My Nani’s place is everything you could want from a Mumbai flat. Being on the 8th floor means a cool breeze is always blowing across it, even on the hottest of March days. It also means the floor-to-ceiling windows display expansive views of Chaupati bay on one side, whilst the opposite affords the chance to study people on their high-rise balconies. They aren’t too different from me: drinking, talking, sometimes playing backgammon or chess, but often simply sitting away the evening in that way which is unique to hot countries. In the late afternoon you could spot children running semi-competitive games of cricket or football on the rooftops, whilst others paralleled them in the streets below.
But by the second week of my stay, the flat had begun to feel oppressive. Now my fifth time in Mumbai, my family feel little need to take me around. Yet neither am I allowed out on my own. “No, that’s too far. You’ll get lost”. “That place is too dangerous for someone like you. The blacks have moved in there”. “It’s too hot today. You’ll get heatstroke”. I felt like an adolescent again. Everyone assumed that they knew what was best for me. But as Indians, we’re always told to respect our elders, right? Nani-ji knows best.
So all I could do during those times was carry on watching domesticity unfold on the balconies, or bury myself in a book. Now I know why many Indians favour the epic poem, or the monolithic novel. In Clear Light of Day, I found as much comfort in Bim as I did any of my life-long friends.