If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Dec 27, 2007

Please come home for Christmas.

Christmas is the time for peace on earth and goodwill to all men. The Christmas lunch is the time for strife and marital discord. Midnight mass has been uplifting. The choir outdid themselves. The sermon was short and therefore sweet. The full moon shining down just added to the magic of Christmas night. And we managed to put behind us for a little time the big fight. About wheter Christmas lunch was at Mummies house or Mummies house. It normally goes in rotation. This year the in'laws house, next year Mummies house. But then visiting children who have come down for the first Christmas in five years or grandparents who are not going to be around next year queer the pitch. And going over for dinner is just not the same thing. It's like a matinee show, backwards. Or a pit stop on the way to the Gym for the dance. Going over the next day for lunch is like watching BenHur on your Ipod. Though the chicken curry does taste better.
Many years later the balance of power subtly shifts. Mummy and Daddy and Mummy and Daddy all come over to your house. The requisite phone calls come in from Sydney, Missisauga and California. You wonder. Did we really sulk at each other for three days because of Christmas lunch ? Over a chicken pretending to be a turkey.
Now we're older and wiser. No we are'nt. Circumstances just make us seem that way. One day we'll learn that it's all about peace at home and goodwill to Mummy and Daddy [ -in-law ] too.

Dec 24, 2007

I went to see my Darling ...

... last Saturday night.
He comes around thrice in the year. At late evening. A child in tow. The child and he both singing out loudly. His harmonium struggling to keep pace. Many years ago a woman would come around with him singing while he only played the harmonium. She has'nt been around for a while. Did she go back to the village. Did she join a call centre ? He isn't begging. He's an entertainer. He sings a song for you and if you like it you pay him. In old clothes, or old toys and sometimes money.
Come Christmas time, he visits Bandra. When peoples hearts grow large and their purse strings loose. His repetoire is largely Hindi film based. Yeh Kali Kali Ankhe, gets evrything he's got. No orchestra backing him , or studio editing to cancel out mistakes. Just his whole heart and his soul.
Where did he learn his signature tune ? Where did he learn to play the harmonium ? Where does he come from ? Where does he go? And for how many years more will we see him ? Before he joins the ranks of the barbers who came around on Thrusday morning to give us our haircut. The gas lamp lighters who came around every evening to light the street lamps. The Kalai wallahs who set up their bellows in the compund to kalai our hundis. The soori dar wallahs with their energy efficent cycles. The list goes on, hopefully he will too.

Dec 21, 2007

There's an Old Christmas e-mail !

In far away Mississauga they wait for the first snow to herald the oncoming of the Christmas season. In Bandra we wait for the first Christmas card. The postmen would gear up for the extra load. The post office would issue press statements asking you to post your cards early. To bear with them if the delivery of your cards was late. There were Papal postal seals issued specially for Christmas with which you sealed your envelopes. In school for the last art class before the Christms holidays we had to draw a Christmas card. The postman would deliver your mail to the door. Personal mailboxes were for Americans. The postmans Christmas baksheesh depended on this. The foreign stamps would be steamed of the envelope to put into your stamp album. Duplicates were put aside for day trading. The cards brought with them pictures of snowmen and stables, reindeer and wisemen, sometimes pictures of distant cousins of whom this annual picture was all you ever saw of. Handmade cards from those who thought themselves artists. Nativity scenes with Mother mary in a saree for the local touch. All the cards would be strung up from special card holders. Streaming down one corner of the room. Or spanning the doorway from living room to kitchen. Or placed upright on the piano. You always had a few blank cards to spare. To reply to the card that came in from somebody you had'nt sent a card to. The musical cards would tingle Jingle bells when you opened them. We looked at those , convinced that if the country they came from made this then it couldnt be much more diificult for them to put a man on the moon. The batteries of these cards would be over long before Christmas, thanks to the constant demos of the magical musical cards ability to every visitor including those to the neighbours house who would be brought over to see this marvel of science and technology. [ This was in the pre Made in China days ]. There were 3D cards that would come from Japan. [ I still don't know how they do it ? ] But the cows and donkeys and Baby Jesus in them were as real as real could be. There were fold out cards that had the crib popping out at you as you opened the card. Or Santa taking off out of the card as you unfolded it. The really nice ones we'd use as Cristmas decorations. The average ones we'd cut up for gift tags next year. There would be cards from Aunt's who lived down the road and whom you would see at midnight mass and personally wish.
Then came the global village and the world wide web. The postmans bag gets lighter every year. His baksheesh demands are half hearted. The telegram wallah has thrown in the towel and does'nt even come around anymore. And Gentleman Jim is going to be singing
' There's an Old Christmas e-mail ...'

Break Dancing !

There was a long break and a short break. In school. The short break was 15 minutes. 11.00 o'clock and the bull pens would open. 2000 boys would descend ontp the playgrounds. There was a front ground [ in front of the school ] a back bround [ guess where ? ] and The Rev. Fr. Donnelly Gym. The building was three stories high. Yet 15 minutes was enough to skip to the loo, buy your batata wada ,or wada pav if you had the extra bullion. Then get into a game of tops or marbles or even a quick game of football or hockey. The first bell would go off to reverse the exodus. By the second bell 5 minutes later all 2000 of us would have made it back to our classrooms . Where we'd wait , [ whats the opposite of eagerly ? ] for the teacher to appear.
At 1.00 o'clock the bell for the lunch break would go off. we'd charge down the stairs. Cycle home. Have lunch. Cycle back to school and continue the hockey game that had been brought to an abrupt end in the short break. Some of the rich kids had servants , the others had mothers who would bring a dabba to school for them. They'd repair to the lunch room. Not having to commute for food they'd have a head start over the others at the grounds. The 12 pillars on which cricket wickets could be drawn with chalk would have been appropriated by these fattened little emperors before we'd even been told to wash our hands before eating at home. Soon everybody would be back and on the ground. There were two goal posts, one at either end of the field. Which did service for the ten odd games. Together. So you had to remember the color of the ball of the game you were a part of. Five goalies would all be covering the same goal at the same time. While trying to get control of your ball you had to stay away from the others especially if you were in the sixth standard and the other games were the seventh ,eight ,ninth and tenth standards. There was never any audience participation , because there was no audience. Everybody was a player. The bell to signal the end of the lunch break would go off at 1.55. And 2000 boys who could get from class to playground in 25 seconds flat would take at least 5 minutes to reverse the process. Until 3.45 when the bell signalling the end of the days torture went off. And then we'd better our time of class to playground by three seconds at least.

Dec 20, 2007

Massacare of the Innocence !

We were at midnight mass last year.Standing on the grounds of St. Andrews. The choir harking us to listen to heralding angels. When Mahia [ My now eight,then seven year old daughter] tugged at me and excitedly told me that she saw him. Who? Santa. She saw Santa flashing through the night sky above Bandra in his sleigh pulled by reindeer. Her eyes sparkled with excitement and she was sure he was headed to our place to drop her Christmas present off.
Every year she'd missed him. She'd fallen asleep to find Santa had visited and left. There below the tree were the presents she'd wanted.
She knew that the Santa's that she saw at Christmas parties or the mall or with carol singers were just actors. The real Santa was the one she always missed. Until now.
A year went by. She came back from school one day and asked me " Is there a Santa ? "
Why? Because her teacher told her that there is no real Santa. The great big Santa conspiracy that every parent is a part of was exposed. I'd fooled her these eight short years.
Mary saw the angel Gabriel. The shepherds saw choirs of angels with the heavens unfolded. The three wise men saw a star. On St. Andrew's grounds on that Christmas night I saw Santa.
Was it a fire cracker? A stray shooting star ? A welding arc on one of the highrises ? Maybe. But thru Mahia's eyes , I saw Santa.

Dec 17, 2007

Who will watch the Watchman?

At the entrance to our building sits our watchman. He's travelled a thousand odd miles from his village in Nepal. Crossed the border and come to Mumbai. To gaurd us against petty thieves and direct the Pizza and Domino delivery guys to the right address. He's left behind wife, children and parents, a few fields that he could barely crack the ground open on to sow some rice,his temple and his king.[ Thank yo Ritchie Blackmore ] He works a twenty four hour shift .Twelve hours with us and twelve hours at another building . He sleeps sitting up. The gate has to be opened everytime a car goes in or out. He has a co-operative with the other watchman in the neighbourhood for his lunch and dinner. The Nepal times is circulated amongst all of them , a few days after it's sell by date but it's still pictures of home [ Thank you Deep Purple ].
He washes the cars at the end of his shift. He escorts the kids when they cross the road. He helps the old Aunties of the building with their bags in and out of rickshaws. Suitcases are carried up and down flights of steps like feather pillows when it's holiday season.
At Christmas time he helps us string up our decorations in the building lobby. He climbs the mango tree to string up the star. He knows the intricacies of the water pumps and gives us last mile connectivity with the BMC water dept. He buys the bread from the breadman when we're out and knows how many kelas each house needs per week.
The underground railroad carries money, clothes and people between Nepal and Mumbai. When he gets so homesick that all the gold in Jhaveri Bazaar cannot keep him here he brings his cousin around and introduces him to everyone in the building.
He heads back home. A three day journey. Part bus, part train and a three hour walk at the end of it all.
Our cousins go to Dubai or California, our brothers join the ship or the oil fields, Jo-Boy went to
New Zeland. Somewhere in Nepal is a twelve year old boy who dreams about being a watchman in Mumbai one day.

