Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.
Today I don’t want to talk about terror attacks. And outrage. And anger.
Instead I want to talk about Mumbai.
You see, I first came to Mumbai when it was Bombay. And I was eight months old.
My grandparents lived here and my mother had grown up here. This was her home. And for me Bombay was always summer vacations. So for two months, every year, till I was 15 and till my grandmother died, here’s what I remember of Bombay.
Lovely empty streets with grand buildings on either side. Fiat Padminis (with fans inside) that seemed so posh compared to the large ambassadors you saw in other parts of the country. The curve of the road, when you were about to reach juhu beach. My father and I catching a bus to go to Regal to watch Superman. We never got tickets, so my dad and I made the long trip, from Sion to town, again the next day.
I also remember at least one evening in those two months, when my grandmother never cooked, and instead we ate sev batata puri from the man who walked past our house at 6 pm every day. I remember the lady who came with the cow at 12 noon. For ten paisa you could feed the cow grass. I remember learning to say “kem cho?” from the Gujarati neighbours, and then progressing to “ ramu che? (wanna play?) from their kids.
I remember the film producer who lived in the last house down the lane. Because every evening at eight, all the kids in the neighbourhood would grab their seats on his living room floor. He was the only guy with a VCR, so every evening we watched a movie. Every amitabh movie, every jitendra-sridevi-jaya pradha movie, every mithun movie, I would have seen in his house.
I remember my mother and father holding hands. This was the city of their courtship. I remember the Anglo Indian kids, all five of them. Who lived with their mother in the fourth house from us. Preeti, Pravesh, Praveen, Pramodh and Prabha. I remember them talking about school socials and dances, while I watched wide eyed and madly besotted, with all five.
I remember playing dabba eye’s spy. Langdi tang, lock and key, crows and cranes, seven tiles. All on the main road in front of the houses. The bus stop that came up in front. The thrill of the double decker bus. Chocobar ice cream. Taking the night bus from my aunt’s house in Mazgoan, and passing the drive in theatre. First you smelt the creek, then you heard the distorted voices of the actors, and finally as the bus went down that long road, you saw disjointed images on a large screen.
I remember Bombay. Young, carefree. Filled with laughter, bell bottoms and endless optimism.
My memories are sepia toned. But now this city is mine. And I hope someday my kids, or your kids will remember it the same way.