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

Dec 24, 2009


There was Small Michael. Big Michael. Mike. Cycle Michael and Michael Bandy. The original bad boy. Named Bandy for the bow legs he's been born with. Said epithet used when Michael was beyond earshot. Three times over.Trouble found him even when he was running full tilt away from it. With teachers and peers. With neighbours whose fruit trees he'd raid. With hockey teams who sort to decapitate him before a match. Because with him playing all the eleven players of the opposition may as well have stayed home and done their cross stitch.

They'd gathered up outside the school gate to get him. In revenge for their defeat. With their instruments of revenge aptly their hockey sticks. He came out of the gate with school bag and nothing else. The dust cleared to the attackers on the run with one of their hockey sticks in Michaels hand. Those were odds of four to one that he emerged from. He was a year ahead of us at school. The teachers thought him notorious while to us he was famous. A legend.

At assembly pink slips were given out for major infractions of school rules. Michael was called upon often. Until the applause started. Everytime he was called up the whole assembly would burst out clapping.

Every Christmas we'd go for the Christmas tree to the gymkhana. Where there'd be a huge Christmas tree. With presents under it that Santa would come around and distribute.. Games, that rarely went beyond the lemon and spoon race, or sack race or a three legged race. The lemon and spoon was solo the sack race was solo but for the three legged race you needed a partner. From your age group and sex. Michael and me won it with yards to spare. Inspite of me.

In the corridors of St. Stanislaus my stature was big. Because Michael knew me and would say hi to me by name after I'd shouted out a hi Michael that even the teachers in St. Joseph's could hear. The next year it was the wheel barrow race. Which we won hands down. Michael had his hands down while I held his legs and held on for dear life while he raced us to victory.

The next Christmas he didn't show up for the Christmas tree . I' d still see him in school. He still said Hi. His legend was larger. Out of school he dropped off the radar. The grapevine brought news of him joining the oilfields. Of the fear his fellow riggers held him in. It started to go bad with substance abuse. White powders on bits of foil destroying he whom the god's themselves had lifted up. Till he found religion. Where his Thor like strength and determination was channeled into setting up stages and seating for prayer meetings and fellowships.

Then he was gone. Drowned in a well at Gorai where he'd gone for a picnic. With rumours abounding. How he'd been done in. He was too good a swimmer to drown. How an old enmity had caught up with him. Or that he'd been drunk. Or back to the powders.

Wild, free spirited, rebellious, dangerous, hard, tough you could run out of adjectives with him. But he was the guy who won races with me at the Bandra gym Christmas tree and in my years in primary school made me ten feet tall.


Dec 23, 2009

Carols 2009 Thank you,

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

Sandia, Mahia, St. Catherines, Mihika, Suresh, Rachel, Neale , Megan 1, Rupert and Gsus, Merlyn and Rhys, Rajiv, Prabs, Paul and Junkt, Vasundhara, Jean Michael, Gordon, Brian [T], Brad, Spaz, JoAnne, Fiona, Edward, Raynah, Jason, Diele, Marie Paul, Corette, Nadine, Sr. Christabel, Dominique, Clint, The Belles and Beaux, Ian and Debbie, Aalia, Lena, Kishore, Bob, Brian [sound ], Giles, Jenny and Jeff, Megan 2 and the Petit Fours, Darryl and Neil.

Thank you for coming and singing and playing and dancing for us. Thank you for your Christmas presents. For bringing performances to our little road that are worthy of Carnegie Hall. For bringing Christmas home once again.

Thanks !


Dec 19, 2009

Carols 2009

CAROLS 2009 on St. Anthony's Road, 20th Dec Sun. 6.30 p.m.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… ,Vasundhara Das, Marie Paul, Ian and Debbie Concessio, Siddharth ELVIS Meghani,Suzzane D’mello, Merlin & Rhys, , Rajiv Raja, Brian Tellis Neale and Megan Murray, The Jazz Junction from Goa, GSus [ The Christian Rock Band] ,Clarry Devisser, Dominique Cerejo, , Jean Michael Merchant, Dean Gregory, Suresh and Rachel Mendoza, Aalia and Mahia,The Fiona Miranda Quartet, The Jingle Bell Dancers,The Christmas Belles and Beaux, Joshua and Franco Vaz, It's fun and it's free.
St. Anthonys Road. From Pot Pourri towards Hill Road and then the first right turn.
BBQ and Bhelpuri. Santas gonna be there. And you ?
Please forward this to all on your mailing list.
Thx.See you Sunday.

Dec 17, 2009


Jeans were a big deal. So we knew there were Levi's and Wrangler's and Lees. Rich kids had them. The Malboro man had them. We had jeans stitched by Jean Junction in Elco-Arcade. But when you placed the order you were given a choice. Of labels. 501's downwards. Which transformed your Bandra made jeans to Made in USA. Which for us at that time was a big deal.

Made by USA. Which was the Ulhasnagar Sindhi Association. Did it ever really exist. This group of counterfeiters who were bypassing copyrights and forging everything. Music systems that had B &O on the front and Made in USA at the back. Bottles of Johnny Walker that had never heard the bagpipes but knew the sounds of a shennai. Watches that had Rolex spinning in their Swiss graves. With meters on the watch face that were just painted on. Millisecond displays forever frozen in time. Which lasted till it rained. Then the humididty of Bombay would mist over the watch which was tested for 300 mts underwater and the time of the day joined Alfred , Agatha and Gardner's stories. We had Ray Bands and Eau dee Colon. Cigarettes that no self respecting beedi smoker would inhale. But packaged in Ulhasnagar by Rothmans and sons, and the Bombay branch of Phillip Morris and Co. Scents. Yes they were called scents, not perfumes, were similarly elevated. Charlie by Mansukhani and Bros. with essences from Ismail Attarwalla ,Bhendi bazaar. Quality Street chocolates that let you know first hand what the bitter fake tasted like. Cassettes. Those Sony's and TDK's and BASF's and Maxwells. C-7 masquerading as C -45' or C- 90's. [ For all you callow youth who don't know what that is, the C denoted the running time of the cassette. C-90, 90 minutes, etc.there was no such thing as a C-7, officialy. ]

Things really got bad when they started faking the fakes. The fake giant sized Dollar bills with a clock in them. The table top fake Ferrari. The fake replicas of the fake Eiffel Tower and fake Statue of Liberty.

But Manmohanji with his policy of liberalization put paid to this duplicity. So we had Samantha Fox visit Mumbai. Are they real ? Who cares?


Dec 15, 2009

Tea anyone ?

Every day we would rush back from school. With our opening words as we entered the house being
“ What’s for tea?”
Watercress sandwiches and crumpets ? Pate de foie gras or apple strudel ? Ha !
Puri bhaji ! Which went down different ways. You could roll the bhaji in the puri. You could sandwich it between two puris. You could take a bite of puri followed by a spoonful of bhaji. But you ate it fast. Too fast for the mother’s puri frying to keep pace with. But cutting the puris out with an upturned vattee was as much fun as trying to fry the strips of dough left behind . On days when the Mother was stretched it was Marie biscuits for tea. Ten each. Counted out from a big steel box. With a glass of milk. If you haven’t dipped a marie biscuit into a glass of hot milk and then pulled it out soggy, you have’nt lived. It’s an art form. To dip the biscuit. But for how long ? Too short a time and you might as well have not dipped it at all. Too long and the biscuit fell away. Gravity claiming it’s share which you could only recalimingly slurp when the glass was empty. With a lot of practice you could raise the ante. Two biscuits at a time . And if you managed three that qualified for a doctorate.
Sooji. With plums and cashews. Which we would roll into ladoos. And play pool on our plates with. Or dissolve in the glass of milk. Quietly. Because that was disgusting behavior and frowned upon. The crème de la creme was bread pudding. Which was steamed in special containers inside the pressure cooker. Which would be upturned to be drawn and quartered.
“Her piece is bigger than mine”
“They’re both the same and eat it quietly otherwise you wont even get that “ would proclaim King Solomon aka Mummy.
It was always home made. In these pre Candies , pre Andora, pre Frito Lays days. On birthdays it would be cake. On the day after the birthday if you were lucky it was also cake. The only cake you saw on non-birthday days were cake crumbs. That Venus bakery sold by the kilo. Which would be drowned in custard and offered up at the altar of tea. Jelly was another special. With the custard coming into service once more. The Mother preferred soluble, crumbly items. They could’nt be purloined of a distracted siblings plate. Not without leaving a trail to the offenders door. Which made the judgement of King Solomon fast and retribution faster.
Don’t ever look away if someone says “ see crow.”