Dec 11, 2007

The Fourth King.

It was a small family. A mother and two children. She took catering orders to try and make the money for food ,clothes ,school uniforms , shoes, rent and the million things that you needed money for. Yet she found the extra money to drop into the collection plate at church and pay her dues to the Society of Vincent de Paul every month.
December was a busy time. Lots of first communion parties, engagements and post wedding dinners. The one set of new clothes that she got the kids thru the whole year was at Christmas. Potato chops and ribbon sandwiches didn't allow for new clothes for birthdays or new curtains for Easter. They'd chosen what they wanted. A dress with ribbons lacing thru for her little girl and the new pair of jeans and matching jacket for her boy.
There was a Tsunami and there was a special collection in church for that. Then came the earthquake in Chile and money for medicines was what they had decided to collect. The neighbours daughters first communion party bill had still not been paid. She could'nt ask them for money now. Not at Christmas with all the expenses thay had on their heads. So she started walking to the market insted of using the bus. She had a cold bath to save on the electricity. The sidings from the catering order ribbon sandwiches served for lunch.
She got the dress with the ribbons and the jeans and the jacket for the kids. They went to midnight mass and prayed at the crib later. They saw the angels and the manger,the shepherds and their sheep. She wondered how difficult it must have been for the three kings . To travel to a strange land. Following a dream that they were'nt even sure was real. Leaving behind their families and kingdoms. She thanked the baby Jesus for her life which she told him was blessed and comfortable. Where she had a roof over her head. Where she did'nt have to travel thru strange inhospitable lands. Children whom she loved and who loved her. And for being able to give them a new dress and pant and jacket for Christmas.

Dec 9, 2007

"Lorna" mojhe Mog

Statutory warning.
This blog has very little to do with Bandra.
There is a drummer who lives in Mahim called Raymond Albuqerue. He was on his way to a picnic at Marve. The bus that was picking everybody up started from Dhobi Talao. Worked its way thru Dabul and Dadar and Mahim and Bandra before finding its way to Marve. The group had hired two cottages there. One for the boys and one for the girls. They got around to opening the beer or squash or whatever it was they were drinking . Then over the wall from the girls side came a voice singing " Where the boys are ". Raymond was on the top of the wall from the boys side before the first verse was over. Looking down to see who was singing. Thats when he first heard Lorna. He met Lorna Cordeiro and she wanted to come and sing with Raymonds band. So they fixed it up for 10 o'clock the next Sunday morning. She was there at 9.30 a.m. . And the rest as is often said, is history.

Chris Perry introduced Lorna on the Konkani stage. Chris Perry’s valuable lyrics with his original soul-touching music and Lorna’s inimitable voice created a revolution in Konkani singing.

And the nightingale’s voice of Lorna created the magic in rendering the songs effectively

Lorna Cordeiro, Goa's golden-voiced nightingale, visited Goa during the last leg of electioneering. Obviously bitten by the election bug, crowd-puller Lorna bolstered the UGDP's campaign by glorifying UGDP's supremo Churchill Alemao with songs set to tunes of popular Chris Perry-Lorna hits of yesteryear

Khalap, the outgoing Union minister for law and justice, got Farooq Abdullah and Gujral to campaign for him. Alemao, of course, went with the singers Lorna Cordeiro and Nephie Rod.

Mandd Sobhan proudly presented The Lorna Show at the newly built Milagres Hall Complex, near Milagres Church, on 9th of October at 6 pm. This program was a fabulous hit with Goan Songs, Goan Artistes, Goan Jokes and typical Goan evening.

The panel of judges was Ms. Esmie D’Souza, Mr. David Fernandes and Ms. Lorna Cordeiro. At the end Ms. Lorna Cordeiro entertained the audience with her hits of yesteryears. Later, the Hindu community of the three wards gathered in the Chapel to offer thanksgiving to St. Anne.

This has nothing to do with Bandra other than the fact that Raymond and me were both
celebrating our friend Jessica's wedding and well, she's from Bandra.

Viva Lorna .

Dec 7, 2007

Open Season

America has expats, Iran has political refugees, Britain has explorers , we have NRI’s . White shoes . White track shoes. The sign of an NRI. Shoes that have been getting out of heated houses into heated carports into heated cars into mechanically cleaned sidewalks into glass box office buildings and then all the way back again. Without ever seeing mud. Or dirt , or dust. Tee shirts that are white with bleach and have what we still think of as new clothes smell. It’s fabric softner. The fact that we use a washing machine, seems to be enough comfort. Fabric softener and bleach would be total self indulgence.
The handy cam always ready, recording the odd cow or elephant. Every cousin aunt uncle and old neighbour lined up and shot in 8 megapixels for the family album. Eating panipuri at Elco’s with the accompanying bottle of Bisleri. Buying a years supply of coconut hair oil and wishing it could buy a year’s supply of bhelpuri. Making the trip to Goa. And visiting every cousin there including the ones you didn’t visit when you lived in India. Finding out wheter Goa sausages are still on the FDA’s banned list. What about if you seal it in a tin ?
Catching up with condolence visits . Aunts who burst into tears remembering you. Every Aunt tells Jo Boys son that he looks just like JoBoy did when he was small.
You like sweets ?
Just like Jo Boy.
You don’t like studying ?
Just like Jo Boy.
You trouble your sister a lot ?
Just like Jo Boy.
You go to play when it’s time to say prayers ?
Just like Jo Boy.
Aunty I got news for you. Most boys in the world are just like Jo Boy. Pass the nankaties.
Three weeks fly by. Barely opened your suitcases dispensing Toblerones, Black Labels and pictures of the Thousand Island picnic have to be repacked and its time to go. Back home where you’re gonna have to get a new pair of sneakers. This pair is never gonna be white again. Ever.

Dec 6, 2007

Green was an adjective not a noun !

Presents were never ripped open in front of the presenter. You carefully peeled away the sticky tape later and folded the wrapping paper and put it under the mattress. [ With the crosses from Palm Sunday ]. To be recycled for the time when you would be the presenter. String that held parcles together would be unravelled and added to the ever growing ball in the cupboard. Old toothbrushes were kept below the bathroom basin to come into service for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom tiling grout [ Ok Joints]. Bottles. If they were white bottles they'd be saved for holding KalaKatha concentrate which mixed with soda gave you something that came closer to Coca Cola than the real thing. Or orange juice or limbu [ Ok Lemon ] concentrate in the summer. Best of all for bottle masala, or vindaloo powder or sec sec or any of the million and one combinations of crushed chilli, tumeric ,pepper, ginger that brought the masalchis from Vasai pounding to our door. The bottle came into service best at Divali when it formed the launcing pad for rockets. If you were brave and stupid you held the bottle in your hand while your not so brave and cleverer friend / brother lit the fuse and ran back. While you tried to get the rocket to hit plant holder hanging on the sixth floor balcony. Beer bottles fetched you a buck a piece. Eleven empty beer bottles got you enough money for one full one.[ Yes I'm that old !] Coloured bottles with caps were used to store wine. The darkened color of the bottle helped keep the wine stable. Fused light bulbs and bottles without caps were filled with water and money plants thrived in them. Crawling up the window grills they were suspended from and bringing nature into ever higher flats. And when the bottle was totally toally gone you crushed it into as fine a powder as you could and saved it for kite flying season when you made your own manja. Empty bottles of Scotch with the label intact were sold to the Jari Purana Bai who came around with a basket on her head. What she needed it for you found out when you bought some Johnny Walker at Christmas time and it tasted like Santra. Paper you lined the dutbin with. You spread out on the staircase landing floor when the barber came to give you a haircut. Or you gave to the altarboys when they had a newspaper drive to raise money for their annual picnic. Old hacksaw blades could be sharpened into the finest kitchen knives with electrical tape wound many times over making a handle. Old sari's were joined together to make quilts and old shirts cut into squares for dusters. Old drawing crayons were the coloring for your homemade Christmas candles. Old curtains were the new cover for the Rajdoot mototrcycle that your father loved more than your mother. [ She was the transfigurer ]. Stale bread made bread pudding for tea the next day. Or bread crumbs stored in a wide mouth bottle to bread the cutlets with. Stale cake...
There never was a chance for the cake to go stale. We're bandra buggers after all.

Dec 5, 2007

Operation Flood!

On a cold and grey Chicago morn, another little baby child is born, in Bandra. He grows up and when he's twelve he's told he's got to fetch the milk. You have to be at the milk booth line before the milk runs out. So you stumble out of bed and sleep walk to the kitchen meatsafe,below which the bottles are kept.

