March 07, 2006

Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan...

My dad-in-law sent me a nice little collection of Hindi articles that he had collected over time from newspapers - quotations, anecdotes, words of wisdom and such. I told my bro, L about it and the chat transcript that followed was something like this:

Me: Isn't it cool that he sent me all this stuff? 'Coz I like to read and all, you know?

L: Yeah cool. Looks like he is encouraging "arbit-giri" in Bahus. What you need is a fat book on cooking recipes!

Me: !@#@#$***

Anyway, L also politely commented that my blog is escapist and that I need to focus on serious issues. So, I thought about that for sometime and tried to think of (make up) some serious stuff to write and failed quite miserably. L decided to be more lenient and suggested that I pen down my first impressions about Bombay. So, I decided I'll take a bit of that good advice and write about Bombay and about my experiences as a ahem...young bride in the city! I mention below a few incidents that I found amusing, cute, funny...generally in that genre :)


I stepped out of Chatrapathi Shivaji airport...sunny, colorful, bustling Bombay, full of welcoming smiles and friendly people...

Yeah, you wish!

I stepped out of the airport and within a few seconds found myself seated in a taxi. I was still in a daze (read - totally apprehensive about the four days that I was to spend with my in-laws) and so only processed bits of information that was given to me.

You know how that is? Like a time gap, a void when you don't know what you did - time just skips and you are doing something else - your mind is totally blank about what happened those few moments.

Anyway, I looked down and saw that I could see the road through rusted bits of taxi-car material! I mean I could literally see the road - the taxi had a hole somewhere around the place where I rested my legs. I turned to k with a quizzical expression, one of many that I would wear upon my face, to question him about the intricacies of this quixotic city!

Me: "Err Kamal, this car has a hole at the bottom"
k: "Welcome to Bombay" (His idea of being a smart alec - Am-in-my-city-and-am-King style dialogue)
Me: (thinking - just wait till you visit Singara Chennai beta)

And along the way k filled me in with important titbits about the city - "Remember Andheri West is cool - that's where I live. Andheri East is not quite so cool!" And I realized I was going to be an expert on Bombay trivia pretty soon.

And that was how Bombay introduced itself to me.


The next day, we met a few of k's relatives who unanimously asked me the one question that every responsible adult needs to ask the daughter-in-law:

"Yeh Gujarathi bolti he?" (Can she speak Gujarathi?)

As a keen reader, you will of course have noticed that they referred to me in the third person. So cool, I tell you! Wheee! Am invisible and someone else gets to answer all my questions!

k would then of course act out his bit of giving an embarassingly charming smile and would answer "And this is my pretty wife".

Ah! That must be the key! Give an irrelevant answer to an irrelevant question! I must try it next time, assuming am not invisible again!

The language thing is really a big deal I tell you. During our Bombay reception, an aunty in a bright golden saree walked towards us. k leaned towards me and whispered, "Pakao aunty!" (annoying aunty).

You see the key to reception bride-groom talk is brevity. You catch sight of an uncle and aunty ambling towards the stage, you have about five seconds within which to remind your spouse what their names and their kids' names are! Because you know they are going to ask you, "Do you remember me? I saw you when you were so little..." and they would vaguely point to my high heels. I quite enjoy answering these questions...

Anyway, the only info I had about pakao aunty is that she is pakao and based on that information proceeded to answer her first question, "Can the Bahu speak Gujarathi?" - I shot back with the one sentence I learned from Kamal in Gujarathi, "I can speak Gujarathi really well!". Pakao aunty seemed a bit disappointed but anyway flashed one of her winning smiles and walked back quickly.

k's mom stood next to me watching all the Gujarathi related questions and maybe thought she should make me feel more comfortable. The next couple that came to wish us happened to be a South Indian family living next to k's apartment. As soon as they came on stage, k's mom eagerly told me, "They live next door, they are South Indians" and proceeded to anxiously ask them, "Do you speak Tamil?" It so happened they did not. They spoke Malayalam :)


And then there was the time when k had a really bright idea - "Let's show Ramya what it's like to travel in an A1 bus!" Somehow he managed to convince his parents that he should take me to Crawford market where we would buy curtains to bring back to US. I was all excited about picking the colors and patterns for the curtains. What I did not expect was that I would have travelled by foot, by auto, by car, by bus and by train to go to Crawford market and back - four hours in all!

We walked to the auto stand, caught an auto to the railway station, caught a train (Western Railway - Andheri to Churchgate) to Churchgate, then took a taxi to Crawford market and My God! If there is a place to beat Ranganathan street (Madras), it is this! Literally a sea of human faces!

Anyway, an hour later we left Crawford market and spent fifteen minutes deciding how to go home.

I hear that's a sacred Bombay tradition. To go from point A to point B in Bombay, we need to spend fifteen minutes figuring out when/how/what the best way is to reach the place. If possible, avoid the trip altogether!

After fifteen minutes, they decided the train back was not for someone as nazook (delicate) as me (!). So, we would take a taxi to the bus stand, catch the A1 bus and then catch an auto to go back home. I remember sitting in the A1 bus for what seemed an eternity.

And that was my first experience of travel in Bombay!


The next major issue that we all dwelled in for the major part of our stay in Bombay! We ate every two hours during day time - awesome food! Anyway, I had to have a problem even with that! And the problem was that I needed a healthy dose of thachi mammam (curd rice) to carry me through the day! And so everywhere that I went (we had several lunch and dinner invitations), k's sis would call in advance and make arrangements for a pot of curd and some rice to be made just for me!

