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

Dec 18, 2008

Carols 2008

A Carol for Mumbai...
All of us on St. Anthony's Road invite you to CAROLS 2008 on Saturday 20th Dec at 7.00 p.m.R Nine years and counting.
It's fun and it's free.
The line up....
Suzanne De Mello,Beven Fonseca,Merlin and Rhys,Rajiv Raja,Prabhakar Mundkur,Gsus [Suresh Rupert and Friends],Mahia ,Clarry Devisser ,Franco Vaz,Neale Murray
& Megan,Cliffy The Pope,Brian Tellis,Jazz Junction [ Colin Dcruz, Lester Godhino, JoAnn Fds.]Jean Michael ,The Jingle Bell Dancers,Dean Gregory ,Dominique Cerejo,Cyril,Joe vessoakar And his Big Band,Samantha Edwards,Elvis Sid Meghani
The Glee Hive with Celeste Cordo ,Denzil Smith, and Bashir Sheikh.
A Carol for Mumbai with Lyrics by Asif Ali Beg and Music by Merlyn will premiere on the 20th. Holding it all together will be Sandia Furtado and Conrad Curry.
Santa's gonna be there. Are you ?Come get that Christmassy feeling again.

Jai Jai !

We were in college . A part of a group that did things together. Or did we come together because we did the same things ? Go for movies. Exchange cassettes of the Beatles and The Blue Oyster Cult. Spend hours at the USIS [ United States Information Something…? ] Waiting in line to use one of their two VCR’s to watch grainy footage that went from Martin Luther King to Jimi Hendrix . Take home our two allowed books a week from the British Council. While we worked at whatever it is college students do Jai would keep us laughing with his bad jokes.
College finished . People went their different ways. Within the country and without. Jai went to Japan. Where he worked in graphic design. For Sony. He married. And then his eyes started failing him. Retinal disintegration. Where you start going blind and all you can do is stand by and watch. And as Jai would say you can’t even do that well because your retinas are disintegrating. Right before your very eyes. Yes . That’s a typical Jai line.
It got worse and he couldn’t live without assistance. So he had to come back to India. To live with his parents because his wife did’nt want to live with him anymore. So he came from Japan where assistance to people who are visually impaired is an art form to here where assistance to people who are visually impaired is a myth.
He moved to Bangalore where he made a career shift to training. Where he talks to people he cannot see. Where he has a computer that talks back to him. Where he has to have someone with him if he moves out of his regular orbit by even a millimeter. Steps that continue past handrails that don’t. Ramps into buildings that pop out of nowhere. Roads with pavements that suddenly morph into roads without.
The group decided to meet up. Somebody was flying in from Goa, the U.S. , Delhi, Pune.
And Bangalore. From where Jai was put onto a plane by his father. With a pick up at this end arranged in duplicate. Along he came on the arm of the prettiest Kingfisher hostess. She was laughing and he looked happy. The insane conversation where you try and catch up with twenty years of each others lives immediately. And you do. Home. Where loose furniture has to be pushed against the walls. Where the bathroom layout has to be gone thru by touch. To the reunion where we ate batawadas and drank kadak canteen chai like it was Moet et Chandon of the 1864 vintage. Where we played the Eagles reunion concert. And yes for the record we never broke up. We just took a twenty year vacation [ Thank you Don Henley ].
Back home. Where the Moet and Chandon had you sleeping like a baby
[ OK Old Monk ].
The next morning Jai told me he’d heard the planes, the trains and the automobiles. The bell of the paowalla. The dudhwalla, the paper wallah, the watchman sloshing buckets of water on the cars and himself in equal measure. All the morning sounds that slip below the pale , for us. He opened our ears to the birdsong just beyond the window. To the sweetness in the voices of the kids. To the harshness with which we sometimes spoke. And the carelessness. Before white caning his way back home.

Dec 9, 2008

Eid Mubarak !

“Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. "
The next morning Abraham got up early and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
the boy said, “ where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered, and they both walked on together. Past the crowds that are always there in a city. Finding themselves suddenly moving in a direction nobody else was going. While the station announcer kept instructing people to go back. Alone on the platform with only a young man ahead of them. A young man in a blue shirt and black pant. A bag on his back and a gun in his hand.
When Abraham recovered he opened his eyes. To a fallen Issac next to him. Silent.
The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” The angel said. “Now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

Dec 8, 2008

Emails from the edge...by The BB and OMS [ unknowingly the guest writer ]

Hi Clara !
How are you? I'm so glad that the attacks were way away from where you
all are. I hope your friends and families are all safe...?
I have decided to come back to B'bay again and make sure to get my fill
of good home cooked food this time... Given the huge withdrawal pangs I had
after I got back here, I also plan to be a bit more organised for my
return on this occasion. So, with that pursuit in mind, would either of you
know where I might get hold of some good bottle masala? I don't know of an
East Indian shop anywhere, but do either of you?
I hope I bump into you again (both!) this time :-)
Love !

hi JoBoy,
Bttle masala now comes in Ziplock Bags. So it's not called bottle
masala. It's Zip lock masala or ZL for short. This makes it much
easier to pack and transport. Off course the aunties who try and pack
too much into one packet have it burst upon them. Something which was
never a problem earlier. But they live and they learn. ZL masala will
be available in plenty at the Bandra Gym Xmas bazaar. 19-20th Dec. If
you're not going to be here by then let me know and I'll get you some.
P.S. we are going to the gym for the dance. Shall I book tickets for you. If yes please email me a JPEG of your gym ID card so that you don’t have to pay guest fees.

How sweet...! Thank you Clara!
I actually don't know just yet whether I will be in B'bay on those dates, as
am planning on doing a short trip during the earlier part of my visit. So
may I *please* take you up on your offer to buy me some? How big are these
bags? I should think 2 of them would be adequate. (The other up-side is that
I will definitely get to meet you, because I'll have to collect them from
you :-)
We are on for the Gym dance. Am FEDEXing a copy of my Gym ID card to you.
Don't let my mum know I'm arriving by the way - its a surprise and I'd like
to keep it that way. Thank you :-)
P.S. Do you mind not calling me Jo Boy but just Joe. Sorry but the wife says it’s silly.

hi JO Boy,
Big problem, ZL masala has had to go underground.
you know the whole copyright issue. Champagne and the use of the name
Champagne for wines not grown in the South of France. And Basmati
rice. How the Indian govt is suing Pakistan for marketing some crappy
Pakistani rice as Basmati ? So now there is a case pending in the high court. That the original bottle masala cannot be sold as ZL. So till that is resolved the sale of ZL aka Bottle Masala is illegal.
If it is the same ingredients it has to have the same name. If they are going to change the name then they have to change the ingredients. But luckily Boon Aunty on the 16th rd. has a stock of
the original bottle masala that she is selling before the cops clamp down on her. She sells them wrapped in brown paper packets so that What you don't see is what you get. We drop the money into a basket lowered from the third floor and when the basket goes up the masala packets come down. So how many do you want ? There are 100 gm 250 gm and 500 gm.
BTW the gym show is cancelled because of the terrorist attacks. Damn Pakistanis. So we’re having a terrace show. It will go on for as long as the cops let us. BYOB. Details on FaceBook group. Little Flower 2 Terrace Show.

I'm assuming that one 500g packet and one 250g packet should be adequate. thank you so much!! Much appreciated...! Can I get you anything from here. Toblerone. I’m already getting. Let me know.
Have a good one.! See you on the 22nd

Dec 3, 2008

Bhajiwallah Blues by Guest writer Maria de Menezes aka Marlu.

At 9.00 am I get a call from another Bandra 40+ “auntie’. “Coming for a walk?” Off I go to the reformed Lion’s Club grounds, now known as the elite “Salsette Club” which has finally prodded the officious Bandra Gym officials to upgrade their facilities so as to continue reigning supreme. Bandra Auntie says to me “You’re the only NRI I know who wears dirty runners.” Now, those runners are my trump card for getting good deals on assorted purchases. First of all, they belong to my mother (no sensible NRI would wear their own good runners on Bombay roads in the monsoon). Secondly, the shoes you wear are the key to buying tomatoes at Rs 20 per kg as opposed to Rs 40 per kg. Which brings me to the all important accessory – the Goa bag! Walk into Bandra Bazaar with dirty shoes and a Goa bag and you may be able to get away unduped. Bhajiwallas have an uncanny eye for spotting the NRI and although the inflated prices are affordable for most of us, you DO NOT want to face the wrath of the aforementioned 80 yr old when you pay double the amount you should have. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to buy all those things? These crooks know you’re from abroad and charge any damn thing.” On that note, my visiting NRI brother refrained from buying raw mangoes before checking with Mother what he should pay. “Five rupees”, Mother declared. So back he went, the vendor stated “Thirty rupees.” A tough decision to be made – Rs30 actually sounded more reasonable than Rs 5 and brother doesn’t want to end up in a fist fight, so he pays Rs 25 and both are happy. Two days later it comes up in conversation that jalli apples cost Rs 25. “What” bellows brother. “You pay Rs 25 for apples and expect me to pay Rs 5 for mangoes, that too, not in season!”
There are two possible conclusions to be drawn from this episode
Mother has not bought mangoes for fifteen years and has erred in her estimate of the price.
Mother is a bigger crook than the Bandra bhajiwallas

Go Fish in a Curry Dish !

Some kids have playstations. Their mother has a fisherwoman.
She comes down the road with a basket on her head. Stepping right out of a Mario cartoon. She’s not fat, She’s buxom. She’s not talkative, she’s friendly. She’s not a cheat, when she sells you what maybe stale fish, she’s shrewd. She’s not a stranger. She’s family. Because you see her more often than your mother-in-law. More often than your mother. The shouted “ Kolbi pahje kay bai.” preceeds her. Still looking for a new customer on a road where nobody’s moved in or out for fifty years other than for reasons of death, birth and marriage. A round cane basket on her head. A metal plate stopping drips from her basket falling onto more gold than Fort Knox has. Keeping the glorious colours of her saree glorious. She goes around to the backdoor of the cottages. Where the memsaab of the house is getting the meal for the afternoon ready. The weather, the new parish priest and the import of Rajasthani camels into the Australian outback get equal weightage. In the icebreaker discussion. Before the catch of the day is unveiled. It varies. Bombils, shark, kardi, prawns, jowla, [ The last three being the same thing just different sizes ] , Mackerel [ ok Bangada ] an so on and so forth. The memsaab has to check for freshness. The fish come up short every time. The ancestors of the fisherwoman { Rattu } are invoked. Invoked to come and testify how just that morning the fish were playing seven tiles in the waters off Chimbai. A sorting is done. From what was largely todays catch with just a little leftover from yesterdays poor sales. The price is negotiated. All the fish are returned because the price Rattu is asking for is why sometimes people are convicted of robbery. But the diesel to run the boats has almost doubled in price. The nets tear so easily now because off strange debris in the sea. The catch is so much less because of global warming. The fish are in a no mans land. Rattu pushing them out of her basket. The Memsaab trying to push them back in. Halfheartedly.
The rice on the stove boils over. The memsaab rushes to turn it off. Rattu pushes the basket out of arms reach. Keeping the still to be paid for bombils within. The Memsaab comes back to find the bombils being cleaned. Fait accompli. For both parties. Without any loss of face. The bombils leap into the frying pan without any assistance. They’re that fresh. Other than the two laggards from yesterdays downward pointing sales graph. Rattu tells Memsaab that Jo-Boy is going to enjoy his lunch when he comes home from school in the lunch break. Because of the bombils.
Memsaab agrees. The deal has been done so not fraternizing with the enemy now has no benefit.
The Memsaab helps Rattu get her basket back up on her head. She sends a Cadbury’s ├ęclair for Rattu’s daughter.
JoBoy gets home for lunch. Asks for thirds. And Memsaab in her night prayers thanks God for the strong healthy son he has bestowed on her, and for Rattu , and her fish that helps keep him that way.