To the door and halfway out before you realise your still in your pyjamas. Changed , you make your way down stairs to find the other milk collectors from your building have started off to the milk booth without you. Its December so it's dark and it's cold. You're struggling to remember what your Mother told you last night. Two toned milk [ red striped caps] , one ordinary [blue striped caps] or was it the other way around. You run to catch up with them, clutching milk bottle carrier in one hand and milk money in the other. [ your home shorts pocket has a hole and the money might slip out ]. You're at the end of the line of milk bottles . Everyone leaves their bottle carriers in their order of arrival to mark their place in the queue and tries to find the most comfortable spot on the pavement to sit. The window from which the milk is sold is shut but the service door to the booth is open. The milk truck arrives and the newbies in the line scramble to pick up their bottles and retrieve their place in the queue. But old hands like us know that the line is going nowhere until the window opens. The man selling the milk from the booth has his own supply chain going so out of the 400 odd bottles of milk delivered only 250 [ or thereabouts ] is going to be released into the free market. The professional delivery men with baskets the size of airport trolleys corner more than half the market. They probably come in after dinner every night and spend the night here. [ You would if your daily bread and butter depended on delivering somebody elses milk ] You've reached the head of the line and there's still milk available. Alleluia ! You wont have to go to the Bhaiya's dairy and buy his concoction of three parts milk ,one part water. You head home finding time to look up into the dark December morning sky and see Orion getting ready to be banished into the pre dawn. At home the foil striped cap comes off. You put your finger into the bottle and retrieve what has to be the tastiest, thickest, freshest, everythingest cream in the world. Three bottles, three caps off, [ carefully so that they can be refixed on the bottles, because Mother thinks it's piggish to retrieve the cream with a not too clean finger ]. three heavenly slurps. Why can't you use the handle of the spoon ?
And back to bed you go where you have the strangest dream. That milk will be available in packets. And you can keep it for more than a month without it going bad. That even Modern Stores who until now deals only in Amul butter and dollars has rectangular blue cartons filled with milk on his shelves. That whenever and wherever you want milk you can get it. Yeah sure ! Wishes are horses and beggars will ride.

You can keep the Porsche !!!

All roads lead to Rome and in Bandra they lead to the station. Wheter you live at Bandstand or at Carter Road on the reclaimation or Pali Hill. You wait a few minutes and along comes the big red bus. So you jump over the feet of the junkie who is chasing heaven over a piece of foil behind the bus stop and clamber aboard. If it's rush hour you hang out of the door with all the grace of a Gemini Circus trapeze artist hanging onto his swing. Until the crowd surges inside and you get a foothold on the steps. A balancing act still, but you're not swinging free every time the bus makes a turn. A gaggle of school girls and a school of Kohli fisherwoman in front of you stop you from reaching the conductor. Since Mohammed can't reach the mountain the mountain comes to Mohammed. For the princely sum of a rupee you are on your way to Bandra station. College and school students, office goers, all thrown together on this ship. The Captain [ Ok Driver ] navigates thru the perilous waters of Turner road with it's dug up trenches and jaywalkers and Maruti minnows daring to challenge the might of this BEST whale. Picking up people at every stop and once in the middle of the road when flagged down by an off duty policeman ? Fellow Driver ? Brother-in-law ? He's allowed to get in from the front of the bus. He's not old and he's not infirm. The कसा hai and the बररा hai are exchanged and he's allowed to perch on the bar seperating the Captain from the crew. One of the Kohli women is waving her koyta at one of the office goers who'se front came to close to her back. The Captain gets into the home stretch but suddenly screeches to a stop in tandem with the bus coming in the opposite direction. The Captains are friends. So there they sit discussing the price of copper shares in Bolivia while the world and their dog are trying to get by them to make the 7.51 local to Churchgate. With a wave and a honk we're off again. To be deposited right outside the station where a blue uniformed T.C. checks each person for a ticket as they get off the bus. Right next to him is a Hijra who'se breaks into smile and promises you children as numerous as the sands of the sea for the loose change in your pocket. The Captains brother in law does'nt have a ticket and the Captain has to intervene to keep him fineless. The Captains off again round the masjid and into the depot where he hands over command and repairs into the canteen for a glass of hot tea and hotter bhajias while he hangs up his uniform shirt in the staff room while scracthing his belly thru his half sleeved banian with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Dec 4, 2007

Oh Carols !

Christmas is coming. The geese are getting fat. There's a carol singing practise at 4 o'clock. We gather around the guitarist who gives us our note while the organ sits feeling left out of things only because it's too big to walk around with. The usual Jingle Bells and Rudolph are sung in three part harmonies thanks to Celeste who can sings harmonies like you and me brush our teeth. Allwyn is appointed as Santa Calus and he gets the costume out of the choir loft to try it on for size. He's told to buy fresh cotton to replace last years yellowed beard. The collection boxes are cleaned and the keys to their locks found behind the incense burners in the sacristy. The triangles and tambourine are fought over. Till it's decided that whoever get here first on the 20th gets it. The routes are planned. On the basis of last years generosity of said routes inhabitants. The poor and the dispossesed are going to be dispossesed out of our carols this year too.

And we're off. A motley bunch of people. Women old enough to be called Aunty but not so old that they can't keep pace. Uncles whose baritone finds an outlet amidst Johnson bath tiles and are denied freedom of expression at all family parties. Santa Claus with a big red bag, gutarists, triangle and castanet players. We gather around our guitarists in the garden of the first building we visit and wait for the stragglers to catch up. Jingle Bells resounds between building walls and water tanks. Inhabitants come to their balconies. The dog on the 2nd floor bursts into frenzied barking that threatens to drown us out until he's muzzled. The collectors have gone up the stars and start working their way down floor by floor. Trying to stay away from idle chit chat like
" How's Mummy ? " Unless the interrogation is sweetened with milkcream and marzipan. Into Pali Village we go. There's an old blind lady who can't move out of the house so we are all requested inside. A squeeze. She actually looks happy to see us [ figuratively speaking ] . She gets our whole repetoire from Jingle Bells to We wish you a... with Rudolph and Frosty the snowman hanging somewhere in the middle. Christmas sweets and Old Monk make our cup runneth over. We leave , a warm thank you from a happy sightless person who makes 80 yrs look young .
We just
can't wait to get back
On the road again.
[ Thank you Willie Nelson ].
The collection boxes are heavier and running up and down flights of stairs is not as much fun as it was two hours ago. Santas looking macho with white chest hair. [His beard slipped.] The songsheets are being used less as Angels we have heard on high imprints itself in our heads. Carollers whose houses are on the route are abandoning ship. The bright lights of early evening are fading. When the collectors are answered at the door by pyjama clad uncles and nightie clad aunties we know it's time to call it a night. The leftover sweets in Santas bag make the urchins at the traffic light happy as he solitarily walks back home to knock of red suit and white beard and settle down to his potato chops and dal currry for dinner.

Dec 3, 2007

Cribbing !

The wheat was planted three weeks ago.. Not for the karif or rabi crop but for the crib. To line around the meadows of your little Bethlehem in Bandra. You get the figures together . Joesph and Mary in a football huddle over a missing baby Jesus. [ He can only be put into place after midnight mass on the 25th. ] The shepherds , one with a crook and one with a lamb slung over his shoulders [ Is it for warmth? Is it a fashion statement ? ] The donkey and the cow. Chewing their cud looking on at their manger being used as the delivery room. Angels doing their balancing act on the roof of the crib . The star that you hang from the curtain rod so that the tinsel drapes down to the angel like starlight. A flame that flickers with the cosy warmth of red and yellow cellophane paper. Wine shops would be visited to get the hay for the roof and to be strewn around the cow and the donkey. Liquor came packed in wooden boxes lined with hay then. Corrugated paper packaging makes for hungry stable animals. A mirror to look like a little Bethlehem pond. Then came the snow storm. Enough snow to make even the Hummer need snow chains on it's tires. Until Mr. Know It All Cousin Reggie told us it does'nt snow in the Middle East now and it did'nt snow in the Middle East 2000 years ago. So no more cotton from Bandra Medical { non sterile type } was flaked down.The crushed brown paper that formed the bricks and mortar of the manger was splattered with wet mud to make it look earthy and realistic. The three kings with their one camel would be genuflecting near the showcase far away from the altar to a baby Jesus they would reach only on the 6th of Jan. Every day they would move a little closer. Showcase to coffee table. Coffee table to sideboard. Sideboard to the pelmet for the great leap across the front door. Pelmet to fish tank roof. Drawn by the star with their gold , frankincense and myrrh. And the tallest of them says " Oh for a handheld GPS " . You wish ! The sheep inhabit your agricultural endeavaours in recycled plastic containers from Jimmies Kitchen and Pals Fish Fry.
All is well in the manager until the next morning when LeelaBai , the maid, troops in to work and you are away at school/office/putting up your mother-in-laws crib. She cleans and she dusts and then proceeds to rewrite the nativity. Mary is hanging out with the shepherds. The sheep cows and donkeys are being shepherded by Joesph. Two kings are heading towards Japan while one waits in line for his Amercian visa. And the tallest of them says ' Oh for a handheld GPS.' She's destroyed your hills and valleys of Bethlehem and it now resembles the plains of the Punjab. Wheat grass in neat orderly rows. Spin in your graves Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
You being a purist reunite Joesph with his wandering bethrothed, and the shepherds with their wandering sheep. The three kings are once more looking at the star and their camel has been made to toe the line.
In the midst of it all lurks the Santa Claus candle. With a stringless snowman that can't be hung from the nearest Chritmas tree anymore. Baby Jesus safe on the altar hidden behind himself aged 6 and looked at by a slightly aged Joesph and Mary in their Holy Family avtaars.
Waiting for the heavens to open up and choirs of angels to burst into Gloria in Excelis Deo while he takes his rightful place in the manager and in our hearts.

