Bombay never fails to amaze me. The city embraces everyone. Right from the rag pickers to the millionaires. If you have a dream, the work ethic and some luck, Bombay is the city that can change your life. While people are always in search of some physical space, this is for me one of the very few cities that gives you creative freedom. It’s said, ” When in Rome behave like the Romans” , but in Bombay you can be exactly who you want to be a Roman, a Chinese, a player, a painter or a writer ,anything and anyone and be sure of acceptance. Bombay is home to so many people, I met two men this time around who left their homes to live the life they want to.
My friends told me that they wanted me to meet someone. They said he’s intelligent, funny, and very interesting. This wasn’t exactly setting me up kind of meeting but a casual one. My friends know how fascinated I am about meeting new people. They wanted me to meet Dean.
Dean lives in Bandra. It is one of the cutest streets in Bombay, it has all these small and old houses. There are no tall buildings there. Majority of the people living on the street are Christians. There is a constant smell of a bakery and nice food on the street. Dean came down the street to pick us up. My first impression of the man was not too great. He was fair, with a French beard and was a little taller then me. We said the formal “hi’s” and he took us to his flat.
Dean’s flat is a character in itself. The first thing that welcomes you as you remove your chappals is, a huge photo of Micheal Jackson, with a garland made up of cloth. As I stood there for a while admiring it, Dean comes over and says, ” He is god. He protects my house from bad karma.” We laughed. I have no doubts about Micheal Jackson being God. As I entered, I realised it wasn’t exactly a normal flat. It was like a bachelor pad where Dean lived with his friends. The flat was really small , with three very small rooms. Though the space was small it spoke so much. The place was filled with books, clothes, paintings, pictures and photos. There was no symmetry of design in the whole thing. There was one wall that was just splashed with colour with a big eye painted right in the middle. I told Dean I loved the place, and asked him if all the things in the room belonged to him. He explained, ” well, I don’t own most of the things in the room, I’m living in this place for the last six months. There are too many people who have lived here and then left, most of the stuff has been left by them. This wall you see has been painted by everyone who has lived here and then left. ” There was this one room in the flat that looked like a that of a tailor’s. Apparently there was somebody who made clothes who lived there. That kind of explained the amount of different kinds of fabrics and accessories all over the house.
After the admiration of the house we settled down. Dean made himself a smoke and started smoking, while playing some cool music on his laptop. I was dying to know his story, I asked and he was more than happy to tell, “I belong to a normal middle class family. My parents live in Bombay itself, but I had to leave my house. They don’t seem to understand me. I studied anthropology in Pune. I was a decent student and I loved my life. After I finished my studies, I came back to Bombay and got a job. My parents were happy. I wasn’t. The job sucked, the people who worked there sucked. There was no creative freedom. What I did, what I said was never understood. Well, I can’t blame them. I never understood them and neither made the effort. It was a torture. After a year and a half of the torture I quit. There was an idea in my mind about what I wanted to do. I wanted to make my own brand of hooka. I was really excited, I came home and told my parents about the plan. They weren’t too happy. There were constant fights, and just no peace. I left the house and came here and it’s been totally great.”
I found him really cool. There was this, ‘ I don’t give a shit of what you think’ in his ways. He sat on the his small chair, cross legged, wearing loose payjamas, smoking, and very honestly telling me his story. Dean’s hooka business is on nascent stages. He gets his raw material from a small village in Madhya Pradesh. He goes up and down every month to get it, comes home and makes his hooka. As the taste is new, he has to go from client to client all over the city and give his stuff for free, just so that they can taste it. He says it’s picking up, people are liking it slowly. He has named his product ” Gudguddi” . ” when you smoke it, it gives you the tickle effect.” Dean is pretty excited about his recent client. He is in the U.S , he is a rap artist and Rihanna’s boyfriend. ” I am sending him Gudguddi soon, if he likes it I will be kind of set.” I looked at him amazed. ” how did he manage to contact Rihanna’s boyfriend? He laughed, ” All you have to do is follow your heart everything else will follow.” Just then the bell rang. ” It must be Himanshu, my room mate.” It was Himanshu the room mate.
Himanshu came in wearing basketball shorts and a formal t- shirt. He was much taller then everyone else in the room. He was a little surprised to see all of us there, and took a while to settle down. He sat next to me after getting his orange drink from the fridge, switched on his laptop and said he had to check his mail. Dean pestered him to show us his work. Himanshu is a painter, a writer and a teacher. My friend asked him, if he was a Christian. He said, ” well I don’t really follow religion. My mother is a something, my father is a something so by that logic I am something- something.” We all laughed. Himanshu was schooled to be a painter. Today he teaches painting in an art school. He is an awesome writer, he did eventually show me his writing. He doesn’t exactly write stories. He writes small things on religion or love or sex, compiles it, gets them printed and then sells them. He sells his stuff depending on the size and content. It ranges from anything from 50 to 200 rupees. There is a lot of depth in Himanshu’s writing. A lot of wisdom. It seems from his writing that he has seen a lot, experienced a lot. I bought one of his books which I really loved. The best thing though about Himanshu is that he also works at Dharavi with the kids living there. He teaches them painting and the best part gives them a camera and tells them to click pictures. One of his books has a selection of photos clicked by the children. It’s wonderful! Himanshu had a very calm demeanor. I asked him if I could see his paintings. He showed me one of them. It was a superman in his various moods. I looked at it for a while and hoped he didn’t ask me what I thought of it. He did, and I had to tell him I didn’t like it. He laughed, ” It’s cool I do like the honesty.” I smiled. Soon it was time to go. I wished both of them all the best and waived good bye.
Dean and Himanshu are people who are born to be free. The society, peer pressure, money, parents cannot chain them down. They live lives the way they want to, without regrets. People like them always gain my respect. I believe that living a life exactly the way you want to requires a lot of courage. They dont own the best clothes, cars or mobiles. There is always shortage of money but they are intrinsically very happy. They are free souls, they fly, they constantly learn and have fun while doing it.
I am nothing like Himanshu and Dean, though I can completely relate to their core values of following your dream and living life on your own terms. Saying this, I can’t dream of leaving my parents in my quest for freedom. I can’t see them stressed even for five minutes. I care about how the society thinks of me. My actions are altered according to the ways of the society I live in. I don’t smoke a cigar and I can’t paint for nuts. But I think that’s the beauty of life. Himanshu,Dean and Aditi need to be preserved just the way they are. We can very easily co- exist. Just the mere fact that we are different individuals who live in the same world and can be friends is so exciting. Just imagine living in a world with the same kind of people it would be unbelievably boring! Won’t it?