Three cities

She did not which city was home. The one she was born into, the one that adopted her or the one that she fell in love with. She was always in a quandary; Bombay, Mumbai or Pune.

Yes, we called it Bombay those days. When every monsoon shower did not threaten to disrupt our carefully-timed schedules and the roads were still paved with concrete.

She grew up in Mumbai, where politicians ruled the streets, literally. She learnt to negotiate a long commute and brave the overwhelming crowds. She learnt the efficacy of a smile and of securing a space on the footboard of a local train. The city took out of her as much as it bestowed on her. Some days, it was an irrational, defiant lover whom she couldn’t get enough of; the other days, a charmer she couldn’t resist.

And then she saw Pune. It held the memory of happy childhood rendezvous. It was the base camp before she charted her way to boarding school. It was a collage of melt-in-your-mouth softie ice-creams, last-minute movie dates and fancy Chinese dinners. Pune was a haven, something she retreated to every once in a while.

While she had reconciled to the dichotomy between Bombay and Mumbai, Pune remained a distant dream. Yes, she visited often. Always in her mind.

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