Part Time Lover
Text and pictures : Raj Lalwani
This is a story that is almost all fact, and almost all fiction.
Dear B (or would you rather be called M?),
I recently received an email from two people at The Lookout Journal. Their names were Anusha and Vangmayi; A & V, they said. But were they really two people? Even you have two names, B. Some call you M. Others, still, call you all kinds of things. Reams are written on the city of dreams, but A & V wanted me to talk about us. Tell us a story about a city, they said, a story that stays with me.
But how do I tell a story about you when you are the story? I have always told myself, every time I let that wretched camera in between us, that some day I will write a book about you. I wonder how I will write in all the silences. Quieter moments of thought, overthought, and thoughts over thought. Ink blot. Almost like a series of dance, laced in the middle with long angdaais. Just that with you, the angdaai is usually traffic.
There’s no one as fast as you, but I have always been a little slow. Stay, I say. Brew a little longer, like the chai that you serve in the ginger-soaked streets of night.
Sometimes I wonder if you really exist. You, hopeless lover, of mirages built on salty tetrapods, of dreams shattered by the potholes of our past. They say cities are like failed relationships. Along the way, the differences get lost. Each one takes to resembling the other.
But it’s only hope that’s left when all hope has left. And so, I write. And so, I make pictures. Because like all love stories, this is not about you and I. It is about all that there is, in between. It’s a little like I am Bandra and you are Worli, and somewhere along the way, we found a hyphen, a bridge. A bridge that was built over time (a lot of time, though ours didn’t have as much money flowing over troubled waters), a bridge that reminds me of the time, spent khaali peeli in a kaali peeli, wind in hair, our eyes on the sea, and all that’s seen.
I really must ramble a little lesser. But what’s a bit of an amble if we don’t ramble? It’s like deliberately losing one’s way, not caring about the fact that the meter is running.
This city is like that. It takes a while to become yours. In the beginning, it is all a blur. A haze, a series of raindrops where colour swims, and the grey of the sea lurks. You want to touch her, but the city feels inaccessible. Like dreams that we see, but can’t remember. Do we call it the city of dreams because it seems to have died in our memories?
But it happens. She comes by. It’s almost like Bombay is swimming towards us, against the tide, against time, against all that she has had to endure. Do you know why there are tetrapods, surrounding her? They keep the water away. They only let the strongest of waves come past, and it’s only if our longing has that strength, would the city be able to swim through.
That said, I hear they plan to make a giant statue of a warrior, somewhere within the sea. That is how it is, with this city, with you. They build on land, they build in the water. They build castles in the air.
They say you are not the same. But B (or would I be forced to call you M?), there is a parallel city in my head, one that eludes in the fact that it alludes, one that I seek, and on the rare occasion, see. One that isn’t about a moment, but of the in-betweens. One that isn’t as frantic as your Virar fast. Not everybody dances to techno.
Raj Lalwani is a photographer, whose practice hovers in the space between what was, and what will be. He is the Editor of See, a webzine dedicated to contemplative, insightful writings on photography. According to him, inspiration lies in the fantastic, the ordinary and in love.
Raj lives in Bombay, not Mumbai. Most of the time though, he lives in his head.