Tag Archives: bandra

wonder in house-searching in bandra

I talked to Ashutosh on the phone the evening before I came to see the room.

Well, the thing is that I already have two people who are interested in the room, but they don’t like cats. Do you have any problem with cats?” he asked. I assured him I liked cats, that I’d come in the morning to see the place.

I arrived at 9AM the next day at the century-old colonial bungalow near Rizvi college. Ashutosh had already phoned before I left the house:

How long will you take to reach? Shall I put the tea on?”

He greeted me with a namaskaar as I slipped my shoes off, stepping over the threshold inside.

The thing is,” Ashutosh said, “I have actually just gotten four new roomates. They’ve just come yesterday.”

Confused, I didn’t say anything, but followed him into the front room.

You can meet them if you’d like.” He smiled, and pulled open a cupboard door.

Inside were four beautiful new kittens, nestled peacefully in a row against their mother’s body. She was beautiful, much more apparently serene than a human is when they have given birth only 12 hours earlier. The group of them were collapsed together on top of a grey towel.

The little ones’ stomachs were wet and sticky from being born. Mummy had bitten off the cords. Their eyes were closed.

She had been whining so much when she was about to give birth… I think she was insisting that I leave,” Ashutosh laughed softly. “She didn’t like the male energy. I invited my neighbour to act as her midwife.”

Only hours old, the baby cats already wore beautiful patterns in their fur. They meowed as mice would speak, in high voices, and struggled around blindly.

The details of them were already beginning to be clear: their whiskers were brown with white tips, noses soft and damp, their tails ended in points. They were precious and helpless and already loved.


on hold

I left Aunty’s bandstand apartment before noon on september 30th, had stayed up late the night before, folding and packing things. Alone as I generally am when I am moving in or out of any place. I felt angrier and angrier with allowing her to take advantage of me with her demands for money. She is crazy, and it is not her fault, but I could have left earlier, should have, but didn’t.

Leaving the house the next morning, I almost started to cry. Even if something isn’t the best for you, if it’s something you’re used to, you’ll miss it until you have something else.

Then I straightened my back and threw my pieces of luggage into the rickshaw while the men of my building watched me and didn’t offer to help. And whistled past bandstand where I lived for the whole while.

In Canada there is a different kind of beauty. Where in Mumbai, the edges of air are muddled, in Canada they are sharp, crisp, clean. Thrashing my limbs in a hospital bed, I had noticed the quietness around me. I couldn’t hear anything, even if I strained and fought to hear something, there was no sound. And outside the window, there were only a few people. You’d think there would be more people in such a beautiful place.

On the bus downtown, a boy dressed like Justin Bieber ate a piece of sprouted bread toast while he read one of the free newspapers. Every girl walking on Granville strip was dressed to the nines, but was frowning into her phone or ipod or both.

I remember spending time with women in Dharavi, loving them because they don’t have such complicated, wrecked, messy minds. They are simple and clean and beautiful. Their problems are more and their worries are fewer.

I had no phone or ipod to distract me, and shone out the window at the people in the streets.

I left India on a friday morning, sick as a dog. Mary Ellen came to Hayley’s Juhu apartment where I was sleeping, pushed me the bathroom where I took a sitting down shower. She packed my bags and fed me while I was lying down. Then Viren showed up, and practically carried me downstairs with all of my bags. He dropped me off at the international airport and then I was on my own, to take two flights and carry typhoid across two borders before arriving home, delirious with a fever of one hundred and five.

Your hair is falling out so much,” remarks my little sister. I shrug and pull my fingers through my hair, taking along a few strands.

On the plane, I remembered sleeping beauty in Bandra. How sleepy Carter Road is in the morning, before it wakes up. Many of the people you can see in the day there are also there in the night. Collapsed. Finished, and resting, for as long as their economic situation allows them.

In Vancouver, I sat in a cafe where it looked like every couple was meeting for the first time. On blind dates, organized through the internet, so they already had lots of background information about one another. In one sense, each knows what to expect, and in another sense, each is misled about the other by thinking that they know something about them in advance. Having only lived in the era in which I do, I wondered about the time where you could not know anything about a person before personally meeting them.

I checked into VGH on my second day home. I had not planned to have typhoid fever or stay in the hospital for eight days, but what could I do? I slept for four days while taking two liters of salt water per day into my body through IV, as well as antibiotics.

At the Indian Consulate downtown, the very same sardarji doorman welcomed me.

”Aapko yaad hoga, mere bare me, na?’ I joked with him. You remember me, right? There were only two other foreigners in the Punjabi-filled office, and they were definitely of the tourist variety.

‘Aray haanji, haanji!’ Of course! he spoke with me in Punjabi-tinged Hindi which I could only just understand, and the rest of the waiting room was curious. Naturally there were some complications with my request for a visa.

So I wandered through downtown like a lost dog. I realised again, but for the first time in many months, that I will always be a foreigner in India, and will always require permission from a higher authority before I can spend time there.

In theory, moving every few months is a great idea: how much exposure, how many experiences, how much knowledge gained from having to figure everything out for yourself in a new place, every time. But what if you are emotional? If you need people to love and to love you wherever you go? Who can those people be, how quickly can all of that be set up and be real?

My lips and hands are dry. My legs, the very same that have jumped so high on the trampoline, that have pushed me to so many heights, that have carried me to every place, feel flaccid and finished.

The late afternoon sun filters through the big windows in my parents’ enormous new home and falls on me. My arm hair stands up, my feet are cold, my body has forgotten how to behave.

