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

Dec 14, 2010

CAROLS 2010

For the tenth year the best way to bring in Christmas happens on St. Anthony's Road.Suzy Q,Tara,Cyril and Megan,Ramon Ibrahim,Gsus,Clarry Devisser Neale Murray& Megan Brian Tellis Dominique Elvis Sid Meghani Rajiv Raja The Fun Bunch Denzil Smith
Santa The Glee Hive Coco & Hot Chocolate & Minelli and more.
See you on Sat 18th Dec 6.30 p.m. on St. Anthony's Road.

Hold hands and don't let go.

Once a year we were taken for a picnic. The venues varied. All within an hours driving distance. So that you could get there and back in the course of a school day.
We were told to bring our water bottles and sandwiches. A cap to keep away the sun and to visit the toilet before boarding the bus. We were assigned partners and told to hang onto our partners when crossing the road.For starters we were taken to the aeroplane park. A concrete aircraft parked at the end of Linking road. Where we took turns at being pilots and making vrrooom vroom noises during imagined take offs and landings. Until we were rounded up and made to sit in a circle. A community lunch. With foil packets being opened. Sandwiches of egg, ham salami cucumber tomato and meatloaf. You knew who to sit next to because if someones mother gave them a good lunch on a daily basis it was a safe bet that they'd have an even better lunch at the picnic. Hot dogs. The Mumbai kind. Bread rolls with mince. A slice of lettuce adding colour and vitamins. Water bottles that had been badly depleted in squirting unsuspecting pedestrians and each other on the bus ride were squeezed to give up their spirit.
With the passing of years our horizons were broadened. To Vihar lake where we were told to keep away from the crocodiles. To chotta Kashmir in the aarey milk colony. Is there a chota mumbai in Kashmir. A place of noise and crowds in that vale of flowers? A visit to the parle biscuit factory which was heralded with stories of largesse. That you were allowed to eat as many biscuits as you wanted to. For free. And drink as manyThums ups as you wanted to when you visited the thumbs up factory. Neither of which held up even though you'd avoided breakfast so that you could eat more biscuits. Glucose D. Which you now knew to stand for Dreams. As in , in your dreams would there be unlimited biscuits. The Old ladies shoe at the hanging gardens. With it's hedges in the shapes of animals. Green elephants and peacocks. Deer chased by tigers that would never catch them. While in the middle of a game of cricket retrieving the ball would cause kissitus interruptus to bodies huddled behind the bushes.
There was a cloud to this silver lining. Which surfaced the next day when you had to write a one page essay on My Class picnic.

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

There would be try outs. No stop watches or starters pistols. No tapes to mark the finish line. Just mr. pandey at one end and mr. Tamhane on the other. With fifty boys running from one of them to the other. With nobody allowed to start until the go as in get ... Set... Tamhane would then sweep up the first five or six and they'd have qualified for the finals. While the rest of us went back to our disorganised games of football and hockey with the football sometimes coming in the way up a hockey stick or an offending hockey ball being kicked aside by a future Ronaldinho. Trials for the long jump were time bound. Pandey had to chose the best long jumpers from fifty in a thirty minute PT( physical training ) period. This gave rise to the simultaneous long jump. With us lined up four abreast. Taking of together and landing into the sand pit in a tangle that made us Siamese quadruplets. Body parts that were furtherest away were traced back to their point of origin establishing the qualifier. March pasts were the grab bag of participation for anyone whose mind was willing but the flesh too weak to make it to any of the events. And if even in their marching were they challenged then they'd be hidden away in the centre of the marching squad so that their left left left right left which came out tangled was apparent to none of the spectators and definitely not to the chief guest who had the honour of judging the best house . The band visually had drums flute players, trumpets, triangles and bugles. Aurally just drums.
Relays and races were cheered with more gusto than a Rajnikanth appearance in Matunga. The tug of war brought the house down with spectators leaning this way or that in ESP like connections to their teams. There was a race for the teachers, a race for the peons and a race for the ex students. Sporting heroes of years gone by who would have taken the afternoon off from their sports quota jobs.
Golds silvers and bronzes would be tallied for the overall championship. While cups and salvers were lined up in impressive arrays. The chief guest extracted his revenge for an afternoon of watching us by reiterating sportsmanship and winning is nt everything platitudes in ten different ways. His wife who by now could have walked to the winners podium blindfolded looked more shaken than stirred by the heat of the afternoon, the dust of the field and the enthusiasm of fifteen hundred boys struggling for glory. The principal in his speech would declare the next day a holiday so that we could sleep in late. While we dreamt of how we would run the perfect hundred metre Hurdles, without dropping even one. Or not fumble the baton passing or run the hundred metres in 12 seconds flat. And to later have Miss Nigli hang a pretending to be gold medal around our ever willing necks.

