30. Golden Roti, a Ticket or Twenty and an Unexpected Party

Out and about every single day along with my South African friend Jittu, we explored all over Bombay.  Besides hanging out on Marine Drive my first favorite thing to do was experience eating as many of the different flavors available in the local restaurants.

 

Gopis on cloth

 

There were Brahmin vegetarian dining establishments which I mentioned two posts back, serving silver thalis-full of amazing, cooked to perfection, curried vegetables with just right roti and puri, the excellent Punjabi cooking (we called them the best meat restaurants), and the flavorful South Indian kitchens preparing outstanding seafood meals, exquisite sambar, egg curry and masala dosa.  

We indulged in Persian (Iranian) cuisine enjoying perfected biryanis and mouthwatering lamb shish kebab – delicious!  There was always a great Chinese restaurant around any given corner serving their dishes with that Indian twist and always flavoursome to be sure plus I found it really fun to see a Chinese face speaking perfect Hindi.  

Ah yes and the Gujarati restaurants served us delightful kheema, khatti mithi daal and golden chapatis of course, all very palatable.  These are but a few, you get the idea and not to mention a suddenly juicy mouth I’m sure!  

We did our best to return to Marine Drive anywhere between 4 in the afternoon and 7 in the evening for our daily dose of people watching; okay you got me, girl watching!  Oh the beautiful girls accompanied by their families to be sure.

The two of us also had another favorite to-do and that was going to the cinema to see the Indian films.  After all Bombay is the film capital of India.  Our pick of theaters was the Naaz (near my temporary residence as I mentioned in post 28) there at Lamington Road, which ran all the biggest current films.  

In my perception of things it was the top-notch cinema house to attend.  There was elegant balcony seating, it was air-conditioned, the sound system was great, all the seats were nice and comfortable and it was beautiful you know, classy in style.

Outside the theater the line of moviegoers never broke, day or night.  Jittu and I realized we could supplement our income if we sold tickets to those people who were further back in the line, yes!  We’d make pocket money and they’d get to see the show after all, even after the ‘house full’ sign went up in the box office window.

About a week before the show we’d buy maybe 20 or so tickets each, based on how many rupees we had saved up approximately every 8 days and then sell them for that particular day and evening’s screenings for 3 to 4 times more rupees than face value.  

Yes, I know there’s a name for that and you could be sure when we spied the Police wala with their dundas as they walked the line, we’d take off as quick as lightning!  

Here’s the thing: these were mainly young guys of monied families, driving fancy cars and wanting to spoil their girls on a date; they just wanted to get into the show, not even questioning the price of our tickets.  See, the girl wanted to see her screen heroes in the newest film and well, the guys really did too.  

These people are standing in line realizing the show’s just been sold out and they start looking around to see if there are tickets for sale floating around when they notice a small group of people (gathered around Jittu and myself that is) apparently talking about getting into the currently sold out showing.  

They come over to us and there you have it!  They are going in to see the movie after all.  Points for them with their girl and everybody is happy.  They’re so happy many of them even try to give us extra rupees but we refuse the offered tip because we’re already making money.  I get to pay my rent and I eat more nice meals for the next 7 or 8 days.

Another something I was able to indulge in was a few upper-crust parties on Marine Drive, yes the ones given up there in those fancy homes.  And this all due to my Bombay companion Jittu.  At that time in my life I didn’t see how else I would have experienced all that.  

After having attended a few of them with Jittu, I noticed there were basically two types of parties; the family parties and the other parties, the ones where the children and most family members did not attend.  These were the extra entertaining gatherings.  

I can only say that I’d never been so opened up to these elements of the human existence before.  Life is definitely a curious thing.  

Here I was in Bombay, so very far from my little South Pacific island life, learning a lot about the ways of the world and now I knew for sure, there were no limits.  And there was definitely no returning home as that young unexposed man I’d left behind in Fiji.

 

 

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Police wala with their dundas                                             policemen with their stick  (remember my father walking with me and his dunda?)

khatti meethi daal                                                       lentils prepared sweet & sour in taste

Bombay is the film capital of India.                            India is known all over the world for their accomplishments in the movies.  Some of India’s brightest stars are included in America’s movie scene these days.  If you guys haven’t heard of Bollywood by now well, anyway you’d definitely understand that the film industry in India is majorly important to them.

