Take the rains and put it together with a couple of major festivals like Ganesh Visarjan (the day more than 100000 larger than life Ganeshas in Mumbai are taken to the sea), Mount Mary Festival (a crazy crowded fair in Bandra which clogs the driving route).. that is the day I had chosen out of all the days to leave Mumbai – Night of September 14th.
We had been warned about massive traffic jams, horrible downpour and long queues at the international airpport (which is under renovation). To play it safe, we decided to drive to the ITC Grand Maratha Hotel (an expensive hotel next to airport) and have coffee (with a bunch people including us who under normal circumstances would have preferred the Kheema Pav at the airport for 20 Rs as against the Vada Pav at the hotel for 375 Rs). The bunch of people included Nimesh (my dear friend from Marico who quit around the same time I did to start something on his own), Aarti (neighbour cum capoeira addict cum fellow black coffee lover cum hopefully gonna quit her job and go to brazil too friend), Bryan (my travel partner Neesha’s husband.. ocassionally my boyfriend… and the only guy who was checking for flights to Brazil via Liverpool… no guesses why), Anjali (Neesha’s sister.. incidentally a fantastic hair stylist) and Roy ofcourse.
All the planning and we left home at 6 pm. I don’t know whether it is the Mumbai traffic police’s efficiency or Mumbai junta’s fear to step out of their homes on that day… the roads were bloody empty. Imagine actually cruising down the Western express highway and spotting a car only every few minutes. Imagine seeing the Andheri flyover and not the pack of cars on it. Imagine not stopping for one momentright from the Reclamation till the Andheri signal. For those who have lived in Mumbai and driven in Mumbai, what I am referring to above is unreal.
We reached the hotel in 20 minutes flat. Spotted 2 Ganapatis on the way. Ordered overpriced club sandwiches and large black coffees. Created a lot of noise in the otherwise sophisticated coffee shop of Grand Maratha. Laughed a lot. Drove to the airport. Was really happy to see 3 more people land up to say goodbye – Sandhya (my other close friend from Marico who also quit to start something.. with Nimesh), her husband Vishal and their adorable son Kabir (who did not want to let of the google torch cum radio gift that these guys had gotten for me). Took some photos. Made the guys carry our bags till the exit gate. Talked about how Mumbai International Airport has probably improved as they had introduced a Gate D, which did not exist earlier according to Nimesh. Hung around till Bryan used his influence (he used to work at International Airport earlier in his career) to check in without actually waiting in a queue. Said ‘hugs and kisses goodbyes’… Tried not to cry… Controlled emotions et all…
We couldn’t believe it. We were actually leaving Mumbai…..