Nov 27, 2008

Bang Bang Boom.

It pays to know Leela .She’s a journalist. So she gets to meet up with the rich and famous. Or did circa March 1993.Her brief for the day was to meet Ian Anderson. Sometimes mistakenly called Jethro Tull. That was the name of the band, not the man.
He was on a pre concert tour of India. Staying at the Oberoi. Right next to the Air India building. Which only a few days earlier had been bombed. RDX ripping thru the lobby. Destroying things and people. The first question that Leela asked in her allotted fifteen minutes with the legend was whether he had any apprehensions about coming to Bombay so soon after the blasts. Going to India with warnings from the British Government that said do at your own risk ? Yes he did. But he was from England. He’s gone thru the antics of the IRA. Seen the damage terrorists could do first hand. If he didn’t come to Mubai the terrorists had won. Won what they set out to do. Which was to disrupt life. To dictate what you did and when. Dictated by fear. Terrorists , terrorise. But if we stay home, they win. So here he was in the lobby of the Oberoi. Posing for a picture with his flute. Balancing on one leg against the back drop of Marine Drive and the Arabian Sea. A million miles from home. On a trip nobody would have questioned him not making.
The interview went on , to musical influences, and defining moments in life. What he ate for dinner and what the next album was going to be about. And how his daughter was not a fan of his music. She wanted to know why he didn’t play some Bon Jovi covers.
That day with him, the terrorists did not win.

Nov 19, 2008

Barack Obouza,Rebello House, Hill Rd., Bandra.

Arre baba how he's so dark. Lets put channa ka atta on him. He's looking like a khapri with this curly hair. Don't worry.When it's little longer we'll straighten it out. With what ? The Murphy iron. On cardboard. You think my hair was always straight ?
Thank god it's a boy. If he was a girl, the ad saying wheatish complexion in the matrimonials twenty years down the line would be science fiction. Don't take him in the sun. He wants to play outside ? Only after the sun goes down .
So little Barry went to school. In a nation that sees itself as brown, in a world that has only black or white. But he being browner than most was called black. It made him reach higher. To shut out teases and taunts. The curly hair was still curly. The channa ka atta was now used for bhajjias only.
For the Christmas play he was choosen to play the Gollywog. No need for makeup. Ha ! Thru school and college. With the girls who found him funny. And laughed at his jokes. But always said no when he asked them out.
Muhammad Ali won the world boxing championship. Maybe he'd be a boxer. No. To violent. He hated violence. And what future did boxing have in India anyway ? Maybe Music . Yes. A few of his friends called him Michael Jackson already. They thought it was praise. Barry hated it. Curly hair and a dark skin, do not a Michael Jackson make !
Maybe he'd be President of the country. One day.

Oct 14, 2008

What they did'nt teach you at Harvard Business school.

Case Study 1: Go to the Mcdonalds on Linking road. On any given day there is a slew of entrepreneurs mobilizing their various businesses on the pavement. While far away Laxmi Mittal is busy buying a steel plant in Romania to make steel for the US market, Rajuhad bought maps. Maps that he now offers for sale. Maps that are printed in China. That have a long shelf life. That are easy to transport. [ In their rolled up form. ] That have bright colours to help them stand out from any goods his competitors may have on sale. That have a market that goes from eager school children with not so eager parents, to eager parents with not so eager school children and every one in between. Including various visitors to Mumbai in colors ranging from the blackest black to the whitest white. His marketing division works at discounts quickly. One for Rs.50. Two for Rs.75. Three for Rs. 100. The base price is determined by what he thinks the market can support. So the one for Rs.50 might a few minutes down the line be one for Rs.60. and two for Rs.80. He's quickly gone from Good to Great. From old badly printed maps that triple folded right over the equator to roll up laminated maps. With plastic tube reinforcers at either end.
The boundaries of his SEZ keep moving. In direct relation to the muncipality van from who he tries to maintain a uniform out of sight distance. The sub prime crises is the last thing on his mind. Why ? Because of unflichingly following a COD policy. No, 90 days, no 60 days. Not even 60 seconds. So cash flow is never going to be a problem for him.
He goes right to his cutomers doorstep. As they step out from their newly accquired Maruti Swifts and Octavia Skodas. While Laxmi Mittal is slowly shifting sales out of the US and towards China because of the slowdown in the US economy. Raju moves his buisness to the other side of Linking road when the parking timing changes. 9am to 5 pm parking on the eastern side. 5pm - 9 pm parking on the western side while the east is out of bounds.
He's hedged his bets on the Map of India. Kashmir , { Pakistan occupied } it says in fine print. As far as Raju is concerned The World is Flat.
A sale he knows, is made before the customer even suspects it. His antennae is fine tuned. Not wasting a minute on someone who he knows will never feel the need for a map. While going for the jugular with someone in whom there's the littlest flicker of interest.
He does'nt want to sell his Ferrari yet. Ok . His Hero cycle with the carrier attached for localised transportation of his goods. But he will one day, when he's won enough friends and influenced enough people.
Thats when he'll get the Rolls. Ok . Hero Honda motorcycle.

Sep 11, 2008

The Real Waiting for Godot

Guest writer DENZIL SMITH

What happened to the Bandra tramp? The lovable, popular harmless corner fixture. Whatever happened to Manu, Mario and Vincy? Bandra has never had tramps like them since…those were the days of the glorious tramp, always clothed in shirt, jacket and boots… These 'maladjusted' people as modern politically correct parlance would call them, in good ole seventies and early eighties, ran errands, entertained, dug graves and were generally loveable people who could inevitably be found at key spots in and around Bandra.

Manu always wore a coat and loose trousers. Manus territory was the St Andrews graveyard where he sometimes dug graves for a living. Manu was harmless and never drank alcohol...he was just naturally blown …. Manu was intense and yet happy…all the boys knew him and even if they hassled him,he took it in his stride, which had some sort of chaplinesque resemblances. Manu was a fakir of sorts who seemed to have reached nirvana where nothing really mattered except a good chai or khema pau… his prize for an errand run or for just being there!

When he spotted a familiar face he would rush to ask, "Guive no one ciggie". Taking advantage of this request...one of the boys would say, "Manu, Manu want four annas or what?"...Manu would nod his head vigorously in the affirmative. "Then do jig men"…and Manu would start his routine like a wound up toy let loose….he jumped up and down while he sang in his inimitable falsetto…. "Money is the root of all evil ,money is the root of all evil, take it away take it away take it away… take it away take it away take it away." He went on and on and on. As soon as he was done with he would ask for his four annas and scoot off hurriedly to Yatch.

Then there was Mario whose eyes blinked a million times each second…Mario too wore a jacket which most often than not were two sizes larger than him, with a string holding up his three sizes bigger trousers Mario was our living, walking, talking juke box…."Mario, Mario want four annas or wat" one of the boys would scream on spotting him near the Yatch from Vasants steps on which they were perennially perched discussing the intricacies of Chimbai flavours…at which point Mario would rush up to them beaming and shaking his head from side to side saying, "Yesyesyes yesyes…." till he was out of breath. Depending on the mood for the evening ….the song was decided! (Not that there was a great repertoire to decide from) "Mario sing night fever men"…and Mario would position himself very seriously like a tenor about to set forth on an aria at a concert and yell with his finger pointing in the air Travolta style, "Night fever night feveeeer….Night fever night feveeeeeeer, Night fever night feveeeeeeeeer…" Mario never went beyond that line, it would go on and on, and on like a stuck stuck DVD …After a few protests if it went on too long he was dismissed. Armed with his four annas he would rush to have some tea or just vanish into the serene night air.

When Mario and Manu were together they were our Vladimir and Estragon.

Then there was Vincy...the slickest of them all…his haunting coloured eyes and red hair made him stand out. If ever there was a living Godot, it must have been him, for Vincy never really spoke….he silently wandered about Bandra…from St. Andrews school to Mt Carmels, always with purpose and focus but never really going anywhere. That was Bandra then!

Denzil L. Smith

The Golden Mile.

