There and Here

Hello, world! Today I want to talk about the adaptability of human life. Seen from my lens.

What do I mean by this?

Well, I recently moved from a place where I lived for close to three years. And because I was there for three years, I had made more than a casual acquaintance with the people that lived and worked around there - apart from regular suspects like the neighbors, the residents, I also made got to know the people that worked there - you know, the security staff, the Starbucks Baristas, the grocery guy, the chemist and so on and so forth. After all, we are but social creatures.

So when I was making the decision to move from there to a new place, far away, one big criterion was this proximity to familiarity. I mean I was like, I'd have to do a lot of work to find new connections, get familiar with people, find my permanent place at the coffee shops, etc.

Now, its been about 15 days since I made the move. And you know what? I don't miss the people or the place that I left behind. In fact, I am enjoying the new place. Not the house or space per se. But the locality that I've moved to. There is this sense of familiarity (after all we are in Mumbai, India) and there is this newness. The way it is with a new fling.

Plus, I am walking a lot more. I am seeing new people. Doing things that I would (and could) never do previously. And I think, more than anything else, Andheri is a lot more... for the want of a better word, real!

I mean the place I lived at before this (Wadhwa) and the place I hung out most often (Powai), people everyone had such perfect and rosy lives that it was unbelievable. I would feel out of place. You know, how those poor people are uncomfortable stepping into plush showrooms of luxury brands? That.

Here, in Andheri, I see people that are a lot more common folk. There is heat & dust, good & bad, gorgeous men & unfit women, wannabes & famous people, rich & poor and a lot more. There is more, how do I say, heterogeny here.

Back there, everyone was the same - like a friend would say, each family had 2 cars, 2 kids, 2 houses, 2 perfect bodies, 2 hobbies apart from work, 2 club memberships, 2 pets, 2 relationships (in and out of home), etc. They were so perfect that even the oldies were fitter than most people I've known in my life. Plus the issues people had there were about which car to buy - Audi or BMW. No, not Merc. The conversations I would hear over the din of life were about which new restaurant to go to for brunch and if a 15-day holiday in Europe better than that in America. I would know of the movers and shakers in the corporate world. And which actor is sleeping with which.  I would not know about the dal roti ka bhao but I would know expensive the Kiwis and Avocados Avos are.

Since I have moved to Andheri, the things that I come across are people postulating about what moves the country and writers courting producers for scripts that they've taken 2 years to write and students pooling money to buy that one beer. People here are hustling hard to make ends meet. I now see those numerous idli-dosa stalls at 6 in the morning and a crowd of people jostling for space even when they can't afford that 20 rupee breakfast. The restaurants I goto, the laughter seems a little more unrestricted, little more unbridled. Compare it to the suaveness of conversations around a plate that has just a morsel of food on it, often called culinary delight and artisanal. Yes, there are rich people. Probably richer - the maids are expensive here. Yes, there are as many luxury cars as I saw at Wadhwa, may be more - the largest Audi showroom is right here.

But the thing is, people here have a spring in their step. Back there, life was more leisurely. You know, brunches were more common than struggle to schedule life around when the BMC would supply water - yes there are places that do not have 24 x 7 running water. And no, I am not talking about different strata of people. The same middle-class household around here is a lot more active than it was back there. May be that wasn't middle class and I am doing apples to oranges comparison? May be the Orange in me couldn't fit in with the stack of Apples there? May be that's why I don't miss things there?

Staying on this fruity comparison, here, I can smell the real world, you know the world with all its vagaries and gifts? Some people call it the smell of Mumbai that hits them when they open the doors of the plane! There, it was all organic diffusers and Body Mists (which I dint even know existed) and Chanel's No. 5.

Of course, a lot of things are still the same. There is the same harsh sun and magnanimous clouds. But there, the place had enough space to stare at the sky. Here, when you look up, you see buildings covering you and all you get is this sliver of blue. You know, how a bird must feel when it is still trapped in the egg in the cocoon!

In fact, when I was there, I'd tell this to a friend of mine often. That they lived in a cocoon. That thought has got a lot more reinforced after I moved here. That place was indeed a cocoon. Heck, the club there was called Club Cocoon!

Thing is, this sudden move from a place where I lived for three years, to this place where I am all of 15 days old, has opened my eyes. To things that I knew all my life but was never on the surface. I am wondering, the ones that move around a lot when they're growing up, they'd have such rich experiences and opinions. They'd make such brilliant storytellers! Damn! I am jealous! Yet another thing that I did not have. Maybe if I were there, I would be better. Or maybe I wouldn't even know that I ought to be better if I were there. This thing about them being better is in my head just because I am here. There. Here. There or here. There and here.

