Monday, December 03, 2012
Mumbai is a huge Metropolis---and it is a City that needs to be experienced--cannot ever be fully encapsulated in words!!This City thrums with Vibrance and Life and as the Legend goes--anyone can make it in Mumbai---for Mumbai keeps everyone--from a Zillionaire to the Ragpicker---afloat!!I live in this thrumming,vibrant City and I'll not lie---this City has just recently begun to have a positive impact on me!!I grew up in a small Town and though I embraced the best that this Megapolis had to offer--for most of my married life I craved the laid back easy pace of the small Town--and hence constant forays into the North as well as my roots in Kolhapur to touch base with my inner self. Sudhir's death has changed all that completely.Today after Sudhir's death, this City has become a cocoon for me--a refuge which I'm now reluctant to leave--at least for now!!Maybe I'll feel differently in Future--I don't know.
Despite living here for so many years I could never really get in sync with this City.This shows in the home I picked--buying a Flat in one of the quiet by lanes of a bustling Suburb--surrounded by lots of Greenery and Nature--definitely an unique oddity in this bustling City!!Today some 37 years after we shifted here, very little has changed.Though many large Companies have opened their Offices here, the sleepy ambience continues--and I can still imagine that I'm living in a small Town even today!!Frankly it is like living in a small Town with all the plus points of a huge Megapolis--with the least of it's drawbacks!!While Sudhir was alive my entire day revolved around him and my mornings---specially before he left would be super busy--rushing to and fro between the Kitchen,the Telephone and the Doorbell for the best part of the early morning!!Things would settle down once he left for Court around 10.30 a.m.----and then I'd settle down to read the News Papers and the Computer---mainly SP.My domestic Staff would arrive by 11 a.m. and then my day would begin in earnest once more.Cooking took up most of my time--for Sudhir loved good Food.Though not a very large eater he was very particular and critical about the manner in which his meals were cooked.He needed a variety but was not interested in the richer variations in my recipes--preferring simple but well cooked meals instead.Thanks to this I liked cooking for his friends--he'd carry Food for them on Wednesdays and Fridays sometimes--for the rest of the days were mainly vegetarian--each one observing one or the other day of the Week as a Fast.It was on these occasions that I went all out--cooking the Party Food like Biryanis, Pulaos,Curries, Kababs, and Thai Curries to keep my hand in practice!!So often he has sent our driver, Pradeep along with his Court Clerk Babu back home at 12.30 p.m. just to carry the Food to Court--freshly cooked and hot off the Stove!!
This used to keep me busy and I loved cooking----mainly because our daily Food had minimum Oil/Ghee in it thanks to my heart condition.It worked for both of us--for I felt it kept Sudhir healthy too--but he'd pile on the calories with after Dinner sweets--Dark Chocolates, diamond/square shaped rich evaporated Milk solids called Khoya Barfis in 3-4 varieties of flavour,deep Brown Gulab 'Jamuns in Sugar Syrup, "Jalebis" crisp and Saffron coated, dripping Sugar Syrup,Ghee and Sugar saturated Motichoor Laddus made with Ghee deep fried tiny beads of Chick Pea Flour to mention just a few of his perennial favourites!!It used to be so funny the way the exchange of dialogue between Vanita and him used to take place after he finished dinner.He'd ask her about the Dessert choices he had--and Vanita would reel off the list of Varieties packed in Tupperware in the 'Fridge--mentioning the variety as well as the number of pieces available!!The number was mentioned daily because he always had a sneaking suspicion that I used to eat Sweets on the sly--specially whenever my Sugar dropped!!As he used to worry himself sick over my health, I rarely told him how often this happened.So he'd try to keep tabs on me this way!!Little did he know that I had no need to touch his Stuff--for I had my own stash of my favourite Bengali Milk Sweets stowed away in the depths of the 'Fridge---to gorge on each time I needed the Sugar!!!We were a pair of Idiots--trying to protect each other from the worries of daily living.And today just the Memories remain---though painful at times, these are still a great comfort to me as well--for these are an integral part of my life with him--a span of 41 years together.
