Rain pelted down onto Altamount Road below, the delicate en pointe technique of a thousand ballerinas rumbling across a stage. Earlier, the sun had exploded into full bloom for an hour, after which rain clouds shuffled in again. I was resting on a single bed as mid-afternoon light filtered through the darkening clouds and cast the sky in an impressionistic purple-gray hue. In this unfamiliar guest room with its pomegranate-velvet Victorian sofa, I listened to the soft violence of the monsoon shower through the flung-open windows. The same sound had been a steady backbeat to my childhood years in Bombay. Then, just as quickly as the rain shower had come, it disappeared.
My relationship with Joni Mitchell and her music moves through two stages. My early admiration for her—in the seventies—in some ways anticipated the zeitgeist. Then I stopped listening to her for about a quarter of a century. I began to rediscover Mitchell’s work in the new millennium, when, by coincidence, so was the rest of the world.
I am constantly asked why I persist in calling my city Bombay when it has long been renamed Mumbai. A rather articulate but annoying French academic even attributed inherent anarchy to my dissension. “If everyone called cities by the names they preferred, how would anyone know where they are?” I opted out of the argument. I would know. I would always know. With my eyes wide shut. Mumbai may be a zip code, but Bombay is my home.