Walking across the Oval Maidan, the wind tugs my hair out from behind my ears and lightly plonks it on my face, the pleasant woodsy smell of its wafts up to me.
The stoned path across the Maidan is always windy. And it always has at least 20 people crossing at any given point. In the morning, people can be seen hurrying along, noisily, in pairs, groups or alone. On the phone, listening to music or just sauntering along. If you look up while crossing the Oval, as it is fondly known, you'll see a huge expanse of the sky. With cottony white clouds tinged with blue floating across lazily. Or on an overcast day you'll be able to spot an sulking grey sky, with dark hued clouds gobbling it up. And observing the sky while walking on the path feels like you are crossing the sky and not the Maidan.
On the greens around the path, there's always some activity happening. Even in the sweltering sun of the afternoon, little children struggle with footballs in one corner. A group of mothers sit in a corner, waiting for their children's class to get over, with duppattas pulled down on their heads to protect them from the sun. In another corner, young men in whites are practising their batting swings and bowling arms. Setting up teams for a cricket match. Near the High court end, their is a group of girls and a few boys in jeans and tee-shirts. Huddled in a small circle, playing a match of under-arm Box Cricket.
While one end of Oval Maidan, faces the street opening out to Oxford, the book shop, and K.C College, the other end opens out to the campus of Mumbai University, adjacent to the High Court. The Rajabhai Tower inside the University Campus can be seen from any corner of the Maidan. Palm trees, Gulmohars and lots of other shrubberies line the sides of the Maidan. They shed their browned leaves in March, but still don't look bare. "Its autumn", the trees seem to be saying, "but we are not gonna leave you without any shade."
But the best time to walk across that path is in the evening. After Seven. The path is not lit and nor is the vast Maidan. Its just the sides of the Oval that are lit by street lights. Every evening, in the bleak darkness, numerous shaded figures can be spotted lounging in the darkness of the maidan. And another few, crossing the windy path in a hushed silence and beautiful navy blue inkiness.
Walking across the Maidan, in the windy lifts and lulls of the breeze, its a pleasure. A pleasure, which I wonder if I'll get when I leave this city of mine. I don't love Mumbai, I had once said, but now its time to back-track. I do. I don't love it enough to live here forever, that's true. But I love it enough to have loved all the 22 years I have lived here.
And I love every new part of it that these years have shown me.