Dec 3, 2010

Go here and Enjoy!

Here's a blog I enjoy. http://wagwordsworld.blogspot.com/

Nov 19, 2010

Cold Cold Heart.

There are no cold storages in Ghatkopar. For the same reason that there are no agarbatti sellers at Mount Mary’s. Though Bandra has more than it’s fair share, of cold storages i.e. not agarbatti sellers. Where you can buy everything from East Indian Goa sausages to Goan East Indian Bottle masala. Long rows of freezers with a butchers block at the back. Next to the cash machine is the slicer. Upon which the salami is sliced down to micron measurable thickness. Great risk to limb, the slicers i.e. not the piggy who has already given up his life to be born again [ not in the Emmanuel prayer group ] but as salami and bacon and ham and pork chops and beef . So that both the minority and the majority communities are equally offended and can’t claim discrimination. Beef mince, beef steaks, diced beef. You have to know when the beef comes in. Because then you can get it fresh. With a choice of cut..
‘ Make sure you tell him to give you Under cut. And trim the fat off. ‘
So you carry your instructions faithfully to Marks, or Serpis or Judes or Joesphs. Where the size of the knife and the flair of the apron clad cutter makes you consider butchery as a career option. Its more an axe than a knife. Which can crunch down and cut thru bone . Which after its shift is over is embedded into the block with a thunk and all the satisfaction of a days work well done.
It’s a minefield with the equipment. The slicer. The knives. The mincer. The mincer which has chunks of meat going in at one end and spaghetti like mince spouting out of the other. With buttered efficiency. Which is also available at the Cold storage. Butter and margarine for when the bonus is delayed, Kraft salad dressing when Tiffany , the owners neighbour ,who flies for Air India had just returned from a flight. The supply varies between Toblerones, Kraft and Laughing Cow cheese depending on which part of the world Tiffany’s schedule had taken her. There’s Don’s Dried Bombay Ducks the brackets specify bombils. Is the Don the Don of all bombil suppliers or is it just short for Donny ? And sidings. The left over bits that remain after the fully sliced salami and ham bits are sold. All bundled together and sold for half the cost. Run it in the mixie and throw some butter in and you have a sandwich spread to compete with the best.
Come Christmas and local entrepreneurship surfaces. Marzipan and milkcream makers display their products for off the shelf buyers. New residents, these. Stray posters surface. Adorable pomerainian pups. To be given away free. To a good home. And six months later. Fluffy missing. Adorable white pomerainian. Rs. 5000 reward offered. Contact 2640 XXXX.
While in Edinburgh the distillery that has the best single malt is debated , and at the Grand Prix wheter Ferrari or Mclaren is the better team, the passion of the debate pales before the question of wheter Mark’s broilers are fresher than Judes.

Oct 26, 2010

The neighbourhood watch.

There was a meeting scheduled. To decide about the crib. A crib the community had to put together.They had to come up with a prize winning idea. They'd won the prize three years in a row. The first year the theme was " World peace " . A PLO type Joesph accompanied by a Mary draped in the Israeli flag ( who some illiterates mistook for Mother Teresa) accompanied by three kings who found their roots in China,Africa and Barbie's Ken had swung it for them. The next year's theme was "Love". So with baby Jesus L-ovingly O-ffers V-victory E- very time they'd swept to victory. Last years theme of Family had been easy. They had a live crib when the judges came around. And if the shepherd ( Jo-Boy) had held onto Duke the Labrador pretending to be a sheep's collar tighter then they might even have stood first at the all Bombay level. 
The theme for this year ? "Forgiveness" . Myrtle who had come up with the Love idea wanted F-aith O- overcomes R - ogues, R-obbers R-ussians ? No it wouldn't work. Clara suggested having the crib in a confessional. Jo-boy thought that a cut out of Kasab as one of the angels would make a statement. 
"Myrtle chill .we're only discussing ideas. No it does' nt mean your idea wasn't good enough. Why aren't we using it then ? Aa.. Well..... You see....... Let'stake a cold drink break. "
" Clara I don't think we'll be able to borrow a confessional from the church. Christmas time is when they use them the most. Ok you get the confessional then."
It was the night before Christmas and the crib was ready. Kasab outside the confessional with the baby Jesus and his entourage within. With a banner that went from F to S hung above. But that was a long time ago . R -emember ? One of these days Myrtle Jo-Boy and Clara will be speaking to each other again.     

