Unedited excerpt of my memoir – ©2019 Sylvaine Francine
In this excerpt, from the Northwest, we “land” in Bombay, as Indians say, and Mumbai, as westerners say.
I look around my living room, in this house perched high up among the tall cedars. With one last glance to the waterfront view, I close the blinds. On the other side of Puget Sound, downtown Seattle’s bright lights reflect in the water. My chest rises. I sigh at the sight of my wood stove. It is cold and damp here in the Northwest. I add more wood, close the door. Already, it cracks and whistles in the fire.
I ready myself for bed, or for meditation first but instead, I choose to listen to a CD of Indian music. It feels right. After all, it is Friday. I don’t have to work tomorrow, and I don’t have to rush to the ferry.
This is how life goes when living on an island: the entire day is regulated by the ferry, that little dictator of island life rules everyone with its schedule. You get up and quickly get going because if you don’t, you’ll arrive at the ferry terminal facing an already full parking lot.
Tomorrow, I can chill. I press the last button on my CD player and turn up the volume of Taal by A.R Rahman.
India, I miss you.
The first notes resonate through my house with the power of human voices and the sounds of the drums. The cymbals and the high notes of the woman singer uplift me. Unexpectedly, my heart soars. I feel relieved of a heaviness I was not aware of. I am breathing deeper and better.
Indian music feels just right, a recognition that comes from deep inside my heart, from my soul. The music transports me back to where I have been and where I felt I belonged. My eyes closed, my body remembers and starts dancing, softly rocking as if cradled in the musical fluctuations. Every cell of my being responds and carries me further and deeper into my past. My lungs filled with sweet, blissful air. My elated breath frees my spirit. Am I floating into space? Around me, the furniture fades from existence. The thick wool carpet under my feet vanishes.
Under my feet I now feel the marble floor; I pick up the sounds of Bombay noisy streets. I recognize the smell of chai in my room, painted in red and overlooking a swamp. On the other side of it, large birds endlessly circle tall apartment buildings. My house disappears but the music remains, the pieces change, following one another in a familiar sequence. I clap my hands together following the rhythm. I dive even deeper into the memory where the music transports me. I hear every beat of the drums, every musical note. Every sway in the melody brings me more joy.
I know and I remember. It is real and unreal. I am back in Bombay but my body still in the Pacific Northwest. For now, I just go with the feeling. I reject the thought of the disappointment that soon will come. Keeping my eyes closed, I hear the drums. I feel the humidity. I smell incense burning. I taste India.
I experience again a November morning in Bombay in 2005. Sunday, 7:00 AM.
It was still hot and humid. The metallic fan whirled around all night and kept me almost cool. I slept quite well in the absence of the packs of pariah dogs. They run wild in the streets at night. They had not visited our neighborhood for a few days. It was almost silent. Of course, silence didn’t exactly exist there. In this city that never slept, cellular phones rang in the obscurity of the streets. Voices shouted. Speakers blasted loud music, suddenly waking me up at two o ‘clock in the morning and stopping abruptly at four. At night, my head under the pillow, I attempted to buffer the shrieking noises of mopeds. In the cassia-lined street below, they avoided holes and roared and skidded. They scattered piles of garbage and vanished to be replaced by others. Usually, exhaustion took over and I fell back to sleep.
Startled by the sound of explosive music, I jumped out of my bed. It was morning. I approached the screened window and pulled the dark blue curtains back.
Photo Credits: Pawankawan from Morguefile.com