Nov 30, 2007

Bai Bai Love !

You leave the dirty dishes in the sink . Your left shoe in the living room and the right in the loo. The path to the loo is marked with yesterdays shirt, vest , tie and jocks and socks. The newspaper is strewn around the house, comic section in the kids room, page 3 on the dining table , classifieds near the parrot cage [ for tommorows new lining] . The economic section unopened as it always is. In short chaos. At 3.00 o'clock when the kids are still at school and everyone is out of the house, our fairy Godmother arrives. Leela Bai. She waves her magic wand and the dishes clean themselves and sparkle and jump into the cupboard. The newspaper finds it way to the raddi drawer all neatly folded. The clothes find their way into the washing machine and an hour later hang out on the drying line. [ or the backs of the dining charis in the monsoon ]. The broom though old sweeps clean , even behind the fridge and the Godrej cupboard. The layer of dust from the fans are banished. The tiles give up their grime with resignation faced with an adversary they can never hope to conquer. Those the Gods and Fairy godmothers seek to destroy they first lift up to heaven.
Even the gods and fairy godmothers are human. They fall ill, their husbands sometimes show them they care for them with a black eye. Their children get married. The BMC demolishes their houses. Three days of Leelabai being a no show ,we understand Paradise Lost. The sink soon runs out of space and we run out of clean plates. A fresh shirt for office and pre matched socks , is a treasure hunt. Dust in Hoffman and everywhere else. [ I told you cheap puns are a bloggers first resort]. The parrot is complaining about the unsanitary conditions in his cage. The kids cant find their water bottles for school in this now hell hole then palace .
When we call Jaihind and Candies and Jimmies kitchen they now recognise our voice. Home made chapattis float in our dreams with clean sheets and a bed that has been dusted out not just hidden under the bedspread. The funny smell is from the garbage. Three days of accumulation.
Why is the parrot still sleeping ?
You were supposed to feed him.
Me ?
I thought you were feeding him, he's your pet.
My pet? I told you we should have bought goldfish.
Lets get rid of the corspe before the kids get back.
The neighbour is glaring at us for not cleaning our part of the staircase lannding. The plants have long gone the way of the parrot. Thank God for autodefrost fridges. If only we had self filling ice trays. The fan blades are bending over with the weight of the dust.
And suddenly with as little warning with which she vanished, Leelabai is back.
We don't know where she lives. We dont even know her surname. We dont know when her birthday is . But we do know this.We can't live without Leelabai.


[p.s. The parrots passing opened the floodgates for puppy requests once again.]

Nov 29, 2007

Swing Low Sweet Sweet

Every year on the 1st of Dec our Christmas novena would begin. An appendage after the daily rosary invoking God's blessings on us thru the soon to be born Christ child. We were'nt happy about the extra prayers time but it let us know that Christmas time was 'a coming.
The marzipan and milkcream forms, the kul kul rollers, the cookie cutters, the tartlet cases, the baby Belling oven, the rolling pins and boards, the kitchen weighing scales, would all be taken down from the topmost cupboard shelves where they rested for most of the year. Mummy's hand written recipe book which held the only perfect recipe for gram sweet in the world would be dusted out. Once again we'd be told about how in the days before kul kul rollers combs would be used to roll the kul kul's out on. New ones we hoped. The purchase department [ Mum ] would have done the necessary invoicing with the treasury [ Dad] and the stores would have enough cashews, almonds, dates, food colors, flours [ yes all kinds gram flour, maida etc. etc. etc. ] Baking trays and butter paper , tissues with Santa or Christmas tree images , paper plates and paper boxes in green and red would be piled high onto the top of Godrej so that nobody sat on them by mistake.
Production would begin. Marzipan had to be stirred clock wise only. From the inside out, like a Well of Death rider . When it did'nt stick to the spoon it was ready. So we frequently checked for readiness holding the spoon just outside the hundi. When it dripped onto the side of the stove our fingers would transport it into our mouths and us to Christmas sweet heaven. There was a special spoon and a special hundi for the marzipan. How else could you keep it whiter than white? In fact there were special hundis for almost every sweet. Lumps of kul kul dough were allocated for rolling. Dates and plums for deseeding. There was the MIA factor . Kul kul dough in the process of being transformed from dough to tightly rolled kulkuls would decrease in mass. Out of 100 dates to be deseeded 20 would be missing in action. If you were caught with the date in your pretending to be empty mouth you got a whack with the belan . Ok rolling pin. When the cake batter had to be transfered from mixing bowl to baking tray it was amazing how much would stick to the sides of the bowl . You have no idea about how tasty raw cake dough is. All of these raw materials would soon make their magical transformation from dried fruits and raw mixes to date rolls, marzipans, coconut tartlets, neoris, milk cream , gram sweet , jujubes, marshmellows, and cakes both fruity and nutty.
They'd go straight to the top of the Godrej ' which was getting crowded. But you needed a chair to reach it and dragging a chair out even if you and brother and sister carried it as delicately as Our Lady of Fatima's statue your Mother heard the air around the Godrej move. So you were doomed to wait until Christmas day before marzipan became sucrose for your growing body.

Nov 28, 2007

Evel Johnny Mario Knievel

You'd outgrown sitting in the drivers seat and making vroom vroom noises when the car was parked. At this ripe old age of twelve what you wanted was your own motorcycle. But you had to settle for a cycle. So you take an empty cigarette pack folded it over and lodged it halfway into the spokes of your bike. It still looked like a cycle but when you started off it sounded like a Triumph, ok a Java at least. The years fly by and you've begged and borrowed and now own a fifth hand Java. You lavish more love and care on it than you do on your Grandmother whom you thought you loved dearly until you got the Java. You clean her, you polish her, you oil her, the Java i.e. not Nana. She's covered up with an old bedsheet every night. The dogs who might want to mark out their territory using her wheel are chased away. You look around for a mechanic with more due diligence than a first time mother looking for a paediatrician. Everywhere you ask you're told " Johnny Mario " .
Mr. Mario's reputation seems to be larger than the crowd at Bandra station at rush hour. You hear the legends of how he can tell what's wrong with a bike just by looking at it. How he has to just lay his hand on the bike like a faith healer all the bikes ill's dissolve and she starts to purr . How he tunes a bike with his eyes closed and heart open. So there you are taking your Java for her first servicing. You ask for Johnny Mario and the grease monkey says who ? Johnny kya Mario ? They're separate ? Yes he says pointing out to a looming giant in cowboy boots and oilfield overalls. Johnny . And then pointing out to a looming giant in cowboy boots and oilfield overalls. Mario. You go up to Johnny ,and before you can say anything he says
"Service ?"
Yes .
Come back tommorow, today is full.
So come tommorow there you are back at the confessional where these high priests of carburretors and gear boxes instruct their acolytes to empty the oil, grease the cables, clean the carb, oil the chain, check the electricals, fill up new oil. While you wait you hear snatches of conversation of which bike Mario is going to ride in th Moto cross in Poona that weekend. And how Johnny is planning on reboring an old Yezdi to make it a racing bike. And you ask someone whats a Mikuni. They condescendingly tell you it's the latest Japanese carburettor.Then Johnny or is it Mario starts your baby up. He leans over the tank and starts making his minute adjustments . To the tension on the clutch cable. The play on the acclerator. The brake set for a quick stop just the right side of a skid. He heads of for a test ride. A tweak here ,a twist there and your baby is handed back to you.
She's purring. She started on the first kick start itslef. The clutch seems to have been dipped into all the butter Modern Stores ever sold. Johnny Mario are on to the next bike having waved their magic wand and reinvented your fifteen year old Java into the lean mean killer machine that she was meant to be.

Nov 20, 2007

My Big Fat Bandra Wedding !