The mess in my head

I was not happy (Not unhappy. There's a difference between not happy and unhappy) over the last few days. I was not even content, not at peace - the default state I want to be in. I could not put a finger on what was stopping me from being that. And I tried real hard to figure out but failed at it. I mean I am the kind that can sleep well even when I know that the world around me is crumbling. Or when I know that the world around me is gifting me EVERYthing that I have ever desired.

But for the last few days, I haven't been sleeping well at all. To a point that I have this nagging, consistent, neverending mild headache. And of course, I am irritable. To a point that I am not talking straight to people that matter. And of course, I don't like this. I have to have a cordial relationship with people. There's nothing else that I care for more!

So, I continued with the investigation. I thought about everything that had changed in the last few days. And apart from the move to a new house, everything else seemed to be the same. The new house meant a new place, a new set of people that I'd nod at, a new Starbucks, a new neighborhood et at. What remained constant is the things I use at home, the clothes I wear, the food I ate, etc. 

Just that I did not have the wardrobes and almirahs to place my things inside. And the new house still has all those boxes littered in various rooms. The curtains are yet to come. I am yet to find a maid to do the cleaning. No, I cant clean by myself. I mean there are some million chores to be done before the house becomes livable again. But these things can't affect me.

Or can they?

I did everything I could to think of the reason and I almost tore whatever hair is left on my head.

I had no clue and was puzzled like hell about what was causing me discomfort. I was so frustrated and so angry that I threw my phone on a pile of clothes lying in one corner in the bedroom. And then after 10 microseconds, once I realized my mistake, I tried to search for the phone. The pile was so deep that it took me a while to locate the phone. And no, the screen did not break. And yes, I was wrong to have thrown my phone like that. As a kid, I would throw tantrums like this. I am way past that age now!

As I was hunting for the phone, the eureka moment happened for me. It dawned on me what was bothering me!

The mess in the house!
The untidiness.
The unorderliness.
All those boxes strewn all over the place.
All the dust that would rumble under the bare feet as you would walk.
That thin layer of dust on surfaces.
Dirty clothes that haven't been washed in a while.
No order to how to things were arranged.

Of course, all this is temporary. I've just moved to a new place and it will be up and running in a few days. This is just the transition phase.

But if I reflect and think back, all these transitions have always made me miserable. Maybe this is the reason that every house I move into, I don't like it? The dislike is not for the house per se but the mess that the movement accompanies! Fuck, epiphany! 

In fact, if I go back in time to when I was a kid, I used to hate it when my parents got the house painted. We'd pile all our things in one room and spend time there as the painters worked in other rooms. And then we'd move all those things in the rooms that had got painted and then painters worked that one room. This entire process would mean there's always mess and clutter and movement and all that.

I could not stand the mess back then. I can't stand the mess now.

I like open spaces (which are of course hard to come by in Mumbai). I like cleanliness. I like order. And at the age I am at, I am averse to any change per se (and yes I want to learn and experience new things). And this moving houses is not just my cup of tea. Yes, I am all for living in new places. In fact #in2020, I will live in a new country. But the process of movement is not my scene. 

When I say I want order and cleanliness, I don't want to live in a fancy hotel room where everything is measured and placed at just the right place to add to aesthetic or comfort. Neither do I want to be a snob that will only like expensive, fancy things.

And no, I am not a sucker for familiarity. I just was cleanliness and order. You know, books arranged from shortest to tallest, containers stacked neatly, bed aligned in straight lines with other furniture, etc, etc. Long-time back, there was this ad where the guy would want absolutely round rotis and want to clip each stand in his beard to the same length. Don't remember what was the ad. But I am that guy! 

Anyhow. So, now I know what moving houses does to me, I need to list some lessons that I need to use when I move next. Here's a list...

Lessons for myself?

1. Never take a house in a standalone building. Even if you have to pay a premium and you'd never ever use the facilities, take a house in a complex that has well-maintained amenities (like a swimming pool, a gym, etc).

2. When you are moving houses, before the house is settled and is up and running, stay in a hotel. Or crash at a friend's place.

3. Pay extra for the movers and get a professional service. They would pack things well and handle stuff with care. Each time I have moved, movers have done a shoddy job with things. And I can't handle incompetence.

4. ALWAYS insist on a semi-furnished house. Semi means wardrobes and appliances. Not furnishing.  Never ever furnishings. They typically are worn and shitty. It's ok to pay extra to avoid the heard-burn.

