Mumbai of Many Firsts

I came back to Mumbai on April 25, 2014. My luggage fitted snugly in one Tata Indica and with an offer letter from the then largest (and the very best) law firm in India I once again looked forward to carving a career for myself in the big bad corporate world.
My first day at work … April 28, 2014 and I remember working till midnight on the very first day itself. My broker had pushed the delivery of my plush apartment by another 3 days and I was living out of my suitcase in a dilapidated guest house somewhere in Kalina. Since I gave up work in 2010, I had completely forgotten what it meant to work for 16-18 hours a day. I found myself rusted, under confident, low on self-esteem and as usual out of place. The legal fraternity had undergone metamorphosis. It was not just about excellent work product; it had also become about chic and classy dressing, crisp style and business development at all possible levels. My moments came to be measured in hours billed and between the billable and the non-billable hours whatever little I managed to get, I labelled as “life”.
Mumbai in 2014 was of many firsts … Living with my sister as an equal; first rented apartment (and it was huge and beautiful even by Delhi standards); first pet; first interaction with brokers; first time struggle with Mumbai traffic (in my previous innings I stayed very close to my workplace and hence the traffic never got to me); it was also the very first time I was meeting people from an industry which was as different from mine as chalk and cheese. What was considered to be an asset in a law firm was considered to be a liability in the media industry (Ravisha worked with Viacom back then) … it was this constant interaction with script writers; directors; photographers; producers at home and constant competition with lawyers; bankers; company secretaries; CFOs and CEOs at workplace which made this stint wholesome. It made me realise that equal relationships are toughest to sustain for relationships essentially signify power struggle of a perverted kind where subservience is glorified and often used as a weapon to have the last word. It taught me the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone and embrace diversity of all kinds. It taught me to look beyond the values imparted to me in a convent school … It taught me genuine peaceful co-existence. I realized that the concept of space is in your head and so long as you don’t share that space with anyone and do not allow people to invade that sacred territory, you can be truly free. This stint changed me as a person. It transformed the dynamics of all my relationships … Some grew stronger, the others just pushed to periphery …
I underwent my first existential crisis where I was made to question the purpose of my existence and the motivation behind each of my decisions. I felt I was judging myself through the choices I had made … I was the judge and I was the criminal … And the judge treated the criminal with distance and disdain … The judge wanted to sentence the criminal to death and didn’t entertain any mercy petition … The criminal wanted to be hanged and didn’t want to continue living … I suppose for the first time in the history … The judge and the to be judged wanted the same outcome … However, the jury decided otherwise and the criminal was sentenced to life … I had to live and I found myself wanting in strength and courage … Yes, for the first time in my life, I also felt bereft of courage … I didn’t want to fight anymore … Afterall I had fought for 32 years and I just couldn’t go on fighting … I had developed a sense of aggrieved entitlement where I was entitled to a perfect life after all the strife and I couldn’t be more wrong … I went for my first solo trip which proved to be cathartic and therapeutic at the same time for it uncloaked layers in me which I never knew existed in the first place … I for the first time had made friends from different continents … Sweden; Russia; Cuba; Czech Republic etc. etc. I could for the first time feel for causes which weren’t limited to the sub-continent. I learnt to trust strangers and trust myself with strangers. This was Mumbai of many firsts …
I shifted careers … From a lawyer to an investment banker. I entered into an industry for which I was not even qualified. The person who spent hours trying to give life to words was suddenly married to numbers … The marriage lasted for 1 year and 8 months and needless to say, it turned out like all the other marriages … Successful on the surface, Dead from within. Most marriages are transactional and so was this. Suits were replaced by deals and execution was considered backend. Investment banking was altogether different … My cuisine had changed but my palette had not. While it did give its share of grief and recognition, it taught me a thing or two about business … Business is always about bottomlines … Fullstop!! Clinch a deal for progress to seal … It taught me how to feel at home in an alien territory … I constructed an impenetrable wall and hence the opinions, the judgements and the ambience couldn’t reach me … It was this inaccessibility which made me perform and I became a named banker on 2 out of the 12 deals I had done in an year … I made inroads into real estate; stock exchanges; policy related work; evaluated bills and made presentations for RBI and SEBI to discuss the impact of their regulations on business. I for the first time could see the impact of regulations on business and it proved to be exciting since I could see how inherently incompatible law and business were. Amidst the madness, I remember opening new word files at god forsaken hours only to write … That was when I realized writing is therapeutic. It is like pooping … You feel empty and ready for more food (read experiences) after you have flushed out of your system, all that you wanted to … just that this time you aren’t just flushing toxins … With each typed word you feel closer to emptiness and yet completion … Once again (and for the first time) an interesting realization at a time when my only aim was to get the debt instrument listed in the shortest possible time. This was Mumbai of many firsts …
I received my first very medal (and hopefully, not the last) from the President of India … Yes. I had topped two consecutive batches of LL.M. While I had to go to Pune to participate in the ceremony, all I was looking forward to was meeting my friends … It is so strange that I didn’t wear the medal for more than 30 seconds and I have not even seen ever since … I must have visited Pune over 15 times since I received the medal and not once did I ask my in laws to show it to me … This coldness towards my own achievement made me realise that I value relationships far more than metals and medals. Such insight killed in me the need to prove to myself to the world … No matter where you reach in life, you will always feel overtaken by someone who in your opinion deserves less than you and therein lies the seed of unhappiness … It was this insight which unearthed the seed of self-love coated in the shell of success. I for the first time could separate self-love and self-loathing (as the case may be) from accomplishments … This was Mumbai of many firsts …
