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.

 

 

|||

 


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.

2. 🏊🏽 the Sweet Water Pool and a Marconi – part 2 (from the Cinema)

My brother-in-law had a business where they built buses on to prebuilt motorized bases (something like a big-rig cab minus the trailer) which they bought from elsewhere.  At this garage they also tended to some cargo trucks, did general auto repair work, and the city taxis would sleep there every night.

It was located in Suva near the wharf where the big ships docked which was an especially perfect location as far as I was concerned; more on that later.

Every time his company completed the building of a new bus, a celebration was in order!  This consisted of taking the entire immediate family up to a beautiful place called 17 Mile Rubber Plantation for an outing devoted to a delicious picnic and play.  🌿 Think along the lines of ribbon-cutting ceremony and gratitude given in prayers, all rolled into a jovial time for all.  Oh the fun we would have there!

💧There was a natural fresh water pool, which was fed directly by the cascading waters from the above mountaintop.  This body of refreshing water, which we lovingly referred to as the sweet water pool was conveniently located center stage of the very tall rubber trees.

These wonderful giants (to me) provided excellent shade and the dappled sunlight called forth a leisurely spent afternoon.  Another highlight for me was the proximity of this picnic spot to the ocean allowing me to continuously hear the surf crashing on to the sand.

The family all together at various intervals sitting around the pool, the younger girls and boys either hiking around the area or in the pool splashing around happily, such joyful memories!  We would enjoy cool refreshing drinks savoring the likes of guava and coconut juice and there was always an inexhaustible supply of deep red 🍒 to snack on!

I remember the ladies always brought a deck of cards to play the favorite game of trump; one could say it was a part of our tradition, this game.

Meal production time and it was most often the men who would get busy cooking our picnic meal and it went something like this:  everyone had their place on the meal prep *assembly; someone to prepare the ingredients, another is adding said ingredients to the giant pots, one is standing by as the fire & pot watcher, stirring the mix, and another is the taster and contributing whatever else needs doing.

Synchronized like clockwork but a lot more fun. The menu was usually our favorites like curried chicken and veggies, roti and rice of course, and the must have tomato chutney.

After indulgence of a once-again perfect meal, ** we’d rest in the shade for a bit before heading out for a swim or more exploring.  Several of us would climb atop the giant rocks there to jump into the cool waters.

This particular time -as I had not previously attempted this maneuver- I wanted to share in the fun the rest of my family was having so I climbed up and jumped right in.  Well I guess I should’ve taken the time to think it over.

I really wasn’t an experienced swimmer by any stretch of my imagination and so I began to take in water.  A lot of water!  I was now drowning.  I surfaced two or three times, clearly struggling.  As my stars had planned, it wasn’t my time.

Luckily there was a scouting troop at the watering hole also enjoying the beauty of the day.  And so I am told, one of the young men, a Gujarati fellow noticed me and without a second thought I’m certain, jumped right in to save me!  The water was a bit murky and as I went under again, he had to search but he then felt my flailing hand touch his leg.  I had been found …and saved.

📻 I can remember when my brother brought home a Marconi shortwave radio.  🎶 I liked the music I was hearing and not until later did I realize it was country western music.  There were nice shows everybody enjoyed listening to; ‘Voice of America’ and ‘All India Radio’ to name a couple and these programs generally came in the early morning hours starting about five.  Good way to start my day as far as I was concerned.

This radio ran on batteries along with a couple of bamboo sticks & wire for reception.  My friends and I put together an antennae consisting of what we knew to be ‘special’ wire which we strung on to said bamboo sticks.  We then hoisted these sticks up, pounding them into the ground and running one of the wire streams into the house.

Listening to the radio programs further whet my appetite for adventures waiting to be had and I felt absolutely packed to the gills with such fervor; it was alive and ready to erupt inside of me like a volcano!  I knew that part of me needed to come out and explore, at the very least.