September brings two very disconvergent souls, together. Ganesha and Mother Mary. Mother Mary who rose from the seas of Bandstand in a fishing net. To be forever enshrined at the church at the top of the hill. Ganesha who is consigned to the waters at the seas of Bandstand till September next.
So you trudge up the hill for the novena , if you’re this side of 40 or share a rickshaw with your sodality friends if you’re not. The culmination of the novena happens on the 8th. The feast of Our lady, if you’re a saint. For every body else it happens on the Sunday following the eighth. The day that every one celebrates as Bandra feast. The day that Bandra fair begins. The day that little piggies have given up their lives for. To be re-incarnated as vindaloo and sorpotel.
The day has to start with a visit to the Mount. For mass. A half hour here or a half hour there doesn’t matter. There’s a mass every 1/2 hour. You get the homily onwards from the 7.00 a.m. mass and the stay on till the homily begins of the 7.30 mass. A bit disjointed but a full mass. If only I could have got my parents to see it this way when we were kids. I tried . They never did. Time spent in church is time spent away from the fair. Quickly you bought your candles . You went into the church. You drop your candles into the crates at the foot of the altar. You genuflect before the satue. You look warily at the crazies who have prostrated themselves flat out on the floor. At other faiths who are banging their heads on the chequered Italian marble floor. At the priest who is trying to explain the difference between prasad and communion to Hari Prasad Lohia. And why Hari isn’t getting any. At the dress of woven gold that adorns the statue of Our Lady. At the balloon wallahs who lurk just beyond the gate.
Mass done. You move to the fair. The church compound is filled with church supported stalls. St. Anthony’s home for the aged. Lucky dips. Where for a rupee you can win three embroidered handkerchiefs. Or a jar of home made pickle. Or a trio of plastic flowers. Or a set of dentures ? No. Those belong to the stall manager who’s taken them off for a break. The sisters from the convent next door have a stall with sandwiches and cold drinks. Orange juice, Kala katha, lemonade. Pre coke and pepsi days these. Sweet stalls . Chikki. Gram. Freshly roasted. Freshly shelled. None of the games yet. After an hour in church hunger overrides all else. The gas balloon guys know you want one even before you do. They tie the string onto your wrist quicker than the proton goes thru the Haltron collider. It’s a cruel parent who would make them take it off. But when they try and sell you one for each hand even kind parents turn cruel. The guys with multi colored hats make a racket with their pam-para-pas. The residents around the fair are agitating. To ban pam-par-pas. They have to put up with their flower beds doubling up as spittoons. Their compound wall being the loo. Their driveway being a sheekh kebab stall. But their sleep they hold sacred. Afternoon siesta included. And this holy space where angels fear to tread is threatened by pam-para-pas.
More food. Samosas. Chole bhature. Bhelpuri.
‘ But you just ate 4 sandwiches.”
“But I’m still hungry “
“Ok eat them but when you vomit don’t tell me.”
“ Ok.”
And then to round it off dessert. You’re spoilt for choice. Candy floss. Ice cream. Gulab jams. The candy floss wins. But a deal is made with a sibling who chooses ice-cream. So that you’ll both have the best of both worlds.
The games are popping up with more frequency between ever decreasing channa and bhelpuri stalls. And in the distance you can see the top three seats of the giant wheel as they go round and round. The call of the siren. ..
So you’re torn. Rush to the giant wheel. Or get into the Well-of –Death. On whose parapet they have a sequined clad motorcycle rider. Who revs [ what seemed like a Harley Davidson to you then] to full volume. While the loudspeaker next to him says something that even he can't hear over the noise of his machines engine. So we go up the rickety wooden ladder. And the game show starts out tamely enough. With cyclists defying gravity and going around a well that if not death, meant at least a few broken bones if they slipped and fell. And then the motorcyclist came on. A few practice rounds on the floor of the well of death and he was off. Soon just a blur of motion. Riding up to within a few inches of the railing against which we stood. At that speed and at that height the Well-of-Death could easily have been the Well-of Death. But it never was. Then came the special attraction . A woman was going to go into the Well-of –Death. Fanfare music would roll out from the tinny Ahuja speakers. A hush settles over this woden framed amphitheatre. And in a flash the said woman would be looking Yama in the face. A flash of flying hair . The jumpsuit with sequins the same as her predecessor. And when she finished her round she pull up at the bottom of the pit. And take a quick bow. Before vanishing into the little door cut into the side. And only those spectators right in front of her caught a glimpse of her Adam’s apple as she vanished.
Onwards Christian soldiers. On to the girl Snake Girl. Who had a head of a girl and the body of a snake. In badly sewn rexine. Which dangled below the table on which she lay. Rolling her large kohled eyes. Which at ten years old had seen it all and then some.
“ You want more candy floss ? You’ll get worms. I swear there must be a hole in your stomach. “
But you got more candy floss. And the worms. Well we’ll worry about that bridge when it’s time to cross it.
The laughing gallery was for fools. Who wants to pay good money to laugh at themselves ? Lots of people . So we laughed at them laughing at themselves . For free. Jo-boy , Clara, their fourth cousins from Borivli. Third cousins from Andheri. Second cousins from Santacruz and first cousins from Khar are spotted. So we stop. We kiss. Sweaty cheeks. Ours must be sweaty too. And candy flossed. We say “ Happy Feast” We promise to visit each others houses in the course of the week. Jo-boy slips some money into our pockets. Mother says “ NO.” Half heartedly. We try and give it back. Half heartedly. Jo-Boy insists.
That was a bonus.Which vanishes. When we try and toss five inch diameter rings over six inch long soaps and watches in seven inch long cases. And two inch long matchboxes. But we feel happy. Walking away with the most expensive matchboxes we’ve ever had.
There’s a table at the side of the road. Where an artist sits with his pallete of water colors. Coloring the black and white pictures that are being shot behind him. Behind sheets of black cloth. He has his work cut out for him when someone wants their whole head including their hat of many colors, colorized. So we agonise over where to pose. On the moon. A-la- Neil Armstrong. The moon is in profile. And we could stand on the bench behind it so that we crest the surface. Or the jeep. An open jeep. With a gun strapped to the front. Or the cardboard motorcycle. Hardly Davidson it says on the side. [ I made that up. But it should have ] And we finally pose in front of the Taj Mahal. The sight of whose badly plagiarized proportions would have made Mumtaz head for the family court in Bandra East and claim maintenance from Shahjehan for Aurangzeb.
Come back in 30 minutes. Coloured ? No black and white.
Into the hallowed portals of “ The September Garden “ we enter. Giant wheels and merry –go-rounds. Hot dogs and ribbon sandwiches. September Kings and Queens of the future manning games stalls. Test your hand. Trace the 1mm wire with a 3mm loop. And the minute one touches the other. Bells ring and lights flash. And the crowd watching you sighs in disappointment. They wanted you to win.
Candles on a board. Light twelve candles with one match and walk away with one Rasna bottle. Two blisters later you havent been able to light up even seven candles. Who likes Rasna anyways ! You try and kick the ball thru the hanging tyre. Now you know why you’re in the B team. You try and knock down a pyramid of empty cans. With three balls. From a million miles away.
Knock the bottom row out first.
Throw the ball really hard at the table and the cans will all fall down with the vibration.
The advice flows fast and furious. Nothing works. You aim for the table and hit the lampshade in the adjacent White Elephant stall. Thank god its plastic. You softly lob the next two balls onto the cans. But there are still more cans vertical than horizontal. You move to the hockey stall. Where you have to shoot the ball into a sideways lying 1kg Dalda dabha. You shoot twice imperiling said white elephant lampshade once again. For the third shot you close your eyes and shoot blind. And the Rasna bottle is finally yours.
Your budget is exhausted. And the family has to go to Uncle Giles’s house. Who almost lives in the fair. For lunch. Which will draw cousins from the far flung reaches of the city. From Khotachiwadi to Rathodi. Where Aunty Maries fugias make you go down on your knees and shout Alleluia. Where Uncle Giles will slip you a glass of shandy while he tells your Mom “ See crow !”
The giant wheel line reaches all the way to the niches of Mt. Carmels graveyard now. So we might as well save that for another day.
A detour from the strip is called for.A side exit past Suapri Talao. Which carries the remanants of the fair. Spread on sheets on the ground are fair worthy but not stall worthy items. Glass birds that alternately dipped and rose and dipped and rose. Ad infinitum. Filled with blue and green and red magical liquids. Motor boats that putt-putted their way interminably around a plastic basin. Powered by a little lamp. Doll house sets of furniture. In steel. In wood. In plastic. Earthen ware piggy banks. For whose contents you would have to break the bank. Posters spread out on an obliging compound wall. A wide angle shot of the grand canyon with Rhonda Byrne like quotes superimposed on the Colorado river. A younger happier Amitabh Bachan. Sacred heart of Jesus cheek by jowl with Zeenat Aman and Rekha. The resident of a building is disputing an entrepreneurs right to use said residents’ building gate as a display stand for his assortment of belts. Leather, cloth, metal and plastic. Coiled and looped obscuring the wrought iron lettering that proclaims. Av_ Mar_a Co_op Hsin_ So_y. Water filled balloons with long rubber cords attached make yo-yos. A little fragile. Assortments of plaster of paris fruits. In Gauguinesque colours. Replicas of birds. With plaster bodies and sequined eyes. But real feathers. Chains with little crosses below. Rings in brass and copper and aluminium and bronze. A stray channawalla. Who has a cane stand with all his wares contained in one basket. Makes for a quick getaway when the munciaplity descends on them. Because they’re off license. As you walk past you are implored to buy. Implored to Give. To assorted beggars. With an assortment of body parts gone wrong. The fascination for fingerless hands and legless torsos is something the adults don’t share.
“But how does he go to the toilet Mummy.”
“ Don’t ask silly questions now. Hurry up .”
Past the Supari Talao and on to Uncle Giles and Aunty Maries house. Where the noise of cousins who met each other only last month leads you to believe they are meeting after twenty five years or more. Where the cake and fugias are a pre cursor of good things to come. All the men of the family led by Giles himself are at the Mount. Where they organize communion lines and collection boxes. Priest’s vestments and visiting choirs. The women in the family keep the invading hordes at bay. With mince filled scones and patties. While news that they told each other over the phone yesterday is retold once again in person. The boys repair to the terrace to fly kites. Overtures are made to generous uncles. About how the money ran out at the September Gardens. About how at the ice cream stall there were so many flavours but so little cash.
The pillars that hold up Mount Mary's basilica are back. Tired from a duty that has had them on their feet from 5 in the morning. More wishes. More kisses. More shandy. For me. The piggie is being readied for his transfiguration. From piggie to protein. Sorry fats. Someones spectacles are borrowed to help him look cool. A lit ciggarete clamped between his jowls,helps him take his execution like a man.The pies are withdrawn from the oven. The moile and vindaloo ladled out into the serving dishes. The fugia bowl readied on the table. It follows the law of diminshing returns. Every time you return from the table, bedroom, terrace, bar, the fugias in the bowl diminsh. But Aunty Marie's largesse knows no bounds. And the fugia bowl replicates the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. So we all gather for the grace before meals. And then settle down to eat, eat and eat. After which the children ready for another foray into the fair. The parents are settling down to a siesta. One uncle is coerced into forgoing his siesta to escort the kids back to the fair. Where the line at the giant wheel, in the heat of the afternoon sun now has only the requisite mad dogs , Englishmen and us. Soon we're screaming our way in circles. Looking down at Bandra from a height we've never ever seen it from. Crammed four in a box meant for two. Getting that sinking feeling as the box plummets down to earth from a seemingly unrecoverable drop. The wheel goes faster and faster and just when you think it's going to help you become a replica of the Endeavour,it slows. Then the whole film played out backwards. And that for most of us was the high point of what was the Bandra Fair.

