Sometimes experience takes away your innocence. And for me, it was last summer that completely changed my perspective on life. I've always wanted to live in the city, by that I mean - live in a metro city. Even though people call Goa a city, Goa isn't a city - Goa is an entire state. The only city in Goa is -Panjim- and well, that's not really a city to me. I mean yeah, it's cool - it has a mall, has a multiplex, has some cool restaurants, pubs and cafes... but well, I it isn't a big city - like say - Bombay (no, not Mumbai), Delhi, Bangalore or Calcutta (no, not Kolkata).
Visiting cities isn't my thing. I wanted to stay in the city, experience life in the city and know what it feels like being a city girl. And it happened last summer - I mean - I made it happen last summer. My parents - like every Indian parent - are doting and loving, and still assume I am a five year old. They do not believe I can survive if I am on my own. They have a point there considering I am always goofing up and getting into problems everywhere I go. If not getting into a problem, I either trip and fall when I walk or go and bang into a poll when I am busy daydreaming and walking looking everywhere else but the street. Or worse, bang into someone!
But nothing of that sort happened when I was in Bombay this one time. I had been to Bombay so many times, but this one time was different - I wasn't taking the cab everywhere or had someone to drive me around everywhere; I took the local, hopped into sharing autos and walked! I had vada pav and lassi instead of going to some fancy restaurant. I learnt to speak a bit of Hindi - even though I got mocked and teased for not knowing to string one sentence in Hindi for the first one week. Also I got teased for making attempts at speaking Marathi; which had two words of Marathi and the rest in Konkani and Hindi. But boy, was it fun?
How it began was, I started saving up for seven long months to survive a month in the city. I did some freelance work (writing, modeling, events, etc) during this time and tried to save a bit after spending most of it on eating out, buying clothes and going on small random trips! I wasn't even sure I wanted to do this. But from what I knew, this would be my only chance. Exams ended in April and I had to either stay back to complete my month long internship or go back home and complete it. Coming back to Goa and completing the internship was the safest choice, and that's what all my friends did, And I packed my bags, came to Goa.. and the very next evening hopped on a bus to Bombay.
I asked help from a film-maker friend to find me an internship in Bombay, I did not know anyone from the industry in Bombay, And he helped me with a contact of someone working with a particular channel. Even though she had switched jobs, she was still working in Television, and co-incidentally, she was looking for interns, so she happily obliged to get me on board. When I asked for a briefing, I wasn't told anything. She just said, come to Bombay and give me a call. And that's what I did. I landed in Bombay at 9 a.m. and gave her a call, and I was summoned to office at 10.30 a.m. on an address she whatsapp'd me.
I have family in Bombay - so staying wasn't a problem. Cousins are spread everywhere around Dadar, Malad and Naigaon - so I knew I needn't find a hostel or PG. Day 1 was really happening. I quickly washed up, got ready and was ready to live at 9.45 a.m. And my cousin asked me where I am headed. He said he will drop me to the train station, which was actually just a ten minutes walk away. But I was happy to get a ride. On reaching Dadar station - to my disappointment - the queue at the ticket booth looked like the whole of Mumbai wanted a ticket to go somewhere from the Dadar station. I'd reach office only after lunch if I had to join the queue. So my cousin offered to drop me to office.
Thus began our ride on the busy Bombay roads - zooming past traffic jams and multiple signals. And half an hour later, I was outside the Fun Republic building. I did not waste any time wondering why I was standing in front of the commercial building and called up the woman who promised me an internship. I did as directed - rushed to the fifth floor and after convincing the security in my broken Hindi to let me in was greeted by two absolutely pretty girls wearing pretty clothes. At that moment I wanted to bury myself six feet below the ground. I was wearing formals, just because it was my first day. And when I entered office and was introduced to everyone I realised - no one wears formals here. Everyone wear chic casuals - including shorts and crops to office! Wowww!!!
Thus began my four weeks internship. In between hours at the computer and telephone, mini loo breaks and coffee breaks, sneaking out for street food and ice cream and trying to extend our lunch break for random talks, I made a lot of friends - friends who became an important part of my life! Even though we had a lot of work at times, we had a lot of fun, and the four weeks passed in a jiffy.
The after office journeys were the most fun. We'd literally struggled to find an auto to drop us to the station. It would be the busiest time of the evening and no riskhawalla would be willing to enter the traffic on Link Road. And after much convincing and cajoling, we'd squeeze into an auto and begin our not-so-long joueney which took way longer just because of the traffic. We'd all bid goodbye's at our platforms and go our own separate ways. I'd get into the crowded local train towards Dadar and spend my twenty minutes people watching and smiling at everyone random.
During the one month, I lost count of the number of times I got lost on the Mumbai streets. Getting into the wrong train, missing trains by just a few seconds and twisting ankles while jumping off the train had become an everyday thing. Trying to make my way out of the station from the over bridge always resulted in me getting lost. Trying to get into the crowded local and staying put until I reached my station was the most fun adventure of all times. Daily getting pushed and stamped upon to finally getting lifted in the air was an experience of a lifetime. And it was a lifestyle - for that month. And every bit of it seemed perfectly alright. I was safe, I was happy... there wasn't anything to worry about.
Bombay sure was fun. Even though I reached home at 10 p.m. on most days, I'd still make time for some fun times. On days I'd leave early, I explored the city with a friend... or by myself! The late night drives to Parel or Bandra, the numerous nights spent at Worli Seaface staring at the twinkling stars in the summer sky and the distant lit up Sealink, street shopping expeditions, evenings at the mall and insane parties were sure fun. The stupidest thing I ever did was went Le15 cupcake hunting with a friend in Lokhandwala, and found none - so settled in for Mad Over Donuts instead. I did have the Le15 cupcake at Bandra later though! I also tried almost every MOD outlet I'd come across - Lokhandwala, Cater Road, Dadar West, Lower Parel, Infiniti Mall, Andheri! When you're obsessed with MOD, that's what happens. Evenings spent at Marine Drive were my favourite too! And the shopping trips to Bandra Road and Colaba causeway over the weekends. And the rare dinner dates. And the crazy Bollywood parties...
I did not learn great life lessons. But I sure did learn to manage on my own. I lived life. I lived on my own terms. Left when I wanted to, got home when I wanted to and no one bothered about what I was upto. Everyone was busy doing their own thing! But, I learnt to be responsible. I knew how to handle my freedom and mastered ways to avoid problems. I made new friends, socilalised as much as I hadn't done in ages. I rarely used my phone - that was an achievement in itself. I learnt to enjoy all kinds of food. I discovered things I never knew existed. I didn't have company all the time - friends and family had work to do. Whenever I was alone, I learnt to enjoy my own company, I explored places on my own and never felt alone. And above all, I gained the confidence that I can pretty much survive on my own, by myself! I learnt to live one day at a time. I enjoyed every bit of what I did and I knew this wasn't the end. I understood that I wanted to live a random life, doing random things, in random cities... for the rest of my life! And that was an awesome end to my year before I eventually turned 21 and did something even more fun then. That's a story for another time!