On Leaving this Maximum City

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way again. 

Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

I overheard some of the vendors in Colaba a few days ago talk about the monsoon coming exactly on the tenth of June and well, here it is. Pouring, cooling the earth, clearing the streets and cleaning the air.   I wondered then how they could be so sure, so confident that the rains would come today and be correct.  I see now that this confidence is the same one they have on the streets — where one rick knows that zooming into a small space between two huge trucks won’t mean imminent death.  I mean, the rain has been coming and going for an hour or two for days but nothing like this.  It would tease us sometimes, especially on days we didn’t bring our umbrellas and surprise us with a sudden downpour while in a rickshaw, dressed and on our way to a night out with friends.  Today, as we decide to stay in to pack and just chill before we both leave (me to go back home to Manila and S to NYC to meet her love), the rain is like a gift from the heavens. Even if everything is gray, the awareness of a season ending is also healing in a way. It, of course, does everything to nurture and feed my ennui right now.  Just the thought of leaving Mumbai makes the tears well up in my eyes.  I feel like an open wound exposed to saltwater.  The sting is sharp and almost unbearable but I know the sea will make it all better if I persevere.  And S is spot on…the sadness can only be appeased by the promise of return.  I have no choice but to make sure I come back to this magical place.   S and I burst into laughter every now and then to stop me from crying and from enabling my melodrama.   Maximum feelings for this maximum city.

Suketu Mehta, the author of “Maximum City”  talks about how his currency is stories.  “Stories told for stories revealed…stories from other worlds, carried over the waters in caravans and ships, to be exchanged for this year’s harvest of stories. A hit man’s story to a movie director in exchange for the movie director’s story to the hit man.  The film would and the underworld, the police and the press, the swamis and the sex workers, all live off stories; here in Bombay, I(author) do too.”  I feel like writing about Mumbai (prologue) when am back home will keep me afloat and sane for awhile. Thus, the writer’s delay.  That’s how I will pay. With poetry and photos and stories about my trip, but from a distance.  Photographs have been saving me these days too.  Thank you, decisive moment.   Here are some favorite snaps that reveal some of these maximum emotions.

Ennui from my reluctant subjects: Bandra Fort

Sadness in her eyes: Haji Ali Shrine

The gaze of a hungry traveller

the smile of someone who will definitely come back: Western Railway en route to Mumbai Central

Actually, seeing past the melodrama, S and I already have a plan:  Next time I come back, I will invest in the old cameras that they sell in Colaba.

Old cameras that remind me of my brother

You will be mine, oh yes, you will be mine!

Mumbai: Land of negotiations. This man gave ma big discount for my gift for Mr. Tandem after I hung out and took pictures of his stall for awhile

S and I will visit an Indian village, do more heritage walks and see Juhu during the day.  Then there’s the rest of beautiful, complex and schizophrenic India which I intend to visit, photograph and write about. Perhaps when the sun is not so treacherous. Yes, in the land of NO, this is definitely not goodbye.  Until then, Mumbai, see you in my dreams and my mind’s eye.

I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Such is life, imaginary or otherwise: a continuous parting of ways, a constant flux of approximation and distanciation, lines of fate intersecting at a point which is no-time, a theoretical crossroads fictitiously “present,” an unstable ice floe forever drifting between was and will be. The Adventure called and I followed with my thumb like a character being written by an intractable author. Which, of course, I was.

– Sol Luckman

grateful slice:  Knowing when you are leaving a place, returning and the currency of images and text, traveling


  1. Piyush

    nice pics. and nice pics of the ones which click pics. i myself am not a big photography fan, but i just might like to get a hold on those oldies. adorable.

  2. Ms. P

    Pang Karaoke video ba ang yung dalawa. I loved shooting them. 🙂 Grabe. I have to work out to death when I get home. As in. I’m going to look so botchog in the Curtis’ bijo. Ang bas.

  3. Isadora

    This is such a sentimental description of how you are feeling. I enjoyed it very much. I cannot fly due to health issues; so, I will travel along with you as you have a gift for making it all come alive.

    I “LOVE” the photo of the photo of the woman titled “The gaxe of the hungry traveler”. It is perfect.

    Very nice job …


  4. Pingback: India 2.0: Eat (1/3) … and notes from a procrastinator and a beach trip « You are Here.

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