5. Reduce the number of things I own. I assumed that I have very few things but when I moved houses, I have some 20 boxes full of things. Books would be about 2 of those. But rest, I had no clue! With time, I will reduce things that I own. And now that my clothes are gone, I am gonna be very careful about buying new ones. I bought 4 shirts yesterday. I plan to buy 2 black shirts and that's that for the next entire year.

6. Money is a tool that allows you to feel better and live better. If I could spend more money this time, I would've fixed all of the above. Honestly, I may not - I did not know these things myself. But next time, I will!


And that's about it.

I hope next time I move, it is better.

I hope that now I know what had fucked my head, I would be a little more tolerable to people. And no the Mercury had nothing to do with this :D

#untitled - 111119 (on Andheri)

I don't know what to write. There is a lot to be done - both in terms of what people expect from me (reverts, etc) and what I expect from myself (proactive work). But I am not in the frame to do either. Well, the frame is a funny thing. On one hand, you want to make your mood your bitch and get it to act as and when you want it to function. And on the other, you want to succumb to the vagaries of mood and give in. After all, that is what being human is. No? Anyhow. Here we go. 

So, I've just moved to a new locality within Mumbai (Andheri West). Even though I have been on and off in Mumbai since 2007, this is the first time that I am living in this part. The first time when I was here, I lived in Santa Cruz. Then I was in Nahar (Chandivali), Bandra, and Ghatkopar. Never in Andheri. I don't know why. Thing is, my choice of houses has always depended on proximity to work and to friends. There's no third leg. I've always sought familiarity and convenience over everything else. And that has meant that a lot of things that you would expect when you change a house haven't happened to me. The best example? Hunt for a maid! Every time I have moved because I have been close to a friend or something, I've had references. If I am in trouble, most times, someone is a hop, skip or a jump away.

Not this time.

The place where I have moved to, I don't know anyone. The only thing familiar is an McD, about 500 meters from my place. And a Starbucks about a KM from my place. And because these places are close by, since I've moved here (about 2 days now), I am walking over. And walking a lot in general.

These walks are reminding me of the time I've spent in unfamiliar locations in new cities in strange countries. Just that I don't have Dipanker next to me. And I don't have an event that I am supposed to execute. But everything else is the same. New place. New experiences. New things to ogle at. New questions. And the quest to find new answers. As I walk in these new lanes, I marvel at the sights and sounds and smells and people around me. Yes, they are Indian, as Indian as you get. But there is something about the place that is different from all the other places that I have lived in Mumbai. Oh, that's the thing about Mumbai. Each pincode offers you a distinct flavor of life.

Ghatkopar is upper-middle class Gujju. That means, "modern outlook with traditional values" and other things like that. Could also mean nouveau riche but you never know. May be they were rich even back then when Ghatkopar was not what is it today? 

Powai is expats and expat kinds. That means people who have fancy jobs that allow them fancy lifestyles. The kinds they would have in a different country. You know, cobbled streets, running clubs, gardens et at.

Bandra is cool and modern. That means that any new revolution, a new spark would first get ignited at Bandra and then spread to other parts. I think if you traced back the origins of Avocados, Keto, Kombucha and other such things, you'd end up in one of the tiny lanes in Bandra.

Andheri, ladies and gents is what the maya nagri is all about. The city of dreams. The city that never sleeps. Where everything is possible. You could be hoping to land a job at a radio station and you can become the biggest superstar the world has seen. You could be beach-hopping searching for the love of your life and you'd find her on the very last beach of that day. And then you'd conquer the Bollywood. You could sleep on the floor of cafes for years and then catapult to stardom overnight. You know, this where you could be that bhagwaan in an instant. Your greatest success is just an accident away. And from whatever I know, accidents routinely happen around here. In fact, I think one ought to pick the place they live at, things they do to maximize the number of unplanned interactions with others in the same interest areas. You want to be an actor? Live in Andheri. Want to be a painter? Bandra. A start-up? Powai!

Coming back. Everything written about the magic of Mumbai, I suspect, is applicable to Andheri. Charm could be Bandra. Heritage could be Colaba. Fashion could be Bandra. But Magic has to be Andheri. And nothing else.

Now, I am just about 2 days old here, a tad delirious (I haven't been sleeping well - there's no AC at home) and little lost (people are still unfamiliar). I will explore more in the next few days. Let's see if I can discover what makes Andheri this unique melting pot like no other. In Mumbai. Or may be in India.

Till then, over and out!

Oh, one more thing. Should you have stories that you think are uniquely Andheri, please do share those with me. I am at @saurabh.