Sep 9, 2008

Goodnight you Princes, you Raja's of Bandra

There was a little room on Bazaar road. A sign outside grandiosely announced it as Raja Bar. It had no bar counter. It did’nt have waitresses in frilly mini skirts a la Vegas. It did’nt even have a resident band. What it did have was the quarter system. Which made it more popular than if it did have mini skirted waitresses. You were served your choice of poison in a quart bottle. Which was plonked on your table with as little ceremony as Phelps third gold.. The choice of chatna was short. Boiled eggs or boiled eggs. On good days the menu stretched to fried fish. The fillers were water and water. On good days it stretched to a soda. There was no TV and there was no music player. There were the regulars who had not just their favorite table but their favorite chair at the table. Because often times because of the space crunch you found yourself sharing a table with a stranger. Not really a stranger , because the stranger was someone who was there every evening. Just somebody you hadn’t had a chance to discuss the existence of God with and the political scenario that would cure all of our countries ills. A situation that remedied itself as the evening wore on. And the quarters piled up. They weren’t cleared from the table. Because when you called for your bill,the waiter tallied the empties and knew how much to bill you for.
And you did feel like a Raja in Raja bar. Occasionally the cops would drive by and shut the bar down for a while. So every one would troop out. The owner and the cops would get into a huddle. The hafta would change hands. The cop would request the owner not to re-open until they were back at the station. Enjoying a the variety of a few boiled eggs as accompaniment to their dal chawal dhabba. And the owner would say sure. And re-open the bar as soon as they had turned the corner. And back in we’d all troop. The empty quarters still in place on each respective table so that the billing did’nt get messed up.
The tables were steel. Guaranteed to stand up to glasses being banged down a million times. Easy to clean the spillage of an over emphasized point of view . You would hear the occasional shout “ Daddy “ from the doorstep. “ Mummy says come home immediately.We’re waiting to eat khanna “
And with everyone's eye on the offender he had no choice but to say
‘ Tell her I’ll be back after an hour.”
While he quickly downed what remained of his quarter and slunk away and was at his dining table in time for the grace before meals.
Raja Bar shut down . I don’t know why. Frankie's and Joe's at Chimbai are history. Little known history. But still history. Frankie's wife now takes catering orders. And Mosambi and Santra are only available at the fruit wallah. In the form they grow on trees. Not the way you got them in quarter bottles at Raja Bar. Which is the way God intended them to be.

Dirty Linen.

In the passage of our house stood many things. A shoe rack. A book rack. A clothes line suspended from the ceiling. And the dirty clothes box. 4’ high and a 2’ square in plan.The name says it all ? Not really.
There was a flip lid at the top. Which you lifted open and threw your dirty clothes into. When the box was full you opened a little door on one of the sides at the bottom of the box. Unloading the box was then a piece of cake. The sides were slatted for the upper half of the box. This stopped the clothes from getting musty. And allowed the monitoring of level of dirty clothes in the box. And allowed your mother to determine which day would be laundry day. And after the laundry was done the box was pressed into service once more. To stand on to reach the ceiling suspended clothesline and hang the recently evicted inhabitants of the box.
The box really came into it’s own when there was a game of hide and seek. Even the littlest inhabitant of the house could open the side door and crawl in.Then smother herself in the dirty clothes. So that visibility of any human form thru the slats was zero. All would be well until a larger inhabitant would decide that the dirty clothes box was the best place to hide. His chosen point of entry would be from the top flap. And the muffled screams that would emerge from the box when the new inhabitant of the box settled on the head of the old would give the game away.
When the fans had to be cleaned the box was pressed into service as a make do ladder. When the house needed painting the painters were allowed to use it. But only after the promise of it getting a new coat of polish was extracted.
The dirty clothes box was living on borrowed time though. The washing machine soon made it semi redundant. And when the washing machine came out with a built in spin dryer every day could be wash day. The washing machine triples up as dirty clothes box, washer and dryer. An aluminium ladder that folded neatly onto the loft allowed you to get the cobwebs off the fans.
The Mother does’nt have the heart to get rid of it. So it still sits in the passage. It’s used to store the Christmas tree that folds away in two parts. Boxes of packed away decorations.
The Mother notices her favourite tee shirt that says “Worlds Best Mom “
[ Sent by the now NRI ,littlest inhabitant ] missing. She used it just last week. Thieves . The maid ? The plumber who came to fix the washer in the kitchen tap last week ? The monkey that was trained to go into peoples houses and steal ?
It turned up at Christmas time.

The Twelve Steps

Mt. Carmel’s church is a gracious host. To the school kids of St. Aloysius. To her parishioners who troop in for mass. For burials and first holy communions.To the September Gardens with it's Giant Wheels and merry-go-rounds. For a meeting that happens once a week.
A meeting where each attendee introduces himself and confirms his addiction.
"My name is Tony G. and I am an addict."
Alcohol and drugs. What to most people are social pleasures. To everyone at the meeting is a Ravana. A hundred headed monster that has destroyed their lives. Fathers, sons, teachers, officers, peons. People who come from worlds that never collide. A world where they cease to function as a father , as a provider, as a husband. A world where most waking moments are given to feeding a hunger that is destroying them. And with them the people in their orbit. Where getting to the Auntie’s at Chimbai wins out over getting to the office on time. Where the sideboard your grandfather made with his own hands is sold to the jaripurana walla. The cashier at Pinky Wines and BoozeUp trades in hard cash. Not sideboards or wedding rings.
The children turn inwards . The wife to novenas . Which work. And Tony G. finds himself at Mt. Carmels basement with the will to change. Where he meets with a man called Fr. Joe P. Who gives introduces him to Ramesh C. , Imtiaz M, Gurpreet S. , Solomon E. and so on and so forth. And every day he struggles. To stay away from his Ravana. Just that one day at a time. Counting it out. Ramus been clean for 36 days. Imtiaz for 104. Guru hit a hundred days and figured one little drink would’nt hurt. If he could stay clean for a hundred days… he’d be able to stop after one drink. He was wrong. Sol’s first anniversary of being clean was coming up.
Prayers in the morning. A simple meal. House work. Sweeping and mopping this basement that was now home. Yoga. Meditation to try and exorcise the demons in him for ever. The first few days are the hardest. Shivers and chills. Someone stays with him all the time. A new kid comes in. His mother has come to drop him off. He’s never spent a night away from home.
They’ve moved from taking to giving. Of their time as they arrange the chairs in the quadrangle for Sunday mass. And clear it out so that it’s free for the kids to play the next morning. Of helping with the household accounts. With the marketing for which they would go in pairs. So that if you started to fall there was a shoulder to hold you up.
The wife and kids dropped by for a visit. He introduced them all around. They went across the road to the Irani’s for a cup of tea. The shame that had always been there but he had’nt seen, he now could. It almost made him head straight for the usual path to oblivion. Almost.
So it went. A day at a time. Till he felt he could get back home. He was back at Mt. Carmels for the meeting every week. The years moved on. At the kids weddings he toasted them with a Coco Cola. The wife did’nt insist they go into every party late and leave early anymore. { It used to cut down on his drinking time }. He did. Because he knew how fragile he was. Even now. And how fragile he will be. Right to the very end. Where his epitaph will read
"My Name was Anthony Gonsalves."

p.s. Ossie was the man who held it all together at the AA centre in Mt. Carmels.Fr. Joe's right hand. And he was ably assited by Rex. Silver haired and looking like a film star even when he was in the throes of recovery. And Smitthy and Russel who now help others from their so very different points in the universe.

Sep 8, 2008

Rainy Day People...

MRF always has a rain day announcement. Trying to predict the day the monsoon will descend on Bombay. They don’t usually get it right. So the next day they run an ad saying ‘we got it wrong but aren’t you glad you’re ready for the rains with your new MRF tyres. And we wait for the rains to come. Eagerly, at first and after a few weeks anxiously. Crops start dying in far away fields. Vaitarna and Vihar lakes are close to being empty. Prayers are read out in church. Novenas are made. And then on a day the weather report says will have lots of sunshine and no clouds. The rains come. Umbrellas are taken down from the top of the Godrej. Raincoats are washed clear of the powder they’ve been preserved in over the last year. Rain shoes are tried on only to find they’ve shrunk while in storage. [ No ! my feet could’nt have become fatter. ] Wipers are fitted back onto cars. Because you’ve removed them before the local junkies did. Theres a solution called Anti-Rust that goes onto all the chrome that makes it shine like gold . Theres a choice of anti-rusts. Gold or bronze. While all the anti-rust that gets left behind on your fingers only makes them black. And sticky. But it keeps the rust away.
The rains came down. And the floods come up. The gutters either drain the rain water efficiently or choke like when you had to have the bitter jaundice medicine.
. It depends on the tide. High tide , and the rain water can’t get out. Low tide, and our gutters runneth smoothly into the sea. Paper boats are dropped into one side of the sewer that runs beneath the driveway. And applauded when they emerge unscathed on the other side. The little streams that run above ground don’t have enough of a draft for our nautical masterpieces. The bit of palm leaf at the point where it joins the tree makes a perfect boat. Kon Tiki inspired . You paint it. You sandpaper it. You christen it. And then you don’t have the heart to put it into the gutter to test it’s seaworthiness. So you put it in the showcase.
If it’s raining when you go to sleep, you pray very hard. That it might continue to rain very hard. So hard that the next day will be declared a rainy day holiday. The newspaper gets delivered . Not good. If the paper could come to you then you are probably going to be able to get to school. You set off with your socks rolled up in your pocket . You’re instructed to put them on only when you are in class. You’re told not to splash in every puddle between home and school. You’re told to keep your raincoat cap on. You’re told not to forget your raincoat in school on the way back.
You try to get as close to the puddle the bus has to splash thru in before it can proceed. What are raincoats for?
You get to class. A sorry and washed out bunch. Raincoats dripping over the railing. The floor a mix of mud from the playground and the rainwater still leaking thru a not very watertight roof. Fifty raincoats. One umbrella.[ the teachers]. A few wet socks on top of the raincoats. [ Everyones mother didn’t have the foresight of yours.] Books are removed from plastic bags that are removed from schoolbags. A little smudge from where the water managed to get thru the double fold of the plastic bag. And as you settle down a notice is brought to the class. The school is shutting down because of the rain. Did you hear the cry when the Israelites trumphed over the Egyptians. Did you hear the cry when Dhoni and gang won the ODI world cup? Did you hear the cry when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon ? If you heard all these you’ve still heard nothing. Till you’ve heard the cry of 2500 boys who are informed that instead on spending the next eight hours at a desk ,they are free. Free to play football in the rain. Free to sail paper boats in overflowing gutters. Free to try and swim in the 18 “ of water that might flood St. Pauls road. Free. Free. Free.
You rush home. Past stranded cars and motorcycles. Which seem to be wheel less in the rising waters. You stay far from the edge of the road. Where the fine line that divides road from gutter is a thing of the distant past. You give the corner dustbin a wide berth. Some of it’s contents still sail pretty close to where you are. You dump bag school bag and raincoat and socks [ now soaked ] and shoes and school uniform. And set of to enjoy what the raingods have bestowed upon you.
And so it goes. Two days of rain. Three days. A week. The washing is hanging from the backs of the chairs around the dining table. The electric mains are switched off every time the water in the staircase threatens to get to know the meter box in a biblical way. The top woman .[ I love that word. Top woman . Is it because she’s on top of everything ? There’s no such thing as top work. Work is work. Is it because shes top dog in this cluster you call home. Though you’re father thinks otherwise. He does’nt think he’s top dog. He thinks it’s your Mom. ] I digress. The top woman’s house is under water. So she hasn’t shown up for work. Understandably so.
Prayers are now being said to ask God to turn it off. Novenas to mitigate flood damage.
Anthony of Anthony’s Car and Body works is happy. Even the anti rust hasn’t been able to withstand the rain gods fury. The sun comes out. The dining chairs are swiftly emptied of wet clothes. And so it goes. Till the Duckback raincoats are re-powdered and put away once more. The wipers are put back into the dickie. And the fall of rainwater trickling down your open skywards turned mouth becomes a “Was I dreaming ? “ moment in the heat of Mumbai.

