The Mumbai Man

1260 404 Mumbai AH23

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.


30 thoughts on “The Mumbai Man

  1. “I’m not going to fight fate.” I told myself.

    This short story is really wonderful… The beginning made me think of The Dolphin Hotel where “Dance, dance, dance” by Haruki Murakami takes place…
    Your descriptions are truly powerful.
    And I loved how you have introduced Destiny here… That ending line (“things don’t always turn out as planned”) is marvellous as it is both ironic and witty. At the end Fate has its own written plan… We can´t do anything else but abide it..

    Best regards, Aquileana 😛

    • Thank yo u Aquileana I’m glad that you visited and took the time to comment – and what comments – thank you! With our modern method of selecting partners fate becomes an important ingredient. I might have expounded on the still prevalent arranged marriage selection process in India but this would have generated a completely different story. I can’t take credit for the last sentence as this story was written in response to a Speakeasy challenge in which this had to be the last sentence; quite a pity as i’d love to have been able to claim it as a Jane original.

  2. “I’m not going to fight fate.” I told myself.

    .This short story is really wonderful…
    The beginning made me think of The Dolphin Hotel where “Dance, dance, dance” by Haruki Murakami takes place…
    Your descriptions are truly powerful.
    And I loved how you have introduced Destiny here…
    That ending line (“things don’t always turn out as planned”) is marvellous as it is both ironic and witty.
    At the end Fate has its own written plan… We can´t do anything else but abide it..

    Best regards , Aquileana 😛

  3. I am still laughing at the surprise twist ,Jane 😀 Loved that you took the prompts in another direction and added dollops of humour-oh to be young again and build such romantic castles in the air involving handsome young men 😉

    • Thank you, In the long run I suspect that reality was better for her! How could she have made a union, based on carnal desire, endure across such a cultural distance – even if it was a delightful romantic dream?

    • I think that she almost did imagine him, Obviously she wanted him perhaps even needed him. Did you catch that she must have mislaid the passport because of her reaction to him?

  4. How quickly the imagination can run away with us allowing to conjure up all kinds of romantic wishes and dreams. How I wish he would have swept her off her feet. Instead her feet were planted securely in reality as he produced her passport and disappeared. I enjoyed your story a lot. ♥

  5. Funny, unlike your other readers, I learned nothing about Mumbai from this story. The circumstances described in the beginning struck me as typical “meat market”—predators and prey surveying the terrain….typical traveler’s terrain that dissolves into the thoughts of the narrator, a self-absorbed, randy woman of uncertain age and given to fantasy, who misreads the behavior of the object of her obsession. Fortunately, nothing bad comes of it…for she’s not only oblivious to Mumbai, she’s lucky. And pitiable, I think : all she learned is that some plans don’t work out the way she planned. As always, Jane, you give me something to think about. Thank you!

    • I’m sorry about Mumbia. What I didn’t explain is that this piece was written as a response to Speakeasy challenge #154. It had to:
      1) incorporate a reference to the intriguing little film “Intent”
      2) conclude with the words “Now, through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.”
      3) Be no more than 750 words.
      I set it in Mumbai as this seemed to be where “Intent” was set and I wanted a culture clash. The original version which was, of course, much longer and attempted to bring Mumbai into focus as part of the story. All this had to go when I pared it down to 750 words.
      I enjoy your candor and urge you to please keep on visiting my blog and keeping your honesty – it is refreshing, good, and helpful.

    • Thank you for your visit. Mumbai is a very rich, culturally diverse city there is much to write about and I have many pictures to trigger my sweet memories.

  6. I’ve never been to Mumbai, or traveled far outside the US, so I enjoyed this glimpse into a different world. I found the misreading of glances and appearances humorous, how the romantic notions of fate faded into the simple, non-romantic act of returning the passport.

    • Thank you, Janna. I hope that you enjoyed a different chase. Your challenge last sentence was a tough one to fit into my writing. It made a good challenge- thank you

  7. I’ve visited Mumbai a dozen times or more – all on business 😦 However, many evenings I’ve stepped out to do the touristy jaunts and your post brought back memories.

    Ian is right, Mumbai is a meeting and melting pot for conquerors, traders and the peoples of the subcontinent.

    Since time immemorial, the lighter skinned invaders – long before Alexander and the Mongols – came over the Hindu Kush and pushed the darker skinned Dravidians into the Deccan. In the process, the clash of civilizations – not always belligerent – had given birth to unique races, similar to your Mumbai Man. Of course, many would dispute this assertion, and prefer to cling to some imagined racial purity. India is a land of myths and mysteries that often takes on the façade of fact. For example, not many know that the Taj Mahal had its genesis as a Hindu temple.

    I enjoyed your post – what a lovely story, you shared; one that I can certainly identify with 🙂

    Holiday romances are always so intense and open up wild possibilities that give a peek into our being, I reckon.

    • This story was limited to 750 words to answer the Speakeasy challenge #154. I am awed to be given so many insights into this enormous city. As I write I can smell it even now. Your comments challenge and make me hope that one day I’ll be able to set another story there and grant myself permission to make the city one of the characters.

  8. Having lived in Mumbai and being familiar with the locations and the people you had my attention all the way through. lol. India is a fascinating place. Culture moderates with each 100 klms travelled. Mumbai is a melting pot in which all these cultures dissolve and absorb each other and it is a city of contrasts. Some of the richest in the world live there and some of the poorest. Believe it or not even the disadvantaged classes seem happy! We learned so much in our 20 years spent in that country and it has left an indelible imprint on our family, mostly positive.

    • Thank you Ian, I spent very little time in Mumbai but I do remember the contrasts from the open air laundry to the swanky hotels and all those lavish Victorian monuments, and then there was Gandhi’s residence. It is quite a cultural melting pot. This piece was written in response to a 750 word writing challenge and so I had to keep references to riches of Mumbai to a minimum.

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