PS. The biggest superstar does not live in Andheri. But his life, his story must've inspired a disproportionately large chunk of men and women and others to move to Mumbai, to Andheri. Hoping they'd get a step closer to their dreams. 

PPS. This move to Andheri is unique for me because this is the first time I am not doing it for my work or for a friend. Something in me had rebelled against I don't know what and I wanted to sort of restart my life from scratch. This move is the closest that I could do to erase, undo, delete my previous life. No, I can't stop with C4E or AWSL. No, I can't hit that reset button. But I can start. You know, today's the first day of the rest of your life? That. Ok. I don't even know what I am talking about. Over and out. Do lemme know what you think of this piece. 

Black Swan + Black Shirts

So I want to be a minimalist and I don't want to own a lot of things. I mean all I own is a TV, a writing table, a bookshelf, 300 or so books, two luggage bags, a guitar, a uke, 10 odd shirts (most of them black or blue), 1 pair of denims, too many undergarments, 2-3 pair of shoes, some paintings (art), a lot of paper and one small box of trinkets that have an emotional value. I also have some pass-me-downs from my sis that she left behind when she moved away from Mumbai (kitchen utensils etc). Wow, this is a lot! Need to reduce. 

Apart from this reluctance to own things, I don't want to do any chores either. This means that I outsource everything. Including grocery, cooking, cleaning, ironing, follow-ups and all that. And I've tried to automate most things. My food comes by itself. My house gets cleaned every day at 5 PM. I drop my clothes at a security guard and they come back ironed. So on and so forth. 

Why would I do this? I want to minimize decisions and make life simple.

Now, coming to the story. 
So, a few days before Diwali, I followed my routine and left a bunch of clothes to be ironed at the regular place, with the regular security guard, with the regular instructions to hand over these to the regular ironing guy. 

When the clothes did not come back for a few days, I chased the regular ironing guy and he said he never took them! 

I then I spoke to the regular security guard and he said he's not aware which ironing guy took my clothes as he was away (on a break or something) when the ironing guy took those clothes away. 

I thought about it for a bit, was worried for a bit but then got busy with impending travel to Delhi. And thus forgot about it. Actually, I did not forget. I just conveniently ignored it. 

Once I came back from Delhi, after about 7 days, I realized that the clothes were still not back. And that bunch of clothes that I gave for ironing had ALL the shirts that I own! Not that I own a lot of shirts - I think about 8 or 9. 

But the point is, they were all the shirts I own. Including the ones, I wear in the office, on events, on dates, at functions, on important meetings, etc, etc. 

And all of them were now missing.

Suddenly, I was shirtless! You know, not a shirt on my back. 

I tried to investigate and spoke to multiple security guards and multiple ironing men. But no one seemed to have any answers. The shirts had just disappeared. Out of trace. Without any clue. Something like that had never happened to me. You know, I am generally careful and don't lose things. That's a different matter that on this trip to Delhi, I lost my travel-pillow. 

I was perplexed and I did not what to do. 

Till I saw this message from VG, who lives in the same apartment complex. 

So there! 

Phew! Loss. Closure. 

You know, to this to happen, how many coincidences had to happen at the same time? I had to give all my shirts (which is not the case most times) for ironing. It had to be the wrong guard on duty (because the regular guard would know my regular ironing person). It had to be the wrong ironing guy that picked my clothes. The ironing guy had to forget a bunch of clothes at the wrong place for someone else to pick them up. My clothes had to be in that bunch of 20 flats. Then, someone else had to pick up old clothes at the exact same time! Black Swan? 

And the worst part? I would've never found what happened to my clothes, if not for VG and his super-connectedness. I would've always wondered about the mystery of the lost clothes! Now that I know, I am at peace. Closure is good! 

So what does this mean?
Three things. 

1. My shirts are being used by someone who needs them more than I do. So, yay to that! 

2. I will have to buy new shirts. Which is a good thing again. Because I can buy just three and try to live my life in those three. Could be tough but let's try! 

3. I realized that I am not emotionally attached to my clothes. I did not feel even a tinge of sadness. Though, I am bugged at the thought of spending time shopping for shirts. I am bugged at the idea of spending money. But that's it. I am not bugged about losing my favorite shirt that makes me look thinner. I am not sorry about losing the shirt that a friend gifted. Heck, I don't even remember the designs or patterns that I owned! I am not bugged that this minimalism and automation has cost me a wardrobe - you can never control Black Swan events. 

So yeah, that's it! How is your November going?

PS: Anyone wants to gift me any shirts? 

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

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