Light on my eyelids
There is a soft light, orange and warming on my closed eyes. There is a streetscape soundtrack playing on low volume. I’m in the sort of sleep that lifts so slowly that I may still be in a dream.
Standing up, I see that the blinds are open. The street soundtrack plays through my open window.
In the hallway where kids run like wild animals in the evenings is a neighbour from the flat opposite mine, a mother of three. She stands in her house sari, pallu tucked away, brushing her hair out on the doorstop. Strays fall to the cool tile. Her little ones are still passed out flat on their backs in the morning heat, on the straw mats that define the difference between the bed and the floor in their home. They are all splayed limbs and angles, chests rising and falling so gently. Hindu bhajans, sweet devotional songs are playing at full volume. The toddlers, born into noise, are unaffected. Theirs is a deep sleep.
In the middle of the stairwell on my way down, I nearly trip over one of the older girls, dressed for school. She has taken her small mirror and set it up on the steps where the bright outside light falls through the slats. Squatting, gazing into the mirror, she applies kajal to her lower eyelids and powders her whole face a shade lighter with talc.
At the foot of the building are the shopfronts of the cycle wala who lives on the first floor and the tailor who travels every day from Mira road. Each has unlocked the heavy padlocks, pulled their grates upwards, opened their shops to begin the day.
A young man with dark skin and beautiful forearms is collecting everyone’s garbage from each floor, hauling it all downstairs. Outside the building a watchman sits and watches me.
The fruit vendors wave. The street sweeper smiles. I am in the thick of it, yet none of it touches me. The sounds and smiles fade.
The searing light on my eyelids pushes through my dream. The streetscape soundtrack begins again. Standing up, I see that the blinds are open. Looking outside, I realise I am halfway across the globe and all of Bombay feels like a dream.