappointment hit me as I looked at the lineup of balconies facing my own balcony.
“Why do I see so many people and their kitchens?!” was pretty much the first thing I had to say.
I now get it why most people who haven’t lived in this city crib about what an absolute rotten hell it would be to breathe in this “concrete jungle”. Three years ago, I probably would’ve said the same but that’s matter for some other Mumbai-related blog post (which will keep coming because even though I don’t practically live here, I still feel like I see/learn something new every time I come back home).
So I was clearly put out by the idea of having to stare at more people’s lives in my time AWAY from people. But then I couldn’t give up all this expensive balcony space, could I?
Nevertheless, I tried.
My first option was to try and look for a terrace. But hey, high rise buildings, remember? With the increasing number of suicide cases and paranoia, why would anyone leave open a terrace on the 21st floor?
So that didn’t go too well.
But then I thought I’d just not go to the balcony. A lot of people can’t afford the luxury and I too could give it up and get used to this new fancy lifestyle where I spend most of my time just lying on my bed pretending to be a turtle and saying, “Come at me!” to anything that attempts to threaten my state of being.
Unfortunately (actually it turned out to be more fortunate), I. Just. Couldn’t. (Yep, I needed you to read it that way)
I don’t even have a proper explanation for it. If you have a balcony, you’re going to visit it as often as, let’s say, your uber religious grandmother visiting the backyard temple! Or something.
Also let’s not forget that I could still see, you know, the sky and clouds and birds and tiny humans walking around with self-deprecating thoughts parading in their pea-sized brains and frequent bird poop and watchmen getting yelled at by frustrated corporate-going individuals who would walk around whipping people if they could and rickshaw drivers moving their heads in that ‘waddup’ fashion and acres of poverty in every direction and it was this train of thought that got me to notice the little baby in the eleventh floor balcony of the opposite building who wouldn’t let his mother/nanny feed him cerelac or whatever it is they feed babies these days and the guy who wouldn’t stop smoking cigarettes in his balcony even though it was 1 pm and the sun is practically a death sentence at that time, and this other woman who looked like she was speaking to me in sign language which really creeped me out so I had to run back inside and take in deep breaths to calm myself down. (In case you’re interested, this happened multiple times. At one point I was running to my other balcony just to avoid her)
I think somewhere in between these barfing thoughts I began to discover little stories in each one of these balconies. I began to observe routine patterns in the way people dressed, the time of their morning tea, the way they rushed at exactly the same time every day. I started to keep track of the games little children played in their balconies, the domestic help who would arrive exactly at the same time and clean the balcony in exactly the same fashion everyday. I even noticed patterns in the way couples said goodbye to each other before leaving for work.
But then I also began to feel the break in the usual rut. I’d immediately notice if a particular balcony was devoid of its usual commotion and in a way (which I can’t explain) it broke my heart.
At times I’d even waste a lot of time just staring at a balcony barbecue party or at a few bachelors getting drunk at 1 am in the night. It was its own kind of entertainment and I think most people would just underestimate how engrossing it can be.
The only issue here was that I alway knew what was happening but never the WHY or the HOW of those things and the only way to quench that thirst was to let my imagination take over whilst keeping it rooted to the ground.
I would stand there and speculate, weave stories in my head and then go update my mother on them. They would normally be funny or just really eccentric. I would get excited when I saw someone new in a balcony and then wait for them to make an appearance the next day too.
Now I know that all this might be sounding a tad bit creepy or even stalker-ish for that matter but I think it’s better to just get rid of that thought in order to truly enjoy this post and (hopefully) not track me down and report me under some anti-national law (sorry, had to).
The point is that I discovered lives in the little box-like apartment lifestyle of Bombay and it made it to my list of hobbies. Even today when I come back, I like to sit there and eyeball at all the well-lit balconies. These days it’s a little different because the disappointment is the first guest to arrive in this rusted museum of balcony stories because I don’t know them so well anymore and by the time I do figure out the patterns all over again, it’s already time to go.