Ok !
So you've held her hand [ amongst other things] and the watchman has made a duplicate set of the terrace keys for you and you've gone down on both knees and she's said yes. Her father has warned you against marrying her [ for your own good ] But rather than listen to the voice of reason you listen to your hormones. And you think it's true love . It is.
Everybody gets married between the 15th Of Nov and the 10th Of Dec. Thats when Jo Boy is down and Winston will be down from the ship for Christmas and all the migrants who lust for sorpotel and vindaloo while eating turkey in Missisagua will be home. So you head on down to the Gym office to find out which day is free. Hindu's get married on days the planets align . Muslims on the days their mullas tell them too. Catholics on the day the Bandra Gym is available. And you put down your deposit for the big day and they give you a list of approved decorators. Fernandes & Co. and Fernandes & Co. and Fernandes & Co. And a list of approved caterers. Every few years sees the ascendance of a new catering star and a wane of an old. Majoras, Candies, Alron, Twins, Mcraigs,they come and they go. And the bands. Crimson Rage, Fame, Len and his Rebels, Leon and his Chartbusters, Seventh Galaxy,Bonaventures and , Aqua Flow . And you find out if all the planets of the bands and the caterer and your mother-in-law's to be align. And if they do you're as good as married. So you can then go for the Engaged encounter and they tell you how to spend your money ten years down the line without getting your now fiancee and then wife, mad at you for blowing a months pay cheque on Bose speakers or a Bullet. { if you believe that's possible you'll believe anything } . And the notice is sent to the Parish Priest who mutters something about consanguinity and natural family planning. { how can anyone think of those two acts together ? } And Troy, Wendell, or Lydia or Dan's has been commisioned for the bridal dress. And you now know why the jewellery shops on Hill Road can afford to renovate their interiors every year. And you've spoken to Charlie from The Crimson rage to tell him that you want "Nothing's gonna change my love for You" for your first dance song. And you've been measured out for your suit. And Uncle Lancy from the army has been ordered to start stockpiling RC and Old Monk from the services canteen. His official quota is two bottles of each per month. Feb to Dec. eleven months to go. 22 bottles of whisky twenty two of rum. Jeez we'll have to get some from Pinky Wines. And Haley for the 3 tier cake with frosty delicate lace icing.

And you've commissioned the centre piece from Jason.
Two doves ? Intertwined rings,?
The heart can be hired for 1/5th the cost?
The heart it is.
No.
Ok sweetheart whatever you want.
Doves holding rings in their beaks.
But it's just for one evening.
Ok Ok dont cry.
[ This is when you should be a man and run away ! ]
But you did'nt, run and you're still going to live to marry another day.

And meetings happen with the choir. Where you chose hymn's for the mass that you think have been written just for you'll until you come across a wedding mass booklet for a wedding that happened in 1974. And you chose your mass readings about leaving your mother and your father and grandmother and dog and cleaving to your wife. David and Co. actually have an off the shelf card with doves carrying rings. Wow. The car is inspected to see whether your fat sister-in-law to be is going to crush the sartorial masterpiece from Troy [ yes, the wedding dress order went to Troy] And whether the doves and rings on the car should be on the top of the car or on the bonnet. And Jason's order has been magnified to include the pew decorations because Cousin Hyacinth who'd promised to do it is now pregnant and will be for another six months at least. Oliviera, the photographer has given you a deal for photographs and video. Ho ho ! Wait till you see his special effects after the wedding. George Lucas watch out. Your brother has been informed that he's going to have to change his 4 on 4 off schedule that takes him to Bombay High every 4 weeks so that he's in town for most important event of the year . He'd better be there. He’s the best man. Yes you've got to pay for his suit too. [ Maybe you'll get one Bose speaker.] He's put in charge of the Pani. Pani ? When you all get falling down drunk and sing out louder than Aloo Sound and make Elvis's Wooden heart sound like lezim. And make Hi Poori Kaun Achi sound like Mozart's Requiem. And you don't care. That's planned for three days before the wedding so that your hangover can abate and you don't need Agnelo's darkest glares to hide your redder than a Bishop's Hat eye's. Mummy's new sari, Daddy's new suit, new shoes. And the bookings for Paris remain in Mukesh and Nita's name while you make bookings at Baga for a honeymoon. David and company have printed the mass time as 9.30 instead of 6.30p.m. Ok there's nothing a litre of whiteout can't hide and Gail has good handwriting. The MC is cousin Eustace. He can make the phonebook sound funny. The toast master is her godfather. He asked . How could we say no without hurting his feelings ? And suddenly you’re in the last ...ember month of the year. Uncle Lancy has announced a 20% shortfall in the bar order. Pinky wines here we come.[ It's going to have to be Arphi speakers, goodbye Bose.] The Chevy is in the garage for repairs but the Mercedes is available for only a little more. Yes the catering order went to Candie's who is going to throw in petit fours after dinner for only a little more. Goodbye Arphi. The Sony two in one will last for another year at least.
The suit fits though its a little loose. Bob the tailor says it will be good for a few years after the wedding because everyone puts on weight , post . Those damn Australians have sold their house and now they want us to put them up when they come for the wedding. "Baba they'll help you if you ever want to migrate." Ha.
No time to go to the terrace. Is this a sign of things to come ?
Hitlers battle plans for WW 2 were hopscotch compared to this. But D-Day has dawned . The car has shown up. It's been decorated with tape that won't mar it's paint job and jeopardize the deposit. The church team has been dispatched to clear the beachhead. The transport for the liquor to the gym has been handed over the one male teetotaler above the age of 18 this side of the Suez.
Sleep before going for the mass ? You got to be kidding. The traffic in and out of the house makes Churchgate look like a Jain slaughterhouse. The centerpiece is filled with confetti. It's tested and it works. So it has to be filled up once more.
Now you're on your way to church. Where you stand solitarily at the velvet lined pew just two steps removed from God. And you hope that your soon to be wife is going to be on time.
From then on it's a blur. The mass, the walk out, the photographs on the steps of the church, the drive in the Mercedes.
So there you wait. For all your guests to troop onto the Gym tennis courts. Which looks like Desi Disneyland [ Ok Goregoan Fantasyland ] with lights and muslin and silk tablecloths and a red stage on which you will be king for the day. And you wait for your father-in-law [who's gone off for a quick smoke ]. Yes, you have to call him Daddy from now on. And Mother -in- law is Mummy. What's Nandu the vegetable vendor going to have to say about this ?
The pageboy and flower girl and bridesmaid and best man and the newly weds [ that’s you ] and their parents are all lined up .And the Crimson Rage fanfares your entrance onto the grounds. The march around the tarpaulin all stretched and powdered ends in front of the cake.
Ok. The moment of truth. The little tag fixed to the underbelly of the dove is yanked out. Does the confetti topple out like it's supposed to ? No. So a chair is hauled up front and the best man climbs up and tips over doves and rings till the confetti cascades down . And the photographer has got the moment . The chair with best man looming large is going to mar this Kodak moment for ever.

Charlie and the Crimson Rage start off on ' Nothing's Gonna Change my love for you " . Fox trotting your way gingerly thru Troy's best you wave frantically to best man and bridesmaid to get onto the floor. And open the floodgates for the rest. So that no one will know that the mysteries of the foxtrot will remain mysteries to you.
Then Godpa , the toast master comes along and traces your ancestry all the way back to the apes. You then thank everyone who had anything to do with your dissipated childhood from Nana to the milkman. Referring to your notes to make sure you don't leave her favourite aunt out of the opening credits. The bar has long been open though the MC only now announces that the Doctor's dispensary is now open [ wink wink] . You make the rounds of the guests and thank them for coming. Including all the fifty first cousins you really did'nt want to call but had to because they'd called Mum and Dad for all their family weddings. Cousin Elwin is missing from the gift table. Where he was supposed to be on guard duty. He's been found. Where ? At the bar.
You make the rounds accepting congratulations and envelopes. Bose ? Maybe.
The Gym has warned the band that if the music is not off by 10.00 p.m they'll be black listed. The band has warned the MC that if he doesn’t have the grace before meals going soon there'll be no time for the Masala. Masala ? Yes the all encompassing spectrum with The Birdie Song at one end and Galyan Sankli at the other. The Uncles already have their dancing handkerchiefs ready. Not the one they were blowing their nose into in this cold December air. But the dress one in their coat pocket. Your bride is kidnapped and put onto a chair and taken around on a palanquin of drunken shoulders. While the women struggle to lift you up in your chair. Precariously they wobble you'll together under a now confetieless pair of doves and hope that you'll will get a kiss in soon so that they can put you'll down before they dislocate their backs.
Your friend and compere Eustace has said goodnight and God bless. The lights have given their first warning blink at the hands of the Bandra Gym Marshall. The photographer has given up trying to get the whole family together and is just shooting whoever happens to be wishing you at the moment.
Then it's over and your on your way to Bandra International Hotel which has probably been booby trapped by your cousins on both sides with alarm clocks and toilet paper. And wake up calls they've asked for at 3 in the morning. When you hope you will be able to get up at noon so that you can be on the one o'clock bus to Goa . Where you will ceremoniously throw the keys to the terrace into the sea because you are now Mr. & Mrs. and the world is your terrace.

Nov 19, 2007

Greta Garbo !

Head down St. Andrew's road and turn left at Hill Road. On the pavement on your left is a table with three hotcases and a bottle of ketchup. You look at the person manning the table and you know why it's repetitive to say Beautiful girls and Bandra girls. That's Greta ! She emerges at dusk. From a home where she cooks up potato chops, mince cutlets and prawn cutlets. And for a few rupees you get your ticket to Bandra Fast food heaven.
The first stop is A 1 bakery. Where you buy your gutli [ if you still have all your teeth ] and your bread if you dont. You then go to Greta and find out whats left. So you take your prawn cutlet and rip your loaf of bread in half , place the cutlet into it, smother it with sauce and bite into ambrosia. And then you know why it's repetitive to say Ambrosia and Greta's cutlets. And when you go there look out for Commander.Yes, that's Gretas husband. And if he live's up to his name and commands you to "get lost",you'll go happily having been the better man for having partaken of Greta's cutlets.

