As we sit caged in the tuk tuk, stopped in traffic, I can’t stop watching them. He stares straight ahead, completely unflustered as she runs her palm down his denim covered thigh. It isn’t a tentative graze of fingertips, but a possessive stroke, as if she knows this part of his body well. The rhythm. The pressure. The pace. Knows it intimately. His expression doesn’t change, as she squeezes his waist with her other hand.
An urging. Then she peels her body back from his and nuzzles against him, trying to kiss his neck.
I wonder what he smells like. She can’t get her lips to make contact. I wonder what he tastes like. I want her to stick her tongue out and run the tip against the sensitive sweep of his neck. Make him shiver. His helmet gets in the way. Her hijab doesn’t. The traffic moves, and he revs the bike and zooms off.
Mumbai is in heat. The city is damp. Sticky.
Later we walk down the road that straddles the ocean, weaving in between couples clinging to each other, intoxicated from the tingle of bare skin touching bare skin. They are everywhere. Young men wrap their arms possessively around the female form, asserting their masculinity despite the soft wispy hair lining their chins.
I am man. Their stance says. Never mind that I can’t shave yet.
And the young women arch their bodies seeking out maximum bodily contact, craving a touch that would be illicit just a few layers beneath.
I am woman. Their pose whispers. Never mind that I don’t know how to tell him how to touch.
Their faces are turned towards each other, close enough to feel each other’s breaths, oblivious to a city seeping out onto the pavement.
‘Lip to lip! ‘My sister gasps. The three of us giggle. Two women in their thirties and their mother, scandalised by a little French kissing. We are used to seeing white people like this, but certainly not brown people. And I am not even sure there was tongue. We are the only ones staring.
The scruffy boy with water bottles strapped to his legs continues pacing up and down the boardwalk, screeching ‘Paani, paani. Paani, paani.’ Every now and then his voice cracks. I wonder if he sneaks glimpses at these couples making out, wistfully wishing for his own set of curves to caress. Or maybe he has one. Or many. Or maybe it isn’t curves he covets.
A little further away, a group of men enthralled in a card game squat in a circle, bony knees pointing upwards, bottoms hovering above the ground. A few steps away from the couple, facing the ocean, an older woman in a polka dotted dirty yellow salwar kameez performs a set of yoga poses. Her silver bun is a neat round and the gold in her toe rings catch the rays from the setting sun.
Inhale. Mountain pose. Finger tips reach up for the sky. Exhale. Halfway lift. Spine straight. Hands to knees.
Nobody else even bothers looking twice at the canoodling couples. India must have changed. This is nothing like the chaste pure Indian narrative us Non Resident Indians (NRIs) have been fed all these years. We have been duped. We all knew there had to be some sexual activity…. one billion people were not immaculately conceived. But lip to lip…in public!
My mind wanders. Maybe Mumbai is ripe to offer me something steamy.
Photo Credit: Rediff Bollywood