Dec 14, 2009

The Three kings

She was an old lady. With a large house and alone. It would be nice to have someone around the house. The children were gone. To greener , more foreign, more distant lands. The childrens bedroom had three beds.

So it was advertised. PG accommodation available. Triple sharing basis. Attached bath. Boys only. That's what the neighbours had recoomended. They said girls caused more trouble at home. The boys went out and caused trouble.

From Surat, Sholapur and Vizag. Three men seeking their fortune in the city.

You'll can't use the phone.

No need Aunty we have mobiles.

You'll can't use the geyser for more than 5 minutes everyday.

Sure Aunty three is enough to have a bath.

No cooking in the house.

Of course Aunty we've arranged a dabba.

No ironing.

The dhobi will come every day don't worry.

Still she watched them. To see that none of the no's were infringed.

Soon they were having a cup of tea together every morning. They helped her change the curtains. Took the raddi to the raddiwalla . Got a plumber to fix her leaking kitchen tap. She allowed them to use the living room TV. The children wanted to know if she had references for them. Had their home addresses in case they vanished without paying their rent. Or worse.

"No, No. They won't do anything like that. They're good boys. "

"Just be careful okay."

Soon they were included in her daily prayers. Alongwith the grandchildren far away.

Advent came. With the carol singers and sweets. Her three PG's helped her ready her house. Climbing onto stools to get the cobwebs out of the fans. Changing curtains that had not been changed for so long that the sun had faded them. Putting up the Christmas tree that one of them found on top of a cupboard that needed cleaning. Brassoing the front door till it shone like gold. Washing window panes so that the outside could be seen once more.

Christmas day came and she'd cooked a family lunch. For her PG's from Surat, Sholapur and Vizag who had brought voices into her empty home.  




Dec 13, 2009

Sweet 'n' Low

Every year the sweet making would begin as Christmas came closer. Mother [ Ok Ok Mummy ] had a lieutenant. Pavitra. The Hindi speaking maid. The General and the lieutenant. With three footsoldiers.Us. The General would plan the operation. Strategically. With labour intensive sweets distributed evenly with easier ones. The milkcream spaced away from the marzipan. So that the table space used for banging the forms, so that the milkcream fell like manna didn’t short change the multicoloured apples and oranges marzipan. The favourite of the footsoldiers were the rolypollies. { N: Sing Rolypoly. Plu –ies}. So while the cocnut tartlets were being filled we’d want to know if we could start on the rolypollies. Tommorow. When the date rolls were being rolled. Can we start on the rollypollies? Tommorow. The Lieutenant when similarly questioned would give us the same answer. Days would go by . The neoris would be ready. Cakes and nankaties. The latter would be dressed with bits of fruit preserve. Silver edible balls their crowning glory. Rollypollies? Tommorow. Tommorow. The General would promise. While checking that the Lieutenants command of English was accurate enough to read the numbers on the kitchen scale. And 180 gms of castor sugar was 180 and not 130.
With so much on their minds the rollypollies being the simplest were always left for the last. And so it went. Tommorow tomorrow. Or as the lieutenant would say. Kal. And when really harried repeat herself Kal kal. And that’s how the kul kul’s got their name.

Dec 11, 2009

John William Cheever (May 27, 1912 – June 18, 1982)

They were both from the same place. Wondering how they hadn't ever met till they did. The stars exploded and the colours around them grew more vibrant. They whispered life changing commitments into each others ears. While everyone around them looked at them and thought " Perfect" .

It was. A perfect life. Where their children grew up. Without teenage angst and rebellion. With togetherness and understanding and PTA meetings that they would both attend. With visits to the country and the once every two years holiday abroad. With albums filled with four smiling faces. Till the advent of digital cameras when the smiling faces, a little older now shifted to screensavers. While the neighbours were battling about the children's custody. They contributed their bit to the church collection. His promotions were on cue. The correct percentages of income saved for pensions, holidays,childrens education, daughters marriage and health insurance. Which hopefully they would never need. They didn't. While around them cancer seemed almost epidemic. While not the first family definitely quite high up.

The grandchildren were read bed time stories. The gold retirement watch told him when it was time for the evening news. The chotta peg before dinner. The Saturday glass of wine for her. While property litigations and inheritance battles raged. They'd both made their wills. Hopefully nothing like this would ever be visited upon their kids. It was'nt . The kids got together every Christmas . Where they were remembered in the grace before meals. It had been a perfect life and the worm in the apple never emerged.

Dec 10, 2009

The Secret Santa

It's an obstacle course. The little stretch from the station building to the bus stop. Just across the road. You first have to negotiate your way out of the station past the TC. It's not that he didn't have a ticket just that showing him his pass and waiting while he checks wheter it's valid would slow him down. So a little detour around the blind lottery ticket seller took care of that. Then past the line of rickshaws. With one person getting out and five struggling to get in. First person in gets the rickshaw. All okay there until someone plays dirty and gets in from the other side. A touchdown at both ends of the field. Together. King Solomon where are you when we need you?

The hijras don't bother him. Because he's alone. It's the couples and women they go after. Or maybe they know his bank balance. Or maybe they know that someone headed for the 221 bus stop is not going to part with too much of his loose change. Into the traffic lane behind the rickshaws. The one the BEST buses heading for the depot mistake for Le Mans. The one which James after dropping his lordship off is going thru to get the memsaab to the parlour in time for her pedicure and James is'nt sparing the horses. On to the divider where before him is a sea of people. Prostrating themselves for their weekly namaaz. Watching out for fingers and toes he makes it thru the first round of auditions for Swan Lake and finds himself at the bus stop. Where a bus draws up and he can actually get in. Not cling to the handle on the doorstep like someone from Gemini Circus. The bus hits Turner road. Which halfway thru becomes Perry road. Why ? And how? How can a road have one name for the first half and another for the second ? His stop is coming up. The loose change gets him the ticket. And the idiot kid in the Maruti crashes into him as he alights.

Flat out. So that's what a car looks like from underneath. The whole world gathers around. The pro active folk pull him out from under the car. The most pro active folk pull the rich brat out of the Maruti. Land him a few slaps.

Can he walk? Seems okay. Shirts torn though. The brat is looking shaken. Sorry. Sorry. He's offering to pay. Are those big red ones he's taking out of his wallet ? He shakes his head at the brat to say no, nothing was required. The kid thinks he's saying no, it's not enough. More big red ones on which the Father of the nation's benign smile is now a full fledged grin.
Ho! Ho! Ho! It's going to be a good Christmas

Dec 9, 2009

B & W

On a Tue evening the time for the family rosary was preponed. From 7.00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. That meant a half hour less of play time. But did we mind ? We’d asked for it. Because at 7,00 Sports Round Up was on. The one of two TV programs that we watched. With rabbit ear antennae. Sports round up was one. The other was a moving target. Here’s Lucy. Where the red haired Lucille Ball was red haired only in the magazines because on Doordarshans black and white broadcast her hair was grey. The Count of Monte Cristo. Escaping from his island jail and going forth into the world. The Invisible Man with his bandaged head and RayBans. And fedora. That when it came off the bad guys were in trouble. Guns taken from said Bad guys hands and turned around to thump same bad guy or guys upon head. It’s all done with wires. The local SFX experts proclaimed.
Fireball XL5. I’d love to be spaaaaaceman in fireball xl5. Tell me you don’t remember the tune.
I’d fly across the world with……Zoonie. Oh Zoonie where are you now with your seductive metallic voice and dumb blonde attitude . Charlie Chaplin with his oversize shoes and large bearded Rasputin like adversaries.
Sometimes we’d see german viilagers. Matching each other in inane challenges. Glorified lemon and spoon races. Over under and into water hazards.In TeleMatch. While we cheered from a few thousand miles and a couple of years away. Wondering when they would use their joker. And taking sides against Unterflaggenspiel with Bittersiehamburgestadt. Depending on which tem had the prettier Frauleins.
This was the regular fare. Which would be spiced up with other truly rivettting, heart stopping, edge of the seat, nail biting programming. Like the Republic day Parade. Or science report. After a point in time they were indistinguishable from each other. Competing for honors with the recital of the rosary in putting us to sleep .

