The Internet Personified: The Wilderness Years
Living in the past is really the only living I am doing these days
Hello my persistent little yaks,
It’s been a long time since I wrote. (I feel like eventually all bloggers/newsletter writers will write that sentence: it’s been a long time since I updated this thing! Here’s what’s been up with me followed by three paragraphs of catching you up on their lives, even sadder if it was a blog no one visited, like a party you throw where no one comes.) (Is it sadder to have a party where literally zero people attend or a party where you’ve invited twenty people and only two people show up and not even two people you’re particularly close to, these are maybe co-workers or that guy you met at a different party who seemed sort of cool but you don’t know him well enough to sit across from him all night and make chit-chat while behind you, your dining table heaving with food and drink, just sort of hangs out like the elephant in the room?) Woof. That was a digression! Anyhow, I have not been particularly occupied one way or the other. My interminable book edits continue. I’m in a reading slump. I’m watching The Wire for the first time and it is everything that was promised.
The funny thing is, even though The Wire is relatively new to my life, I’ve already had one dream about wire-tapping but I have had exactly zero dreams about this pandemic we’re all living through. None of my dreams feature masks or social distancing, we’re all just going about our lives, touching and being crowded together in public transport. I think it’s telling that a TV show has apparently reached into my subconscious and needs to be processed and apparently, COVID needs no processing at all. (My spellcheck is putting a curly red line under COVID, which makes me wonder how long before it is an official word recognised by dictionaries.)
And winter is making its presence felt here in Delhi, we went from air conditioning to fans off in just ten days. Another season given over to pandemic living. Remember when we thought this was going to be over by September? Hah. Anyway, obviously since the present is more of “sat at home and thought about things” mixed with a little “I leave my house in great excitement to sit at a friend’s house and think about things” obviously I have taken to thinking about the past. Stories flash in and out of my head, and I walk through my memories like I’m a time traveller, watching from a distance. It’s not just glimpses of memory, I’m reliving time like I never have before. In my thoughts I am standing at the doorway of a long ago room, looking in, and then I arrange all the furniture so it’s exactly how it was when I was there, and then I go through my rememberances like prayer beads, holding each one for a moment between my fingers and then letting them go to fall into place. Do you do this too?
One of the eras of my life I’ve been thinking about a lot is moving to Bombay. Did I ever tell you I lived there? For four formative years, I lived and worked in Bandra—first the East and then the West. I was so Bombay that I let go of all my Delhiness easily, like a snake shedding off their skin. I was immersed in Bombay things, in Bombay people (mostly immigrants like me), in the Bombay life. I didn’t take anything of my old self with me, it seemed like nothing I had had in Delhi for the 25 years I lived there prior stayed.
I don’t know whether you can make that sort of move, the Snake Shedding Its Skin move more than once in your life. You have to be in a place where you’re ready to give over everything, everything to the present. No looking back, no reliving your past. It feels like those years were lived in hectic living in the moment vibes that exhaust me if I think about them now, but in Bombay I floated like a dandelion in the breeze from one friend group to another, from one unsuitable man to the next.
I guess what I remember most is travelling, sitting in a local train or a rickshaw or a cab, sitting next to people usually, it’s so humid outside and we’re too cheap to spring for a Cool Cab, which is what they called the air conditioned ones, they were painted blue. This was before Uber, before Tinder, before Zomato, before any of those things that you now can’t imagine your life without. How did I meet people? I went to bars, particularly this one bar called Zenzi, which was painted orange and had these Chinese noodle boxes they served to you in takeaway cardboard and also wasabi mayo fries. All this sounds like I had a lot of money, and actually, no, I have never been poorer. I lived on love, some parental handouts, some columns I did, royalty statements from You Are Here which came out while I was in Bombay, and the kindness of my salaried friends who bought me a drink whenever they could or whenever I could freeload off them.
Funnily enough, I also remember myself as being vividly unhappy. I must have been, otherwise why would I keep choosing such toxic men? Every single man I met, I decided to fall in like with (love is a strong word, and I only thought I loved two of them) and then I was deeply disappointed when they turned out to be commitmentphobic or full of emotional issues. One refused to tell me his last name, can you believe it? I only found out when I saw a boarding pass in his apartment. He also cheated on me eventually, after flying down to Delhi to attend my bestie’s wedding, which means he lives on in her wedding album. If you’re in a relationship you suspect will not last and you’re considering taking him or her to a wedding with you, DO NOT. You will live to regret it over a decade later. One was very nice, but our relationship had a time limit because he was going off to do an MBA (plus, his folks were super conservative and he couldn’t tell them he ever dated me). One I was only hooking up with out of boredom, because I had no one else to pine after that month and I was addicted to the drama by then. One I was engaged to be married to, and burnt me out and sent me running back to Delhi, but I don’t want to think about those years with him.