That is why when the youngsters working at the local branch of my Bank requested me to consider cooking and supplying Tiffins to them I accepted.The reason behind this was that firstly I enjoyed Cooking and secondly I was just whiling away my days--- I had Time hanging on my hands--for with Sudhir's exit a huge vacuum had been created in my life--and just cooking for myself held no incentive and no appeal at all!!This gave me an opportunity to cook healthy,wholesome Meals for these youngsters and the polished off Tiffins coming back each evening held a testimony to the fact that whatever I cooked was tasty as well as appreciated by them!!Unfortunately there was only one snag--my poor Maths!!As usual I miscalculated and when at the end of 3 weeks I took stock of my stint in Catering--I found that I'd barely recovered a third of my cost!!!Sayali and Ritu literally sat me down and explained to me exactly where I went wrong--while I had calculated the cost of the Vegetables,Seasonings and the Oil/Ghee I had forgotten to incorporate the cost of the Cooking Gas,Rice,Whole Wheat Flour and Pulses that were used regularly each and every day!!Since the quality used was excellent they told me--the cost was bound to be equally expensive and since I had used these liberally and supplied generous amounts I was operating at a loss!!Also I had not calculated the cost of the extra Salaries i was paying to Vanita,Chhayabai as well as Ramesh-- the boy I'd kept for making the "Phulkas" and Dilip--the fellow who delivered the Tiffins!!Above all my biggest crime was that I had not taken into account my on labour--so the entire cost was revamped!!Each Tiffin climbed to double the original cost and the supply came down from 20 Tiffins a day to just 3--taken by three young girls who decided that the Food i cooked was helping them stay fit!!
But then when one door closes another opens--the latest is that I'm catering to Parties--and getting orders for supplying Food for 20-30 people.The cost of each Item has been meticulously calculated by Sayali on an Excel Sheet---so hopefully, I just cannot go wrong this time!!
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Sudhir and one of the last Cars he owned
I spoke of Sudhir's love of various types of Cars earlier.To continue further it remained his greatest passion till the very end.Both of liked different type--I preferred SUVs and he Sedans.Mumbai Traffic has always been chaotic--of course the earlier memories of that chaotic Traffic seem from another Era--for today even that seems orderly as things have worsened increasingly since then--and are worsening further still!!After the 90s we began getting the models of newer shapes in India and Suzuki Maruti was and still is a much preferred brand.Those days Tata Motors had come out with a huge SUV called The Sierra in the early 90s. We bought one of these--and despite it being a two door it remains one of our favourites still,after the Peugeot 504 and Dhanno .This was the Car we took often on our day long jaunts to Lonavla--most often just Sudhir and me--driving along the rain soaked misty Sahyadri Hills in the Monsoons.Sturdy and strong it made many outstation shifts--and was perhaps the most used Car in our Family for everyone loved it --including my sisters-in-law and all the children and grandchildren there were in our family!!Sudhir would really go mad at the variety offered--by now we had Opel, Honda,Toyota and Nissan along with Hyundai---all needing just a week to roll out of the Showroom--fully signed and delivered.This was a first for India--where we earlier used to wait to be served we were now being wooed with many new perquisites--as Sudhir succintly put it, it really did feel nice!!
Each time we bought a new Car, Sudhir would be loathe to take it on the crowded roads--specially my favourite Shopping areas--for these were the crowded by lanes of Dadar.The problem here was the Hawkers lining both sides of the narrow lane--leaving barely space in between for a even a two wheeler to pass!!Another new problem that has cropped up in the last 10-12 years is the two wheelers.There are so many of these and these are a big problem.People riding on the Two wheelers squeeze themselves in the bare 1-2 feet of space between two rows of Four wheelers--in a hurry to clear the Traffic Signals faster!!This leads to mishaps and also results in many really expensive Cars being scratched pretty badly.Besides it has given rise to a new breed of Drivers who pay no heed to either the Traffic Signals or Pedestrians as well as to their own personal safety.Their throwing caution to the Winds creates situations where a new term like "Road Rage" applies and very often even insignificant altercations can swiftly escalate into a brawl which can at times be fatal!!