Dec 8, 2009

Mumbai's First's

The first anniversary has come and gone. The speeches have stopped and the various ceremonies over. Ceremonies of different religions whereprayers are held to commemorate a life rudely interrupted a year ago. Or the temporary grave marker is replaced with a permanent gravestone. Because the mud in a freshly filled grave takes a year to settle down.
At The Taj and at the Oberoi were our leaders. Our captains of industry. People who regularly decided the fate of all the many minions who worked for them. People who led from the front.
Hadn’t even one of them seen Air Force One? Where Harrison Ford being the President of America takes his plane back from the terrorists. Takes it back himself. Doesn’t send waiters and bell hops to take the flak. Doesn’t cower behind curtains. Doesn’t wait like a lamb to be slaughtered or led to safety by rescuing firefighters or commandos. Tales of bravery there were a plenty after that day last November. But the bravery of simpler people. People who served the guests. Guests who were looked up to as strong and decisive in the course of a normal day. Who were considered smart because of the wealth they’d accrued. Six terrorists against a few hundred. Yeah I know those six had guns. And grenades. And training. While the few hundred didn’t even know what was happening. Sure. Not even after two days. Not even after cell phoe updates and news bulletins that played out on the large flat screen TV’s . So we had heroes who caught a train every day to work from the distant suburbs of Mumbai. Who changed into uniforms when they reached their place of work. Who had ration cards and EMI’s. Who never held sway over anyone else’s paycheck. Who were at the head of lines seeking escape routes.
Of course. If you are the guy who collects the laundry left outside hotel rooms that’s a much higher qualification to be the rescuer than someone who spends 5 hours every week on the golf course and twenty in a board room.
“Cccan you get my file back. It’s important . I think I left it in the coffee shop. “
For the sake of that file a life was lost. While a stupid politico was giving away, where he was hidden away with the sound bites to the TV channel over his cell phone. The list goes on. Of the bravery of the little people. Who died trying to save the ass of someone who did’nt have the balls to do anything other than save his own.
Hemant Karkare
Ashokrao Kamathe
Tukaram Ombale
Vijay Sahdev Salaskar
Arun Chitte
Ms. Mehanabi Salim Hahharwala
Salim Ali Harharwala
Subhash Vanmali Vaghela
Peerpasha Mehboob Alisheikh
Shashank Chandrasen Shinde
Prakash More
Vijay Khandekar
M L Chaudhari
Babban Babu Hugade
Aijazbhai Haji Imansahab Dalal
Jayawant Hanumata Patil
Yogesh Shivaji Patil
Babusaheb Dhurgude
Ambadas Pawar
Babasaheb Chandrakant Bhosale
Sitaram Mahalba Sakhare
Mukesh Bikaji Jadhav
Kamal Nanakram Motwani
Bret Gilbert Taylor (Australia)
Ms Meera M Chaterjee
Michael Stuart Moss (Australia)
Ashfar Ali Shaikh
Sareena Sasuddin Sheikh
Nitesh Vijaykumar Sharma
Gaurav Walchand Jain
Malyesh Manvendra Banerjee
Jugaran Hedriz Rudolph (German)
Thomas Verghese
Sadanand Patil
Steve Darfane (German)
Ms Neeta Prakash Gaikwad
Abbas Razzaq Ansari
Ms Rakhila Abbas Ansari
Sarjerao Sadashiv Bhosale
Wilson Baburao Mandlik
Mohammed Ilyas Ansari
Kainath Nagar Kamruddin
Andes Don Tevera (British)
T Suda D Lashi (Chinese)
Farooq Dinshaw Ehaliya
Maibeb Vimanchandra
Antinio D Lorenza (Italy)
Sandeep Unni krishnan
Ms Ami Vipinchandra Thakar
Jordan Gracy Fernandes
Ms Gehara Kanamani alias Jina (Thailand)
Sunil Shevti Parekh
Ms Reshma Sunil Parekh
Ajit Srichandra Chabaria
Ms Monica Ajit Chabaria
Sanjay Vijay Agarwal
Rita Sanjay Agarwal
Rahul Subhash Shinde
Ms Harsha Mohit Azrani
Mohit Kanahya Hazrani
Allan Michael Share (America)
Ms Helen Konoli (Canada)
Ms Uma Govind Garg
Eklaq Mohammed Mushtaq Ahmed
Pankaj Sompad Shah
Lokayu Michael Pudedan (Singapore)
Gajendra Singh
Ashok Kapur
Anant Suryadutt Bhatt
Rohin Baji
Kannobhai Javeribhai Patel
Maqsood Mubarak Ali Sheikh
Rivika Gabrial Holtsberg (Israel)
Rabbi Gabriel Holtsberg (Israel)
Feriz Gimal Ahmak Khan
Rabbi Ben Zion Chromin (Israel)
Ms Sabina Saikia
Udaysingh Karamveer Singh Kang
Nitishsingh Karamveer Singh Kang
Samveer Singh Karamveer Singh Kang
Ms. Yokovit Mosho Uspaz (Israel)
Hemakshi Pillai
Rabbi Arye Teitelbaum (Israel)
Sushil Kumar Sharma
Arkha Solanki
Sunil Thakre
Kajhi Thakre
Vinod Gupta
Abu Ismail
Mohammed Amanat Ali
Chandulal Tandel
Prakash Sandal
Boris Arban Rego
Gunjan Narang
Vijay Thana
Neelam Narang
Burki Ralph (Germany)
Muti Arjun Ansari
Rupinder Devendra Wadhawa
Ravi Kunvar
Saptakam Rehmatullah Shaukat Ali
Murti Pavastin
Hasibul Rehman Fajuddin Rehman Shaikh
Aditya Ashok Yadav
Deepali Janardhan Chitekar
Raju Janardhan Chitekar
Mohammed Kukhtar Mallik
Noorul Islam Azahar Mulla
Ms Shashabai Baburao Khratmal
Aminabegum Hamid Sheikh
Shirish Savla Chari
Afreen S Qureshi
Sanjay Surve
P K Gopalkrishna
Thakur Budha Vaghela
Ms Jasmine
Vijay Katkar
Bhagan Gangaram Shinde
Aziz Nabullal Rampuri
Shoeb Ahmed Shaikh
Misarilal Morya
Shahabuddin S Khan
Harishbhai D Goyal
Zahir Sayyed Nasir Ali

Dec 7, 2009

This Christmas!

Every year growing up he’d look at the Christmas cards. That came from everywhere. With their pictures of snow and Christmas trees. With fire places that burnt golden over Santas stuck in chimneys. Far removed from here where if the fan wasn’t on you broke into a sweat. Here, where the closest thing you saw to snow was when you scraped the frost out of the deep freeze. And he told himself that one day he’d see a real Christmas.
See the snow fall. And figure out how they said that each snowflake was unique. While he ate turkey and drank eggnog. Stoking up the fire as the flames went low. He’d done it. He was in the land of snow and turkey. A land where every shop was decorated for the season. Where every house on every street had something on display that celebrated Christmas. Even the subway had happy xmas grafitti. They’d just spelt xmas, XXXmas.
Funny, more than offensive.
A light snowfall as if on order. To bring those old Christmas cards to life. A mass where the preacher was inspired. The fellowship after almost made him feel at home. The real Christmas tree that towered over everyone as they stood around singing carols. Call it a night and head to bed. Gotta call home first. Maybe that would fill the hole that all the Christmas trees and snow and turkey and street corner and mall Santa’s couldn’t fill.

