Meera Gandhi

by Meera Gandhi

Hello Mumbai! It feels so good to be back... if even for a week. I've been feeling amazed ever since I slipped off the plane and got my first smell of the city at the airport. I was received at the airport, whisked through customs and immigration, somebody was there to help with the bags ... if only it was like this in the rest of the world!

I'm here because of my 12-year-old daughter Kiran. All her frienas in Mumbai are expat kids, and they'll all be going back soon, so this is the only chance for her to meet them all. I figured, Kiran had adapted so well to New York, she had done well in school, so she deserved this break. Besides, back home, this is the Thanksgiving vacation.

We landed at night on Sunday. Monday morning, 6.10 o'clock, Kiran and I went for a walk along Marine Drive, from the Oberoi to Chowpatty. God! It felt so good to be back. Though I must tell Nana Chudasama that he has not been keeping up with the painting job on Marine Drive since I went away. The place is looking rather shabby.

People keep asking me about New York, how's the city been after September 11, and I say, two months later, on November 12, we got another shock! The American Airlines plane crash in Queens! But New York took it strangely. There was no panic. No pandemonium. No reaching for cells to make last calls. People took deep breaths and said, "What next?!"

Then last week we celebrated Diwali at the Indian consulate in New York. It was a solemn celebration. piyas and pujas. The Diwali dhamaka was missing. Indian women from all over New York met at this Igdian restaurant Patang and celebrated the festival as well. But things were rather subdued. Not like in the past. I held aartis and pujas at my kids' schools, went there and lit diyas as well.

I'm looking at touching base with people in a meaningful way in Mumbai. I'm not doing tonnes of lunches and dinners. I want to spend time with people who mean a lot to me. I find Mumbai has changed since I went away in June last year. For one thing, the traffic's better! Or maybe it's worse in New York. Or it's the luxury of being driven around that makes me feel this way.

But everything, everybody, in Mumbai is so superb, I feel so much at home here. Driving in the morning, I switched on FM ... and there was Vinod Advani! Then the darwan at the Oberoi door, another familiar figure. And over lunch at the Frangipani, there was Wendy, as helpful as ever. I had a headache... and without asking, two Aspirins were fetched. Everything seemed so familiar.. .. like I had never gone away!