Alone at last....almost

I'm back in Mumbai, in the chaos and hustle bustle of day-to-day life. The sheer number of people who call the city their home is mind-boggling. Every square inch is filled with crowds, noise, and more people. And yes in the midst of all the commotion, our mind seeks solace. It looks for some peace, a getaway. One could call it a secret spot. As a little kid, my biggest thrill was on discovering a secret spot. I assumed that no one knew about the place and then I would show it off to my friends. Kids have terrific imagination levels. The secret spot would fit easily with my imaginary friends (pixies and elves), and real ones too.

As I grew up, the city seemed to be shrinking more and more. It was difficult to even walk by myself in a fairly isolated part of Juhu beach, without someone stopping me to sell something, or an urchin begging for money. I would bump into intimate couple looking for privacy. Now, it seems as if this city of Bombay doesn't have those secret spots anymore. I need them for some peace and solitude. I enjoy 'me' time, during which I introspect or do nothing.

Now for my little secret---I talk to myself. At times, I'm unaware of this. If I'm looking for a solution to a problem, I weigh the options by talking to myself. I'm sure this would look very funny in public. So very often, my hideaway is the toilet. I often fancy myself sitting in a car and driving on a road without any destination. I enjoy such drives with the song, "Bawra Mann" playing on the car stereo. But the ever-increasing cars on roads and pollution..and of course, the escalating fuel prices, have killed the joy of those simple soul-searching drives.

One night, Neeraj and I accidentally discovered a spot to beat all hideouts. There is this road that leads to the Juhu beach, and comes to a dead-end after a while. One evening, we went for a walk to the beach and stumbled on this spot, which is hidden by shrubbery. It's at a slight elevation, so it opens to a view of the ocean and sand. No can see you easily there. On a full moon night, the reflection of the moon in the water is magnificient.

I experience this kind of peace when I went there in 2004. It was a place to cleanse my mind, do some soul-searching and talk to myself. At times, I could see the stars shining clearly in the dark open skies. Solitude in the midst of the city commotion seems like heaven. The last time I went with there with Neeraj, the shrubbery had been cut, the elevation had been flattened and it was exposed to the world. An ugly structure stood there now. The incident prompted to look out for new places to find solitude and thankfully, I found solitude in a quiet bylane of Chembur which was a one-way street without much traffic.

A poet once wrote, "I hide while being in plin sight...I hide in me, with all my the doing sometimes is the best hiding place."


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