Dec 5, 2009

Frunky Snow

by Mahia [10 yrs ] who has her own blog called frunkydays.blogspot.com

Christmas is always happy. Buying gifts. Making sweets. Writing letters to Santa. Santa and Rudolph are always very busy at this time of the year. Mrs. Claus making sweets too. Santa must be taking lots of time to make the toys. He must be giving last years asked gifts this year. That is why you don’t get the things you ask for. There’s only one thing that’s missing in Christmas in Bandra. That’s Snow. But what if…….The curl on the waves on band stand will be snow. Damians will have real snow instead of fake snow(and our Christmas trees too). Fake fire places will have to be made real.The stores will run out of hot chocolate (they hardly had any anyways). The best part- no school for how much ever time the snow remains(snow please remain long). The trees will be forced cone shape(imagine having a coconut tree cone shaped). Driving would be smooth because the snow would fill up all the potholes in the road. Pollution would be replaced by frost(its so cool the cars engine gives out frost).
But we hope………and we have to hope too long.

pl write to Mahia at choclitina@gmail.com and let her know what you think of her piece.

Dec 4, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree!

Christmas is coming. The geese are getting fat. Ok not geese. Broilers. The trees are getting taller. In the building compound.
Our Christmas tree hasn’t grown an inch from its inception. Because it’s plastic. The successor of a tree that had wire branches and tinsel leaves. But on the fakeness scale was right up there with Pamela Anderson’s twins. The plastic tree looks more real. The fall of the leaves more natural. On the scale, Katie Price aka Jordan. It’s retrieved from it’s box on the loft. Held under the tap to wash of a years accumulated dust. Left out to dry. The pot that holds the dead ficus is commissioned. The dead ficus dumped. The interlocking base of the tree is jammed into the pot and covered up with mud. Which is then covered up with cotton pretending to be snow. The box labeled Xmas tree decorations is opened. To pour forth a cornucopia of colored balls, the Ashtavinayak Santas. On a sleigh. In a rocking chair. Sliding down a chimney top. Bell in hand. Posing for passport picture. The angels. Big and small. Fat cherubs cheek by jowl with the Gold’s gym type. A group of them playing harps and lyres. Thermocole candles. Little presents wrapped in pretty paper. Fake chocolates with little hanging hooks. Rudolph the red nosed reindeer with a cellotaped tail. Even a miniature Christmas tree. Strands of tinsel in gold and silver which thanks to the passage of time had all faded into a matching indeterminate bronze. Candy canes and holly wreaths. The pine cones that had been brought back from a long ago holiday in Kashmir. Some painted silver and some au natural. Stars in all shapes and sizes. Big giants and little dwarfs. With one in silver that fits right at the top of the tree. The old set of lights is kept back in the box. The new Made in China lights will light up the tree this year.
And after the ornaments have been hung and the tinsel cascaded down in uniform folds with a uniform distribution of lights more snow falls on the tree . While the temperature outside is still in the upper twenties. After all the Non Sterile cotton from Bandra Medical stores is exhausted it’s ready. Ready for Christmas eve when after, we’re all at midnight mass Santa will find his way here Guided by the twinkling lights. So that when we return the same twinkling lights and our Christmas punch tainted vision make our tree the best Christmas tree in the world.

Dec 3, 2009

Sweet dreams.

Christmas morning or Christmas eve. That’s when we exchange sweets. In plates or trays or boxes. Sweets that till last week were just items on a shopping list. Cashews for marzipan. Adulterated with just a smattering of peanuts if the bonus was not as large as Jo-boy thought it would be. Or if he bought the bottle of Chivas instead of the RC. [ No not Roman catholic , that’s for when you’re talking about religious persuasions.When it’s liquor RC is Royal Challenge. ] No one will know the difference. Ha. In your dreams Joboy. In your dreams. Because they will.
If there were less than ten different types on the plate the missus would be getting sympathetic glances for months. And diplomatic Aunty Mabel might even ask if everything was okay at work. If the count for variety reached double digits, quality would then be inspected. And if she tasted peanuts in the marzipan Mabel would condescendingly sympathise about no bonus in these recessionary times. While she handed over her plate of sweets. Wrapped up in serviettes that had Christmas scenes printed on them in gold leaf. Under the mattress with that. It’s too good to throw away.
Two types of cake. Fruit and sponge. Hell theres more rum in her cake than there was in my glass last night. Show off. All JoBoy had were two slices from the bar cake from Venus bakery. Which were trying hard to masquerade as home-made.
Dos. Dos that Jo Boy calls gram sweet. And to cut a fine point there is a 0.000097 % difference in the amount of sugar that differentiates East Indian gram sweet from Goan dos. JoBoy does’nt know or care. The courier who came to the door is why the milkcream is not the pristine white it should be. And poor misguided Joboy again thinks that milkcream by any other color is still milkcream. But the missus knows that if its not virginal snowy white it might as well be chikki. Enough with the sweets as she tries to steer Mabel towards how midnight mass if not held at midnight can’t be called midnight mass. But Mabel insists she tries her marshmallows. So soft . So pink. So nice. And her date roll, and her kul kuls
Oh fudge Aunty Mabel. What I said was Oh Fudge. Chocolate is’nt it?
She looks at the missus funnily as she heads back up the stairs with our plate from Cheap Jack covered up with a serviette that came out of a box that had a picture of a Sardarji a Mussalman, a Brahmin pandit and other characters that proclaimed Jackson Tissues and National Integration in the same breath, while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.

Away in a train compartment.

The usual push shove climb to get in. a few months from now they would probably step aside for her. But not yet. Nothing showed. Not the fear as to how she would be a mother. Or the fear of the wrath of her father. Or the scorn of her neighbours. Not, for what she did. But for the stupidity of not being careful.
She could’nt raise a child. Not yet, not when she was barely learning to take care of herself. She’d heard that there was a home in Andheri where you had the baby and then left. Leaving the baby there for strangers to take home. Ads plastered the walls.Brilliant Tutorials, Juliet Bras and Panties ,Pearl Centre. Was that a message from God? Maybe. Maybe she’d just stay on the train and never get off. From now to infinity moving along train tracks that went from here to there and back.
Whichever way she looked at it , there was no silver lining. He’d always said he did’nt want to get married until he had a house of his own. He might as well be asking for the moon. She had’nt told him yet. But he’d soon know. Everybody would. Jack Nicholson. He’d been brought up by his grandmother. Thinking his mother was his sister. Maybe her baby too would be rich and famous one day. In spite of his careless parents.
As the train pulled into the station she sees the message light flashing on her phone. 12 missed calls and 1 message. Calls that had been drowned out by train wheels and other conversations. All from him. She’d call back as soon as she was off the train.
SMS. Aunt Gertie died. Mom says lft flat 2 me. Will u marry me?

Dec 2, 2009

A Mumbai Christmas Story.

They set up the crib. In the living room cum bedroom cum dining room cum study that formed one of the two rooms they called home. The neighbours all came to see it. Every evening they’d gather around the crib for the rosary.
"Why is Jesus crying ?" asked the littlest .
"See he has a tear drop ."
They wiped it away from the little statue in the crib and it was gone. But it was back again the next day. And the next.
Soon a frenzy. Even the Parish priest coming in to see for himself the miracle of the weeping baby Jesus. A line in the passage outside. It was playing hell with their daily schedule.
Sodom and Gommorah . That’s why he was crying. For the sins of the world. For the waywardness of the world. For the acts of war and genocide. For the starving millions in Africa. For the lack of vocations to the seminary. For the blatantness of the page 3 pin up. For the way the terrosists attacked the city.
Soon the tears were a flood.
Damn! The bathroom on the floor above was leaking.

Nov 24, 2009

Celebrate BandraBuggers!