I had never lived alone before this … I mean really alone … Without being anyone around to come home to … And I once again realized … How peaceful empty houses can be and that I am happiest in my own company. For me 1 is company and 2 is crowd … Yes, I was more self-sufficient than I had ever imagined myself to be. I didn’t really need anyone to live with nor did I want anyone to live with me for my idiosyncrasies … I OCD on cleanliness and order; I hate TV and noise of any kind around me; I prefer keeping the lights switched off and I love reading more than anything else. Reading is probably the only activity I would look forward to after a hard day at work. With time, I discovered my love for watching programs and shows made by BBC in 1960s and 1970s. I saw myself being drawn to shows with strong storylines with history and culture playing dominant roles in my selection. Language excited me and so did anthropology and sociology … Television series such as “Rome”; “Emma”; “Jane Eyre”; “Anna Karenina”; “War and Peace” enthralled me … I found love for classics and I often enjoyed watching and reading the same simultaneously. It often occurred to me that my selection of law and investment banking as a profession was merely guided by the definition of success indoctrinated so deep in me. Given a choice, I would have gone back in time, studied History Hons from St. Stephens; pursued Masters in International Relations from JNU and taught somewhere along with taking up writing on the side. I would have fought for causes I truly believed in … Would have never gotten married and would have remained single all my life … I would have adopted a baby girl and lived somewhere on campus in the hills (campus accommodations and hills fascinate me the most) and would have studied as long as I wanted to … This existence of an alternative reality in me was first revealed to me when I had received a congratulatory email from none other than the Chairman of National Highway Authority of ý for the magnificent work done by me on their 10,000 crore public issue. I should have been elated after the mail … But I felt sad. When I could do well in a profession which I neither like nor am passionate about, what all could I have accomplished in a profession of my choice … was the stark realization I had to battle against. It was this battle which tired me … I fought and fought and fought some more … The only martyrs in this battle being my skin, my hair and my body … Yes. I have been blessed with a supple, blemish and acne free skin and long black hair … Both were the first ones to die in this battle. I had started greying at 31 and my under the veil of pimples there wasn’t much skin left. I was on the verge of losing in my battle and I could only see anger winning … For the first time … My skin, my hair and my body refused to pump life into an otherwise malnourished soul … This was Mumbai of many firsts …
I have never considered myself an animal lover … My feelings towards pets could at best be described as “ambivalent” … The thought of having an animal in my house which will dirty the place, shed hair and would require potty training … scared me. When Jesus (my snooty Persian) first came into our house, she fitted in my palm … She meowed non-stop, was a sick child and needed mothering … Initially, I was reluctant on having her in the house … I couldn’t tolerate her presence and I got a bad spasm in my back when I was shooing her away from the bathroom. But when Ravisha was about to leave for Liberia and she discussed her adoption (the only alternative being putting her to rest) I couldn’t imagine my home without Jesus. She became my project. She had to live … at all costs, under any circumstances. I couldn’t lose her. She became a child I couldn’t carry and deliver. She became and continues to be my life. My life and its decisions now revolve around her comfort and I cannot bear separation from Jesus. Given her health, I know she will not live long … While I am prepared for her death, I want to ensure that her life is painless and comfortable and that she is never deprived of love again. For the very first time … Someone who isn’t immediate family became more important (at times) than immediate and acquired family … Jesus you will always be my first child … This was Mumbai of many firsts …
I am someone who gets drawn to luxury and grandeur like no one else I know … I love eating out; I enjoy my glass of Chardonnay and I absolutely adore doing it all … ALONE!! Mumbai offers you the anonymity where you can do all that and much more … Given the introvert that I couldn’t make friends initially and Ravisha’s schedule never really permitted her to step out with me … We lived together but we worked in different time zones … Her work began at when mine was nearing end. The vagaries of our respective professions, pushed me to explore the city myself … This awakened the explorer in me and here I was trying every possible restaurant and bar on my own … Plays and musicals and readings … Way back in college, I had always envied those who could afford to go for such events … But this time around I had the power and the opportunity to do it for myself … For the first time, I regretted not giving theatre an honest attempt … I could have been a theatre artist or a script writer or could have been a designer … But then … The conventions don’t let you convince yourself that you are capable of doing the unconventional … However, I for the first time yearned to do the break the convention … This was Mumbai of many firsts …
Mumbai was painful yet worth it … It changed me in a manner no other experience has been able to … I don’t think I will ever stop my child from being a guitarist neither will I raise an eyebrow in the event he or she is a homosexual … I will be perfectly at peace with a kid who doesn’t wish to study and I shall never ever look at marks as a measure of present intelligence and guarantee for future success. I have been a topper all through out and I have always felt like a failure all my life … To study is important; to score isn’t. Education is a tool to realise your true self and not to fetch degrees which don’t mean much when one chooses to look at life in an all- encompassing manner … I have changed for good and I hope for good.
Now that I am going back to Delhi (Well, I remember that city with a lot of fondness and I hope I experience the warmth I am used to) I am apprehensive for this woman no longer remembers how to survive in Delhi … The know-how, the skill set required to survive Delhi is diametrically opposite to the skill-set you require in Mumbai. Autos and cabs plying by meter; stepping out at 2 am without thinking twice; professionalism; integrity and gender neutrality … well Mumbai spoils you. I can no longer get scared of stepping out at all hours … I will never care to ask “Bhaiya kitna loge” before stepping into an auto … I will take the word of the carpenter or the plumber or the electrician when he tells me … Didi sham ko 5 baje aaunga … I will believe them when they will offer such assurances … I will still hate all those stood up for themselves when I couldn’t … I will still expect things to be accomplished in the shortest possible time … I will still expect restaurants to deliver food at 12 midnight … I will continue to be all that and much more … It will take a while for me to go back to being a Delhi girl in action … But not in thought … In thought I am a Mumbai chi Mulgi … And your Sugarsatchet!!