Oct 25, 2010

Should I ?

He wanted to ask her to the Christmas dance But first he’d have to make sure he got the tickets. If he got the tickets and she said no? Would he use the tickets anyways ? Tickets worth their weight in gold frankincense and myrrh, without her ? Would her father allow her to go ? Would he have enough money for the cab ride from her place to the gym and back ? Money for the favours ? Without which they didn’t allow you onto the dance floor for the special dance.
How much did he have to budget for dinner ? And bar coupons and glass deposits ? Would JoBoy and Cousin Clara be there ? Would they tell his folks if he bought himself a beer ? Pint. Only a pint. Should he go with the rest of the gang or just the two of them ? Would the suit fit or would it be short at the ankles ? Would Bob tailors be able to lengthen the trousers in a matching material if it was short. Was she a member at the Gym or did he have to budget a guest fee in ? He hoped he wouldn’t step on her toes. And that he would’nt cut himself shaving on Christmas day. Would his Dad let him use some of his Old Spice ?
Would she slow dance with him ?
God it’s still only October.

Oct 20, 2010

66-000-666 Home Delivery.

Everything comes to he who waits. Especially in Bandra. Where we have everything delivered home. Groceries and liquor. Fish and newspapers, and thats not counting the newspaper the fish came wrapped in. Thums up Pepsi’s and vegetables. Ok Ok bhaji’s. You call Nandu the vegetable vendor in Pali market to deliver. Or hail the passing bhajiwallas pushcart . Whose owner tries to sell you four different kinds of vegetable when all you wanted was tomatoes. For the lunch salad. Burgers from Andoras, Candies or even McDonalds. Coconuts delivered by a man on a cycle. Whom you can commission to give you a coconut every day, every other day, every Monday, or every other Monday. He’s a Keralite. He remembers.
Bread. Fresh and hot. Straight from the oven. Put into a bag you hang out on the door every night. And the tooth fairy fills it up while you sleep. She must be flying straight in from the oven to your door with the pao because thats the only way it can be delivered at the temperature it is. The paowalla makes an evening round too. He adds to his repertoire for the evening round. Patties or is it pattices, rolls, an assortment of biscuits and eggs.
The jaripuranawala. Who shows up with his weighing scales. Scales that show 1.2 kgs for every 1kg of weight as measured at the International Bureau of weights and measures. So you try and slip some Candies cake boxes [ Empty and unfolded flat ] in between the newspapers to level the playing field. Bottles, books, a toaster that doesn’t toast, a non stick frying pan that sticks . Everything has a price. The jaripuranawala uses a hand cart or a bag. The jaripuranawali uses a basket. A big round cane basket that you have to help her load onto her head after the deal is concluded.
Flowers are delivered home. By a delivery boy who is frsher than the boquet he’s carrying. Clara on the ground floor inspects the card attached. She then discovers that its your birthday / the wifes wedding anniversary . So she ‘s going to drop by around dinner time for sure. And when you say stay for dinner she’ll say “ no, no, I just came to wish you’ll “ But you , she and the Pope all know that shes going to be breaking bread with you’ll.
Dhobiwallas who come on a cycle with a bundle of BandStand dried laundry on the carrier. Who walk into the house and say ‘ Kapda Nikalo ‘. Stop right there. You exhibitionist. You look for the calendar where the tally of shirts shorts pants and nighties always leaves the dhobi making promises to find your favourite pants before his next visit. Which he does , because by then his nephews thread ceremony will be over and he does’nt need your Raymonds double knit pants anymore.
Smartly dressed young men selling mobile phones, internet connections, and Jehovas witnesses. Peddling a version of God that has you trembling at the knees. Who a guy who’s selling a gas alarm assures you you will be meeting very soon if you don’t buy his fail safe device.Something to awaken you from the deepest slumber when your Burshane gas cylinder springs a leak in the middle of the night.
Even communion. But for that you have to be sick or old . And the delivery is outsourced. To euchrastic ministers to whom you confess all of your neighbours sins. Coffins of course have to delivered home so that Uncle Aldo can be removed from the camp cot and the ice be given a fresh coat of salt. Aiz Uncle Aldo Falea Tuka.