I eat more nice meals                                       Jittu did get allowance from his father every week but he spent it near as quick as he got it, and I will add that he was a very generous friend; spending equally on me as he did on himself.  Everything was ours and needless to say things like transportation expenses, snacks, meals, movies, etc, he kept no tabs.  

I paid whenever I could but there was no denying he had more of an income than I.  It clearly made him (and me) very happy to have someone fun to explore the new surroundings and get into light mischief with.  He didn’t want to hang around his father the whole time they were to be in Bombay.  It was a win, win for the both of us.

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

7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 2

There was still time before lunch duty and so we relaxed on deck –yes, away from the passengers- and watched the ocean go by.  Regardless of how I was doing it, I was thoroughly enjoying my new adventures at sea.  I’d catch full views of whales occasionally and other fish swimming around too, it was fun!

It’s the 7th day and our ship is approaching Honolulu Harbor, it is still the dark hours of the morning. The ship has slowed its pace as it enters the waters of Hawaii, the Harbor Master must board, enter the Bridge and take over, bringing the boat into the port.

I am awake and find myself at the railing on deck to bare witness something I never even dreamed of; the lights of the city. Twinkling from the homes along the mountains were thousands of tiny lights; it was like someone tossed millions of diamonds on to hills of black velvet and I remember saying to myself, “Oh God this must be heaven.”

The experience of a different place; it is now twilight and as if lost in a dream yet feeling the state of wakefulness, I watch the sunrise happening over Honolulu. It was something completely new to me.  It wasn’t at all dark like Fiji as in the level of lights there; just as you cannot count the stars in the sky, it’s how the sight of those lights affected me at that moment. I am looking onto Waikiki –

Back to the kitchen for breakfast service with a definite air of excitement!  We’ve stopped here for supplies such as fresh water, fresh foods, mail and laundry exchange as well.  The length of our ship’s stay in port is 12 hours; our shore leave would be about 4-6 hours.

A group of us hailed a cab and asked the driver to take us to a great place where we could shop and check out a little of the local scene, which we could enjoy in a short period of time.  He took us to a big mall complex (which a few years ago I returned to, it was still there) and I ate pineapple of course!  And for another enjoyable treat I had a watermelon shake for the first time in my life, it was delicious!  I bought some Hawaiian shirts too.

Back to the ship and we are heading towards Vancouver, Canada and another 7 days at sea. Our ship is bringing sugar in from the plantations of Fiji for delivery into B.C., Canada. British Columbia was extending a wet welcome – it was soooo cold especially due to the fact I come from a southern tropical climate. I was used to warmer rains!  This rain was freezing and it was my first experience in cold rainy weather.

There was a warming period however – I met and fell in love (or so I thought) with a lovely French – Punjabi girl.  Sonia was 18 and one of many daughters of a sawmill big shot in Canada.  We first met at local nightclub, dancing and having a drink or three.  Hold on, I got just a little ahead of myself, so I’ll detail it out for you just a bit.

A friendly passerby on the street directed my friends and me to this particular club as we walked along the streets of Vancouver one early evening.  He too was an Indian national. We fell into a mutual hello as our eyes met, we all began conversing.

It started off with our ‘what to do around here’ answered with his suggestions of shopping, restaurants and a great club that was a good place where a younger crowd meets.  He told us that he too went there sometimes.

We found it and went in. It was a nice dance club, no hard liquor, only beer and soft drinks; that’s a good thing as younger people were welcome there too.  We grabbed a few seats and about 3 or 4 tables away sat a group of young girls.  I couldn’t see exactly their faces but naturally that assemblage received my attention.   Ah, eighteen and still so innocent.

At first it was difficult to catch a full glance of her face but as the girls began going off to the dance floor, I got a clearer vision.  And I’m so glad I did.  She and I definitely began to notice one another; it was that subtle eye flirtation and shy quickly looking away yet a corner smile would form as the head turned.

And every time I looked her way I noticed she too was looking my way.  All the while I’m going through fifty ways in my head as to my approach and if I did, what should I say?  This went on all evening.  I felt we were surely on to something and I wanted to know what that might be. I felt she may be thinking the same things, I hoped.

Well that night, we didn’t meet, the guys and I just hung out for maybe two and a half hours but not once did this young lady and I verbally communicate.  The guys and I had to return to the ship for an early morning start for breakfast, so we left and that was that.

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Sonia is of course a fictitious name but trust me, the young Canadian gal was very real  🙂