1/30/11 11:19 AMMumbaiPage 1 of 2http://www.narrativemagazine.com/print/54115
turned ten and lived with my parents in anapartment, high on Malabar Hill in Mumbai, with shining marblefloors and an open veranda that looked out across the windswept bay. We should have been happy there, but my mother stayedmiserably in bed all day. My father left early for work andreturned late to sit alone and drink Scotch. The silent war between my parents permeated the apartment. My escape was the veranda. Lying on my stomach, I peered through an old pair of binoculars and watched the gray-blue waves of the Arabian Oceanas they crashed along Marine Drive, soaking young lovers on theseawall. I watched crowds walk along the dirty gray sand of Chowpatty Beach, the women lifting their saris before wadinginto the ocean. When I turned my binoculars on the high-rise buildings, I saw housewives hanging wet clothes on their balconies, bare-chested men smoking at open windows, childrenflying kites from rooftops. Being surrounded by thousands of other lives soothed me.One day I overheard my mother tell a friend that her weddinganniversary was approaching, and she didn’t expect my father toremember it. “That,” she said, “will be the last straw.” I was notexactly sure what Ma meant, but I felt I must do something.I opened the newspaper, where I saw an ad for the flower shopat the Taj Hotel.
Best in Town, read
Number-One Choice for Romantic Couples.
I emptied out my moneybox, took a deep breath, walked out onto the road, and hailed a Fiat taxi.The city, so familiar through binoculars, was all the moreexciting up close. The walls were painted with political slogans.The strong smell of petrol fumes and roasting peanuts mixed notunpleasantly in the air. We crossed the city till the sea was visibleonce again, and there, luxurious as a wedding cake, was the TajHotel. A giant Sikh doorman ushered me into the vast marble lobby of