Oct 2, 2010

BandraBuggers.........the book

The book is out. A selection from the blog. Available at Happy book Stall on Hill Road, Cafe Goa , Soul Fry . Serpis Cold Storage ( opp. St.Andrew's Church and at the newspaper vendor opposite The Lemon Grass Cafe ( old Pot Pourri ). Rs. 100/-. So don't endanger your laptop when you're on [the] pot and Aunty Mildred is still computer phobic anyways.

Jun 23, 2010

McBhel

You can climb Mount Everest and achieve immortality. Or be President of the country or discover the cure to cancer. Or run a bhelpuri stall. Just of Hill road on the road leading to the Pork market. The cart is wheeled into place every evening. Blue wheels, stainless steel counters and glass cabinets. In which lie daily replenished mountains of sev and ghatias and puris and kurmuri. The dry ingredients that go into bhel. The handle bar mustachioed owner with his silver ear ring exchanges the days news with the now vacating fruit wallah. The culvert on the side is dusted off . The first in are the school children. With grubby coins and currency notes whose DNA has been joined forever to chewing gum in school uniform pockets. Sukha bhel. With six puris. One for each of the shareholders in the bhel buying enterprise. Which Mummy had expressly forbidden in the monsoon. Unless you want to die of jaundice or cholera or typhoid or luke something .
“ And don’t think I’m going to look after you if you fall sick ! “
The six shareholders have a split vote. Wheter the bhel should be meetha or tikka. With the wisdom of Solomon Mr. Bhelwalla informs them that he can do meeta tikka . And knowing the catholic palate of his target audience the meeta far out weighs the tikka. The puri of share holder No.2 has broken. His own fault. Because when it was his turn for a scoop he tried to push too far down. He knew that you can’t really balance six inches of bhel vertically on a 1.5” diameter puri, but his puri died trying. Mr. Bhelwalla aaka know as Bhaiya or more correctly as Arre Bhaiya out of the largesse of his heart hands him another. Shareholder No.6 wants water. Which comes to him in a rolled up sheet of paper. You have to drink it before the paper gets soggy. The scooping puris remain with the bhel having run out halfway thru the second round.
“ I told you only four people should share”
Promoters quota?
The puris are munched on, on the walk home. Where a planned feigned apettite for bread pudding becomes real.
You have to buy new rain shoes. At Batas.
‘ No football today. Change out of your uniform and be ready at 5.”
“ OK Mummy “
The route goes within hailing distance of the Bhelwalla. Pavlovionally, he salivates.
They get the shoes. Slightly oversized.
“Then they’ll fit you next year also.”
Back the way the came. With old Bata chapplas in a new shoe box and new shoes being put into every puddle to test for sea worthiness. Discreetly.
“ Do you want bhelpuri ?”
“ What? “
Is the Pope a German Catholic ? Is Bal Thackeray Maharahtrian? Is Sonia Gandhi Indian or Italian ? Stop at the first two.
“ Don’t tell your brother and sister that we had bhel, And definitely don’t tell Daddy . He’ll want to know where’s his share and it’s bad for his cholesterol”
Bhelpuri Bahiya and Mummy have a familiarity that makes you think that he too is a member of the Ladies Sodality.
“ Arre Baba vapaas”
Mummy “ Vapaas?”
“ Jo- boy wanted to have bhel so I came with him. But I didn’t have .“
Mummy “ Bhaiya ek meeta bhel aur dho puri. “

Jun 15, 2010

Shades of Grey !

Uncle Aldo died. So every relation from wife to fourth cousin was in black. Or white. The men and the women. Clara wanted to be a big girl. So she wore black too. It was easier. Stains didn’t show up as easily. It made being found out at hide and seek more difficult. The men all had a little black patch on their button. And so it went . After Uncle Aldo it was Phillip his brother. They couldn't use the family grave for him. It took two years to go back to dust. Claras had the red dress. On a hangar.
She’d change at her friends house. On her way to the party. With the black dress laid out and ready for the journey back home. Sometimes the white. Daddy died. Even in his coffin with his best suit on him the black patch peeped thru.
The picture for her passport was rejected. Because they required it to be in colour.
“ But it is. “
“It is ?”
“Yes , it’s just that the dress was grey .”
“OK”
“Red ? You want a red bouquet ? “
“Yes.”
“But lavender or lemon or peach or sky blue . They’ll look prettier. “
“ Red bouquet or the weddings off “
So she walked down the aisle with her white wedding dress and her white wedding shoes and the blood red roses in her hand.

