Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mama's got a brand new Bag

 Hey Maximum City, I’m back!  What’s happening?  Has anything changed while I’ve been away?  Have people stopped falling into holes? Do shops have change in the tills? Has Landmark put all the books in alphabetical order yet?  Thought not. (Yes Landmark in Infiniti Mall, I am talking to you!  – alphabetical by author surname please!)
But it is good to be back. I picked up my Mumbai Mirror this morning to see that the problem page had not deviated from its single preoccupation, namely the solitary past time of young men. (So many variations on a theme!)
And here, at my car window, is the man without fingers,  a-gently tap-tapping with his tin, in the rain. Aw Mumbai, I’ve missed you.
Living out of a suitcase and sleeping on people’s blow-up beds for two months made me a little homesick for Mumbers.   Laying in the dark at my in-laws house in Sussex, listening to the grandfather clock chime every fifteen minutes until sunrise ,  I started to pine for  home – not my cottage in Kent (rented out)  - but the tiny  flat in Andheri which now contains most of my life. 
Don’t get me wrong, I had a fab time in England. I went to music festivals, stayed in a fisherman’s cottage in Cornwall, pottered about in the Lanes of Brighton and had my hair done in London but the most fun I had, without a shadow of a doubt, was...going to Waitrose.  I sailed up and down the aisles trying not to drool as I filled my trolley with anything that took my fancy.
 “Mum, can we have these anchovies, fillet steaks, Wensleydale, fresh rocket, thick and creamy yoghurts?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, chuck it all in, I don’t care.”
Waitrose is never knowingly cheap and I could have bought a small car with what we spent on food in there but who cares?  I was back in Star Bazaar this morning buying dusty, dented tins of stuff, stale bread, soft Cornflakes and manky veg.  It’s ok though, because my freezer is packed with fillet steak, sausages and bacon smuggled in past customs.
I thought Mick was so pleased to see us as we came out of Arrivals but his eyes were firmly fixed on the luggage: “did you get the sausages, please tell me you brought sausages?”
As I opened the door to our flat I was greeted by the deep, dank smell of damp. I looked at Mick, at the green mould on his shoes and belt.
He doesn’t notice these things.
So I wheeled out the dehumidifier, chucked all the clothes in the wash, lit my Jo Malone candles and fried up the sausages. Mummy’s home and all is well. Except for one thing, the air conditioner remote is not working. We have managed  to lose all but this one and now it’s not working.  I change the batteries. The sticker on the back says:  “After inserting new batteries, press ‘reset’ button for some time.”  I look, there is no reset button. 
“Give it here” Mick says, snatching it off me. He studies it carefully, takes the batteries out,  puts them back in again but he cannot find the reset button either.  I get on a chair to see there if there is a  manual way of switching  on the a.c . There is not.
The sticker also gives a 1-800 toll free number, a helpline? We exchange glances. I roll my eyes.  I know with almost 100 per cent certainty that the phone call will be fruitless. Is there any point?
Mick has more faith. He calls the number.
“Hello, ” he says slowly and clearly, “I have here in my hand the remote control for the Voltas  air conditioner . A sticker on the back says press the ‘reset ‘ button but there is no ‘reset ‘ button . Can you tell me where the ‘reset’ button is, please?
He is met by a long silence and then, a tentative…”hellooo”
He repeats the question, again, silence, then “hellloooo?” This goes on for about fifteen minutes but it’s all too much for Mick and he finally hurls the phone onto the sofa -  but not before calling  into question the person’s ability to help. 
So, I have been back a few hours and already we are being challenged by new and interesting problems. The flat is humid and smelly, we have no air con and , to add to it all,  new noisy neighbours   (two-year-old twins with squeaky shoes and massive hooters on their identical trikes which block  the hallway)  I soon  fall into a  daydream about my return trip to the UK in September when I will be taking my son  to start boarding school.
I plan to drop him off, cry a little, then go to Waitrose and stock up on meat for the freezer. I also hear that a trip to Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd's Bush is a good way to mend a broken heart. And then it will be time to fly ‘home’ to Mumbai, alone, without children, just me and some  magazines. For years now, I have dragged the kids through terminal four, struggling along with their hand luggage while they pester me for  X -box games and giant Toblerones. But not this time; this time is my time.  I am going to go to the Mulberry handbag shop and I’m gonna get me one of those Mulberry ‘Alexa's’  in tan. I have resisted the temptation for years, longingly pushing my face up against the glass and swooning over Mulberry bags of all shapes and sizes.  There will, after all, be an aching void in my life which I think can be nicely filled by a soft leather bag. Hugh, as I drop your little hand, you will be comforted to know Mummy  has a new Mulberry to cling onto. Son, this is a big day for us both!