Thursday, December 13, 2012

50 reasons why I love Bombay

Yes, I know they call it Mumbai these days. Or maximum city. Or Shanghai. Or whatever. I don't give a damn what they call it. When I was born there, it was called Bombay. When that kind stranger whom I now call Nani first offered me a Polo mint, it was still called Bombay, and when I was in the sleeper compartment of some non-AC train with my mother, anticipating eagerly what I knew would be the best two months of any given year, it was still called Bombay. (I remember the non-AC part because the peculiar smell emanating from the iron rods of the window grills, the food bits on the floor and behind the seats and the drink/pan stains on the window metal has never quite left my nostrils.) It was Flora Fountain that my mother took me to, and it was at VT that we had my first cola drink at, so Bombay it is for me, no disrespect to the dead.

Everybody who has spent any amount of time in Bombay has enough reasons to hate it, and I am no exception. God knows I have reasons to hate it. But by the same token, anyone who has spent any amount of time in Bombay also has enough reasons to love it. Even here, I am no exception. Here are some of mine, probably in chronological order (in the order that I encountered them in my life):

1. Nani-Nana: the best grandparents anyone can ask for, period.

2. Maru General Stores, Kandivali West: G.I.Joe and He Man action figurines. This is where I built my action figure empire from.

3. The relief/happiness/ecstasy/liberation I felt (and still do) every time my train from Surat crossed Vasai. I knew I was in for an awesome time.

4. Tomato Eggs, Puran Poli, Dahi Pakoras: Nani, I love you.

5. Nana bringing in HUGE crates of ice cream from his factory on every fourth day of my stay.

6. Unlimited color TV (My place at Surat did not have a good TV for the first 12 years of my life.)

7. Introduction to Super Mario, Tanks, Gelga, Tetris and more. Enough said.

8. Crossword. It used to have some class in those days.

9. The first real set of friends I had.

10. Card games and cheating at them.

11. The English assignments given to me by mom, and me convincing her after 2 months why I had done absolutely nothing.

12. Shopper's Stop, Andheri: in those days it had only one branch. And clothes shopping there was an annual ritual involving my nani, my mother, me, a lot of histrionics and fighting, an ice cream cone, a pop corn tub and  probably a slap or two (maybe more) on my face.

13. Watching India vs. South Africa from Pavilion, Wankhede, 1996. India: 267/6. SA reached something like 225.

14. Dynasty Chinese: the best Chinese restaurant I've ever been to. In your face, Mainland China.

15. Long walks on marine drive and Juhu beach with mom (and if I was lucky, dad)

16. Taraporewala Aquarium: It was in excellent condition back then.

17.Standing on the Queen's Necklace at sunset with parents, hands heavy with Crossword/Strand/Bombay Store shopping, and watching the beautiful diamond necklace light up, while sharing a kulfi with dad.

18. Taking a ferry to the Essel World or a drive to FantasyLand.

19. Rains that could read your thoughts about you not wanting them to stop.

20. Falling asleep in auto-rickshaws while going to places as "far-away" as Andheri East or IIT.

21. Juhu. The area. Includes every single thing.

22. Hitting a boundary in under-arm cricket

23. Taking two consecutive wickets and then bowling 18 consecutive wides in the under-15 Presi Tournament.

24. The Christianity of Orlem. My first real experience with multiculturalism and boy did I love it.

25. Lokhandwala, Andheri and Alfa Store: only a true Bombayite would know what I am talking about.

26. The New Zealand Dairy in the Aarey Colony. I always wondered why New Zealand was so poor it had to sell milk in India. Or maybe it was such a small country it did not have enough space to open a dairy there.

27. Receiving my Harvard-MIT cousin or his parents at the airport. I found the international airport so charming I wanted to stay there for one whole night. (A wish I unfortunately saw fulfilled many years down the line. Brought me back to Earth, that one.)

28. Eros and Regal cinemas. I think I saw Dragonheart and Flubber there.

29. Fantasy Chocolates.

30. The seashore. I have forgotten which one. I could see an island or something from the shore, and I would try to convince everyone that it was Africa.

31. TIFR: quite possibly the most beautiful place I have been to in Bombay. The lunch was sumptuous.

32. BARC: Another amazing place, memories I wish were more than memories.

33. Bhaidas Theatre: I was never bored for a single moment there.

34. Amar Pav Bhaji, the grilled sandwich outside Mithibai.

35. Haji Ali, Haji Ali juice centre, Amar Sons, Prem Sons, the guy who sells (to this day) Kala Khatta and Watermelon Slush and grilled sandwiches there.

36. Nehru Planetarium and J J Raval: A man I respect unabashedly. The first of the many giants I have had the good fortune to meet.

37. Crawford Market (I will call it nothing other than that, call me deshdrohi colonial British swine if you want to.)

38. Holding my mother's hand and feeling an inexplicable sense of security amidst a crowd of hundreds. (This entry should have come a lot earlier.)

39. IIT and Krav Maga: Hell, yeah.

40. The pink-orange-purple sky at sunset from my hostel room, the Renaissance Hotel in the evening, and the light on the Powai Lake boulevard.

41. Hiranandani: made a lazy pig out of me.

42. Hard Rock Cafe, Lower Parel: a favorite band, a loving girlfriend, the company of close friends and a recent victory can make anyone pretty heady.

43. Jehangir Art Gallery, Samovar Cafe and the Prince of Wales Museum

44. Colaba Causeway

45. Leopold's, Piccadilly's (especially the Pita Bread with sauce/mayonnaise) and the Iranian Khana I had those unforgettable muska-buns at.

46. Siddhivinayak.

47. Falling in and out of love, learning important lessons along the way.

48. The transformation of a 23-year old boy into a 23-year old man: through death, struggle and tears.

49. Watching Naseeruddin Shah's theatre group perform George Bernard Shaw plays at Prithvi. Feeling myself to be a part of that pseudo-elite club.

50. Leaving Bombay for one final time, knowing I would never spend as much time there again as I already had, painfully aware of the gaping hole in my heart that leaving this city has made, knowing I would unsuccessfully try and fill it with other things for a long time to come.

8 comments:

  1. Bombay. Is was n will always be Bombay only our perspective changes.every single person having spent some time here feels a sense of belonging Mumbai meri jaan.....

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    1. Yes, indeed. Bombay, in spite of or perhaps because of all the chaos, noise and pollution, has something deeply mystical about it, and it is up to every person to discover it for themselves.

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  2. Replies
    1. :) pleasure. hope you find all the hidden treasures i did.

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  3. wow! sometimes i feel i myself dont know my city so much and den other times i feel i cant live anyplace else but here. evn thou recently i have cribbed a lot about d traffic n all but aftr reading ur article i fell in love wit my own mumbai n bombay once again. one thing wich attracts me to mumbai is the beachs everywhere. god alone knows how addicted i m to going to juhu n worli sea face. it has the whole mysty feeling to itself (mumbai) which gives you a dream like feeling ( the city of dreams)
    thanks H :)

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    1. the city is very beautiful, provided you have a clear idea of what your concept of beauty is. it has been my dream to just roam about the entire city for 3 whole days with nothing more than a bag-pack. sadly, hasn't happened. yet. yes, juhu and marine drive, definitely more than bandstand any day.

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  4. You went to Leopold's???... :)

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    1. Yes :) Leopold's was, has been, is and will be part of Mumbai's youth life. What was true for Shantaram is true three decades later. :)

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