Jun 12, 2010

Inuits have fourteen words for white !

Bathrooms were always white. With white commodes and white basins. Johnson white. Showers could only be had cold. The geyser ? No, it was’nt connected to the shower. So if you wanted a hotwater bath it was with a bucket. Into which you first let the hot water dribble. The slower the dribble the hotter the water. You had to first open the tap. Then switch the geyser on. With dry hands. Other wise you stood a chance of increasing the electricity bill, to say nothing of the funeral expenses. The red bulb that shared the small piece of marble with the switch and the little steel container lit up. You then tried to find the sweet point. That flow of water which gave you a bucket full of water hot enough. But not so hot that you needed to add some cold water to the bucket for your bath. To slow a flow of water and all that came out of the little boiler that could was steam. Which was fun because you could then write on the mirror.
The magic was in getting all the planets to align. The flow of water hot enough, the rate of removal of water from the filling bucket, the soaping and the rinsing, and the final lift of bucket off the floor to pour that last inch of water that the mug could’nt retrieve. Only to find that there was still some soap behind your left ear. Ok cold water from the basin would do for that.
There was soap on a rope. Fishy in shape . Scales and everything that would hand from a rope that would hang from a wall that would be furtherest away from the geyser. The basin had it’s magnetic soap. Which was a bar with a magnet attached to the underside. And when you opened a new bar of soap you were allowed to open a bottle of coco cola for the billa. The billa was the cap which was metal , which you then pressed into the soap which allowed the magnet to hold onto it. You don’t get magnet soap holders anymore because you billas today are aluminum and coke bottles are mostly plastic.
In the middle of the floor was another slab of marble. Spoiling the symmetry of the Johnson tiles and their always requiring cleaning joints. Which was what old toothbrushes were used for. The marble was for the clothes. The clothes the bai washed and then beat the living daylights out of until they gave her all the dirt.
The overused window ledge held everything. From Readers digest’s [ there is no better toilet reading ! ] to tooth brushes, tooth paste, dentures, glasses, wedding rings [ until discovered gratefully in the panic of loss] scapulars, [ until discovered and forced back around our necks ] TP, washing powder, the clothes brush, and Tolstoys War and Peace. Gotcha !
One bathroom and five people meant that the condensed book section at the end of the Readers Digest would have to wait. Which you would remember about late at night. Only to find the last few pages missing. It must have been the butler who did it ?
Which explained itself the next morning when you saw toilet paper on the shopping list.

Apr 15, 2010

Musings of a Bombayite who grew up on Hill Road...

by Floyd Cardoz


Last December I returned to Bombay after a few years. These are musings of a Bombayite who grew up on Hill Road

As arrived at the airport, I wondered what happened to the smell of piss that always hit you when you get off the plane. What happened to the 2 havaldars with the bad attitude that made you wait in the long immigration lines? I remember the old Sahar airport was a dump.
In the day, you got out of the airport and got hit with the heat, got into a cab( either an Ambassador or a Premier Padmini) which did not have AC and you sweated it out, you struggled thru the traffic on the old Western express highway, if you could call it that. You drove by Centaur hotel, you crossed thru Bandra east to Ghodbunder road, to SV Road to the reclamation, which was empty but for a few stray dogs. You passed the old bungalows on John the Baptist Road and went on to a narrow Hill Road. There was room to drive and room to cross and may be even room to play cricket.
In the old days You could walk down to Hill Road safely, pass Virendra, pass the Nigli’s home and the Arsiwalla’s home, pass Bashiruddin tailors (who sold kites) pass Cheap Jacks ( who weren’t so cheap) safely on Hill Road . You passed Elco Arcade and you could still walk on Hill Road. Yes; it was constantly being dug up somewhere but you could walk. When you wanted to cross cars slowed down. Occasionally you would see a taxi or a 221, 215 or 211 bus ( there were few rick shaws). Driving rules were followed. If you needed transportation you went to Mehboob Studio or Yacht restaurant or St Stanislaus for a taxi. You always road your Speedking or Atlas down Hill Road
If you wanted good restaurant you would go to south Bombay. Every one went to South Bombay, and nobody from south Bombay would ever be seen in Bandra. That was for us mac’s.
Bandra was beautiful and quite with a few people and fewer large buildings. A small Bandra Gym.
You went out to the Malad only because you wanted to go to a relatively un-inhabited Madh or Gorai. There were very few people along the way. And you would think why anyone would live in Malad it is so far away.