Downtown, chic office people roam around with lattes in their hands, talking together. The homeless or crazy or addicted, or all three, sit on heating vents and wait for something to happen that will make a change in their lives. Maybe some loose change.

Robson street and granville strip are evolving. Little restaurants are being beaten down to make space for big chain restaurants, or Japadog.

My current on hold, waiting state is not conducive to doing anything: to writing, to deep thinking, to working, to relaxing. It’s only fit for being anxious. So I am anxious all day and don’t do so much.

Still, here the street is clean and people walk everywhere. And everyone does what they like. If you want to wear these clothes, you can. If you want to kiss someone of the same sex publicly, why not. If you want to chat with others, that can be a little tricky, because people would rather keep to their own business. If, like most everyone, you want to keep to yourself, that is the best, you are most welcome.

The sun was not warm, but it shone in my eyes and I welcomed it. I loved it as much as it loved me, and that was enough.

Bombay is not India

Every day in Bombay, one is provided with a few opportunities to forget where they are. This is because though Bombay is defined as being an Indian city, situated in the state of Maharashtra, on India’s west coast, bordering the Arabian sea… it is actually its own place.

A Delhi-ite argued with a cell phone salesman over the Reliance rates, saying they were lower in the north.

Delhi is Delhi,” the shopkeeper proclaimed in famous Bombaiyya Hindi, throwing one of his many mobile phones under the dirty glass counter. He made a kissing sound that someone in Canada would make to call a cat or dog, then touched his fingers to his forehead and waved his hand dismissively.

We are in Bombay.”

In Bombay, everyone forgets where they are. In many ways, this could be in any cosmopolitan city in the world.

Young women in Bandra are dressed in dark jeans, black tops and sandals. They toss their black hair over their shoulders, gloss their lips and carry lattes in takeout cups. We could be in Rome.

In Lower Parel, teenagers from wealthy families enjoy pool parties in fancy hotels. They smoke cigarettes and dance like music video stars. We could be in Los Angeles.

At Marine Drive, couples of all ages sit along the edge of the ocean, talking about life and kissing. We could be in Vancouver.

So why have I come to Bombay? I wonder. To sip cappucino in a cafe with wifi, or dance at a nightclub playing western commercial music?

Thank goodness though, that even in Bombay, India cannot be avoided.

Thank goodness that when young Mumbaikars leave those western nightclubs in the wee hours of the morning, they can go and eat their favourite pav bhaji at a snack stall. Lone dogs and lone humans roam the streets, enjoying the cool air.

Thank goodness that when I leave the quiet oasis of the wifi cafe, I find myself stuck in the traffic created by Ganpati festival.

(Just when you thought the chaos of Ramzan and its night activities was over… Ganpati has now begun)

A Ganesh idol the size of a real elephant is being carried through the street, and several hundred people, as well as many animals and trapped vehicles fill the space. A brass band in uniform plays celebratory music at top volume. A few of Mumbai’s Punjabis dance to the dhol, throwing their arms in the air and grinning. I remark that the youngest kids have the most vulgar dance moves, thrusting their hips like wild animals. In my rickshaw, unable to go anywhere, it’s all I can do to shake my shoulders and dance a little. I may not be in India, but at least I’m in Bombay.

beauty in Bandstand

In Bandstand, home to billionaires Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan as well as their Dalit service people, no-one is too rich or poor to be unaffected by the beauty of the ocean.

At the sea’s edge, beggar kids scream and laugh and play out their dramas: more cinematic, epic versions of their real lives. They walk a distance that would tire me out once twenty times in a day, and still find something within themselves to dance at the pumping music from other peoples’ cars.

Those with the luxury of time to spend on their health, like me, do. Pairs of men and women trot up and down, chatting together. Women in Punjabi suits or western sportswear, men in casual shorts and sports socks pulled up to their knees. Both in runners, walking.

Scrap collectors have bodies that are so used that they’re almost used up. They have nowhere really that they’re allowed or supposed to be, or not. Ragpicking men and women have no boss, and so in a way are richer than Shah Rukh Khan, at least making their own schedules and answering to no-one.

With no place though, they gather at the edges of things: streets, dhabas, parks. Like snails, making homes out of anything. Thin bodies sleeping thick sleep, on their stomachs, on cardboard sheets, on the side of the road.

Along the walkway’s railing, every ten feet or so, there is a couple sitting under an umbrella. The men lean in close, whispering this or that sweet thing, wooing girls with their words and adoration. They confidently lace their fingers through the girls’ delicate hands with painted fingernails, trying. The girls blush, but don’t reveal how starry and hopeful they feel in their stomachs. The Indian girl at the flirting age is an unpredictable creature, sometimes smiling, and in the same moment, raising a threatening hand.  The guys don’t know what to do, and so continue their Devdas poetry, hoping for the best.

When it starts to rain, those older couples who are too settled and tired to bother with romance, leave. So do the young couples who aren’t as sure about one another yet. What they have is not yet worth getting wet for, and risking fever. Only those convinced they are for each other stay, heros and heroines in their own Hindi movies in their minds.

Dogs sleep on the sides of the boardwalk, dreaming unknown dreams and rolling back and forth in the dust, sometimes settling on their backs. Like beetles, dead, stunned in the sun. Chaiwalas walk up and down swinging their teapots. They call out the words ‘chai, coffee’ in voices that sound as though they’ve been run over and rubbed with gravel and broken glass. Ragged, but still cheerful.

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