The Scent of Mumbai

Posted: March 14th, 2022

UNCERTAINTY AGAIN AFFECTS everyone’s travel plans, and 2021 was the first year in decades I was unable to visit India. We have all become adept at dealing with the irritation and relief that accompany video calls and social media to stay in touch with close friends we would have seen regularly in India and on the Great Indian Summer Migration to London, but the subcontinent itself remains elusive. Films and some amazing television series offer nostalgia and imagined itineraries, and I suspect—and hope—I’m not alone in poring over “Trains at a Glance” meticulously, planning journeys I will never embark on. Retirement meant I had to empty my office at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) which I’d been using for 40 years. So, although there’s barely room to move in the home study, my eyes roam the shelves of novels, history, natural history, travel, and film books about India. I should sort out the old photographs from pre-digital days, where I had to eke out rolls of film while travelling in India. I can look at clothes unsuited to the British climate. I can eat Indian food but it’s not the same, and it’s very hard in early January to imagine the feel of the sun.

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