The loud noises of Mumbai are something that never really fade. Be it my landlady gossiping with other aunties early in the morning about their household help, the taxis zooming past the main road, the boy selling bread with his tinkling bell or the announcements of the local train being heard far and wide. It was always chaotic in the neighbourhood, but that’s what kept the city and me alive.
This Sunday morning was no different. It was a breezy September morning, and I was planning to go down for a jog down to Race Course. My roommate and I thought of having breakfast somewhere nearby after our workout. It was around 8.30 a.m. and we were just getting ready to head out, when someone knocked on the door rather loudly. I thought, “Don’t they know we have a bell?” It was Uday! My boyfriend. He was standing at the door and asked me, “How was the surprise?” While I was really happy to see my long distance boyfriend, I was scared to death of letting him enter - because if I got caught, not only would my landlady throw me out, she’d immediately call my parents and tell them too. And I couldn’t let that happen.
We lived in a cute one bedroom PG; we were on the second floor, our landlady on the first and a few more girls in the building. Our landlady was mostly non-interfering, except for a few casual comments and tiny taunts - she wouldn’t crib about us getting home late or drinking with our girlfriends. But yes, she was pretty clear about one thing from the first day, “Dekho, kuch bhi karne ka lekin boys nai laane ka!”
Anyway, all these were passing thoughts. My roommate let Uday in, and I could see my neighbour, a Maharashtrian lady who was very inquisitive and orthodox, follow Uday with her eyes well inside my house, till the door was shut. He hugged me, but more than feeling happy about the beautiful surprise, I was honestly nervous, thinking, “What the hell has he done? What if aunty catches us? What if my parents get to know?” I was almost hyperventilating...and that’s when my roommate took charge of things. She told me that we’d say he was her brother and had just come to give us food and stuff from home.
I agreed. But he was going to stay for a week. ONE FULL WEEK! I told him that we should just take a hotel room and avoid this mess. But we were both studying, no one had the money and I certainly couldn’t ask my parents for any. I told him we needed to leave as soon as possible, so he freshened up in a jiffy, and I told my roommate to accompany us out. Luckily the landlady hadn’t seen us yet, but how was I going to do this for six more days?
We went about our day, did Mumbai sightseeing - from Juhu, Bandra, Pali Hill to Marine Drive. Restaurants, beaches, promenades… Everything in one day! The gates to my colony building generally closed around 10.30 p.m. and opened at 6 a.m. every day. Everyone had a key, but the gate was locked for security. We had been out since roughly 9.30 a.m. and were tired to the bone. Uday even more because of all the travelling.
We decided to head home... And then came the fun and scary part. I told my roommate who was at home to throw the keys to the gate while she stood at the first floor, keeping a watch on my landlady’s door. I would open the door, and linger around for a few minutes downstairs when Uday will have to climb up two floors at lightning fast speed and hide inside the washroom or someplace no one could see him. My roommate would follow, and after all this was done, I would enter like nothing happened. This was our plan, and I successfully sneaked in my boyfriend in the same way for the next six days.
It gave us all such an adrenaline rush. Some days were worse, because even though it was 11 p.m., colony kids would be playing outside and tell him, “Bhaiya, aap bhi khelo na humare saath!” And some days alcohol made us process things a little slower, like me being unable to catch the key and searching for it on the road at midnight while a cat was meowing at us constantly. And the last day when the landlady almost opened her door when we were crossing… Each day was an adventure and it was equal parts crazy and fun.
We never got back home before 10.30 p.m. and always made sure we were out before 6 am. Somehow, we managed to do this for the whole week and it is definitely a memory my boyfriend and I are fond of rehashing over and over again!