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

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 '