It is a different Bombay in more ways than I remember.
First they changed the name to Mumbai
They’ve built this modern airport and changed the name to Chatrapati Shivaji International airport. Quite swanky
Now there is fresh air when you get off the plane, a clean immigration hall and more than 10 immigration officers. You pass thru quickly. You come out of the airport and you feel you are at Churchgate at rush hour. Your car is air-conditioned and in good shape and have names like lndica and Indigo. You get on these new fly over’s which whiz you to Bandra over Godbunder road to the Reclamation. Where did all these buildings come from? And the new sea link, how often did we hear the rumors of the highway over the sea that was coming?
And the traffic and you think don’t people ever sleep in Mumbai, its past 12 am?

Then the next day you make the mistake of walking down Hill Road, all wide now and nice and curvy. You think it must be a pleasure. Try being a foreign return and crossing the road. I waited 20 minutes and gave up. Where did all these people come from? Do these cab drivers and rickshaw drivers ever keep to their side of the road? People cross in front of cars, walk on the road without going on the pavements and don’t even bother about the cars. They try to stop busses and cars with their hands like the cops of old. And no one ever hits them! Every body drives inches from each other and you think don’t they ever bang each other? Why aren’t the cars dented?
Down Hill Road nobody rides their cycles anymore, do people still own cycles in Bandra?
And the old homes are gone and new shiny buildings have taken their place.

If you want a cab you call Meru, that is really nice all AC’d and comfy. How easy! No begging to take you to Chembur or Colaba or Mahim!

And there are many nice restaurants in Bandra and people from South Bombay come to eat. And you can pick up the phone and order food from Chatriwallas ,Candies and Andora.

Bandra is still beautiful in some parts. The Bandra Gym is not so small anymore and whatever happened to Demonte Park, it actually looks like a park now. Thank God A1 Bakery is still the same.

And then you have to go to Malad, and you wonder what happened. It has so many buildings and people and traffic, a brand new mall. Malad is not the Boondocks anymore. And you still wonder why anyone would live in Malad; it is still so far away.

But the thing that gets you is the crowds and cars and traffic.

And then you meet your friends from Bandra, and you think that the only thing that has not changed is the lovely people from Bandra. Thank God for that. It makes coming home even more special.

Maybe even Arizona...