Coming to you live On the 26th and 27th Nov at 7:30 PM at The Hindustan Lever park near St. Anthony’s garage, extension of St. Paul Road BANDRABUGGERS Vignettes of Bandra . by Denzil Smith, Neal Neil and Neale, Fiona Miranda, Brian Tellis, Asif Ali Beg, Naresh Fernandes, Leandro Dsilva, Anita the traffic warden,Keith Pereira, Aylma Curry with maybe a little Q & A after A few posts are also in the Celebrate Bandra brocure.

Jul 17, 2009

Field of Dreams

As a great blogger once said. It may be Mumbai in Marathi but its Bombay in English. Always. What we see in the map of Italy as Florence will always be Firenze to the Italians. And the people who live there are Forentines. Unless you’re an Italian in Goa. Where if you’re a Florentine , you’re in Saligao.
Head down the CHOGM road from Calangute towards Mapuca. On the left you pass houses with tile roofs, pigs in slumber for the night and 20 foot wide buses roaring down a 10 foot wide road, occasionally. You see a blot on the landscape called Cottage Industries or Cottage exposistion or some similarly named tourist trap. Next to it is a field. Next to it is a field. Full of cars and motorcycles. Somewhat eerie. Lots of vehicles. No people. Quiet. A Maruti Tourist taxi van emerges from the lane next to it. You had’nt even seen that there was a lane on this new moon night. Park in the field. Walk down the newly unveiled lane. Dirt track actually. You can feel the buzz and around the corner you see a ten cars and thirty bikes in a space meant for three. Bikes i.e. The parapet of the well on your left has a few Ronaldo and Beckham fans sipping beer. Their fan-ness being proclaimed by their T shirts. Green and yellow and blue and white against a backdrop of red laterite. The unfortunates, of which there are many who cannot find a slot on the parapet wall are condemnded to stand. And wait. Wait for a seat in this backwoods restaurant. Where the seating for the Beckhams and Ronaldinhos and Perpetua and Augustine is in front and to the right of you. Where tube lights wrapped in green and pink cellophane paper provide the mood lighting. Where music is not played because it gets in the way of conversation. While you stand near the well which happens to be just outside the kitchen. Platters of food pass in front of you. So near but yet so far. Don’t worry, as Aunty Aggie says” Hunger is the best sauce”.
People move out, satiated. You glare at the table in your field of vision.
For crying out loud, do you have to take such small bites of your bibinca.
The heavens part and you are called to the table. The menu runs to two pages. Ignore it. Order Chicken Cafreal. And poi. And Feni or Urak if it’s that time of the year. Yes Feni and Urak are proper nouns in my lexicon.
While you wait admire the plastic furniture, the fake flowers, the beer glo signs. Because once you taste the cafreal you will remember nothing else. The Feni comes first. Home stuff. Not that factory made stuff they sell in the wineshops or at the Fort Aguada. { The Fort Aguada bit is hearsay } . And then comes the cafreal slapped down with not even an iota of the respect it deserves. If you use a knife and a fork to eat it then leave now and never return. Chunkofy [ break into bite sized pieces] the poi. Dip it into the gravy and go straight to heaven. Where as the flavors become a part of you Lorna bursts into song, you property dispute with the neighbour pales into insignificance and your neighbours daughter who was a runners up for Miss Tivim asks you to dance with her. And that’s just the first bite.
Repeat order soon enough for the food and the beverage. There’s a family at the entrance glaring at you. Murder in their eyes when they hear the repeat order issued. “Damn Bombayites” you hear in angry undertones.
So in a spirit of charity you forsake the bibinca and call for the bill. The crowd at the well has gotten larger. Some of the parked bikes have been commandeered as waiting benches. The glasses perch nicely on the flat tank of the hero Honda. They tend to slide on a Bullet. But the Bullet seats are wider.
Back to the field. Home and back to your dreams which till just last night were real.

Disclaimer. :- My friend Jack[ who first took me to Florentines thus making himself eligible for canonization] tells me that the competition is trying to give Florentine a bad name by claiming that pork fat is used to cook the chicken. Of course the appropriate response to anyone who tries to malign the said restaurant with the aforementioned statement is “ Who Cares?”

Jul 16, 2009

Down on your knees!

Head down to St. Peters church. [ Bandra not Rome]. Whether you’re catholic or not. Or Non. At 10.00 am on a Sunday morning. Hang at the back half of the church. The usual stuff. Prayers for the faithful. Petitions, thanks givings, sermon, offertory etc. etc.
Communion. Now sit down. Close your eyes. And let the music of the choir come to you. Till the saxophone steps in. It lifts you up. Think of all the superlatives you know. Then double them and it might begin to say what you feel. In fact I may even be dead and in heaven. Unlikely. Dead? No. The ending up in heaven bit.
Cat Stevens ‘Morning has broken”. An inspired song. An inspired rendition. While the lines shuffle on. While the dog that wants to get out of the muck tries to find a dry spot beneath a pew. While prayers are finished and positions change from kneeling to sitting.
And as the last notes draw out, you change from sitting to kneeling once more. To give thanks and give praise. Praise for the music,…[ Thank you Cat Stevens and thank you Rhys ].
And the reason you hang at he back of the church is that the acoustics are better there.

Rhys:- On Saxaphone
Merlyn:- On organ and keyboards
And if Fr. Jerry preaches the sermon that’s an added bonus.

Jul 13, 2009

Win -Win.

I know. I know. It's a marketing gimmick. But it sounds like a lot of fun. So go enter http://www.greatdrivingchallenge.com. You might get to pass go. And you might get to collect the million bucks. A win win situation for all concerned.

Jul 9, 2009

What's Leonardo got to do with it?

You get married and you have children. They cry for food. You give them food. They cry because of a wet diaper. Abracadabra. Wet diaper gone. They look up to you like you look up to God. They ask you questions and you reply. A for apple B for Ball Z for Zebra. You begin to feel a little bit like God. All knowing , all powerful. You are. In the kids eyes at least. Then it starts to get tricky.
“Why is the sky blue?”
“I’ll tell you later, first finish your milk.”
“If Grandpa is in heaven and can see me why cant I see him?”
“Go to sleep now it’s late.”
“Why do you have hair there and I don’t?”
“Lets finish our bath quickly, Mummy’s waiting.”
They now know you have feet of clay. Even though you hide them with Nike’s. So the questions stop coming as frequently. They learn how to Google and Wiki is a verb not a noun.
We walked into Josy’s house for dinner. On the wall hangs a poster of The Vitruvian Man. We were made to study that piece of art in college. Da’Vinci’s incredible mind at it’s peak. While he churned out designs for helicopters and submarines. He also studied the proportion of mans fingers to palm of palm to feet and arms to height and width. An antiquated poster that is a conversation starter. So we are looking at it when the child to whom till so recently I was a combination of Albert Einstein, Jesus and Barrack Obama piped in.
Child :- “ Why don’t you put a mirror on the opposite wall”
Josy [ Host for the evening] & Me aka Einstein aka Jesus aka Obama :- “Why?”
Child:- “ So that you can read what ever is written in the poster.”
Josy [ Host for the evening] & Me aka Einstein aka Jesus aka Obama :- “What?”
Child:- “It’s mirror writing.”
Josy [ Host for the evening] & Me aka Einstein aka Jesus aka Obama :- “Bull!”
Child:- “Daddy can I have some Pepsi?”
Josy [ Host for the evening] & Me aka Einstein aka Jesus aka Obama are scrutininsing said poster. Give up said scrutiny in favour of Old Monk.
The next morning I call on the all knowing Gods of Google. Yes. Da Vinci used mirror writing for the Vitruvian man.
My feet of even clay are quickly dissolving into dust.

