I can taste the sea; the breeze is trapping grains of salt in my knotty hair. On the water, colourful fishing boats bob up and down, a bit more violently than the slow moving tourist ferries. Far off on the horizon, cruise lines and navy ships eye-ball each other, standing as still as a hot Mumbai afternoon.
It’s looks the way it always has – regal grey stone, red roofing tiles, delicate lattice balconies, stained glass, white trim, and a flutter pigeons surrounding it. At the entrance a moustachioed guard welcomes visitors, his uniform is a crisp white, his turban is red.
The sun hits my eye, forcing me to squint, as I look for the cracks. I see none.
There’s a workman, maybe a carpenter, maybe a painter – a fixer of some sorts, at one of the windows. He has one foot on the window sill, and the other against the side frame, at a 45 degree angle. His clothes look colourless, blending into the stone, but his hair is jet black against the white trim. I can’t see if he has a harness, but he works with the assurance of one. He doesn’t look out even once.
It’s only when I pay (extra) close attention to his workspace that I can make out the new paint from the old. The difference is subtle, and will be lost in a few months of morning smog and a healthy monsoon – nature the great leveller, hiding scars and restoring colour.
When he hops back into the room and shuts the window, I try to trace the lines again, to find the restored window frame along the old wing. But it’s not easy. I find it, I lose it, I find it, I lose it. Soon my eyes hurt so I stop looking for it.
I had wondered if I’d sense a change, physical or emotional, or something entirely new and complex, but it’s how it always has been around this corner –the noise, the sea, the tourists, the crowds – the only visible difference are the vendors on the sidewalk selling miniature commandos – these moving plastic toys are dressed in army fatigues; they crawl on their stomach, their bodies rubbing against the hard ground, their guns pointing towards an unseen enemy.