Some photographs affect us for reasons we may never fully understand.
This picture of a poor little mongrel outside the Taj Mahal hotel had me thinking of another time. (Link to Boston.com's fantastic and sometimes gruesome slideshow.)
Like so many others, I've hung around the Taj at hours when the city appears to be bathed in that beautiful sepia tone. (An attack of synesthesia: that sepia color "sounds" like fuzzy tube amplifiers and old guitars.) No doubt, the color comes from street lamps, but to me, it is the color of the feeling one gets when one is "in town" - in South Bombay.
It's hard to explain that feeling to someone who has never lived in Bombay's suburbs and does not know the significance of the words "I'm going to town". Those four words used to (and still do, I am sure) hold the promise of a very long night filled with music, friends, bars, noisy train rides, films and the sight of Bombay's rich and famous. In other words, to us suburban dwellers, downtown Bombay was an adult Disneyland.
The illusion of the theme park would start wearing off in the late, late hours. The reality of the hour-long train ride would be the first to appear on the horizon. Then the dread of the coming week at work. A mental picture of the damp apartments, cockroaches on the kitchen floor and the stifling claustrophobia. Of wet, squeaky rubber boots that smelled and the taste of too many cigarettes.
And so we would walk back to our train stations - some to Churchgate, some to VT. The street-side vendors would be asleep, confident that no one at this hour could possibly need belts, shoes, socks, self-help books, porn and plastic toys. We would walk through fine, old buildings and sometimes find ourselves at empty intersections, completely exposed under the warm glare of the sodium vapor lamps, just like that dog in the picture.