Jul 3, 2009

Save it for a Rainy Day

If it was raining when you went to sleep, you prayed. Very hard that it would rain thru the night. At the intervals when you woke up during the night and heard the heavens continuing their downpour you kept your fingers crossed. When the newspaper was not outside the door like it was every morning., you knew you were almost there. So you got into your Duckback raincoat and went to school and halfway there you met Joe-Boy who was on his way back and he gave you the news that it was a rain holiday. Thank you God. That’s why I believe in you. Not for the ascension and the holy trinity and the sacrament of confession. But because you can change a day on which we had a Marathi test scheduled, which I was going to fail in , into a holiday. Now I promise I’ll study for it and never leave things till the last minute again. But first let me get home and change. Out of the uniform and into old clothes that nobody minded you getting dirty.
Then onto the World Cup. A football game played on the road. Which by then would be under six inches of water. So the ball floated. When their was imminent danger of a goal being scored it wasn’t against the rules to kick a spray of water into the potential scorers eyes effectively qualifying him for dark glasses and a white cane.
You had to watch out for the gutters on either side of the road whose 3’ depth was made invisible due to the law of physics that says” Water finds it’s own level”. If you didn’t you were suddenly dwarfed and kicking against concrete instead of the ball.
The football game done we’d be back home scrounging. Scrounging for the motor boat we’d bought at the Bandra fair. The one with the candle in the middle that went round and round in circles. The candle was lifted off the altar and cut into sections that would fit into this yacht that Onassis would have been proud off.[ When he was 3 ] A cigarette lighter would be begged for after a million attempts to light a matchsticks from a box that had more water in it than the Niagara. If you couldn’t find your motor boat then you looked for fallen coconut tree branches. With your mothers sharpest kitchen knife [ which she didn’t know had left the hallowed premises of her kitchen] you cut of the boat shaped bit from the end of the branch. With paper and cello tape you sealed off the back ‘ giving you a boat more seaworthy than the Titanic. Which you launched in the gutter. Before you had a chance to crack the champagne across the bow she’d be away. With you behind her. For that gentle nudge to keep her clear of sticks and stones and other assorted gutter filling debris. The gutter ran below the driveway of the building. Into that tunnel of darkness she went while you ran across and waited on the other side. After ten minutes you realized she’d got stuck. After having failed to find a stick long enough to reach her from either end, you decided to go down with your ship in the best traditions of sailing men the world over. But even though you went down into the gutter your 15” shoulders refused to get into a 12” drain pipe.
The rain would start to ease of. Soon it stopped and you would wait by a tree. Along came Clara and friends happy that the rain went in and the sun came out. Only to find that vigorously shaken trees dislodged a lot of water even when it wasn’t raining.
The day would end. The rain would end. Three days later you would be looking at the Marathi test paper and praying for a miracle while deep down you knew that two miracles in three days was asking for too much, even though you’d promised to only look at the board when Miss Nigli’s back was turned to write on it and not at Miss Nigli’s…….. back.

Jul 1, 2009

Sonia , Sonia, You are my Sonia....

Yesterday the face of our city changed. The Bandra Worli sea link opened. This now links the original seven islands of Mumbai in more ways than one for the first time ever. { Discounting the helipad at the racecourse. Because you and me baby are never going to use that }.Its actually been ready for a while. But Soniaji was’nt.
So why did they wait. Because Sonias parents wanted her to go abroad for a higher education? So did mine. Sonia thinks Indira Gandhi was one of the best leaders we ever had. So do I. Sonia has two children. So do I. Sonia’s catholic. So am I. Sonia likes pizza. Me too. Sonia speaks bad Hindi. So do I. Sonia loves having a billion people looking up to her. I would too.
So where’s the difference. I could have cut the ribbon and we’d all have been using the Bandra Worli sea link from a month ago.
Jai Hind.

Jun 26, 2009

Where were you?

When you heard that Indira Gandhi was shot . When you heard that Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated. When you heard that Elvis or Kurt Cobain had been found dead. Why does it stick in your head ? The moment when you heard that there were blasts on the Mumbai trains. That terrorists had attacked Mumbai and were holed up at the Taj. The thoughts race thru your mind. How ? Why ? The details come in thru the TV and SMS’es . Thru phone calls from friends and family who want to know that all is OK with you. You call up anyone who may be even remotely connected to the danger zone. You wonder about the impact it will have on you, your city, your work, your play.
Later much later, when the immediacy is gone. You hear recounts of the incident. With the personal stories at the end. The reactions and the analysis. Rashômon, a hundred times removed.
On the 28th Sept 1978 we were on our way back to school after our lunch. Yelled out to my friend Aloysius [Ok Aloo] to hurry. He came out and told me that the BBC had just announced that John Paul I was dead. Did we worry about the impact this would have on the faithful? Or the conspiracy theories that would spring up? Or who would step into his shoes? No. All that mattered was whether the school would shut down for the day and whether the next day would be a holiday or not. When the announcement did come and we trooped back home, we tried manfully , on the instructions of our principal, to hide a joy that was not appropriate and display a mourning that for us that day was as distant as Mars.

Jun 24, 2009

Cry baby!

The music has gotten out of control. CD’s that are largely unused. MTV and Channel [V]. The MP3’s on the Ipod and the cell phone. Play lists on the computer. The Karaoke set the kids use. The neighbours surround sound system that has a 5.1 speaker system. It’s more like a 6.1 because it sounds like one of the speakers is in our house. The Worldspace radio, the F.M. in the car. The tune on the Aquagaurd. The tune on the same neighbours car when it gets into reverse gear. The elevator music. The hymns in church and the bhajans in the train. As we go through the day with all it’s attendant forces at play.
Of singers who mourn for loves lost , journeys not traveled , of words said and unsaid. The country singers and the rap artists. Both detailing lifes cruelties but on different canvases. The blues playing out on a rainy day. While we go from waking to REM sleep and back again with their stories being little more than the rice in our dal chaval.
I turn around from the table to see my daughter with a big fat tear rolling down her face.
“What happened Aalia?”
“It’s such a sad song”.

Jun 20, 2009

Yvonne falls the third time.

She ran. Chasing butterflies. The fall did’nt really hurt. The surprise to find herself a tangle of arms and legs was what made her cry. The scrapes on her knees were kissed over and she was up and running again. Chasing butterflies and wind up toys that moved further and faster than they were supposed to go.
He asked her to join him for an evening walk. Yes. The world was full of color. The love songs suddenly sounded like they’d been written for them. He thought so too.
Fifty years. He’d been gone for ten. The children many years before that. The love songs still made sense. The children called once a week. From parts of the world where they were raising their own. Morning mass, breakfast alone, lunch alone, tea alone, dinner alone. She kept the TV volume high. So that as she went from hall to kitchen or bedroom she didn’t loose the story. It was the swine flu that got her. The story had been in the news for the last week. Mexico, the United States, Canada. The TV breaking the news that the first case had hit India. She was on her way to the bathroom . The curiosoity to see where and when and how had made her turn and slip and fall. She tried getting up. Too far from the sofa to get a grip on the handle to help herself up. The TV had moved on to the weather. She was still stuck on the floor. One of the longest nights of her life. She must have fallen asleep for some time. The maid let herself in with the key from the neighbour. Helped her stand up and to the bed. Washed her up. [ She had been on her way to the bathroom ] Embarassed. The neighbours called the children to tell them what had happened. No, no bones were broken.
She moves more slowly now. The walking stick with her all the time. Sometimes, she sees the butterflies outside her window.

Jun 18, 2009

Twenty Questions ?

What did a blogger do before there were blogs? Where were the poems, the stories and the angst stored ? Are there diaries and notebooks lurking in family heirloom cupboards ? How did the boy loves girl, girl loves boy, boy leaves girl, girl blogs, stories pan out earlier ? Or the boy loves dog, dog gets run over, boy blogs ? Where were the memories kept ? Or was everything black and white ,so those shades of grey that are everywhere today, nonexistent then ? Was Filmfare enough information for Amitabhs and Aamirs fans ? Do you really think Amitabh writes his own blog ? Does anyone care that Benjamin Meyer and his lovely wife Jen, enjoys collecting Transformers and learning more about programming ? Were Sumeet mixers simple enough not to need Daves Technology Blog ? Were holidays a step into the unkown ? Or did you visit the offices of makemytrip.com or talk to them over the phone ? And when you got there did you send picture postcards whose stamps would be fought over back home ? Did the content of the postcard matter ? Was the name of the spellcheck you used Mother ? Who did you talk to when you got a cold ? Could you die from a cold ? Is there a support group for my life threatening cold ? Are support groups the new Ladies Sodality ?

