Bombay 1. Most flights are un-eventful. You step on the plane, the doors are air tight and if the electronic devices and time pieces were all switched off, you feel nothing change. Time could pass: an hour or 6 and we'd only be able to guess. I still find it intriguing how we fly in and out of time zones. To land in another country that is still yesterday, or one that is already tomorrow. We arrived, walked through the airport, gathered our luggage and after a buzzing taxi ramp, slipped into the hot darkness of Bombay. At 2.a.m, the roads are deserted and our guide from the Literature Festival, of which I am to take a part in - (performing The 14th Tale) - assures us that in midday, it would have taken 1 hour to cross the same street we just did in 5 minutes. I don't doubt him for a second. I've been told about the culture shock of Bombay, but even at night, I can sense its similarity with Lagos or Jos where I was born. I haven't been to Nigeria in 15 years, but that same buzz, that sense of all of life clashing in colourful, violent, unexpected and opposite ways, rise up from the city. The streets. The shacks on the sides of the road. The roaming dogs. The taxi driver's style of driving; of blaring horns and switching headlights from dipped lights to full beam in rapid, warn-epileptics-against fashion.
In the morning, we breakfast on the first of what I imagine will be many curries. We are based at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, which the child of an ex colony in me scoffs at, at the same time, welcomes its familiarity. A framed aged poster proudly announces that the Prince and Princess of Wales visited the Yacht Club in 1905 and after, bestowed 'Royal' to the club. We go out, visit the venue for tomorrow's first show and meet members of the literature festival team. I scan the programme of events, there is a lot going on and I'm honoured to be representing the smorgasbord of the world that contrived to my being here: to cast my voice among the lot of writers. The names attached to The 14th Tale are: BAC, Apples and Snakes, Roger Robinson, Roddy Lumsden, Tom Chivers, Ireland, Nigeria, United Kingdom and now the British Council.
We decide to walk from Colaba Causeway back to our hotel to rest, adjust to the heat and sync with India time. What I've come to love about travelling is finding similar relationships play out; relationships that are instantly recognisable and beyond language. A 3ish year old boy looks up at his mother who is pointing at his ice cream and beckoning. His eyes seem to say, this is mine and that's all there is to it, mum. The boys in white kaftans eye the girls as the walk pass, not daring to speak. The taxi drivers are impatient. The beggars persistent. The waves gentle. The sun strong.