I may be incorrect in thought here but I felt there was no one else as interested in such foreign things as I was.  A display of overwhelming curiosity was oozing from every inch of me and I just had to find the answers to all of my questions.  The family seemed to be content with the way things were but I always wanted so much more.

There was a once-removed uncle that at some point had looked at my palm, and told my mother something like, ‘…this guy can’t be held back, he’ll always be traveling the world.’  My mother loved me so much and she desperately tried to keep me safe at home with her.  Even that love didn’t stop me from breaking my security I had on my island home.

|||


* The picnic meal was always as fresh as can be.  At the Plantation there were fire pits ready to receive sticks and wood for the cooking fire.  Today the family still does things this way at the large get-togethers and many of our homes have 2nd kitchens, even if it is out back or in a garage due to snow and rain!  At any rate our meals were –and still are- top notch!

** In taking a retrospective look, I have realized, in the very act of being outdoors in the greatness of nature, how greatly my appetite is increased, how much better I feel –even if under the weather- and how divine a nap underneath a tree can be!

These days I go to my (very comfortable) bed and sometimes it takes most of the night to fall asleep, in fact, I usually don’t get into a deep sleep till the wee hours of the morning.  Yet camped on the beach or in the woods, sleep comes so easy and so soundly.

Nature – the way we were meant to be!

2.  📽 the Cinema … part 1

Now I am wondering, do our island dogs look the same as the ones in Japan or England or any different from say the dogs in Africa?  Do they bark with an accent or is it all the same?  What about the people – how do they look when they smile or get angry and do the babies and children sound the same when they cry?

What about cowboys, do they really have gunfights and why do they say doggie when they talk about their cows?  I had to know!

📽 In the meantime my friends and I would get together on the weekends, most often going for ten-cent matinees, which bought us front row seats, the balcony costing two shillings.

Usually it was Captain America who ruled our weekends!  🎞 These shows were presented serial style in that there would be 2 episodes shown back-to-back on the big screen.  I do have fond memories of that pleasant theatre.  It even had a nice little café downstairs.

I was especially taken with their terrific papaya, 🍓, mango,  🍌 and  pineapple 🍍 milkshakes.  I can see the making of these milkshakes right now!  There were the always-fresh cut-up fruit chunks to one side of the counter, the🥛and ice cream on the other.

The ingredients were put into a silver can then mixed, blended and poured into the glass but only half the way.  The maker then placed the can up on the counter with the remainder of your shake and doing it with such great flair: perhaps it was just the thrill in anticipating the cool delicious milkshake at the cinema!

Needless to say the theater owners always made certain there was a nice variety of cool refreshing tropical fruit juices to savor as well sodas.  The café served up flavorful fish & chips, sandwiches, the best milk-coffee on the island, cupcakes and candies too.

Private vendor citizens were able to sell their freshly roasted warm peanuts and muttar (green peas) to the moviegoers, but they had to do this outside the theatre doors.

As a young lad around 10-11 years of age, I used to go with my brother-in-law and his brothers to the American soldiers’ camp in Tamavua.  We could sell snacks to them like narongi (tangerines), bananas, salted and dry roasted peanuts, and muttar.

We also offered an immediate favorite; rolled roti filled mostly with spicy-curried veggies and sometimes we filled them with chicken curry too.  I remember we would get a lot of silver dollar coins in our payments from these uniformed guys.

They must’ve liked us well enough because in the evenings, sometimes we would get to stay there in the GI soldiers’ camp (as we called it) and watch American movies.  These were projected on to a screen that was set-up outdoors.  They watched mostly Westerns and I quickly came to realize that John Wayne was my favorite cowboy!

I paid as close attention as I could to the friendly American military persons.  I silently noted to myself their demeanor and from what I could tell, I liked the attitude they demonstrated towards one another as well as how they interacted with us, the island natives, as we are that.

I was relaxed there, feeling perfectly comfortable.  These friendly experiences sparked a yearning to go to the USA and get myself a horse, some boots, a canteen and learn how to sling a gun or two!

|||

 


See you next Sunday night for the continuing chronicles!