Jul 22, 2008

The Ambassador for Peace and Goodwill.

A car is a car is a car ? Not true. A car would be either a fiat or an ambassador. Power steering . Yes. He was called Darjee the Driver. Tinted glasses ? Yes. There were little curtains strung on wires across the windows. Air conditioning ? Of course. There was a fan mounted on the dashboard. In the summer you put a khus mat on the roof. And you kept it damp. This kept the heat of summer away from the car. Bucket seats ? Only when you were on your way to the beach and the littlest sat on an upturned beach bucket between the seats. A luggage rack on the roof was a given. For suitcases . For trips out of town. For a seating platform when a little elevation was required. Like when we needed to look over the airport wall at the first ever Jumbo Jet. Or for ringside seats at the Supari Talao football game. Floor shift gears ? No way. It would get in the way of four people sitting on the front seat.
For a trip out of town a waterholding canvas bag was required. It would be strung up in front of the radiator. And halfway up the ghats on the way to Poona or Goa or Nasik, the temperature indicator would be hovering in the red zone. You stopped. You opened the bonnet.You waited for the radiator to stop its gurgling. Then with a duster in hand you took the radiator cap off. Stepping back as far and as quickly as you did when you almost ran into the principal outside the New Talkies matinee in the middle of a school day. Old Faithful had nothing on the geyser the radiator shot up. You then took the canvas bag and emptied the contents into the radiator. With the engine running. Otherwise the cold water on the hot engine would split the gasket. And everyone would be rounded up quickly including the visitors from the local Sulabh Sauchalay [ Ok Ok behind the Banyan tree. ]
before the now green temperature gauge started seeing red again.
For funerals the hoi polloi crammed into the bus if the burial was beyond walking distance from the house. The car would be commissioned for the newly commissioned widow and family because grief does’nt let you walk. For VIP visitors [ Parish priests and Mothers-in-laws ] the car would be trundled out for the short ride home. For occasional trips to the wholesale market in Dadar this chariot of the gods would be reduced to a delivery van.
Over all of this would watch a benevolent St. Christopher. The patron saint of travelers. From his magnetically held perch on the glove compartment. And over him would tower Mother Mary. Stuck to the dashboard . Araldited, so that she could watch over this car forever.

Jul 17, 2008

Majority Wins !

They saw each other. Their hearts fluttered. They went for the Christmas dance. They got married. They had a baby. They called him Baba. Aunty Mary came over . Mummy leaned over into the crib and asked Baba to smile for Aunty Mary, and he did.
For his sixth birthday Baba didn’t want his Godmother to come over. Because she was always correcting him. Don’t eat with your fingers. Don’t drink water from the tap. Don’t put the bottle to your mouth. Don’t come over for my birthday please Godma, he wanted to say. But he didn’t and she did.
A little sister was born into his family.He was no more Baba. He was Joe Boy. His mother wanted him to take part in the elocution competition. He did’nt , but he did. He finished school in a blaze of glory. Distinction. The only one on the whole road with a distinction.
Arts. Forget it. You’ve done so well you have to take science.
Uncle Domnics birthday tomorrow evening.
No I don’t want to come.
You have to come. What are you going to sit and do all by yourself at home ?
So he went.
Your Godmothers in hospital. Go see her.
But she’s always correcting me.
So ? She’s your godmother. Visting hours are between 4.00 and 7.00 p.m.
You want to be a musician ? Are you mad ? We are not going to be here to feed you all our lives. L&T are taking apprentices.
As soon as he finished his apprenticeship he was absorbed by the company. Who knew a good man when they saw one.
Then one day he saw her. His heart fluttered. He asked her out to the Christmas dance. She said yes. They got married. They had a little girl. Old Aunty Mary came over. Joe Boy leaned over and beamed proudly at his daughter. Who gurgled loudly and then smiled at Aunty Mary. Because her Daddy asked her to.

Bandra Talks !

Please write in with your phrases. mail me at clemde@gmail.com
will add to the list to compile the definitve list of Bandraspeak.

I'm not friendly to Savio ! Aber

Godlonose Or should it be Godlonknows? Scribbler

sweetheart give a bloddy kiss man Gavin Dsouza

mudder faader gone to dadder men
i am goin to potoogeese church
coming wot?
vaan i'll give u na you'll know
got a buck wot?
lets go to september garden men
our f@#$%r tony is playing men MagicEye

see that babe passing men! What a fatac !!
That zunt was tring to patao my sass.

I'll take him left and right. Anonymous

Cun cun men, lets go
Seven days became since she died
what you're saying
On the fan/ Off the light....
Vijay and Meera Dsouza

Your grandmudder’s aulas
One caanpat you’ll get...
I’ll call Anton / Bandy (RIP) / Tarzan(and such like) and he’ll take out full kunhaas....he’s a kadu f$%£er
Don’t try and teach your faadur (father) to f$%*
The Jolly Rodger.

1. What goes of yours men?
2. Your name is written on it or what?
3. It be's like that only.
4. Donkey-Monkey Wedding (Drizzle and sunshine together)
5. He thinks his s---t doesn't stink.
6. Come on, hurry up, wear your bushcoat.
7. The buddaman's coming...(when frightening kids)
8. I'll give you one jaap.
9. Good pasting.
10 Don't fadkao, ok?
11. Come outside and I'll show you
12. Good boy, sunna boy
13. I gave him good
14. ...and what all they said
15.Housie: All by itself...
Grandma's Age...
2 and 0...Blind 20
Rochelle Almeida 1-20 .

granny's boras
i'm going to 'maim' (for Mahim) for der novena!
[ Patrice ]

I'll tell my breader (Brother) men, he give you good Cutoos.
[Edward Murray]

Cousins, cousins, make dozens.
Small tree big fruit.
Whose father what goes !
Ball talks .

Wafers ! [ Pray for us ]
Alan [ Sam ] DeMenezes.

Two tight slaps.
Legs eleven !
Two fat ladies !
Sweet sixteen.
Lucky for some.
Top of the house . [ NO not Garavati ]
Baba ! why you're saying like that ?

Jul 16, 2008

Equinoxes and Solstices.

A day dawns in mid March. It’s the day of the equinox. When the day and night are both equal. If you’re Hindu it comes around Holi. If you’re Catholic it comes around Good Friday. For every day after that the days keep getting longer and the nights keep getting shorter.
While the sun spins above dictating the length of day and night, ten year old Jo-Boy heads to church. For his Saturday pretending to be Sunday mass. He’s with the building boys. They don’t sit too far in front. The aisle seat commands a premium because of the view it affords of the communion line. In front of them Aunty Mary settles herself. Her husband passed away suddenly. On the ship. Slipped and fell into the hold. DOA. So her flavour of the month is black. Black skirt. Black blouse. Black bag. She settles herself with her veil over her head. Yes black veil too. Standing up when the priest enters. Sitting down for the readings. Standing up for the gospel. Sitting for the sermon. Up for the I believe. Kneeling for the consecration. Standing for the Our father. A stray giggle from Jo Boys pew. And another. Until Mary is forced to turn around and glare at them.
Which stifles them for a few minutes. While the communion lines form she shouts at them in a whisper. “ What so funny ? ”
Nothing Aunty . Nothing. Because they can’t tell her that her clothes are following the sun and making her Sunday longer than her Monday.

Jul 7, 2008

The Goa Diaries. ..1

Once upon a time there were two steam ships. One called the Konkan Sevak and the other called the Konkan Shakti. One left from Goa for Bombay and the other from Bombay for Goa at 10.00 in the morning. They were a few cabins for the very very rich. There was an upper deck for the rich. And a lower deck for everybody else. You bought your ticket at ferry wharf and stood in a long line waiting for the gates to the gangplank to open.
Once they did you ran. With a clutch of bedsheets. And you tried to spread them out on the life rafts that were apread out on the deck. This staked your claim. Bedsheets on the boat deck were the equivalent of newspapers on the seat of the 7.08 Bandra Churchgate local. The ship would sound it's foghorn and the great voyage would commence. You would settle in and eye your neighbours. A half hour ago you would have run them off the gangplank drawn and quaterered if they stood in your way. Now you open your Eagle flask and invite them to share a cup of Earl Grey with you. Ok Ok Brooke Bond. And you discover that you'll are all from Bardez.
Yippe do dah.
Man those guys from Salcette are almost like Mangies.
In fact anyone South of Panjim falls below the pale. The bucket man comes around. A bucket piled high with Limcas and Thums Up. And in his many pockets he has quarts of Feni. Which he sells at Goa prices. Even though you can still see the Gateway in the distance. If Moraji Desai only knew. The bell is sounded for lunch. Where you get fish curry rice. With fish that taste so fresh, they’ve probably jumped straight out of the Arabian sea into the kitchen.
The passengers took turns to eat. You bought your coupon for a lunch service. And carried your feni to the table with you. The ship would meander along the Konkan coast meanwhile. With a sudden listing towards the side when someone spotted a dolphin. Or dolphins. The whole compliment of passengers would line the rails .
The ship would pull closer the coast. A little canoe loaded with bags of rice and chickens and Mangoes and more people than the Titanic carried would come out. Out from the protected harbours of Vijaydurg or Sindhusurgh or Jaigadh or Ratnagiri. Where they’d clamber a rope ladder up the side of the ship. Making sure their saree didn’t snag in the rungs. Chickens and mangoes would be hauled up . While the waves did their best to claim all these elements in transition as their own. Nothing and no one ever fell. A million hands would reach out to help them over the rail when they emerged over the side of the boat. And away the ship would sail.
A man would come around announcing Housie. And everyone who was tired of looking at pristine beaches, at swaying coconut trees, at the rise and swell of the sea would head for the mess. Now cleared of fish curry and rice. Tickets would be sold. The electrical engineer would be deputed to call out the numbers. A few feni glasses would make their appearance. On tables that had a raised border to keep the glasses from getting to know the floor. In the biblical sense.
And the housie would get under way. With Jaldi fives and lines and full houses helping to defray the cost of your ticket. Or add to it if the numbers didn’t turn your way.
Back onto the deck to watch the sunset. While this little world unto itself chugged on towards Goa. The bucket man had run out of Limca so now you were drinking feni with limbu pani. And after the third feni the talk turned to God and love and who made the best Goa sausages.
Dinner was announced in the now familiar as your own house dining hall cum housie room. Back to the deck post dinner. Where the rosary would commence. All five decades. The whole litany. Petitions at the end for everyone and everything. Including Fluffy ,whom the neighbours were looking after, because they did’nt allow dogs on the ship.
The life rafts that had doubled up as card tables, bar counters and diaper changing tables, were now converted into beds. And you lay your weary head to rest.
Some where in the night we’d pass the sister ship, a toot from one Captain to the other to let him know all was well with the world.
Sunrise would wake you up. Smiles to everyone around you. Including the Uncle whose snoring had kept you awake for a minute and a half longer than you wanted to be. Breakfast coupons. Hot tea. .
And you were sailing past Chapora fort. Chapora, then Anjuna. The Baga hill in the distance, with the Jesuit retreat house at its peak. On to Calangute and Candolim. Around the Fort Aguada. Up the Mandovi. Past the barges loaded with iron ore.
Telephone numbers and addtresses are exchanged. Promises to stay in touch. Best wishes for job interviews and pending land disputes.
And as we step onto the jetty at Panjim, a sign of the cross and a mumbled prayer in thanks for a safe and happy jouney.

