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As I leave the cool and unruffled air of the plane to step into the moist, humid atmosphere of the International Airport, a feeling of exhilaration races throughout the veins of my exhausted body and the warmth in the airport suddenly refreshes me; I had finally reached the city I love most- Bombay, my first home.
The rush and racket at the airport, which is so quintessential to any place in Bombay, barely affects me. All I can think about is that musky smell of the monsoon rain that seeps through the windows in the airport; this smell was a mixture of fresh rain, scrumptious food, winds from the Arabian Sea, and even of massive pollution that infiltrated the city, yet it was the most endearing smell, one unique only to this city.
At around 1 a.m. my family chauffeur greets me to drive me home, and the hustle bustle in the city even at this hour of the night is no surprise to me. On the ride from the airport to my apartment, I breathe in the beauty of this urban oasis. Bombay, officially called Mumbai, is where Indian fantasies of wealth and glamour walk alongside the poverty and slums, where economic boom continues in spite of considerably poor infrastructure. Even though more than 60% of this city’s dwellers live in lamentable conditions, Bombay boasts some of the most expensive and luxurious real estate in the world. This element of contradiction has become an innate part of this metropolis.
On the drive from the airport, I pass by the gigantic malls that have crept in every corner of the city recently, providing much competition to the ‘mom and pop’ stores that have been a part of Indian tradition for years now. Another element that undoubtedly makes Bombay itself is Bollywood- the Indian film industry, which originated in this city. Now becoming globally famous, the industry churns out more than 1000 movies a year and employs a big chunk of the city’s population. Bollywood is the reason that elements of glamour and fashion are of such importance to ‘Bombayites’, and it is also why the city is known to set many trends in terms of style for the rest of the country. Bombay is also the king of sensational nightclubs, modish hookah bars and sophisticated lounges which are found in abundance in the city; this fast and frenetic nightlife attracts several tourists and youngsters each night. I see proof of this as I hear two Ferrari convertibles zooming past me, seemingly heading to the famous Polly Esther’s nightclub in South Mumbai; the club attracts several with its mix of Bollywood, pop, and ’80s music.
I have almost reached home, when I suddenly realize I had not made the most important stop of the night- food! It was no problem to find a roadside food shack of the streets of Bombay and as soon as I spot one, I jump out of the car despite the downpour of the monsoon rain. The inviting smell of the freshly baked, sizzling potato sandwiches tempts me, and I ask the vendor to make me two of these crispy delights with extra masala, meaning spices. Satisfied with my lip-smacking sandwiches, I get ready to head to the apartment.
As thrilled as I was about the rest of my summer here, I already begin anticipating my arrival next year. I imagine how the warmth of the muggy humid nighttime air will greet me upon my arrival outside Mumbai International Airport, informing me once again that I have arrived at my destination, home.