28. Bombay is a Beauty …

India!   And what a 1st experience it was.  I was feeling pretty good, carrying around a perception of freedom; away from confusing feelings and all at once I was excited, alone and …missing my wife.  I started to think it would have been very nice if she was with me.  

But this was also the heart of the monsoon season in Bombay!  It almost felt like the rains were mocking me as I was going through my own monsoon of sorts.  I had arrived in Bombay right smack in the middle of it!

Bombay in the state of Maharashtra, was to me, a beautiful place.  I stayed there in the city at a hostel, similar to an American YMCA, near the Naaz Cinema Hall.  These lodgings were run by a businessman with ties to an associate in the Indian Consulate back in Fiji.  

I was given the address of this place before I left the island by that connection.  Thankfully it was affordable and centrally located.  My weekly rate was approximately 25-30 rupees.   I ended up staying here nearly two months.

Each morning the proprietor had a bucket of hot water for my in-room bath, brought up to me with a knock at the door.  The heavily accented masculine voice said, “Saab-ji, garam pani.”  Also he would ask me what he could bring to me for my breakfast.

He’d go across the street to this Brahmin restaurant and bring delicious dishes for me to start my day with.  Masala chai, saag sabji, and of course hot, red, puffy puris!  If this didn’t suit my mood, I’d go out to one of countless restaurants in the immediate vicinity and chow down on amazing food.

Out and about in the city, there are so many people!  You cannot walk anywhere without bumping into each other though I never minded if it was a pretty girl.  That crowd was of yesteryear so just imagine today!  

The one place I really wanted to see and be a part of before leaving India, was Marine Drive.  As a youth this was a must!  I had seen it in the Hindi films so many times and heard that it was a very special street where so much happens.

Odds were that I’d be lucky enough to see in passing, an India film star.  Naturally girl-watching was part of the plan but the rest of the people were interesting too!  I would sit on the wall there with the Arabian Sea to my back and just watch this part of India go by.

I quickly learned that after 3 or 4 in the afternoon was the very best time to do this.  It was a place to see and be seen which lent to the girls dressing real pretty in their colourful attire; the lovely salwar kameez, saris and what have you, a blend of many nations really.  

Speaking of which, there would be 10 guys talking amongst themselves and each one’s native tongue is a different language of India.  There’s Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu (whew!) just to name a few, oh my!

But I wondered how they were actually communicating together and it wasn’t in English.  The common denominator here was Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi and I must say it was to me quite a sight to see the Chinese man living in India speaking one of these 3 versions!

The liveliness of the crowds included the chana wala, “Chana garam babu, garam, garam chana!” singing his sales pitch as he walks by you.  Then I notice the thel malis guy singing out advertisements of his services; a quick-fix massage of various body parts -head, shoulders, arms, legs, etc., and the most important guy sells garam, garam masala chai and all for a few paisa!

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I shall tell you only what I can remember; the monsoon travels around the subcontinent and arrives at different times throughout the country.  I was soon to discover, this weather affects people in very interesting and sometimes baffling ways.  So much like the tides of life.  Well, that’s it, that’s what I got out of it!

Brahmin diet  a vegetarian lifestyle focusing on consuming clean foods thoughtfully so eating natural meant promoting peace and tranquility into one’s being; also referred to as yogic or sattvic diet

chana wala     the chickpea vendor(dry fried muttar/peas)  

thel malis       oil massage provider (quick on-the-spot)

garam              hot

12. What Do You Mean These Are Not My Cards To Play? – part 2

I said nothing and the next couple of days I spoke to no one.  I came out of the room just to wash and eat only when the stomach growled loud enough.

It was about the third or fourth day when I felt the need for a little human connection once more albeit quietly.  I never told anyone about Sonia, never revealed my intentions.

Nearly two weeks had come to pass and somewhere in that time, Hemma caught wind of my devastating experience.  She began sending notes to me with her little courier pigeons – I mean, her little brothers.

These little boys would come over to my house, I remember the first time, saying they just wanted to visit me.  Then the little one, he hands me a slip of paper and I looked at it curiously.  So I asked, ‘What is this?’

The other replied, “It’s a note for you from Hemma *didi!” they giggled.  They also explained that they were to wait for my scribbled reply, or not return home at all.  Maybe it was all in the name of chocolate or tasty ice blocks in return for the duty.

She wrote sympathetically and with apology for my sadness of heart though she never truly would know why.  Hemma wrote these little notes in Hindi, I replied in English -don’t know why I just did.  My ache was still so fresh upon my heart and in my mind.

It seemed her focus at that time was to encourage me to have lunch with her at her home and keep a line of communications open I expect.  What’s more, these notes began to show up every other day, by way of giggling pigeons of course.

It was about 8 or 10 days, I don’t remember exactly, before I agreed to come by for lunch with her …and it turns out that included her family members as well.  Ah well it makes sense right?  She’s still only fifteen.

The notes continued to flow and perhaps out of no other way to express her feelings, consisted often of lyrics from Hindi film songs.  Yes most of them are mushy so at this point, would it be safe to say, I suspect I am being romanced by this young girl?

And I have no doubt our families are mixed up in all of this.  I believe what I see of their intentions are crystal clear; they would have me married as soon as possible so that I do not ‘run-off’ again.

I didn’t take any of it seriously; Hemma never outright said she liked me or …whatever.  Very well, these little notes were just a passing of time although admittedly so, somewhat flattering.

I didn’t have important feelings for her as my heart was still preoccupied with a certain young lady in Canada whom I could only hope would forgive me.

Anyway I was looking to get myself back on that ship next time it returned to port; I knew it would, it always does!  I still didn’t know what happened at the docks that morning but I was willing to approach the skipper or whoever I had to, to find out and make things right.

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*didi – older sister (as Hindu respect for the elders, there are titles much like auntie or brother-in-law, for example: however a parent will call his daughter-in-law, say, by her title as such even though she is younger than the parent-in-law).

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Thanks so much for returning once again!  Still looking out for those comments, followers and likes.  And if he hasn’t already, Little Blue Masala can and will grow on you, just wait and see.  Stay tuned!

We’ve been getting buckets of rain here in most of California, how about you?  Happy Winter’s January!