Mumbai News

Bombay Is Home: Home Verse – Outlook India

Bombay is the city of my birth, celebrated in many of my poems. It’s not just the physical place but the deep sense of connection I have with the vibrance, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the crowds, the colours and the overall wonderful sense of life.  My emotional ties to the city have remained strong, no matter in which other cities I have lived. What is also most important is that I grew up in the Bombay of one world. I had friends and neighbours from every walk of life and different faiths. There was an open acceptance of bel­iefs, ideas, and of course wholehearted participation in each other’s customs and traditions. Living in harmony made the city beautiful and minimised our differences. It didn’t even feel like we had any differences. I belonged to this unique landscape.  My father, the late poet Nissim Ezekiel, in his poem Island said, ‘I cannot leave the island/I was born there and belong.’ I echo his words. Though I have left Bombay, I belong there spiritually and emotionally.

This is the City

(After the nursery rhyme This is the house that Jack built)

This is the city my father loved
That he called home, that wrote his poems,
That created the slums, that built the skyscrapers
That jammed the trains, that crowded the buses
Where he walked the streets – that somebody built.

This is the city that I have loved
Where I was born where I was raised
Where I ran for the buses, in four-inch heels
Danced in discos all night long, studied in the colleges, sang in choirs
Dated the boys, then married a man – that I loved.

This is the city where I lived by the sea
Ate street food, shopped fiercely, listened to rock music
Read Enid Blyton, Ayn Rand, borrowed from friends,
Practiced for Sports Day, studied for exams – that I did not love.

This is the city that I have left, I know not why, I cannot remember
This is the city lodged in my soul, something stuck in a tooth, I cannot remove.
This is the city that I still love, with its dust and grime, will always be mine
That I must in Hindi call ‘Bombay Meri Jaan’, meaning Bombay my love
A city whose name I no longer can pronounce – that is now called Mumbai.

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca was an instructor of english, french and spanish before debuting as a poet in 1989

(This story appeared in the print edition as ‘Bombay is Home’)