Jun 12, 2009


Communion ? Communication. To commune with. The first time it happens it’s holy. And overwhelming. You have to tell your sins to a stranger. Who you hope will keep them to himself. Absolution you’re told does’nt give you a carte blanche to go forth and hit your smaller cousin again. No. Even if he doe’nt share his new bike with you ?
“ But that’s selfishness Father.”
“ God will send someone to punish him and you’re not that someone.
Three Hail Mary’s and three Our Fathers and go forth and sin no more. “
And you are given the white suit with the bow tie and the white shoes and new underwear [which was always white anyways]. So you line up outside church and march in, in procession with all the uncles and aunts on both sides of your family and all the cousins small enough who were too small to be left at home on their own and not a single one of those who were old enough to. When the priest placed that host on your tongue which you stuck out as much as you could as you had been instructed to, the earth shook and the halo fell mightily on your head. You were then dragged off to Hill studio for the requisite pictures. Before you got your white suit even more dirty. The picture had to be taken with you turned around from left to right to hide the orange Fanta stain on your left sleeve.
The only thing left to do for the party was fry the fugias. The chairs were in a circle on the terrace. The music system had been taken out from the living room [ok hall ] and reinstalled on the terrace, near the light bulb which had been tapped for electricity. The ice had been broken into small pieces and piled around the beer and cold drinks in a metal tub. The watchman had been told to keep an eye on it to see that there was no pilferage. And the chips from Blue Circle had been collected [against order ]. Uncle Ken had been commissioned to take pictures of the party. Black and white. Anyway the communion outfit is all white, so who needs color ?
You ran around playing catching cook between the chairs with the constant
‘ Don’t get your clothes dirty ‘
instruction being given by any adult who came to the terrace to check on bar arrangements, the seating arrangements, sound system, lights, pilferage of cold drinks, etc. etc. etc.
The guests came, they saw and they feasted. But they first gave you presents. Which you said thank you for and tried to not be caught in the ongoing game of catching cook before the next guest came. And when that happened you could officially call ‘Times”. The parish priest showed up. He quickly said the grace before meals even though dinner was a long way off and he had many other houses to visit. The bar got lighter by the minute. The food was photographed. You were photographed. With uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours, friends.
“ No, you don’t need a photo with the dog “
The cashews were sprinkled on the rice just before dinner was announced. The real thing this time. Food ,glorious food. How do I love thee ? Let me count the ways. The vindaloo and sorpotel, the potato chops [ circles of geometric precision ] , chicken curry for which the chickens would have been happy to die, dinner rolls [ Go to A1 bakery now if you don’t know what that is ]. Pies with browned crusts that you received a slap on the wrist for, for attacking horizontally instead of vertically.
“ If you like the brown part wait till the dish is over and then scrape the bottom.”
“ But it’s My first communion “
“ The guest’s come first.”
Russian salad. Which no Russian on either side of the Volga has ever seen. Fish mousse in fish shaped dishes. All washed down by as many glasses of Fanta as you wanted. And accompanied by a steady stream of fugias that came straight from stove to table.
There hadn’t been a cake cutting earlier. Because the cake was going to double up as dessert. So you cut the cake. Without damaging the marzipan Jesus.
The aunties would be hassling the uncles to stop drinking and start eating. Finally they did. The kids would be rounded up. Goodbyes and god blesses. The remaining F & B sent down in dribs and drabs with each departing guest.
And when you were changed into your night clothes, then and only then were you allowed to open your presents. Future generations of first communicants would get PSP’s and IPods and DVD’s of Harry Potter or gift vouchers from Crosswords. You got enough bibles to put the Gideons out of business. More rosaries than you could go through in a lifetime. Even if you joined the Apostleship of prayer.
Gift coupons from St. Pauls, and three envelopes with money. Which you never saw again, because it was taken away to “ Put into your bank account “ Which even at that tender age you knew was a one way street . But what goes in must come out.
I’m waiting…

Jun 3, 2009

The mountain came to Mohammed...

Thursday was a holiday. Every Thursday. Because the Jesuits in their wisdom realized that schoolboys need a break after three days of school. Or did they need a break from the boys. So on Wednesday night we were allowed to stay up a little later. Most Thursdays were our own. To ride our cycles and shoot pigeons.
Unless the barber came. He was a thin man. All dressed in white. With a black hat. And an aluminium trunk. Bent over , a little . The kitchen stool was hauled out of the house. Yesterdays newspaper was spread out on the staircase landing. The stool then took centrestage, and you the chief protagonist sat on the stool. Three steps on the flight leading upwards, the barber placed his trunk. The lid flipped to reveal combs , brushes, scissors, cut-throat razors, creams and a white sheet. The sheet would come out and be draped around you with the tightness at the neck that threatened the oxygen supply to your brain. It had to be. Otherwise the cut hair would slip thru. He’d then ask you wheter you wanted your hair cut long or short. Long. These were the days of the Beatles and Peter Frampton. He’d snip away. While yesterdays headlines slowly got obliterated. When the cutting was done , he’d take a little steel cup ( Ok Vatee ) out of his trunk. He’d then head to the kitchen door for the required water. And you would hear your Mother tell him as she returned his water filled vatee that ‘Short’ was the order of the day. Between the devil and the devil and the deep blue sea.
“Baba [ We were all called Baba ] Mummy says short”
Damn. Goodbye John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Ok but not too short.
So the vatee would be put on hold and the scissors and comb were pressed into service once more. When Long had been morphed into Short and the days head lines went from , Black and White and Read all over, what is it ? To just Black.
Then the vatee was called upon once more and he’d lather the back of your neck. He’d strop the razor to an edge Maugham would have been proud of. Those little bristles at the back of your neck did’nt stand a chance. You held that sneeze while he had that razor going. The razor went back into the trunk and the brush came out. Loose hairs brushed away, the brush went back and the powder tin came out. To reveal powder and puff. Which would be dusted onto your freshly shaved neck. The powder tin went back in and the mirror came out. He’d hold it up in front of you so that you could partake in his masterpiece. From all angles. He’d go behind you and the ballet would unfold. Of you trying to see the reflection of the back of your head in a mirror held behind you without turning around so much that the object at the focal point of the mirror changed. The toga then came off and you would arise. And while you went to the bathroom and looked at your head for twenty minutes running in the mirror, he was busy. Packing up his trunk so that brushes and razors would hold their assigned place in the universe even after the trunk went from horizontal to vertical. Packing up all the hair in yesterdays paper. Collecting his payment from Skinhead sympathetic parent. Who would be yelling at you to go for a bath immediately.
‘ Do you want to get barber’s itch? ‘
No. Then hurry up and have a bath.
And he’d be gone. To more heads that needed lightening.
After the washing was done you were instructed to hang the clothes out on the line.
I will, but where’s the stool ?