Like the "Bawaji" we called him he was very particular about the way his Clothes--read Coats and his Cars were maintained.His Coats had to be pressed just so--folded just so and above all hung on their special hangers and covered with Plastic Covers to protect them from the Dust.Similarly the Cars needed to be spic and span--clean and gleaming always.He used get the exteriors polished regularly to maintain the gleam--and this was why perhaps we were lucky with each and every Car we owned.We loved them and they respected that and loved us back!!He liked keeping the Tank full--claiming that it made for a smoother drive and better maintenance.He hated hearing even the minutest rattle or scraping sound---going to the extent of pulling over by the roadside just to investigate!!It would be so extreme that I would tease him mercilessly over this!!Once in jest I even suggested covering the walls of our Garage with mirrors--I said that whenever it was windy we'd sit in the Car and watch the Wind whipping the trees in our Garden--and pretend we were driving down the open Country roads!!Another suggestion was to hire an open truck,load the Car onto it and then take it for a drive!! Both these suggestions would bring out his beautiful smile in full force--but his pernicketiness wouldn't change even an ioata!!
Today I still maintain the Car he bought me as mine exactly the way he kept his--the tank is always full,it is washed and wiped daily and everything--the servicing and tune-ups are done regularly--it's always maintained in peak condition!!Despite making numerous rounds of Dadar, Matunga as well as Crawford Market areas--which are dreadfully crowded and choked with Traffic, it still gleams and is still scratchless--just the way he liked it.He would have really been proud of me!!
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
My husband Sudhir was a very strong individual--with sharply defined likes and dislikes.While he was very accomodating and obliging on many issues,he could turn to a stubborn mulishness over somethings that irked him--and then come Hell or High water--he just wouldn't budge!!Besides this he was very set in his mind about certain aspects of Life and living--and no one or nothing could shake him from those opinions.His idiosyncrasies were a topic for hilarity among our Family---and mostly he was called a "Bawaaji"--a term of local Mumbaiyya parlance used to describe Indian Parsis.
The Parsis are the descendants of the Zoroastrian Persians who migrated from Persia some 2000 years ago to India--the word Persian got localised into the nomenclature "Parsi".Thanks to our Mumbaikari Roots we have been interacting with this extremely lovable and loving Community--one that can really and truly laugh at itself heartily!!The Parsis are known to use their personal items with extreme care and respect---specially their Vehicles.Even today the advertisement of a Parsi owned Vehicle symbolises an almost new one in tip top condition--used sparingly and with extreme care!!My darling husband was a genuine Car lover--drooling and sighing over the sleekness and good looks of the Foreign brands.Our family owned a Plymouth and a Fiat when I got married but the Plymouth guzzled Petrol (Gas) like there was no tomorrow.Besides this, my brother-in-law Milind was a highly impatient man---he could never be bothered to refill the Gas Tank and as a result of this we'd run dry pretty often--stuck in the middle of a busy road!!It was Sudhir's job to check the Fuel--and thanks to that both of us enjoyed many Moonlit and Starlit nights on the Bombay roads----taking beautiful romantic long drives.That poor Car was badly abused whenever the entire Family took an outing together.The entire Family would be crammed into it--Milind and Nina,Sudhir and I,our sisters-in-law Kunda and Suhas as well as my MIL Atya.The children numbered 6 in total when I got married would be evenly distributed on our laps and one must not forget the stuffed Food Hampers in the Boot either!!These would contain Bottles of fresh Water,Biscuits,Snacks etc. and we'd take plenty of stops along the way---for a pre-ordered Lunch would be waiting for us at our destination!!I still look back on those Outings very fondly---Life was much simpler and we were young--what more did one need?
