Business Standard

Tale of two cities

Related News

I write this for the first time in a state of panic. It is not the skittish panic of a newborn foal that’s heard a gunshot, but the slow burn of someone who is watching a wheel turn.

My parents were refugees. Partition scattered them like storm-tossed sparrows and they arrived in to perch on whichever twig they could find. It was the ’50s. The city was kind. In , they found a community of like-minded people — actors, writers and poets who welcomed them to their fray. They lived as paying guests in Bandra. An Anglo-Indian spinster rented them a room with a table fan and meals thrown in. Most nights, they would eat beef stew with pao bread that was baked locally.

Later, when they had found steady jobs and the family grew, they managed to rent a small apartment in Juhu from a wealthy Goan family. Below them, lived a famous Muslim screenplay writer and across the landing a with the state-owned airlines.

Every week, someone would be celebrating a festival or two. Their landlords across the compound would butcher a fattened pig almost every month and send dishes of vindaloo and sorpotel across; from below, the Muslim writer’s family would do the same during Id with the meat of the fattened goat that had been tethered to their door.

Is nostalgia’s hazy gaze making this memory more idyllic than it really was? Was it really such a love-fest?

No. I recall my parents noting in irritation the god-awful racket made by the squealing pigs as they met their sorry end; and there were nightly brawls that broke out between the ascetic Muslim writer’s household and the rambunctious Catholic landlords for peace and quiet and the cessation of their drunken rendition of “My bonneeeee lies over the oceannnnnnn”. And in one shameful instance, a gang of self-appointed colony busybodies strode across to the home of a famous family of Muslim actors who lived down the lane because they suspected that it was signalling enemy planes during the war!

But none of this seemed life-threatening or made a passing dent in the otherwise even tenor of our existence. And if anyone told us that we were not welcome in the city and it would be best if we returned — believe me, we didn’t notice.

But, of course, change was taking place at the bottom of the pyramid. If in the beginning the shakedown of Bihari cab drivers and UP artisans and south-Indian accountants was a distant rumble, by the ’80s the clamour of the sons of the soil became more agitated.

Unspeakable things happened to people in the ’. . Purges. The changing of the city’s name was the last nail in the coffin. Yesterday, I attended the memorial of a well-known gallerist in one of the city’s best-known galleries. He had been a man who had championed the modern art movement and stood for human rights and civil liberties on every occasion. The hall was full of people like him: artists, writers, commentators and poets.

But when I looked around, all I saw was a community under siege. I saw the last bastion of people who stood for the city that had invited my parents in. It looked like the last dance before the city I had grown up in disappeared forever.

And though it is hard for me to say it and I do not want to, I have come to terms with the fact that there may be another migration in my family’s history.


 

Malavika Sangghvi is a Mumbai-based writer
malavikasangghvi@hotmail.com

Read more on:   
|
|
|
|
|
|

Read More

Subir Gokarn: The taper that didn't

The episode holds lessons for both domestic policy and international co-ordination


Most Popular Columnists

Mihir S Sharma

Mihir S Sharma: Chetan Bhagat, national treasure
Mihir S Sharma

Early on in the book, when the protagonist of Chetan Bhagat's Two States meets his future wife, she asks him what he wants to be. A writer, he ...

Bharat Bhushan

Bharat Bhushan: Why Modi's selfie campaign is not picture-perfect
Bharat Bhushan

The consequences of Modi's campaign can prove to be negative and his political 'dysmorphic disorder' is bound to come in the way of delivering good governance

Shankar Sharma

Shankar Sharma: Corruption is a non-issue for the voter
Shankar Sharma

Nor do secularism, freedoms and fundamental rights play such a major role in their electoral choices

Columnists

Claude Smadja

Claude Smadja: Trying the 'pivot', again
Claude Smadja

On his trip to Asia, Barack Obama will have to counter the impression that the US is an increasingly reluctant superpower

T S Vishwanath

T S Vishwanath: EU seeks to bridge the skill gap
T S Vishwanath

A new directive on intra-corporate transfers of skilled professionals seeks to address a key demographic challenge in a progressive manner

Kanika Datta

Kanika Datta: The Big Two
Kanika Datta

If elite press and social media are to be believed, current parliamentary election is being fought on twin issues of corruption and communalism

Back to Top