On the road again. Three weeks ago . And there was me and Aalia and Aalia's sister, Mahia. Picked up sleeping bags tent stove and bucket. Then headed on to Bijapur via Pune. Big Sunday morning breakfast in Pune at the Coffe house near Dorabjees. Accompanied by every Sunday paper the paperwallah outside was selling. Theres no coffee ,like filter coffee theres no coffee I know. On past the vineyards and sugarcane farms that have come up around Pune. Past garden hotels with their private cabanas. Past tractors with trailors 10 feet wide with the protruding load of sugarcane adding another 10 feet on each side. Overtaking? Only if you want to die drinking ghana juice. A stop for a lunch of Kohlapuri chicken. With extra strong Khajurao beer on the side. It was the only one available. Which even diluted with sprite was formidable for it's alcoholic content. Sitting on khatiyas and munching on masla papads while the chicken was caught, killed, defeathered, cooked served and eaten. On to Sholapur. With a sudden detour thrown in that said " Shortcut to BIjapur." Which meandered us thru Pandharpur. That mythical place that people from all over Maharashtra converge on periodically. We were looking to top up on gas once we hit the main town. Which like early sexual experiences was over as soon as it began. The tractors with their sugarcane kept our speed in the first quarter of the speedometer. Until we passed the sugar crushing plant. After which we had to contend with the tractors and their trailors coming at us head on. Tea stop. With the evening sun on our faces. Nothing between us and the horizon. A stray goat dropping by to see who had come to visit. The tractors getting fewer as the end of the crushing shift came closer. We have four pages of Google maps for the Mumbai to Bijapur route. Now rendered null and void by the "shortcut to Bijapur" sign. The kids are practsing the fine art of negotiation. One song from Camp Rock for them one Gordon Lightfoot for me. One Jonas brothers trades for Elton Johns Yellow brick road.
The sun sets. Leaving us alone in the world. In this little space which could well be a interstellar vehicle on its way to Mars. A code has evolved. TarMac for the good roads, MacTar for those that are not so good and CamRat for those that God and the Highway department has forgotten about. Dinner. Before the kids fall asleep. We have a choice. Panner mutter, Biryani, Paneer Makhanvalla or noodles. It's like magic. All it takes is boiling water. For any of them. And we have our gourmet noodles ready to eat. With their yellow fold open cutlery that comes as part of the package. The villager who has to turn off onto our dirt track to get home, rides his cycle into a ditch. He turned around to see what a stove was doing with camp chairs and a Bisleri bottle where only this morning was dirt track ,dirt track and dirt track. He gets his torch and climbs back onto his cycle leaving us to the stars and the eerie howl of a dog that we imaginatively think might be wolf or jackal .
Coffee from a sachet that comes premixed with sugar and cream. Almost as good as this mornings filter coffee. And we’re on the road again. In our Sorpio pretending to be spaceship headed for Bijapur.. Rot in hell Jonas brothers and Demi Lovato .The music system is mine. The kids are asleep. The road belongs to the truckers though. With their high beam headlights and more coloured lighting than Las Vegas. With glo tape slogans that proclaim “ India is Gret “ or India Is Greta” and even “ India is Greet”. Ma tuhje salaam. All the left over glo tape, the odds bits and corners that remain after HornOKPlease has been cut out is plastered onto the transmission or the axle.
I stop to check where we are. Yes I have GPS on my phone. Do I need to know ? No. Then why.. Because they I can. The milestones tell me I’m on the right road.
It’s 2.00 am in the morning when we drive into Bijapur. It’s a big town. They’ve got a Lions club and a Rotary Club both of whom warmly welcome us. Should I pitch the tent ? Too much effort. I find the one person awake in all of Bijapur. A policeman on his way home. He gives me directions to a Hotel at the foot of the Gol Gumbaz. Ten minutes later we’re checked in and asleep.
Aalia and Mahia are up early. Watching TV. Silent animated characters jumping across a snowy screen. The volume turned down so that I can sleep longer. They respect the additional responsibility I have as driver. We’re a TV’less home in Mumbai so even silent cartoons are better than no cartoons at all.
Dosa’s and upma before we set off to tell the Adil Shahi dynasty that we’re here.

Mar 23, 2010

On the Street where you live.

Wherever you live, you dream. You dream that one day you will live in Goa. Where the skies are bluer and the sand more golden. Where the feni is.. feni. Colin did that. Born in Kalina. Lived in Bombay all his life till four years ago. Made a living doing what he loves. Which is play guitar. Stuck to playing guitar while everyone and their dog told him he should get a regular job. Played with bands, with choirs, in hotels auditoriums and churches. He does the samething now. But in Goa. In his home set in the fields of Sangolda. Right at the Lightning Club if you’re coming from Porvorim, left at the Lighting Club if you come in from Calangute. On any given Monday or Tuesday right thru to Sunday he’s at a gig. Where he does the whole nine yards. From playing wedding songs to which only the eighty pluses in the audience know the words to, to music that rave DJd a nomencalature for. In his home strewn with guitars he makes music. He runs JazzGoa. He records local artists and sends them out into the world thru the internet. He does it for free. He matches up music impresario X with musician Y. Musicians from all over the world come to Goa. He Beatles and Peter Framton and The Who. Who? Go suck on your dudu bottle. Musicians find their way to Colin. Even though he’s hidden behind a guitar almost as big as himself.
He uses a fretless bass guitar. Whats that ? The equivalent of finding needles in a haystack on a superlong fretboard and then arranging them in height order to give you bass lines that stay in your head long after the bands gone home. He’s in august company. Legendary company. Lester Godinho, Yvonne Gonsalves, Darryl and Sharon Rodrigues. Yes Lester who called Leslie Godinho dad. And Yvette who called Chic Chocolate Dad. And Sharon who calls Braz Gonsalves Dad and Yvonne Mom. Genes that made music strumming umbilical cords. And havent stopped since.

Jan 7, 2010

Pretty maids all in a row.