May 13, 2009

The Joy of Flying

You get onto the plane. The erstwhile air hostess, now cabin crew welcome you on board. Plastic smile that you could make a bisleri bottle out of. But the smile cant be anything but, when you think of how often it has to be called upon. The hustle to have your hand baggage in an overhead locker as close to your seat as possible. It’s the storage of first aid kits and extra blankets that destroys the each one take one symmetry. The doors bolt and you wait. The announcements begin that the first time fliers follow avidly. The regular fliers ignore. And the second time fliers try and look like they’re ignoring but follow to make sure that if this plane becomes a boat they know what to do. Drill in school would have had us following it more closely if we had a movie of Yana Gupta showing us what to do rather than Mr. Pandey or Mr. Tamhane at PT. Even they would have followed it more closely than they did themselves. Seat belts are retrieved from below seats and butts. The cabin crew inspect you and pronounce you of sound seat beltedness and therefore certified to fly. Seat upright. Why do they do that ? Does the plane fly slower when the seats recline ? Or do does the force of gravity increase ? Or does the balance get put off if some of the seats on the left aisle recline while the ones on the right don’t ? You taxi to the start of the runway and wait. While the plane starts shuddering with enough force to work the rivets of the control tower loose. And its on your marks get set go. To that magic moment when you become one with the Gods. Hermes, Hanuman, Dirona here we come. You crane over the person in the window seat. You can see the Searock Hotel. So working backwards down what must be Hill road you can almost see home before the plane turns and you have the open sea before you. Bandra did look exactly like it does on Google Earth. Not as clear though. Maybe they photoshop the satellite image. The seat belt sign goes off with an announcement requesting you to keep it on. Was the guy whos making a beeline for the loo nervous ? Or to many beers at lunch ? But he cant get in until the crew use a ball pen to slide open the door lock. Does he normally stand with his legs crossed ? The newspaper and the evacuation card in the pocket in front of you compete with the inflight magazine. The inflght magazine wins. Why do BMW advertise their 7 series here and not in the Bandra Star ? That’s rhetorical. But the travel articles make even Dharavi look glamourous. The food trolley comes around. Veg or non veg. To a catholic from Bandra with a cross tattooed on his thumb, you have to ask ? So on the postage stamp in front of you , you lay out you starter, main course dessert, water, paper cruet set, pickle, knife fork spoon, coffee cup, stirrer for said coffee cup, napkin [ yes we say napkin not tissue. Tissue is what you cut into for a biopsy. ] water bottle, dessert and the white gloved maitre de who will assist you. The foil that covers all has you wondering where to put it as you unravel it to reveal Non-Veg.
The Brahmin with caste marks on his forhead in the seat next to you is trying to climb onto the wing. While holding both his ears and not breathe in any vapor of your Non-Veg. Ha! He put the shade down when you wanted to see wheter the clouds were cumulus or sirrius. Justice is here and now. The pickle and salt and pepper and aniseed [ ok badi shape ] you keep to give the kids to play house-house with when you get home. The food trolley comes around once more. No seconds. Just empties. They’re in a hurry. Estimated landing time is in fifteen minutes. The toilets are locked once more with the pressed into service ball point pen. The crew come around corrected the imbalance caused by reclining seats . Trays up, seat belts on. The only constant has been the no smoking sign. This is your Captain speaking. … blah blah blah. The Kenny G music comes back on. Do they give Kenny his due royalties. If all the elevators and all the planes and all the super markets that played his music paid him he’d probably be richer than the Sultan of Brunei. And it’s a touchdown. Shake rattle and roll. How do the wings stay fixed onto the plane ? You’ve seen scooter side cars detach themselves with less vibration. And sidecars have the ground for support. But the wings stay on and the plane taxis to the terminal. The cell phones start going off. Twitter has nothing on this. The seat belt sign is ignored. The cabin crew is’nt even trying to protest. You leave behind the newspaper and the evacuation instruction card. The inflight magazine you put into your bag [ surreptiously, you don’t know if you’re allowed to take it for free ]because you need more time to decide whether it’s going to be the 7 series Beamer or the string of pearls from Cartier. In front of you is the whole trip and the flight back and the rickshaw ride home,which should give you enough time to decide.

Feb 24, 2009


Head down St. Andrews road in a north south direction. When you can go no further , off to your left is the Vienna Stores. Its been there forever. Selling bread,chips, ballpens, matchboxes etc.etc.etc. It used to be run by a man called Peter. Peter had three daughters. Who grew up watching the traffic on Hill road get more and more and more. More buses, more cars more people. More fights. Over who had right of way. Wheter the car hit the bus or the bus hit the car. So One of Peters daughters signed up to be a volunteer traffic warden. The Traffic police trained her. They gave her a whistle and a uniform. She took her post at the junction. And traffic snarls were suddenly a thing of the past. In a neat and orderly fashion traffic flowed out of St. Andrews road. Schoolchildren were given right of way. Ambulances could actually get into Holy Family Hospital before their occupants needed the morgue instead of the emergency room. Anita held sway. Over drivers who questioned her authority. Once. Over errant rickshaw wallahs whose customers failed to tell them that St. Andrews was a one way. Or a no entry depending on your point of view. Over kids on motorcycles who thought that traffic rules were only for those who actually had driving licenses. When rush hour slackened Anita doffed her beret and headed back to the shop.
A parent at a local school was run or by one of their own school buses. DOA. An enlightened PTA called in Anita. For a span of duty every morning. To sort out the spaghetti of buses, cars, motorcycles, cycles, maids, parents, drivers and schoolchildren. Voila. Law and order reigns. Rows of children file past. From designated alighting zones. A whistle to hurry any offender off.
And after this Anita goes back. Back to selling bread and butter for her bread and butter. To being just another shopgirl. And you would never guess that this is Anita the Fearless. Who if she’d been on duty at 4.00 am one morning would have stopped Salman in his Landcruiser before it reached A1 bakery.

Jan 20, 2009

That thing that you do...

The day closes and the dogs are hungry. Until a car drives up. Unloading from it’s boot a meal that’s been cooked just for them. Just one of the many stops this girl makes. Giving the friendly neighbourhood strays their sustenance. Somewhere else laws are being passed. Laws that limit the freedom of your dog. A rule that says he has to be on a leash if he is in a public space. But this girl loves dogs in all shapes and sizes. She has a few medicines in her pocket. If a ear is infected a few drops are administered. The dogs know her well. Pavlovs whistle is replaced by the sound of her car engine. She does’nt find favour with most people. Who think stary dogs are a nuisance. Until their barking scares away a midnight visitor who wants their Blaupunkt car stereo. Or the junkie who thinks walking away with a manhole cover is free enterprise. It’s tough being a dog. There are fewer spaces which have mud and trees. Lamp posts and car wheels have to make do. The traffic is an obstacle course. But you know there is a doggie god when a car drives up and someone who really loves you, feeds you.
And so it goes. With the old man who has a pavement class on Carter Road. Old. Very. Probably is due VRS from VRS. Each morning. Children from nearby building sites. Sitting before the sea trying to master their A’B C’s . The O for Orange obscured by an early morning walker. No it’s not O for Parrot the old man say’s. They have only a little time before the rising sun hits their stretch of the pavement . Till tomorrow morning then.
When another day will dawn and let him once more do that thing that he does.

Jan 15, 2009

I have a dream...

In the CHS we live in there’s a kachra walla. We also have a paperwallah, a doodwalla, a bhaji walla, a jaripurana walla, a machi walli, and so on and so forth… And CHS for the unenlightened is Co-operative Housing society. Which means we spend three hours debating about wheter the water pump should be switched on at 7.00 am every morning or 7.01.
Our kachra wallas name is Sonu. His is a hereditary profession. His parents are in the same line of work. Between them they have the neighbourhood covered. Every morning he shows up at our door. Lugging a big plastic drum. Gathering everything we don’t want. From yesterdays banana peels to empty Old Monk bottles. He finishes his rounds and then hands over the days collection to his wife. Who does the sorting. Of all the dry goods. Old plastic bags in one pile. Paper in another. Bottles. Wire. Old shoes. The dead gold fish. Just kidding. The dead goldfish’s fate is inextricably linked to yesterdays banana peels and the sucked empty bones of the paya curry. There’s a market for everything. Cassettes, odd socks, the cardboard carton the new fridge came in, dead batteries, chipped glasses, both drinking and ocular.
Sonu is way ahead of the BMC with it’s Clean Mumbai campaign. He was segregating from when segregation was what Martin Luther King was fighting against. The actual collection pays him little. The recycling is what brings home the bacon. Or the aloo paratha. He now has a mobile phone. He gave me the number in case of 'Emergency'. It is an emergency when Sonu does’nt show up. And the goldfish’s mate has also died out of loneliness.
Sonu is green. In the truest sense of the word. With a rating the Exxons and the Union Carbide’s will never achieve. Even in their dreams.