The world is not enough !

What happens to someone , when the world is not enough? Or when it’s too much ? They decide to short circuit life and bring closure. Closure to problems seen as insurmountable. Or is it to say something? To bring attention to something ? Like the self immolators of south India. Who torch themselves when their heroes are arrested for wrongdoings they most definitely did. Or is the world so overcast that staying around does’nt really hold any attraction anymore ? Is despair so large that they think. Anything but this. Even that great leap into the unknown that follows the end of life. Do they think of the people they’ve left behind. The pain and self doubt that their death may cause. The questioning that any death brings. The if only’s.
If only they all had come across Juliana of Norwich’s words. All things will pass.

Jun 28, 2008

Curry House !

If you came out of St. Andrew's church. Straight down past the Christ the King statue. Past the grotto on your right, waving goodbye to Graveyard Lorna, who seemed to live there. Negotiated the crossing of the St. Pauls Road and Hill Road intersection. Did'nt get seduced by the kheema at Yatch Beer bar and restaraunt. The beer you had to steel yourself at little harder against. Then passed Carmel Convent. Then turned left into the walkway that led to the little house behind the big house. Then walked up a flight of wooden stairs. You would find yourself at a door that was always open. Keeping guard over this always open door was a dove. And just over the threshold was a chair. A rocking chair which rocked on vertical springs. Shock absorbers of it's own. A red leather seat. And on it sat U. Carlisle. U standing for Uncle. He and his family lived in this magical home. With a wooden staircase. Bunk beds. A breadfruit tree that started it's life in adjacent Carmel convent and was meandering thru it's mid-life crisis past their window. An African Grey that whistled and shrieked even more than a Redemptorist. And the power behind the rocking chair was A. Aylma. A for Auntie of course. When you have seven children, a parrot, a dove and U Carlisle the logistics of keeping them in food drink and clothes would be a nightmare for most people. BUt not for A. Aylma. Who took the attitude that if nine people were sitting down to dinner one or two more was not going to make any difference. So at a table in the kitchen. [ Me often being a part of the one or two more ] You would'nt be able to eat . Because you'd be laughing so hard. At impersonations , at jokes, at stories. Or you'd be caught up in the intensity of a discussion. About anything. And everything. Or you would be entertained by U. Carlisle as he lit up his post dinner cheerooot. Of stories of his trips around the the world. Long ago. Or his son's Colin's stories.Of around the world. But of just days or hours ago. [ He flew with Air India ] . While Cheryl and Charmaine [ Carlisle's daughters ] stitched. Sticthed every costume for every production,for every play that was put up in Bandra during the eighties and the nineties. Priests would drop by to consult with Carlisle on matters pertaining to the well being of the parish. Zonal committees would come asking for advice. Conrad [ Another son ] 's ex- girlfriends would come by not knowing they were ex. As of today. The parrot would shriek it out, but they never got it. It would have been easier to win Kaun Banga Crore pati than to guess who Conrads flavour of the week was. The labourers were many. But the gatherer was one.
And thru it all the equanamity of A. Aylma. The oil in the gear box of this home.
Other students submitted reports. Reports and assignments that they got done on manual typewriters by the guys at Bandra Station. Mine stood out. Beacuse they'd be done by Cheryl. On her electronic typewriter. In fonts that changed. In justified columns. I never had to worry about content. Not when the packaging was the best.
This open hearted generosity. Of spirit. Of time. It was'nt confined to this home. You could visit Cordie. [ Another daughter, with Cordie being short for Cordelia ] who had married and moved. To Madh Island. And the same open door policy. A branch office of the Bandra HQ.
The house came down for a building to come up. The family moved. U. Carlisle made the big move upwards. The kids all got married. They’ve moved into homes of their own.
The door is closed. That’s what they do in buildings. The landscape is different. The people who walk the streets are different. But A. Aylma is the same. And if you drop by the Curry house you’ll know. Overflowing with Carlisle Curry’s grandchildren. With laughter , with warmth and with love.

Jun 24, 2008

The Bugoo Bugoo Man

Bugoo bugoo bugoo. Followed by the sound of a cracking whip. Enough to get any five year old to finish his porridge for the next week. Other wise he was told, the Bugoo Bugoo man would take him away. And when you saw the Bugoo Bugoo man he was even scarier than he sounded. Bare chested, long haired, barefooted and painted. Painted with startling streaks of white and vermillion. Cracking his whip in the air. Snaking it back so that it cracked a millimitre over his shoulder. While the woman accompanying him drew out the terrifying bugoo bugoo noise from a drum. Sliding a stick over the taut drum skin. A miniature bugoo bugoo man accompanied him. Sometimes. His correct nomenclature would be bugoo bugoo boy. Also painted and bare-chested. A mini whip in hand. His job was to gather the money. That people gave them. For this sideshow in the break between BEST buses and auto rickshaws.
That’s what we Catholics thought. That the bugoo bugoo man was an end in himself. In his appearance and his performance. His jazz ballet jumps into mid air. But the Bugoo Bugoo man was the equivalent of Fr. Jerry. In the confessional. Where every Friday evening he would give us our penance and absolve all our sins. Including the way we looked at Miss Nigli, the science teacher. Even though we didn’t tell him that one. So you paid the bugoo bugoo man. If you were Hindu. And for all your sins he would whip himself. So that the punishment for your sins was borne by him. And you could go on looking at Miss Nigli.
The bugoo bugoo man still comes around. The woman with the drum too. The miniature bugoo bugoo man is gone. He probably figured that people were getting more virtuous or maybe they just didn’t care anymore. Or was the lure of that job as chowkidar too much.
It’s impossible to get a five year old to eat his porridge now. Choco flakes maybe. If you tell him the policeman will come and get him if he doesn’t. But a policeman cant't even touch the feet of the terrifying, God feared,Bugoo Bugoo man.

Jun 23, 2008

Curtain Call.

He was eighty two years old. Four children. Seven grandchildren. He loved them. They loved him. His one daughter much more than the three boys. Twenty two years of retirement. During which he'd taken his grandchildren to school most mornings. The collection in church on Sunday he'd stopped doing five years ago. He drank, a little. He smoked, a lot. And while men half his age were having angioplastys and bypasses.He smoked the Havana that his son had brought him when he got back from his last voyage.
Old ? Ha. A man is only as old as the woman he feels, he'd joke. But this year the monsoon had him feeling cold. Then he got caught in the rain. Luckily he'd dropped the kids to school already and was alone. Otherwise they'd have got wet too. A cold a cough. Two weeks on and no signs of it going away. Breathing was getting more difficult. Walking impossible. Soup. From the daughters-in-law. From the neighbours. They stopped the visitors because it tired him out to sit up.
A cigarette.
Not now. When you're better.
But he knew it wa'nt going to get better. But he did'nt say that.And they could'nt bring themselves to think that. So they moved him into hospital. A dish to pee into. No walking. A needle always in his arm. A tube down his throat. Strange faces. Strange food. The littlest kids were'nt allowed into the hospital. They must be wondering where he was.
The breathing got worse. Then it stopped. A ventilator. ICU . Even the bigger ones could'nt see him now. Well they could. But for five minutes only. And one at a time.
The lights in here were always on. The alarm bell that went off when the guy in the next bed signed out.
He heard his son tell the nurse. That this was no way to live.
And if he did'nt have the tube in his mouth he would have told him. Told him that this was no way to die.


The days of the old family retainer are over. No more will we have butlers and chambermaids and footmen. Who am I kidding ? We never had butlers chambermaids and footmen. All we had was Fatima. Who was from the heartland of Goa and trying to save enough money for a trousseau. She lived with us. A little bedroll pulled out from under the cupboard after everyone else was in bed. A little suitcase to hold all that she owned in this big bad world away from home. But her job was soon made redundant. By Prema from Bihar. Which suddenly became Chattisgarh. But Prema got Bangalored too. Imperceptibly.With a washing machine from Siemens, a water filter from Aquagaurd, Leela bai the top woman, the Dhabba, from suppliers who changed every month. So Prema went back home too. The dhabba suppliers are now being Bangalored by Jimmies kitchen and Garcias Famous pizzas. The water filter by Bisleri [ 20 litre packs ] Leela bai by Kleen Homes.Bombays best Kleening Services.
Golden handshake ? For me ? I've worked here twenty years. I can't afford to live in Bandra on a pension. I'm moving to Bangalore.

Jun 21, 2008

From Dust thou Hast come and to Dust thou must return...

A hundred years ago a family sat down to lunch. Dessert was mango. The Mango seed {ok Bata } was dried. And then sprouted , then planted , then watered. It grew and it grew and it grew. So did the family. The four bedroom cottage was enough for six brothers and two sisters. But it wasn’t enough for the spouses that soon came along.
So down went the cottage and up came the building. The mango tree kept growing too. A shady spread across a road that just about featured on the map. But soon another cottage down the road came down. They needed more power lines. So they dug a little trench . A few roots of the mango tree were in the way. Re-route the cables. No way. A root here a root there they were sure it wouldn’t make any difference. It didn’t t. The mango tree still flourished.
The new flat owners on the sixth floor wanted a compound wall. The stray dogs came in through the barbed wire fence and were using the wheels of their new Ambassador as a lamppost.
Then came telephone cables. They couldn’t be next to the power cables. A whole new trench. The monsoon was causing a problem. All the open ground which used to absorb the rainwater wasn’t open anymore. Storm water drains. Yes. It worked. No more flooding.
Gas cylinders were on their way out. Piped gas was in. No more waiting in line at the gas agency. No more trying to highjack the delivery man when he was delivering a new cylinder to Mrs. D’souza on the second floor. Another trench. A root here a root there they were sure it wouldn’t make any difference. It didn’t . The old mango tree still flourished.
Internet access. Broadband , no less. Needs separate cabling. Far from the power lines which would cause data loss. Far from the gas line so that their was no risk of puncturing them during installation. Far from the storm water drain so that there was no chance of water getting into the junction boxes. Wow. We could video conference with JoeBoy in far away New Zealand. MP3’s of Sting’s latest and even whole movies. Internet radio.
The sewage lines kept getting choked. More flats. More people. More people more crap. More crap same drain. Same drain, Overflowing manholes. Bigger sewage lines. Problem solved. Some sort of root had actually come thru the concrete. Into the drain. Cut , clear, plaster.

