Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Typists of Bombay


During my recent trip to Bombay, I discovered an area I dubbed "Typists' Row." Adeet and I walked down Picket Road, where rows of men sat typing in open stalls. I stood enthralled by that inimitable clack-clack that no computer keyboard can replicate. (I often fantasize about writing posts on my antique Underwood and shamelessly romanticize typewriters.) I asked Adeet to shoot a video, but after a few seconds the typists shooed him away. "Maybe they think we're spies," he suggested. I wanted to ask them if they were typing love letters or novels or top-secret government dossiers and considered giving them notes from my Bombay excursions. Maybe they could turn my scribbled observations into respectable rows of neat serif type.

I've been hesitant to share my own Bombay stories since the recent terrorist attacks, afraid that my happy memories might seem trivial after such tragedy. I've appreciated everyone who's asked me if friends and family in Bombay are safe, but struggled to articulate what I felt. I've sat crying at work after viewing photos of the Taj and am enormously thankful that people I love—Papiyama, Prateik, Adeet's grandparents, his cousins, Mitali, Shahnaz, Tushar—and so many others are safe. And I can relate to my friend Sandhya's recent blog post, a discussion of her delayed blogging reaction to the attacks.

But we do need to share stories so that people and places aren't completely erased. During our honeymoon, Adeet and I spent several afternoons in the Taj's Sea Lounge, gazing out at the boats in the harbor. He teased me mercilessly for eating pani puri, classic street food, in such a posh setting and I laughingly ordered a second helping. When the Taj reopens, I want to go back and eat chat and remember.

Now I keep thinking of the men typing so earnestly, and I hope they are still there. Perhaps they are writing their own Bombay stories, remembering those who were lost, remembering their city as it was—as it never can be again.

photo by Adeet Deshmukh

1 comment:

sandhya said...

Kate - Glad to hear your perspective. I was waiting for it. I think you'll love his video:

The Letter Writers of Mumbai
http://www.jigarmehta.com/NYTimes_Work/Jigar_Mehta___The_New_York_Times/Entries/2007/12/26_Foreign:_The_Letter-Writers_of_Mumbai.html