Wednesday, November 21, 2007

As I've mentioned earlier, the Bombay I grew up in was a much more laid-back city than it is now. It was also a much smaller city. In those days the Aarey Milk Colony(was what it was called) was far out of the city and we were taken there as Junior School kids, as a one day excursion out of the city!
There were more open spaces in those days. We were taken to the Malabar Hill gardens quite frequently, where there was a boot shaped slide--more like the 'Old woman who lived in a shoe' kind of thing--a boot with a roof on top. I wonder whether it is still there. Once we moved to Bandra, the Bandstand was a favourite spot for a quick visit.

Juhu beach was not the hip and happening place it is now and we went often to swim there and I think there was a club nearby which someone in the family was a member of.

There were lots of eateries we were taken to as both my parents were adventurous in their food tastes. I remember the Irani restaurants for the falooda and pattice; then there was Nanking's Chinese restaurant (the one near the Royal Yacht Club) near the Gateway of India, a regular haunt; there was Bombelli's bakery at Breach Candy (not there any more) which had the most moist chocolate pastries. Then there was the Parsi Dairy farm icecreams, hot jalebis--somewhere Worli side is what I remember faintly--bhelpuri around the Breach Candy area, absolutely delicious Kala jamuns and rosogollas which were brought to the house in big clay pots (absolutely unthinkable now I'm sure), gingerale and some other fizzy soft drink, all inextricably linked to my memories of Bombay.
Of course now Bombay has more than enough famous eateries and the bhelpuri and hot jalebis are available in so many places. But I promise you that those absolutely black and sweet gulab/kala jamuns were to die for and I've never had stuff like that afterwards.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I haven't posted here in a long time. Somehow the memories didn't seem so important and my words not at all compelling!
There is one more memory from that childhood visit to my aunt's farm, which shocked and upset me then. That was my first instance of seeing untouchability at close quarters (or at least my first clear memory). The fields were being harvested and the rice fields were full of workers. At that time they too were fed by the house. So, at noon, I saw them all sitting down in a long line in the front yard away from the house. As I watched, each of the people sitting on the ground made a hole in the ground in front of them (this was in the Mavelikara side of Kerala, where the topsoil is almost like sea sand). Then the holes were lined with leaves and they were then served with 'kanji'--rice gruel into these holes, which they ate with spoons made from folded jackfruit leaves. I was really upset. I remember asking my aunt why they had to eat like that, why did they not have some vessel to have the 'kanji' in. She explained to me that they were from the lowest castes and could not be given food in our vessels.
I am really glad to say that that was the last time I saw anything like that. This would have been in the early '50s. After that I must say Kerala progressed rapidly. Elected Communist governments certainly improved the lot of people a great deal, bringing in education for all and really helping the lower castes feel a sense of pride in themselves and a sense of hope for the future. Now, belonging to the Backward classes is not something to be hidden because of all the benefits, chief of which is reservation of course. Now, each caste works hard to get the 'backward' tag attached! What a change!!