Quite embarrassing!

What was more embarrassing was, once we sat down for dinner, they weren't sure when exactly I needed the curd, so in the middle of my second serving of Pav Bhaji, k's aunt would quitely enquire, "Do you want the curd now by the side?"

Anyway, now that I have set the trend, the next time I go to India, one of these two things is bound to happen - either we don't get dinner invites at all or a huge pot of curd will be put aside as soon as they invite us for dinner!

The next issue was with my penchant (craving?) for malli poo(jasmine)! The few days that I get to spend in India, I really want to get the most of malli poo.

I kept thinking of the gundu malli sarams that they sell outside Nilgiris. So strange how I missed it more staying in Bombay than being here...

It so happens, Bombay is not a place where you can find jasmine flowers easily (unlike what k had promised me)! Atleast not in street corners and outside every temple! Just when I was about to burst into tears, his cousin saved the day by locating a flower seller just outside the railway station!. God bless him :)


I can recall several other incidents but will stop here to constrain this post to a decent size! Oh also, looks like someone has a cool new template, is it my imagination or does this template change more than the content of this blog :) ?


kamal said...

1. So, serious issues consists of hole in a taxi, jasmine flowers, k’s relatives, speaking gujarati (not Gujarathi .. for the nth time!:) ), curd rice and commuting in mumbai, Quite Interesting ! :)

2. Come on now, just own up to it, you had the time of your life. Didn’t you?
(I already hear some smart alec retort)

3. btw, I had already seen Singara Chennai before you saw bambai meri jaan :)

4. One more thing, Andheri, West is cool! East sucks! (This is like India vs Pakistan, Lexington vs Louisville in basketball)

5. Did you forget the gateway of India, the queen necklace, siddhi-vinayak, the scene from top of Hilton Towers(Oberoi for the native)? How could you?! How could you?! You break my heart! :))

RTD2 said...

Man, oh man,'ve opened a can of worms. However, blog-etiquette dictates that I will pick my top three things to respond to, as a true-blue Bambaya girl:
1.Yes Kamal,I agree. "Gujarati", "Aarti", etc. No H, please! (If u're looking for something serious to do, correct my name in the side bar!)
2.Andheri West might be cool, but town (VT, Colaba,Churchgate, Marine Drive) KICKS ASS! Next time you're in Bombay my girl, take me with you, and I'll show you what the city is made of! (My sympathies with you for traveling on Western railway though!That takes courage!)
3. There is plenty of malli poo in my city, how dare you imply that there isn't! For the Tamilian-centric perspective of Bombay visit Matunga or Chembur next time. My friend from Juhu who'd visit me in Chembur would be so amazed that all she'd hear on the streets in Chembur was Palghat Iyer accents!
Ok, sorry for seeming all indignant and rude, but I am defending my city with a lone Kamal...I'm afraid most of your readers are from Chennai!

Anonymous said...

hmm...looks like u've ruffled a few mumbaiya feathers...pls respond with a post in ur usual rosy style about the gateway and queen's necklace and all that.
ya andheri west is cool, andheri east is under construction (i hope)...
- L

kamal said...

Yes, Aarti I agree Town side is much cooler, I should know I lived opposite Jai Hind for a long time.

Also, I took ramya in Western Railway to show her the "Real Bombay". How people live, Day in and Day out. Just an experiment, it was fun, since it was not peak hours :)

And the jasmine business, I just need to find a flower shop in Parle/Andheri that has this, it is not in my usual "things to do" list :) while I am there!

Hellboy said...

Reading the post is like reading excerpts from Bombayil Reception, a la Washingtonil Thirumanam :)

Subha said...

Agree about the traveling part in seriously sucks. I had a craving to see a tamil movie when in Mumbai. But when I considered the fact that I had to travel from Nariman point to Matunga and set aside some 7 hours exclusively for this, I decided to just be happy at home..:(
But I like the markets and shopping in Mumbai..:)

RS said...

kamal - I like to dwell in the trivialities, you see :) Rest of the Bombay stuff in part 2 :)

rtd2- spoken like a true blue bambaya girl :) Next time I go around Bombay with you!

L- yes, will revert back to rosy stuff soon ;)

hellboy - :))

subha - I see the Bambaya spirit has not hit you yet :)

Prabhu said...

"Anyway, now that I have set the trend, the next time I go to India, one of these two things is bound to happen - either we don't get dinner invites at all or a huge pot of curd will be put aside as soon as they invite us for dinner!""

- LOL!

BUS said...

Chennai rocks...mumbai -- who cares!!! :)

Parth said...

First up. Total agreement with Kamal. Andheri(W) rocks. It IS the center of the universe.

RT, I disagree that town side is cooler. After all, the cool people reside in Andheri :-)

RS. As a Gujarati (I hate the (ab)use of the extra H) married to a Tamilian, my sympathies lie with you. But hey, might be easier if you just end up learning Gujarati :-)

Chennai or for that matter any nai cannot come close to Mumbai as the rocking docking all-encompassing all-devouring all-empowering capital city. Alright, a little high on the 'high'perbole, but kya karen? Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan!

RS said...

prabhu - :)

bus - amen :)

parth - :))

Sigh, I guess I will have to learn Gujarat(h)i :)))

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