Nov 17, 2007

For a few channa's more !

Come the merrie month of May tributes to our Lady kick in. And every housing colony and parish worth it's grotto has a rosary. The big players have it everyday for the full month. So the statue of Mother Mary is pulled out of the loft. And the broken finger which blesses the world is skillfully recreated in plaster of paris and fevicoled onto her hand with more skill than the plastic surgeons at Holy Family Hospital. And the candle stands that were last used for Uncle Tommy's funeral eight months ago are brassoed. And the sheet of plywood that serves for the altar table top is retrieved from behind the Godrej. And the bell that you ring at 6.45 pm and then again at 7.00 is checked to see that the ringer still works and the baterries haven't gone down. [ Just kidding, it's always a brass bell, and the ringer will be ringing till Judgement day. ]
And the flower vase is washed by Lily for the odd lily. [ Yeah cheap puns are a bloggers first resort. ]
Now a chickpea by any other name will still be channa and channa by any other name will still be gram.And onto the schedule. Whose making gram when ? Aunty Maisie Aunty Terry, Aunty Jane, Aunty Bina, Aunty Eliza, Aunty Antoinette, Aunty Virgie [Virginia], Aunty Juanita, Aunty Lucy, Aunty Romy[ Romana], Aunty Zita, Aunty Myra, Aunty Philoo, Aunty Betty, Aunty Linda, Aunty Juliana, Aunty Marie, Aunty Wendy, Aunty Sybil, Aunty Biddy [ Bridget ], Aunty Rosie, Auntie Sheila, Aunty Esme, Aunty Elaine, Aunty Eddie [ Edith ], Aunty Ella, Aunty Elsie, Aunty Viola, Aunty Irene & Aunty Angela. Thirty days. Thirty providers.
So at the end of the rosary, which still has me wondering how Uncle Hector would remember the whole litany[ Star of David…. Etc.etc. etc. ] and everyone had kissed the statue and the littlest kids would have fought over who gets to blow the candles out the channa would appear. [ Aunty Maisie would have left after the fourth decade to get it ]. And she would dole it out with a big spoon. And we’d all line up and try and make as big a receptacle as you could with two palms. And we’d lap the gram out of our hands like horses, from the trough of our hands. And when everyone had got their firsts the greediest of us would be given seconds . [ No Aunty’s generosity ever ran to thirds.] And pate de foie gras could not have tasted better.
Yes I know May has thirty one days.That’s when the feast was celebrated and all the Aunties came together with a spirit of co-operation that would put Sahakari Bunder ro shame. And sorpotel, vindaloo, wedding rice, sannas ,patties and thali sweet was the order of the day.

Bandra Fair !

Coming soon to New Talkies
A walk back the the days when New Talkies was new, before Globus consigned it to the wrecking ball.
Bandra Fair
A feature film in English that pays tribute to Bandra and its residents, wherever in Toronto they may be.
Written by Judith M Varma (also born and bread in Bandra) and to be directed by her as well.
The project has already got a few stalwarts interested in it – Faroukh Shaikh, ace cinematographer AK Bir, Surekha Sikri and Naseeruddin Shah.
Now all that's needed is a producer.
Know anyone who may be interested? Get in touch.
Or we'll all have to up to the Mount and offer wax producer to Mother Mary.

Nov 14, 2007

Up with the lark !

Lark ? Sparrows we know. Crows we're on first name terms with. Larks ? We know more about the dietary habits of the Outer Patagonians than we do about larks. And yet we'd sing out loud and clear. Sunday morning, up with the lark. I think I'll take a walk in the park. Forget it. You first have to go to church. Sunday morning Mass. The Pope still had'nt decided that Saturday evening worked as well as Sunday morning. So you scrubbed and combed and ironed wrinkles out of your Sunday best. And vaselined your hair and polished your shoes and then marched off to church. As a family . [ because" The family that prayed together stayed together", much to the regret of everyones siblings between 6 and 16 ]. And there was a favourite pew, three rows down from St. Anthony's statue.
The young parents would hang out near the doors. So that if Baba started crying during the sermon they could make a quick exit for the garden. Or if Dad felt like a smoke he could get Baba a little agitated so that he could then legitamately exit. Or if the sermon did'nt grab Mommmy she grabbed the baby for the legitimate exit.
Come summer, a spot under the fan commanded a premium. And once the benches were full you would have to make do with the side benches lining the aisles. And if you were young and foolish, you sat in the confessional. And when even that was occupied you had no choice but to stand outside the church and rely on audio inputs only. Earning yourself Fr. Jerry's label of being an outstanding Catholic.
And then came communion when the lines were long and slow. Euchrastic ministers were just a gleam in the Bishops eye back then. So the whole congregation patiently filed up one by one. It gave us time for prayer and meditation. Meditation about how cute Sandra [ yes from Bandra] looked. And how you would have to time your exit after mass so that your path crossed hers. And it gave Mom time to pray,. Pray that she would remember Mrs. D'costa's dress pattern [ just ahead of her in the communion line] well enough to explain to Bob Tailors.
And then mass was over, and you'd mis-timed the exit and Sandra was walking off with Joe Boy instead of you. And you'd collected your copy of the Examiner from the counter, then and only then were you free to go for a walk in the park. But that would have been at the expense of Sunday breakfast . So the walk in the park lost and the bacon and eggs won .
Pass the marmalade !

Nov 13, 2007

Let there be light...

Prince Charles is never going to experience what every Catholic family in Bandra has. Enthronement day. The day the picture of the sacred heart of Jesus is enshrined in your house and forever more. So there you have this long haired blond Jesus ,dressed in his blue and red robes following your every move.
And right below him is the altar shelf . On which a candle was lit on every important occasion. When school examinations were on. When those labour pains began. Then came a job with the Bombay Presidency. And the light could be kept burning continuously. A light that burnt in a glass oil lamp. With a ruby red glow to it. Glass that was imported all the way from Belgium to give you that perfectly clear light. In a ruby red glow.And the oil would be topped up every morning and the wick trimmed. And once a week the soot that had Jesus drifting from Italy towards Africa would be wiped off the glass that imprisoned him.Then came electricity. With a small red bulb replacing the oil lamp. No more cleaning, filling, trimming, wiping. A flick of a switch and homage was paid. The Japanese of course having lost the war, were now turning their hand to everything. Including altar lights. And for their invention of the flickering light they deserve the Nobel. [ All of us in Bandra think so anyways ] . We soon had tubelight starters connected to a bulb to give us the same flicker. From just a flickering light that could be used for the altar and also for the star in the Christmas crib it was a short jump to a light in the shape of a cross that flickered. And when you came home late and darkness was all around, there fickered the little red light. And when exams come around the light stays on, but the candles come out once more. Otherwise how’s Jesus going to know that this is one of those times that need his personal attention ?

Nov 1, 2007

The Big Chill !

Head down Hill Road and take a right turn at Bata's. It takes you into a little road that dead ends. And there on your left is the only structure in all of Bandra without a single window.
The Ice Factory. Whats the name of the road ? Ice factory lane.
And thats where you got perfect ice before there was Perfect Ice or Icelings. Now your Godrej was good enough for the odd ice cube for your evening chota peg or to chill the odd bottle of beer. But when you were having a party Kitty who had access to his fathers motorbike with a side car was deputed to pick up the ice at 7 oclock. Earlier and it wouldnt last the night. Later and the Kohli's would have taken the ice to freeze their unsold fish. So you drive up to the Ice factory and the platform is at the height of a tempo's tailgate. And the Bhaiyaa squatting there would take your order [ by weight ]. He'd then disappear into the building thru a door only a dog could possibly get thru,but not before a cold blast hit you even though you were 6ft away. He'd emerge with a giant pincer dragging a block of ice. Onto the weighing scale, and somehow it was always right. The weight you ordered and the weight he brought out. And when the ice reached home it was split into two lots. One for consumption, and one for chilling the various bottles in the basins and buckets. So the first lot was crushed into pieces that would fit into a glass and stocked in the deep freeze to await the opening bell. And the second lot would have sawdust thrown onto it to make it last as long as possible. And thru that short night the beer was chilled and the rum'n' cokes were cold and whisky on the rocks was a option.
And the only other time you visited the Ice factory was when someone died. Before there were morgues. And the notice in the Times of Indias obituaries would let everyone know that the funeral was at ten o'clock. So when getting the extra chairs from Jimmy Decorators ,a large tub would be ordered for the ice. Which went under the camp cot and froze the dearly departed' so that he'd never even dream of the fires of hell. And kept him from going bad in those hazy crazy days of summer, like he did when he was alive. And salt would be thrown onto the ice to keep the temperature really low. [ Ok Freezing mixtures to all you chemists ].
And the Bhaiyya at the Ice factory was 24 x7 . He still is. Though now he has ice cubes stacked in 5 kg. bags. And Jude's at Pali is competing with him for the party section of his buisness. And the morgue at Bhaba hospital works on electricity, not salt.

