The first thing that hits you when you land here is the smell.

It hangs heavy in the air, wrapping round you with every step you take further in. If it was a person, it would be a late-middle-aged man sitting by a beach, slumped in his unwashed and crumpled shorts, sweating out the cheap rum he's been investigating so intently. The little cooling machines that are planted around only help to make it swirl around even more, chasing you as you try to hurry your way through bored gazes and hustling chancers.

You might be tempted to think it's caused by a mixture of the carpets in this airport and the high humidity, or by the sprawling labyrinth that houses so many thousands nearby. But if you breathe in really deep and let it percolate through your little passageways, you will feel the undercurrent of brine, floating in from all the nearby edges of this little jut of land.

It all floats in - the everpresent threat of malaria from the marshy waters in the undeveloped open grounds, the decades of untreated toxicity from the creek that used to define where the suburbs began, the stupidity of drowning bodies in the shifting sandy beaches to the north-west, and even the smug satisfaction of the ever-powered promenades to the south.

This is not the smell of the city.

This is the smell of what it fought so hard with to become this city, and what it now woos so fervently in order to stay alive. This is the smell of patient and unavenged wrath, waiting to reverse the centuries of desecration and drown this impertinent invader under the weight of its own plastic and broken statues and shit. This smell is a reminder of all the years you were buoyed by all that it contains, and of how you can never escape it, run away though you might.

Welcome to Bombay.


Shefaly said...

Your opening line made the last line redundant but nice treatment in the middle :-)

Mudra said...

Love it. :)

??! said...

Ahoy there! Been a while. Blogslow bug hit you too?


Shefaly said...

Not quite. I was in India in Dec and then migrated blog(s) to one unified address. Come visit!

brinda said...

Nice! May you go to Bombay more often if this is what results...