As I checked out at the Mumbai hotel desk on my last day in India, I surveyed those around me. On my right was a girl in tight-fitting jeans. She was being scrutinized by a young Indian lad who watched as though he intended to grab her bag and run. I speculated that their morning might evolve into a chase through the litter-strewn alleys of Mumbai, such as that depicted in the 2012 Tanmay Shah film ”Intent.” I turned away and looked to my left where I caught the eye of a young man who appeared to be talking to one of the other desk clerks. His skin was a rich brown, his shirt a brilliant white, his teeth, perfect. His handsome face beamed at me. I knew that he liked what he saw. My white skin glowed with a recent sun tan and as I don’t possess jeans I wore a swirling, white dress draped over my figure, under which I wore nothing but panties. The clerk handed me, my receipt and I stuffed it casually into my bag. Then the clerk gave me my passport. I picked it up and turned to smile at the young man again, but, to my surprise, he was already striding across the lobby towards the breakfast area. Flushed, my heart pounding, I took up the chase and followed.
I placed my belongings on one of the tables and served myself coffee. My agitation increased as I surreptitiously took glances at the young man, my Mumbai Man as I had decided to call him. Each time that I looked he seemed to avert his eyes as though he had also been stealing glances. I asked myself, if this could be love at first sight, love across all barriers, a true meeting of souls?
I went outside into the Indian heat and hailed a cab to be mine for the morning. As we left I had the distinct impression that my Mumbai Man was standing on the curb waving frantically. At our first stop, the Gateway to India, I mingled with the crowds as I mused on how I could accomplish another meeting with my Mumbai Man. I’m an impulsive fearless girl and thought that perhaps, I should cancel my flight and stay on a couple more days, so that I could go back to the hotel and find him. By the time that I reconnected with my cab I had told myself that my plan was pure foolishness.
But as the cab drove off I thought that I saw him standing in the street waving. I strained to look back at him wondering if his ideas and desires met mine, but I didn’t tell my driver to stop.
By the time that we arrived at the Price of Wales Museum I was full of regrets. I entered its spacious halls, crammed with artifacts, unable to see or comprehend anything other than plans associated with my Mumbai Man. I calmed myself by deciding that if he turned up again it would mean that our attraction was mutual and that fate had aligned our stars.
“I’m not going to fight fate.” I told myself. “If he is standing outside and waves when I exit this museum I’ll know and I’ll go to him. Maybe I’ll invite him to ride with me in my cab. We can talk and exchange information. The rest doesn’t have to be planned it will take care of itself.”
My heart beat faster, my whole body glowed as I stepped out into the sun. My cab was waiting for me and there he was. This time he was standing next to the car. Tall, lean, handsome clean, he looked better and better as I slowly approached. I opened my mouth to tell him my plan but he spoke first.
“Your passport, you left it on the table this morning. I’ve been chasing you across Mumbai to return it!”
For a moment I was speechless. I reached and accepted the proffered passport. His hand was soft as it brushed against mine. There was so much that I needed to say but the only words I managed to stammer were,
“Thank you, oh thank-you”
He bowed and dissolved into the surge of humanity around us. I got into the cab. As we drove off I realized how silly I had been. Now, through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.