As I was moving to a new city, I wondered and was overwhelmed by the thought of how would I remember a city that I lived in for a long time and what memories or souvenirs of the city I would take back. Would it be the people? The roads that you have taken trips on? The delightful gastronomic experiences? The popular spots and places that the usual tourist come looking for? Or would it be the skyline and the buildings?
My last few days in Madras were spent looking, observing and reliving my favourite parts of the city with people who have turned it into a home for me. As I was doing my last’s - drives, trips and dinners - I remember how I drove on Kamarajar Salai, looking at buildings in red on one side and taking in the sea breeze on the other, thinking about how joyous a sailor or a visitor of the colony in the early 1800s and 1900s must have felt, taking in the skyline, the mighty buildings describing in volume and style the power that the colonisers once had. Today the arches talk to us about the volumes of power the present government has. While I admired the Indo-saracenic red, the domes and the monumental structures, the thought that kept playing in my mind is whether the city that I would soon move into give me the same joy?
As I drove down further, I remembered the various conversations I have had about this junction of Santhome High Road and Kamarajar Salai and its frames with Ashmitha (my friend and then colleague), how that skyline never fails to give me a sense of ease and comfort. I let myself drive through Santhome High Road with a lot of nostalgic thoughts and concluded that maybe for me, it would be the experiences, the spaces between the built and the unbuilt, the voids between the existent and the non-existent, the stories that are passed and the stories that are in progress that I would carry from this city that I have lived in for long.
I moved to Bombay a bit overwhelmed. Though it was a city where I have lived, on the way home, I looked at buildings - some known, some new, - the people, eateries and the roads. Ah, the mighty buildings just like some in Kamaajar Salai and Rajaji Salai and the busy roads (like in every city!) made me feel at ease and recognise the joy of having the opportunity to explore and live in a city that has been home to many in my family. As I admired it, I thought to myself “how similar are cities and their functioning” and wondered if these similarities are because of the way things have panned out in the past.
As I sit across a stretch of Marine Drive trying to catch a glimpse of all the amazing structures around, I find myself admiring the skyline of the city that is always evolving and constantly busy. Today, with the sea on one side and the skyscrapers on the other, the streetlights and the Art Deco buildings adorning the skyline of Mumbai, I find myself in the shoes of a sailor/ visitor being fascinated with the skyline of this city and the experiences that await.