The Louvre

In every Bandra house there was a main or front door and a back door . In most buildings they'd be side by side. But Kachra [ ok trash ] came out of the back door. Interaction with the neighbours servant [ ok maid] back door. Interaction with the neighbour form SVP [ ok Society of Vincent De Paul ] front door. And if you walked thru the front door and found yourself in one of the easy chairs or sofa cum bed you were confronted by the showcase.
Glass fronted and wooden framed. With milestones of lives on display. Right on the top shelf is Joe Boys first communion studio portrait shot at Hill Studio immediately after his first communion mass. Mounted on cardboard with a frame drawn around it. And he's looking up at Jesus. Now Photoshop was Hill Studio not Adobe. So the only way Jesus was brought into the picture was magic. And Jesus looked down slightly to the left of Joe and Joe boy looked up slightly to the right of Jesus. And right in front of Joe Boy were lined up little miniature bottles. Of Johhnie Walker [ red and black ], Chivas, Remy Martin, White horse, etc. etc. Whenever somebody came in from abroad., they'd bring one of these for Pops. Who would empty the contents soon enough, [ because it goes bad if you keep it too long ] , then refill it with black tea
and pop it into the show case. And then there was the musical grotto. If you donated money to the Salesians at Don Bosco's matunga they'd give you a calendar with every Saints day marked on it. For a little more money you got a calendar and holy medals. And for a lot more you got calendar medals and the musical grotto. A replica of Lourdes with a wind up key at the bottom that tinkled out a Marian hymn. Joe boy could only look at it because he'd surely overwind it and break the spring if they'd allowed him to. And right with Mother Mary in Lourdes was a papal blessing in colourful calligraphy, for Mom and Pop that stated that Pope John XXIII was personaly going to pray for them and he'd even put his papal seal on the document so that everyone would know that this marraige was infallible. Safe bet, in those days all marriages were. And in the empty spaces between grotto miniatures were wedding mementoes. From every wedding the family had ever attended. Doves holding rings and wishing wells and anchors [ That Clara married a shippie] , All well detailed in miniature with a note tied onto it with now faded ribbon saying Thank You , from Clara and Winston , with a date sometime between 15 Dec and 10th Jan [ yes we all get married around then ] . And lying between the doves and anchors were mortuary cards. That extolled virtues of those who had left this earth to take their rightful place in heaven. And if everything else on the card was true you wondered how come they hadnt been canonized yet. Black bordered and printed at St. Pauls printing press. And on the bottom shelf was the best crockery. The china that had designs worked on it in real gold. The set of cups and saucers with the one broken cup that had been araldited together put right at the back and turned away so that no one could see the cracks. And the actual wine glasses that Mummy and daddy had used when the toast was being raised at their wedding. And as the toast master said " May all your problems be little ones" May they always be little enough to put away into the Louvre and lock away forever.

Oct 30, 2007

The Great White Hunters !

Thurday was our weekly holiday in school. Thursday was a day that was ours. No Sunday mass to go to. No family visits that you had to be well turned out for.
Thursday was our day for Shikar. Post lunch our air gun would we taken down from the top of the Godrej cupboard. Mom's 3 in 1 Singer machine oil was swiped while we told her " See crow !!! " The gun was oiled and cleaned .The pellets were counted out. Whistles called out to the rest of the hunters and the expedition was ready to go.
Bison ? Deer? Black Buck ? Pheasant ? We knew as much of them as Einstein knew of Diwali. What Bandra had to offer us was Pigeons.
We had a fixed beat that took us first to the grounds of St. Theresa's Church. The jalis that had been designed for elevational relief in exposed brick were perfect. For the Pigeons to roost on i.e.. So we'd crouch along the side of the building to get as close as possible before we lined up our weaponary to fire together. The first shot and all the pigeons would take off. If a bird had been winged it would tumble off the bricks and flutter down to the ground where it was quickly dispatched and put into a bag made out of the cut off legs of an old pair of jeans. Oh that plastic bags were so plentiful then as they are now. By some fluke if we got the bird between the eyes, we were in trouble. Because then instead of tumbling out and flapping to the ground he would have dropped right onto the building parapet. The only way up was right past the Parish priests quarters. Stealth was the order of the day. And those overworked priests needed their siesta between morning mass and evening confessions. So it was'nt difficult to retrieve the kill and vend our way forwards. To Manish Mahal. Little Ahmedabad in Bombay. All the Anil's and Sneha's and Bhavik's and Amish and every Patel and Shah in between lived there. They fed their pigeons twice a day. Most of the Bandra pigeons knew when they were onto a good thing and hung around Manish Mahal where all they had to worry about was making little pigeons. In the middle of Manish Mahal was a courtyard which served as a make do garbage chute. Yep, pretty dirty. Only the toilet windows opened onto this. Perfect for the pigeons who valued the wheat thrown to them everyday, but also valued their privacy while they went about the task at hand.
Sitting ducks. Sitting pigeons. The sound of the airgun started a little flutter among the nesting birds but stirred a hornets nest with Mr. Patel and Mrs. Shah and every Anil Sneha Bhavik and Amish in between. If you missed your shot you just headed off as quickly as you could. But if you had shot a bird, you had to retrieve it and head for the hills before Mr. Patel was into his shirt, out of his house, down his flight of stairs and navigated the courtyard. So timing was everything. And sometimes an injured bird would be abandoned in our cowardice in the face of Mr. Patel's wrath.
Back to St. Theresa's where our little featered friends would have settled down to life once more after having had a small prayer service for the recently departed. When the rifles fired again.. .[ Thank you Willie Nelson . from Seven Spanish Angels] And our bag would be full and our cup runneth over with joy.
Then it would be home where a purloined frying pan and some bottle masala would be rustled into service to make chicken curry a la pigeon. And at 4 o'clock on a Thursday evening the young men of The Little Flower Co-op Housing Society would be the kings of all they surveyed.

Oct 26, 2007

Die Another Day !

We're born. We live. We die.
Thats when we finally realise our dream of a plot by the sea.
Because three of Bandra's cemetries are right by the sea. [ OK , post reclaimation One] But earlier the waves would lap against the wall of the Seaside Cemetry and Mt. Carmels Cemetry. Then the BMC waved their hand and the waters retreated. And where there was sea there's Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar.[Yes they live on the Bandra recalaimation] . The sea side cemetry was set up at the end of whats known as Cemetry road [ Officially Khandeshwar Marg ] .And right across the road from the Catholic cemetry, are the Jews. The dead ones i.e. Carved basalt headstones with The Star of David shining forth. Forgotten generations of Ezzekiels and Abrahams . A lonely caretaker who moonlights as a caretaker. So the weeds between the graves are forgivable. And the residents are not complaining anyways.
Mt. Carmels has had it's cemetry before Lilavati Hospital was a gleam in KiritLal Mehta's eye.
Though now from hospital to cemtetry is a mere body's throw away.
And two decades ago when all the graves were full and parishoners were still being born and subsequently dying, niche marketing was born. So as soon as you returned to dust you came from, except your femurs and cranium etc. etc. you were hauled out of valuble real estate and piled up into a niche that doubled up as the compund wall. And your heirs looked for a picture of you that did'nt show you frowning as you always did post 75 yrs. And did'nt show your bald spots and had you dressed in something other than a ganjee [ vest]. And Tony Baptista slapped this photo on to your niche and by some magic made it weather proof. And two hooks on either side held the garland that was put up every year until Jo Boy and Maria both moved to Auckland. Just like your compound when the neighbours on either side built walls you got your boundary wall for free , if the hooks were already in place on either side of you then ....
And St. Andrew's and St. Peters have their niches too. But the grave stones that move you back in time are still there.
Here lies,
Jerome D'souza
1925- 1973
beloved husband of
Willhelmia
who joined him here on 5th Oct 1974
father of Joesph and Maria
Gone but never forgotten !
R.I.P.
They're never funny.Like Spike Milligan who's gravestone read's "I told you I was sick "
Come the 2nd of Nov. The graveyards are all lit up with a million candles to celebrate All Souls day. With flowers done into increasingly creative displays. And grandchildren playing hide and seek between the gravestones of ancestors they've never known. While Nana and Mummy and Daddy think back to a time that's never ever going to come again. And even Jo boy has Western Unioned dollars to Cousin Clara to get a wreath and light one dozen candles. Amen

Oct 25, 2007

Russian Roulette !