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing Sugarsatchet, I feel and understand your Passion, your Message shows a very feeling and caring woman.

    I had been Bulimic for many years as a Teenager and as a young adult and yes I have done much damage to my Body but my need to be accepted was very great. After loosing my weight at a Share group, I was asked by the Health Department who organized them to be a Leader for their groups and was trained by them but decided to help woman who could not afford the well known weight control groups including Share but they still supported me.

    I ran Christian Weight Control Classes for 20 years in Sydney, I had 7 Leaders and many Woman over those years learnt to accept themselves as they were before they moved on to better heath, I had lost 50kg and kept it off until I became more disabled and my walking was restricted, so now with having no exercise I have put some weight back on but I feel at peace.

    How can anyone claim they are better then someone else because of their skin color or lack of it, it is a failing and comes from those who have limited heart vision and so can only see the outward things and they allow their own evil fleshy thoughts and feelings to influence them and hurt others.

    God does not see the color of someone’s skin as important Sugarsatchet, He is color blind, He looks at the heart.

    We all have Melanin in our skin pigmentation and a few things determine what degree of color results but God chose for there to be differences and we know everything He created was good and for a good reason, so who are we to tell Him He got it wrong.

    I can honestly say there is no human being I dislike to any degree regardless of what their skin Color is. I have friends from all over the World but I don’t have to accept the wrong they do and say as I don’t accept it in myself.

    I was wondering Sugarsatchet why you don’t have a picture of yourself on your Blog as you are now at 150kg, is it because you still fear rejection or have you also accepted the package now thast Slims In? if so please read again what you shared and rejoice that you have overcome, hold your head up high, your a beautiful woman were it counts and that’s in your heart.

    Blessings – Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Freedomborn … First, I absolutely love your name. It shows that caged within this human body you have a free soul and that is in itself surreal. Second, you have to feel beautiful within to look beautiful outside. This world is a mirror which only reflects what you feel about yourself. I am so proud that you could knock of 50 kgs and could manage to stay that way. Trust me for most people, it is one herculean task. Pat yourself for being courageous and consistent.

    It is amazing how we love to pick up black when we have to select clothes but shun black people. Shows our double standards. I have always believed that so long our blood is red … it doesn’t matter which color your skin is. .. My facebook is full of my pictures … My facebook id is henaamallvaidya@gmail.com and the reason I have not uploaded my pictures on my blogs is because of security issues. I am so not ashamed of how I look … So long as my mom thinks that I am the most beautiful girl in the world and my husband loves me, nothing really matters!! I have struggled with my weight all my life and I still continue to struggle with it.

    I have a functional body and that’s all that matters.

    You please take care of your health and if and when you visit India, don’t forget to meet your soul sister (me) … Lots of love and tonnes of blessings!!

    Stay beautiful … from within!!

    Love Sugarsatchet

    Like

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