I live in a big and busy city that never stops, never sleeps. Years could’ve flown by before you realize you never stopped to take a moment to look around you. I was standing on a small corner of a busy street on Charni Road. It was a typical scene of daily Mumbai life – a low lit barber shop, a tantalizing smell drifting from an unhygienic biryani shop, a curving road that was a safety hazard but had fancy cars, and a used-books shop owned by an old greying man with an old greying beard sitting behind the desk. I was waiting patiently for my date to find parking (which everyone knows is a game of pure luck). My beautiful date who wore well-ironed, laundry-only pure-cotton shirts with trousers, not jeans and loafers, not slippers. And lived in a four-storey building that hadn’t been painted since it had been built, with a dingy entrance you wouldn’t notice until you knew it existed and wooden stairs that made my brain automatically look for alternate fire escapes. But it was on Charni Road, which makes all the difference.
I didn’t turn to my phone while I was waiting. He’d get here soon enough. So I looked around me, taking a moment to smile about the last four hours I’d spent with a great guy. That’s when I spotted it, fluttering mid-air. Everything faded from the background. I was transfixed, staring at this red polka-dotted cloth bag suspended by a piece of rope from the fourth floor of the building in front of me. It didn’t really obstruct the traffic or the light poles, but either people didn’t notice it’s existence or they did, and knew it’s purpose. I just stared at it for what seemed like a long five minutes, trying to figure out the reason for it’s existence.
When my date joined me, I simply pointed at the bag and said, “Explain.” “Do you understand the word ‘aalas’?”, he asked. The next few minutes revealed one of the best epitomes I have for laziness. As it turns out, the bag was a sort of transportation device. People such as the grocer, milkman and newspaper boy who wanted to deliver something to the fourth floor could leave their goods in that bag. The receiver could then just pull the bag up instead of climbing up and down four storeys.
I now have a new found admiration for Mumbai and it’s jugaad.