I have a busy but productive day at work. I spend some time sitting quietly at my desk and editing, which always relaxes me. I have lunch with office friends, and we eagerly polish off the chicken the Guy had cooked. I go for a walk after lunch with a colleague, and it is a lovely sunny, breezy day, and I almost skip down the footpath.
I work with colleagues who have become friends, and we discuss and take on work and even argue good-naturedly. I leave work at a reasonable time -- though it would have seemed unreasonably early to me just a couple of years ago to stop working before 7.
I had RSVP'ed to a free event. I take a taxi — one of Bombay's ubiquitous kaali peelis — and face less traffic than usual. I get to the mall where the event is to be, get my pass, then walk around, shop a bit, buy myself a bit of food and walk into the enclosure for the open-air event. There are very few people there yet, so I seat myself on the second row and eat and drank as I read on my phone.
The performance starts nearly half hour late, but we are served free wine! I chat briefly with the woman who sits next to me.
It's a production of Twelfth Night with music and dance and even a sort of juggling act. The cast members run through the audience and interact with us; in fact, at the beginning of the play, Viola asks audience members to lend her a jacket and cap which she then wears through the performance.
It's fun, though I don't quite enjoy every moment. Afterwards, I walk out and wait on the street till I can get a taxi to take me home. It's nearly 11 when I get home, just a ten minute ride.
But all of these pleasures are due to Bombay: the weather, the ease of getting a taxi with an usually very polite driver, the colleague-friends at work, the opportunity to go to world-class events (some of them free!) without inconveniencing myself, and most of all... Most of all, being able to easily go out alone! at night! for fun!
The last time I was alone in public much was when I was in college, and then I used to get home before 6 every evening (or my parents would be thinking of a search party). I've never had this freedom, these choices, this life. I know a lot of it is due to my privilege, but I can't imagine having this in any other city in India. (If I'm wrong, do correct me — I'd love to know.)
It's been over two years in this city, and I've been harassed on the street just once (after I crossed the two year mark). It was in an area I rarely frequent, and I am pretty sure my part of town is much nicer, in all the ways I've documented above, than much of Mumbai. (I say this not to gloat but again acknowledge my luck and privilege.)
But thank you, Bombay, for finally pulling me in and letting me call you home.