Bandra East was nice. My friend chose it, he was moving to Bombay and I had gone to his farewell party and I was like, “Oh I wish I was moving to Bombay” and he said, “Come” so I went with a suitcase, and we shared a flat and I adopted a kitten because I was so homesick, an impulse decision that led me to the wonderful world of cat ownership. (I’d always had dogs up until then.) It was a quiet neighbourhood, called MIG Colony, which stands for Middle Income Group, and the flats were only two floors high, very government quarters. Bal Thackeray lived down the road, so I always used to joke that I was safer than I was anywhere else in Bombay because the Shiv Sena wouldn’t burn down their own neighbourhood. (And now the Shiv Sena is… liberal? What a strange world we live in.) It was ridiculously quiet after nine pm, there was no home delivery except for two sea food restaurants which I did not appreciate because at the time I was going through a fish aversion, yes, of my four years in Bombay, I spent three years eating bony mutton and stringy chicken. Whenever I had to get home from somewhere else, I had to trick the taxi/rickshaw driver into it. I’d say somewhere else and then halfway through, I’d be like, “Oh actually, can you make it Bandra East?”
And then I met this chap, you know the one I decided eventually to marry, not out of love, oh no, but because by the time he proposed I was like, “Might as well.” MIGHT AS WELL. My god. And we decided to get a flat together in Bandra West, the posh bit and you guys. I loved that flat so much. I would not change a thing about it. It was on Perry Road, right before the turn to Carter Road. It was a large one bedroom fourth floor walk up and it was amazing. It only cost 24k a month which even back then was ridiculously low rent. And this chap, this guy I wanted to make a life with (whyyyyyy) was away half the year in the UK where he was from for visa or whatever reasons, so really, I basically lived alone on half the rent. It was in this flat that I had a small drinks party to which I invited K, because we were sort of friends by then, and K and this other fellow actually met and hung out and thinking about that is so weird. I wish I remembered more of that evening, but you never know when something is significant at the moment, do you? You never say, “Oh look, here’s an interaction with my future husband meeting my future ex boyfriend!”(Actually maybe that situation is super specific to me, but please let me know if this is your life too.)
I feel like my Bombay years were the first time I felt like a proper young grown up. I mean, I’d been living alone in Delhi since I was 21, so flat sharing and so on wasn’t new to me. It’s just that Delhi depended so much on who would drop you home, being safe, being careful, blah blah blah and suddenly, here I was, walking home at two in the morning or just jumping in an auto whenever I was done with a scene, wearing whatever I wanted to wear and being whoever I wanted to be. That’s probably how I met so many different people, Bombay back then was what someone described as Dubai International Airport, a revolving door of people, and only a few of us stalwarts there year after year. Every week, almost, there’d be a goodbye party, and at that party, you’d meet someone who had just moved. One of my favourite stories about Bombay is at one of these parties where I met a guy who had just arrived two days prior from London and I smiled and said the usual things and he gripped my wrist and said, “What have I done?”
Also, I think it made a difference that all but one of my friends was living away from their parents. No one had parents in the city and that made us this young pack, I guess. Free of adult influences. Unencumbered by opinions. I had originally planned to only stay for one year, but I was having such a good time, I stayed till the very end, when the host has started to pick up dirty glasses from around you and the sun is pushing its way through a grubby dawn sky.
Always leave a party when you’re having fun.
Links I Liked On The World Wide Web:
I wrote this list for Voice of Fashion about ten exciting Indian books that have come out in the last six months.
THIS STORY IS ADORABLE. A chipmunk restaurant!
TL;DR of this funny story: do not put your boarding pass on Instagram.
Here’s how it feels to be an extrovert. (Which it turns out, I am, despite thinking I was an introvert all this while.)
Watching bad TV at the end of the world.
Why Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t always the answer.
All about Reddit’s Am I The Asshole subreddit.
And related! Some tweets I tweeted about AITA (click through to see the whole thread.)
Have a great week! I miss you when we don’t talk for a while.
Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.
Who are you?Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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