A month ago a family sat down to lunch. Dessert was mango. The fruit of the tree in the garden. Each family in the building got an equal share. The last year each family got fifteen mangoes.. We must take some to Borivli when we go to visit the grandchildren.

A week ago a family sat down to lunch. The rains came early this year. Thunder and lightning. The storm water drains were over flowing. The damn municipality hadn’t cleared them . And for no apparent reason the mango tree keeled over. Damn. It uprooted a whole section of the compound wall. Telephone. Dead. Internet. Extremunction. Gas , turned off at the mains. Electricity. Dead. The sixth floor peoples’ new Octavia. Smashed. The lift shaft. Flooded.
Lets cut down both the neem’s and the jackfruit tree before they fall and cause even more damage.

The Via Dolorosa

On Pali hill tucked away between the high-rises is a lane that every body thinks goes nowhere. But it goes to Calvary. Or O’ Cavalario as it was known many moons ago. The approach in the old days was from the base of Pali Hill. And lining the pathway up to what was a private chapel were the fourteen Stations of the cross. So there amidst the trees and birds you could wind your way up the hill and meditate on the path Jesus took to Gethsemane. The really religious would crawl up the hill on their knees . On what was a mud path. Stopping at each station to read the meditation that went with it. Culminating in a mass said by Fr. Fonseca,[ whose family built the chapel] if they timed it right. There are garages and hutments between what used to be Veronica wiping the face of Jesus and Simon of Cyrenne helping to carry the cross. The chapel remains. It’s been deconsecrated so it remains a chapel only in name. The holy water fonts are still there. The insides been partitioned off to make a living room and bedrooms for more recent Fonseca progeny. But on a late Bandra night after the BEST buses have stopped plying their Dr.Ambedkar Road to Chuim route. And the kids on Pali hill have put their Hyabusas away for the day. You can almost hear the footfalls of the people from fifty years ago. Recreating a journey that happened more than two thusand years ago.

Jun 20, 2008

Guest writer... from a Bandra Aunty....aka Annabelle Ferro


Anyone who has encountered a ‘Bandra’ Aunty will not forget her in a hurry. Spotted mostly at the ‘Big Bazaar’ – not at Upper Worli but Lower Bandra, she is usually marketing – not at Dalal Street but Chinckpokli Road. She is armed with an umbrella – okay, parasol if you wish, and carries a bazaar bag, usually picked up from Mapusa market.

But that’s just her look. Get past that and discover what she is all about. She’s a broker – usually fixing her ‘deals’ at the market or at a funeral. (You know what baba, Dolcie’s son is back from Dubai and is looking for a girl.) Or giving you market tips (Arre baba, Vincy’s potato-onions are much cheaper than here) Or announcing the FY 08 results (Wot to tell you, Flavia’s house went up for re-development and each flat got 30-30 lakhs!)

She’s adorable. You’d better believe it, especially when you’re cruising down Turner Road, your car volume playing happy Abba tracks, and a group of kids overtake you screaming – “Arre Aunty, go faster”. Or you’re at the Bhaji walla and he returns your change with a “Thank you Aunty”. Or a chakka accosts you at the signal saying “Aunty give Five Rupees”.

You wake up to reality – admit it, you are 40 plus and you have hit the ‘Aunty Zone’.

Armed with your Reeboks, a backpack, a baseball cap (I draw the line with the parasol bit), you decide you’ve got to act your age. You head for the Big Bazaar to bond with your fellow sistas.

You bargain for fish. You think you’re going to get a great deal. You envision yourself bragging about it to other aunties. Thrusting your palm at them saying – I got big big pomfrets for only 50 rupees a pair. When you decide to pick up some vegetables.

To feel younger amidst your kind, you choose a bhajiwallah that’s old and grey. He
respectfully loads your bag, returns your change. Then says, “Thank you Mummy”.


Jun 17, 2008

To ER is Human

The first rains bring out all sorts of things from the woodwork. The first of them being the local football team. No field with turf. No open ground . Just the road. With two strategically parked cars forming one goal post and a stone and the watchmans chair forming the other. The game gets under way and in a sliding kick that's supposed to send the ball shooting into the goal, you hit the lamp post instead of the ball. 85 kgs of muscle fat and bone drives your ankle into a shape that God never intended it to be when it connects with lamp post steel. Even though the lampost base has been slightly corroded by Blackie, Bonzo, Champ and all their canine visitors. Does the game stop for you ? Ha ! The youngest player on the field [ i.e. most expendable ] is bundled with you into a rickshaw and you head to Holy Family Hospital . Up the ramp hobbling on one foot into the ER [ as it's known on TV ] or Emergency as it's known in very hospital in India from Breach Candy to Baba . By now your ankle could give the Bandra Fair baloonwallas a run for their money. But there's a line for treatment. An old man who has'nt crapped for four days and a little boy who's only been crapping for four days. A young girl who used a kitchen knife on her wrists intead of the potatoes. An old lady who also as a broken ankle.
Pathetic attempt at humor by the Doctor on duty.
" What Aunty you're also playing football "
Ha Ha.

So they examine your foot, collectively gasping ,these hardened residents of emergency. Damn that lamp post. You're now put into a wheel chair. Wheeled off to the Xray department. Where they have Kodak moments with your foot. By now Mummy Daddy and Nana are all in the hospital. Some kind soul deigned to go and inform them after the football game was adjourned for a lack of light.

Pain killers have sent you into a haze reminiscent of Saturday Bandra Gym nights post 10.00 p.m. A Doctor twists your foot back. Causing you much more pain than the lamp post caused. he looks happy. Either a sadist or the satisfaction of a job well done. Only time will tell. He plasters your foot from toe to thigh. Three weeks of bed rest. Single room, double room ? Just for two days.Ward says Dad. Single room says Nana. Dad wins. He's paying.

You think you've died and gone to heaven when you hear hymns at 6.00 a.m. the next morning. Over the PA system that you can't turn off.It's a catholic hospital. And this is what they do. The hymns soon lead into mass. And at the communion there's a prolonged silence. Until the door to the ward swings open to reveal priest with communion chalice in hand and Sister / Altar girl in tow. Breakfast in bed has nothing on this.
You hop into your wheel chair for the long ride home. You go past emergency where the line today seems even longer.The old man is back. Down the ramp. into a rickshaw. Back home. Where you sit at the window and watch the football game every evening and hope your ankle will heal soon.
And wafting up to you you hear those magical words
' Putru men Savio '

May 22, 2008

Roti Kapada Aur Makan

You’ve had the roti’s coming for a while now. The kapada has progressed from Flying machine jeans to genuine Levis and the makan has finally been paid for with all the EMI’s squared away. And old Maslow would have said the next need for your self fulfillment is a set of wheels. A used Maruti second hand is what you think your budget will stretch too. New ? No. After just having finished house EMI’s you don’t want to get started on car EMI’s.And the wife does’nt know how to drive anyway. So let her cut her teeth on gear shifts and driving with the handbrake on , on a car that does’nt demand thoroughbred care.
Every Thursday you pore throught the automobiles for sale section in the TOI. Like estate agents you soon find out that used car salesmen too have a code which is all their own. Slightly used, perfect condition, Paris owned [ A typo on the part of the ad booking agency when the seller wanted to say Parsi owned. ] Destroying visions of you having the same car that Paris and Rick used. Slightly used, [ in 1948, and probably never serviced since then ] . Perfect condition.[ If you hitch a pair of bulls to the front then yes it’s a perfect bullock cart.] ACTG. Relatively simple, AirConditioned with Tinted Glasses. Doctor owned. Because he took care of his patients does that mean he takes good care of his car? Company owned. Yeah, companies don’t stint on servicing and oil changes. [ But the MD’s sons could probably do Bandra to Marine Lines in 12 minutes flat at 3 in the morning when that car was new. ] Immaculate paint work. [ It actually is immaculate because the paint is all that’s holding the tin work together. ] And brand new tyres and brand new battery puts a lakh or more onto the price of a car that was brand new when Henry Ford decided to give the horses a run for their money. Fully Loaded. Two words when the seller is paying per word for the classified. To say that the car has radial tyres, power windows, Blaupunkt music system, Power steering, power brakes, and a buxom bikini clad blonde who pops out of the glove compartment to serve you tea on your way to work every morning.
Finally you find the car of your choice. Right colour [ Silver ] Right price.[ Within five digits ] Right condition . [ Let the wife wait a few years to learn to drive, this car has you feeling possessive already. ] So you break the bank and enchash your LIC policy and drive away happy. Back to your CHS.[ Co-operative Housing society ] where you have no parking. Stilt or open. Where the road that leads to your palace has round blue boards with red streaks across them for a hundred miles in each direction. All the neighbours want pedas. Buy the buggers stale pedas since it’s a second hand car. But God loves you. And Jo-boys stilt parking is empty ever since he sold the car before leaving for New Zealand. So you call up his uncle who has to wait for Jo-boys monthly call before authorizing you a roof over the head of your new [ ok New, second hand ] baby. The wife wants to know when you are going to demystify accelerator brake and clutch for her. She did chip in with her last years medical allowance that she had claimed with fake doctors bills and was saving for a new gold pendant. Tommorow, surely tomorrow.
The watchman is commissioned to clean and wash the car every morning.
Anthony at David’s Garage and Suspension works looks at the car and his face lights up. Time-share in Goa here I come.
You put in a music system. Only cassette player and radio. But theres an adapter cassette that you can use to connect your Discman to the system. The wife quickly gets the hang of sitting on a level plane over speed brakers and potholes to keep the cd’s from skipping.
Whats that burning smell ?
It’s from outside.
Hell, the handbrakes been on all this time.
I asked you what that red light was and you said “ Battery “
The Java is languishing .
That’s life mister. Maslow knew what he was talking about.

May 11, 2008

Conrad Curryisms !

1] If your cock lays an egg in my garden, who's egg it be's ?
if you think a cock lays eggs.

2] NRBB { Non resident Bandra Bugger } at the Bandra gym at 7.00 p.m.
"Hey! How you doing ? Yeah! Have a good one ! "
Same NRBB at 10.30 p.m. just before the last drink order.
"Putru men bugger."