Baba is running out of control once again. She runs behind him . Re setting shop displays that have tumbled in his path. She can't keep up. A second to do what takes a million to redo. She can’t chastise him. The memsaab has said no shouting at him. Definitely no hitting him. He hits her.
“ arre he’s so small how hard can he hit you”. The other customers glare at her. She’s supposed to keep the brat under control. Something his own parents can’t do. Not that they’re trying, with cell phones in hand, beauty parlour appointments to keep, kitty parties to attend.
At the restaurant they order for her. While she sits at a tale with the other maids. And the children. At least here she does’nt have to do the dishes at the end of a long day. Baba is winding down. He wants to be carried. 26 kgs. In the car later she’s asked how she liked it. Very nice, very nice. Very nice that they ordered the cheapest dish on the menu for her. Very nice that she sat at a table where she had to ask three times for a glass of water.
Did she mind sacrificing her Sunday afternoon off. Baba had to be taken for his cousins birthday tea party ?
Did she mind not having her friends visit her in the building?
”But they meet me down stairs Madam.”
“Yes but the committee says they don’t want strangers coming in and out.”
Did she mind staying up late Saab was going to be late today and you know how he likes his parathas hot.
There was a scene at the club because they now charged even domestics the guest fee.
“How can you ? It’s like they’re not even there.”
“Sorry Madam secretary’s orders.”
A thousand square feet of living space. All she gets is space for her trunk. Tin. With a mirror on the inside of the lid. So that the mirrors in the house don’t wear out if she uses them?
“ Madam I’ll be leaving in three days.”
“For how long ?”

“For how long I said.”
“ Madam my father has a cataract and needs me in the village.”
Later the saab comes home.
“ I told you, you were spoiling her. The more you do for them the more they sit on your head. Ungrateful wretches.”

Jan 4, 2010

Dear John,

Many thanks for your Christmas letter. Its great to know that all of you are in good health. Susan doing ballet. Wow. At 7 years she’s already had her first performance. I now feel a bonding with her. Because every morning I’m doing pirouettes in and out of local trains while holding onto the barre. The next time you’ll are here I’m going to take her on a quality time train ride with me. The house is looking great. The oak tree in the foreground just looks more majestic with each years picture. Wish I could say the same about our gulmohur. Yeah the same one we used to climb on for our games of Jack and the monkey. It fell. Adding insult to injury we had to pay the BMC to take it away.
You guys have really been travelling. Machu Pichu. Orlando. We now have a theme park here too. At Gorai. Remember the ferry crossing at Marve? The tonga rides to Manori. Esselworld. People who have seen Disney world and Esselworld have told us it’s almost as good. A bit smaller though.
You going to China on work.Wow ! I was selected to go to Sri Lanka for the company sales rep conference too. But at the last minute it was called off. Cost cutting they said. Hopefully next year my sales will be good too. They’ve promised us a conference in Bangkok.
How do you find the time ? With Sue and Randy and all their homework and classes. It’s great to know that Randy is now playing baseball for a team. I remember his cricket game when he came down last year. And how insulted he was when the kids started calling him No Ball Randy. I hope John has thought him what a no ball is. The time ? Yes the time do have book readings and attend wine tastings. If they had free wine tastings here the crowd would be bigger than St. Michael’s on a Wednesday.And you say hardly anybody comes ?
This years Divali holidays we were in Lonavla. St. Stanislaus villa. Mass every morning. Their sooji and puri bhaji is not as good as it used to be. The cook is now some UP guy. I wish the old cook had shown him how to make a decent cup of coffee before he died. We now have Barista here. Indian Starbucks. Thirty bucks for chai. Yes Thirty bucks. Even the Sea Rock coffee shop never used to charge that much. Someone told me that a cup of coffee at Starbucks costs twelve dollars. 12X 50. Geez. That’s 600 bucks. For coffee. For that kind of money you could get a share in a coffee planation in Mangalore. A small share. Ok .A very small share. If you are paying Rs. 600 for a cup of coffee please don’t tell your Mum. I met her in the bazaar last week and she was complaining how she’d just paid Rs100 for five bangdas. Your coffee price might send her straight to the Holy Family ICCU. Yes ICCU. First they only had an ICU. Now ICCU. So many heart attacks here.
You ended your letter with have a good one. I too started using that in my emails here. But some of these illiterates wrote back asking “have a good what?”. No class. But you Sue Randy and John have a good one. 2010 i.e.
Love,
YYY