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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.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the cycle of times. When I go to New York I think it has changed too. But for that, another article at some other time.
Cheers

tbandra said...

....very nostalgic. TR upstate NY

Rahul Vidwans said...

I never experienced calm mumbai ever. When I stepped in Mumbai, it was already 'Mumbai' n not Bombay. But inspite of not experiencing what you are talking about, I can relate myself to what you had written between the lines. N its amazing.

P.S. the excel sheet trick u seggested the other day, did work. M can still read your blog from office! ;)

mentalie said...

yes, mumbai is very different from bombay. perhaps the only nice part about the change is the lack of bodily odours until you get past immigration. welcome back. :)

Anonymous said...

Very very nostalgic buddy.... having studied in SJC in the 80's i can very well relate to this article. Walking to school daily from bazaar road onto hill road was such an easy thing, but today kids need autos and other means to travel the same route. its so crowded.

David said...

As an old (young) Rebello House lad this one really hit home. Bashruddin brings back memories, glass on the manja. Though I got hit by a cab as a 6yr old in 1972 and only the Divine knows how I survived the non-anaesthesized operations in Cooper hospital (so much for govt. run health care). The best fun was Gutli's (we used to make sandwiches filled with chips) from Hearsh/A-I bakery and of course hot dogs (which were really mince) from MacRonells. Lusitania round the corner, ,and Michael (RIP) with the memorable legs. Wheelies along Bandstand near Virendra, and actually fishing off the rocks at Bandstand avoiding the nightsoil. Hanging out with the gravedigger at Seaside cemetary...what a mix of intoxicants. recall them week sitting in a studio here in Pacific Heights, San Francisco yuppies walking by this spring day with lattes in their hands (5 coffee shops with 2 square blocks)...miss the chai at Budhwar Peth though (but that would be a tale from another city)

Christine said...

Everytime I come home to Bandra,St Joseph's Cottage at 20 Mount Carmel Road, I have tears in my eyes despite living in Africa for the past 30 years. It has become swanky and modern and improves even more every couple of months but the people are still the same - warm, loving, friendly and above all - caring! It is so worthwhile coming home every six months.
Christine

Nigel said...

How true, time does that. But we still get gutlis (so I need to try that with chips) and as for hot dogs (which are really mince) someone called them sloppy rolls, you get them at candies, just like the original. The demonte park has become the salcette club with a swimming pool

ANIL said...

thanks Floyd Cardoz & all bandra luvers - living out - the most i miss is the rains - the floods - when the schools & offices would close & all the kolis would bring out the boats on the flooded roads - never experienced that anywhere i have lived - the boats were free for all & so was the booze - the rum or scotch or the beer was - for all - just like having a big family party on the high seas - i luvs & miss my bandra - whether it is hill road or carter road or the bandra fair - or of late the i luv bandra fests - & of course, not any more, the shy, coy SANDRAS FROM BANDRA - cheers to all the bandraites all over the world.

Dean said...

I wonder if the old country bars are still there? Frankies and Raja Bar with flavours of booze that the scots can only dream of.

And whatever happened to circulating libraries?

Floyd reminds me that we were fortunate to have grown up then in Bandra.

Right now, I would kill for a gootli, and i'm afraid to mention that I love bheja fry and kapuras. And how the hell do you explain to someone what a bombay duck is?

Thanks for the memories Floyd, and all the good times I had at the Cardoz's. (Whatever happened to those crazy haircuts?)

Dean

MdShafiqM said...

Your blogs refresh our memories: It's been great to be an Andrean and a Bandrian !

~crazymms~ said...

Malad - Boondock ?!

*sulks @ bandraite*



(i m frm Malad, btw) :P

Anonymous said...

I miss bandra! I heard you have a book out too - my brother leaves for India for Christmas - need 10 copies where can I get them??