Those days we had pretty good Indian Brands---very sturdy and built to combat our terrain and our Weather conditions--and our Fiat --Premier Padmini took us on our Vacations along with the Plymouth pretty much without problems.Of course words like "Fuel Pump","Gasket" and "Hose Pipe" became extremely familiar and we got used to chanting our Hindu Hymns each time the effort to climb up the almost vertically steep slopes of the Khandala Ghat near Bombay began but the thrill of driving along the open vista of the Deccan Plateau with rural Maharashtra stretched out invitingly all around us is a memory that I will always cherish.Even today i recall the heat of the Summer Sun beating down on the roof of the Car--the windows rolled down and hot waves of the Wind created by the speed of the Car feeling dry and hot against our faces.The steep barren Peaks of the Sahyadris rose majestically on both sides--many of these crowned with rugged Hill forts.The contrast of the molten Golden heat of the Summer Sunshine pouring down from a pale Blue Summer Sky gilding the rustling green leaves of the Sugarcane planted alongside the Highway contrasting sharply with the starkness of the parched brownish yellow dryness of the Sahyadris is still crystal clear in my mind!!
However the attraction of Foreign Brands was always there and these were only available either through a Government enterprise called STC or second hand.!During his Summer vacation whenever we were in Bombay Sudhir would pore over the Vehicle Ads---noting down the 'Phone numbers and Addresses very seriously and then the two of us would venture forth--Car hunting!!I can never actually recall how many Cars we must have seen in those years--1970--1985 just driving all over town in the gruelling Summer heat to see and then test drive those Cars.There was a British Hillman--which we bought in 1982.A two door Car, this meant that Sayali was caged in the back--something that irked her immensely.She was in the habit of following Sudhir like the proverbial Mary's Little Lamb--and this was a sore point between her and me.She'd be out of the door in a flash--even before Sudhir alighted after parking the Car.Bombay traffic has always scared me and Sayali though extremely intelligent otherwise--turned into a brainless twit who threw caution to the winds in her hurry of not being left behind!!So for me the Hillman was God sent--and for her it was wrongful confinement!!!This little Car became a familiar sight on Bombay roads--my brother-in-law Milind said once in jest that it was even more used than a Taxi--for we rarely stayed home long enough to give a well deserved rest.Our last imported Car was a Peugeot 504--and after that we began buying Indian makes once more--beginning with a Maruti Suzuki which Sayali promptly named "Dhanno" after the Mare in the Indian Epic Western "Sholay"!!!
This was the Car Sayali learnt to drive on when she turned 18 years old--and along with her best friend Laxmi, this threesome took to Bombay roads in a big way.This little Car bowled along manfully on the roads---being subjected to various forms of indignity--like being towed from "No Parking" zones or bumping into other Cars--the Garage in the lane behind our Complex became one of Sayali's best refuges whenever she was in dire straits---they'd patch up the Car pretty well whenever any mishap occured---and this would escape Sudhir's Eagle eye for he would drive home after dark from Court and Office!!This reminds me of an incident that took place a year or so after she began driving.Sayali had some late Lectures that day and Sudhir had an early hearing.On reaching his car he noticed it had a punctured tyre.Thanks to this he decided to take Dhanno instead and after asking Sayali to get the puncture repaired he took off.He reached the Courts on time and everything was okay till he began his return home.Midway Dhanno stopped thanks to lack of Petrol--and just wouldn't budge an inch!!Exasperated he got some bystanders to help him push Dhanno to a Petrol Pump around the corner from where he was,filled the Gas tank to the brim and drove home--irritated and angry!!Sayali in the meantime had changed the punctured tyre but had not bothered to repair the Stepney. That night after Sudhir began his irritated spiel about how Dhanno was full of rattles,messy and smelt of Food besides not being filled up as and when needed despite Petrol Money being dished out regularly and so on and so forth,Sayali waited for him to wind down finally and then blithely said "Daddy by the way--you have to get that punctured tyre repaired and also--the Petrol tank in your Car needs to be filled too!!"
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