One stop after Dadar on the fast, and third stop after Dadar on the slow.[ Train i.e.]. [ Bandra i.e.]
The other way around is tricky. You jump off the 211 or 212 or 214 or 221 and head onto platform 1. Obviuosly you have pass being a Bandra Bugger and dont have to stand in queue for a ticket. Then you get onto the overhead bridge and position yourself between the stairs to platforms 2 and 4. There is a slight bend in the tracks as you look northwards towards Khar. The lit up boards indictate that there's a 8.30 slow to Churchgate and an 8.31 fast . Platform 2 for the slow and platform 4 for the fast.
But do the trains know their order of appearance at the platforms ? No.
The next question is ,where's the train coming from ?
Borivli . Not too bad. Andheri . Even better. Virar . very bad. it's going to be packed before it even reaches Malad.
Then you scan your immediate horizon and figure out how many from this bunch of platform runners are going to go for the fast and how many for the slow ? So what affect does that have on your odds of getting down the stairs and into the train before its three millisecond stop at Bandra is over and it starts vanishing towards Mahim.
So there's the whistle and there's the train.
Hell. They're both coming in together.
So pull the mainframe out of your pocket once more and start computing which one is going to leave first. Will 8.30 leave at 8.33 and will 8.31 leave on time ? Big Blue wouldnt be able to answer this one.
Now the crowd thins down as choices are made and unmade. Someone's halfway down the stairs to platform 2 when he changes his mind and backs up to retreat down to platform 4.
And we being really fit and fast of course will wait till the trains starts to move and then try and dash down the stairs of the chosen one . Only to find our way blocked by all the folks who have gotten off and are on their way into Bandra .We finally reach platform 4 which is now trainless and yes thats Platform 2 tooting that they're off too.
Moral of the story?
8.41

Oct 23, 2007

Marketing

My friend Uday is in marketing. He handles MNC's and strategic marketing plans and POP [ Point of purchase ] displays etc. etc.
Aunty Mazie is also into marketing. Every other day she gets her Goa bag out and heads of to the bazaar. And you ask her where she's going and she says ' Marketing".
For her everyday needs its Pali Market that she heads to. Where you can get your sweet potatoes and cauliflower on the road without even getting into the market. She just has to dodge past the cars that roll down Pali Hill whose Memsahibs think Pali Market is a Drive -In. And Nandu [ who has cherry tomatoes, baby corn and other exotic vegetables that she as a child had in wax replicas in her showcase ] who is old enough to be her Uncle calls her 'Mummy".
And then there's the BIG market. Come Saturday, she heads for the big market. The market which gives raison d'etre to Bazaar Road. You wind thru Chinchpokli Road, or dodge between the multiple garages behind the Bata shop on Hill Rd., or head past Hindu Hotel [ OK Balajis for all you kids ] past the Bandra Pork Market to Jeffs and then hang left.
The market starts right there. Shops selling copper chatties, [ yes chatties not hundies ], and baskets of fruit on the nonexistent pavement, with the odd handcart pushing its way through, giving a new meaning to the word mobile sales. And the cart owner will stop for whoever is interested in pushing his sales figures up while traffic waits patiently for the transaction to be concluded. And finally you reach that holiest of holies, the Mecca that all good Aunties visit at least once a week other wise they are only Mazie not AUNTY Maizie, The Fish Market. Where the Kohli fisherwomen all have their favourite Aunties or is it the Aunties who have their favourite fisherwoman ? So they'll prod at the bhangra [ mac kerel ] for freshness. Pompfrets will be prised open at the gills to check fo redness which of course you know tells you the exact time of death. Crabs will be bought on new moon days , [ nights ?]because thats when they're full of meat. And Shravan is bonus time because all the Non Katlicks dont eat fish then, so prices are better. So one more week is taken care of with Bomlos [Bombils ] parcelled of into the deep freeze and bhangras sliced and packed away. The mandlis don't keep well so this eveing they'll be chatna. And Chotu is given two rupees to carry the bag to a rickshaw for the ten rupee ride home.
And then once a year there's the BIGGEST market. Come December, Aunty Mazie, Auntie Marie and Auntie Juliana get together to plan this expedition, to Crawford !
Where they get into a rickshaw to Bandra station, where they catch a train to Marine Lines, [ debating every year on the way wheter it' s better to get onto the harbour line and go to VT ]
and share-a-cab to Crawford. Royal Dryfruits for all the cahsews and almonds and dates that give up their ghosts to be born again as marzipan and milk creams date rolls . And tissues and Christmas lights [ because these Chinese ones are so cheap ] and fish molds for the mousse and new clothes hangers because the hooks of the old ones are all rusty and plastic flowers that look reall'er than the real thing. Look they've even got fake water on the petals. Lovely.
And when the whole of Crawford has been crammed into multiple Goa bags and a coolie with a basket [ that the apostles used at the Sermon on the mount ] has been summoned and commisioned, Badshah's beckons. Where a rose ice cream falooda is the order of the day. While Mr. Coolie waits patiently squatted on the pavement for the Memshab's to finish. And then its share a cab time again but this time all the way to Bandra.
Uday ! This is marketing !!!

Oct 20, 2007

Digging for Oil on Hill Road

Yes the latest sattelite pics for the ONGC geological surveys show the presence of oil on Hill Road. So they've sent in the advanced team and the initial exploration work has begun. They are sinking the test pits right in front of Holy Family hospital.
The earlier pics showed large oilfields further down Hill RD. Near the Police station, but the test wells were dry. So they were abandoned and everyone's keeping their fingers crossed [ Oil field hands find that a little difficult because most of them have a few fingers missing but they're trying ] that the new explorations will be more fruitful.
The good news is that if they don't strike oil , they close the road up and instead of re-tarring it they give you a concrete road.

Oct 18, 2007

BEST Bakery

Yes our bakeries in Bandra sizzle.
There used to be one called Mc Ronells. The fore runner to McCraig and Candies. Same family, different generation . And when you finished your exams you were taken there for a special treat. Rumballs, patties, chicken rolls. And when the results came out and if you'd done as well as you had earlier claimed you did, you were taken to the Chinese restaraunt under the same roof. In 1979 an American ChopSuey in this palace of food nirvana was Rs.11.00. And that came with silverware and white linen .
And then there's Hearsch. Which a generation ago sold bread, bread and bread. And Gutlies. And they didnt have a wall with a gate so you could drive right upto the counter [almost] And pick your bread right out of the oven.
We had an Amex in Bandra before creditcards were even dreamt of. American Express right across the road from Hearsch. With their beautiful wood and glass display cases. With oatmeal cookies and brown bread.
Cake crumbs from Venus. The scrapings from the baking trays after the cakes were removed were put together and sold for a rupee per packet. And my Mom being the good old East Indian Aunty that she is [ Frugal to the point of stinginess i.e.] had actually got us trained so that these crumbs with some custard poured over it was considered a special treat.
St. Judes on Bazaar road, Judes Bakery at Pali . And A1 where the name says it all. They're still there. The range has grown to include garlic bread, whole wheat bread, cheese twists, khari's , butter biscuits but the staples remain pao's and gutlies.
And now Hearsch has a coke fountain and Andora's serves you 3 different kinds of coffees and Croissant's and Birdy's and PotPourri and the Bread Boutique [ yes the Bread Boutique ], and French Bread and Open Bake give you French bread and blueberry muffins.
So we're spoilt for choice because our bakeries in Bandra are the BEST.

Putru men bugger !

Ok so the game of football [ yes football not soccer ] is in full swing. Team colors ? Of course. One team has their shirts on and the other doesnt. And Savio playing centre forward has only the goalie between him and the goal. [ No offside when there are less than 7 players per side [ Supari Talao Rules ] So he's shouting out " Now pass the ball thru the defenders between their legs over their heads anywhere, just get it to me where no body is covering me and I can score a goal." Sorry ! Thats what Savio wants to say. What he actually says is " Putru men bugger " And when his team mate "Puts thru" he scores the goal and all is right in the world.
So now the snooty chicks at St. Andrews [ Yes the rule is one looks down on any one Northwards. i.e. Andherites who looks down on Borivilians who looks down on Utanites.] use Putru as a defining adjective. The exception to the above mentioned rule is Bandra We look down on both North and South Bombay. After all Bandra really is the best place to be.

Shiv Sena Architecture

The guys at Frazer and Haws [ Silversmiths on Manuel Gonsalves Road ] put up a glass boundary. Now thats not theoretical [ like the corporate glass ceiling] . They put a sheet of glass right on their compound wall with their name beautifully etched into it. This would have been lunacy a few years ago. Come the riots. Of which there were many back then. The boys from the local Shaka would have been falling over themselves to get to Frazer and Haws first. So why are glass facade buildings are all over the place now. Moti Mahal, Popley , and all the other new jewellers. Structural glazing [ glass facades for the architecturally challenged ] has been around in this world for a while. But who could risk it. Carte blanche to a rioteer to whom a BEST windscreen is a red flag to a bull.
Or have we become more exhibitionistic ? Where earlier we would hide behind brick walls we now have open kitchens. Where jewellry was earlier bought behind closed doors and special customers were led to inner sanctums [ I only saw other people being led , I was never led myself ] , we now have the panwalla on the corner privy to who's buying what .
Or is it just money ? Bricks were cheaper than glass.
Or did we look on structural glazing as a downtown American architectural idiom ?
But more power to Frazer and Haws. Glass doesnt need painting. Glass gives you the illusion of space.Glass looks contemporary [still ].
But if you want the glass to be up and running and not a kaleidoscope on our newly paving blocked roads keep voting Congress.

Oct 17, 2007

Hi Men !!!

Yes Bandra is the best place in the world. Inspite of TDR and all the new malls. And the beach at Carter road is now just rocks, but it rocks.And when our local heroes drive past we get the local version of try and die ..