3] Fruit wallahs sell all fruit other than bananas and the guys who sell bananas sell only bananas and nothing else. { Conrad Curry did'nt say this but he could have }

Space Truckin'

Red barrel on two wheels pulled by a once proud bullock. Kerosene and ice , delivered by bullock cart. This does not make for happy bullocks. Where earlier a car was either a Fiat or an Ambassador they now have to accommodate Lancers and Jaguars and other equally dangerous to bovine missiles. They have to pull up at multiple traffic lights where till a few years ago they had the run of the road. To get a bullock cart [especially when it’s loaded ] into 1st gear from neutral is not anywhere as easy as moving a stick shift. In fact when the inertia of the vehicle starts holding up traffic the cart driver often has to use the tail shift. And where does a thirsty bullock go for water ? The piaos [water troughs ] that stood outside the market where bullocks and horses drank their fill gave way to road widening. The piao outside St. Andrews Church is now a heritage monument. [ Non Functional ] .
The ice has to be delivered. Soon. More out of necessity than a Domino’s type sales pitch. The kerosene is not so critical, so a detour to Bandra Talao for happy hours is not frowned upon. And then comes the day that every bullock dreads.
Getting a pair of new shoes has all the joy of going to the dentist. Your feet are bound together and then yanked out from under you. You come crashing down on your side. A chisel is required to get your old ,now worn thin shoes, off. And then new shoes that have you saying Just don’t Do It are hammered on. In quadruplicate.While every single person between Byculla and Bhiwandi with all their visiting cousins from Belapur stand around watching. Watching your fright and pain. Hopefully the new shoes will keep the new paving blocks from wearing your hooves out. They fill up the old pathways with tar and paving blocks and you got to worry about getting shoed.
Kerosene gives way to LPG cylinders which were easier to deliver on cycle carts. Which now rust near the gas agency thanks to piped gas. Ice now can come straight out of the fridge or delivered in neat little 1 kg bags.
So what happens to the bullocks ? Do they fade away ? No. They just die . At Deonar.

May 8, 2008

Care Of.., If we could all keep care Of., Care of everything we have.

Ganesh came to city. To the big city from a village far away. There he had a home, a father a mother, even a few cows. And with all of that an address. Here in the city he had nothing. No home and no address. But his second cousin twice removed did. So Ganesh shared his address. Not his home. Only the address. And twice a month he went to his cousin Ramu’s house. Where a letter came for him from his far away home. It had his name at the top. And then the all important… care of.
c/o Ramu….
House no…….
Road no. ……..
Mumbai 50.
Letter came and letters went. Then the neighbours son opened up his own PCO. So come Sunday morning he’d make his first call home. The village shopkeeper [ who also had a phone by now ] would send for Ganesh’s family. And 20 minutes later he’d call back. Because Ganesh was so far away in Bombay they had to talk really loud. The whole village privy to their conversation. That they would pretend not to have heard when Ganesh’s father filled them with the news of his sons doings. Soon Ganesh had a deal going with the PCO. Re.1 for all outgoing calls. 50p for all incoming messages. He now had a phone no. A Care Of no. It helped him get work. It helped him know when his mother started interviewing prospective daughters-in-law back home. It helped him let the village know that he’d been working as a painter’s assistant’s assistant three buildings away from Amitabh Bachans house.
Care Of does’nt exist anymore. Who needs an address ? Who needs a Care Of phone ?
Not Ganesh. He’s now 9820278021.

May 4, 2008

The Philosophy of Maya.

I have a sister who married and went to distant shores to seek her fame and fortune. Yeah yeah, she just followed her husband. Soon enough unto them a little child was born. And they named her Maya. Maya comes home to Bandra once in a while. Returning from a dosa at Balajis I pointed out St. Joesph’s convent. In all its brick red glory. With the mangalore tiles on the roof. With arched windows and long corridors. This building I told Maya was were her Mom went to school. She semi glanced at it and turned to me and said “ Who cares! “ Not ‘Why is it important ‘ Not ‘ don’t be a sentimental moron’. Not ‘ I’ve seen better and bigger ‘ But “Who care’s !” Not a question. A statement.
It opened my eyes to the baggage we carry. Some of it good some of it bad.
And for the bad. For petty jealousies. For someone who didn’t say hi to us . For someone who did’nt call us for their party when we always call them for ours. For the fruit walla who gave us bad mangoes after we’ve been buying fruit from him for twenty years. For the friend who borrowed that book and dog-eared it. For the neighbour who’s son wants to give Roger Drego a run for his money in the sound business. For the maid who takes Divali holidays in January. For the boss who thinks a pay packet buys your soul. For the Uncle who won’t give you the terrace keys. For the relative who did not remember you in his will…“ Who cares!
It’s a double edged sword this philosophy of Maya’s. It cant be used as an all encompassing philosophy. But once you get the power of discernment as to what’s important and what’s not.
“That’s when you can look your devil in the eye and say ‘Who cares’!

The Novena to Mrs. Savant.

Because you don’t pay attention in class. Or you have a single digit IQ. Or the Hindi teacher is on maternity leave and the French teacher is the substitute. Or you're the only person with a moustache other than Mrs. Lobo , the teacher. Or all of the above. You need tuitions. So your mother asks for the strictest or was it the most economical ok cheapest, tution teacher. makes a down payment and you lose two hours a week of play time.
Every Monday and Thursday you have to report to Mrs. Savant ( Hindi and Marathi ). you sit there trying to figure out the mysteries of another language. You don t really care about other languages. So what if its your national language. So what if it's your mother tongue ( if you're EI that is. All you want is to get that magic figure of 33 marks. They then give you two grace marks to reach that magic passing percentage of 35. So while Mrs. Savant tries to imbibe great literary attributes to stories you don’t even wish you cared about you keep looking towards the wall. That’s where the clock hangs. Present perfect and other tenses have you craving for the future. When you just might be able to get in a half hour of road hockey before it turns dark. And then adding insult to injury you are given tuition homework. Oh cruel world !
hockey today ? you'll be lucky if you can get a game in tomorrow. Did they make Marcellus suffer like this ? Or was he left free to practice dribbling and penalty strokes. It's Mrs. Savants fault I'm not going to be in the Indian hockey team for the LA Olympics in five years. And the first terminal exams come around and you don’t reach 33. You've just about made it from units to tens. If you'd plunged a knife into Mrs. Savants bosom you couldn’t have hurt her more. It's a personal failure. After all the practice tests after all the homework after all the answers she personally took up. Not one to linger over past defeats she gathers her forces. She has you reporting at 8 o clock in the morning. She’s sacrificed her morning cuppa to hold your hand on your text books. Michelangelo didn’t put so much of work into David. She asks her daughters to take your work up on the odd day that she gives something else more priority than she gives you,
Hockey ? It’s been sudden death for your hockey games. Your hockey stick is looking at you with despair. The last time he was used, was to kill a rat that dared venture into the staircase. Is that what The Indian Maharaja has come to ?
The exams come around again. Mrs. Savant has offered up her prayers for you to the whole pantheon of Hindu gods. Your Mother is saying flying novenas to the Infant Jesus. The Bania is happy because his candle sales have gone up.
How did you do ?
That’s what you said the last time and you failed.
No, this time I really did well.
Ha ! Lets see when the report comes.
And you wait for the postman. With bated breath. That’s a lie. The report is the last thing on your mind. With the summer club on. With swims at what passes for a beach at Carter road. But one day it arrives. The large brown envelope. With the school stamp on the back, telling you and the world that you’re born for greater things. [ For all the Non Stanislites our school motto was “ Born for greater things “ ]
And you’ve passed you haven’t just passed you’ve got a first class. In everything. And theirs a little note that says that you got the highest marks in Hindi in the class.
Thank you Infant Jesus but you know you really did’nt do even half as much Mrs. Savant.

Apr 26, 2008

and the living is easy...!

The exams are over. Its the best kind of double whammy. One , the exams are over. Two the holidays begin. No more books, no more uniforms, no more tutuions. There are books actually and depending on which stage of your life you were at, these were now either Archie comics or Desmond Bagleys, or Alistair Macleans, or westerns [ Sudden was and is the best ], or Asterixes or Lucky Lukes or TinTins and Phantom's or Mandrakes.
There were circulating libraries where you would sometimes be exchanging your comics twice a day if you could wheedle the ten paise per comic reading charge out of anyone. You hired your comics. You read them. Your siblings read them. And then you traded them. Who says we catholics don't have a streak of Bania in us ?
Cycle rides in the early morning would find us speeding down Pali Hill trying to manouvre our bikes with both hands in the air and adjusting our direction by subtle weight shifts in the seat. The building compound would have a badminton court marked out and the neighbour whose wall formed one of the boundaries of the court would be requested to keep her windows shut. So that the court conformed to International Badminton association specs. In size at least. Racquets were wooden framed and co-operatives were formed for the purchase of shuttle cocks. The only reason play was called to a stop was when those elders in flats that had a ring side view of the action felt their siesta was more important than the game of rounders that decided your place in the sun. The top of the water tank was our table tennis table. The water tank was partially under ground and about two feet came thru the earth to form a TT table that for anyone below fourteen was the perfect height.
Card games that Las Vegas will never know were played with a skill that Bandra Gym Card Room regulars never saw. Seven hands evolved into Mehndi Court. Money Money was banned between 2 and 4 in the afternoon because the game generated excitement and the excitement generated shouting and the shouting interfered with said elders said siesta. Rummy would sometimes be played with as many as ten packs . Sometimes before the time your were done dealing someone would have declared hand rummy. Donkey Donkey. Why was it always Donkey Donkey and not Donkey. Money Money and not Money. The guy who wrote Louie Louie must have been from Bandra.
Holidays were when summer clubs opened in every parish. Summer clubs that had a cupboard full of comic books that you could read as many times as you wanted. Which had access to real TT tables with real nets. And at the correct height. With chess and snakes and ladders and ludo. With school fields attached that were now devoid of students and the private domain of the members of the summer club. Thursday evenings a bedsheet would be hung up on one wall of the many out of use classrooms. Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello would join us.
Pigeon shikar would happen so regularly that the surviving pigeons would be contemplating moving to Canada or New Zealand under the asylum seekers quota. Trips to the beach were yours for the asking. Or cycling. Dont go too deep. Dont track sand all over the house when you get back.
Guitar skills were honed. Songs were copied off record jackets. Piano and violin lessons came to a standstill. The Beatles ruled while Eta Cohen and John Thomson languished below the piano stool.
But all good things must end.. And April advances into May and May advances into June. And new text books are bought by your older brother. And your mother insists you put new covers on all his old text books that you have inherited. NO. just putting new labels wont do. The pants he's outgrown are the ones you've grown in to. Just like the pair of shoes one size too large that has cotton stuffed into the toes so that they don't slip off.
New school bags for every one. Even the maids son. Somebodie's old is someone else's new.
And school begins again . And the living stops being easy anymore.