Monday, December 3, 2012

A chance sighting in the crowd

I was eleven when my father planned a trip to Bombay and he was taking the family of four.  Bombay was where my father had great memories and experiences in his work as a 'Sound Engineer' for the Films Division.  He would often reminisce and describe instances, the hardships, rains, local trains, busy life and so on.  He never got tired of them.  He never wanted to move back to Mysore because of the professional opportunities.   Only his mother's pressure to return, get married and stay with them brought him back, very much against his own liking. So eleven years later, in 1969, he wanted to return to relive some fond memories of Bombay.

We set about this train journey to Bombay from Mysore.  It was to be long and tedious.  Sleeping on upper berths was a thrill.  Ropes had to be tied to prevent us from falling down from the berth. Seats and berths were only wooden planks and we had to carry our bedding to be able to sleep.  It was a lot of luggage of four people.

We had to change trains at Arsikere, Miraj and again at Poona [now Pune] and we would reach Bombay on the third day!  Nowadays, a direct train to Bombay [renamed Mumbai] takes us in 24  hours.

At Arsikere, we had to wait 4 hours and catch another coal engine train to Miraj.  Then at Miraj, I think our bogey from that train was detached and re-attached to another train that went to Poona.  Then at Poona, it was electric train.  The route was magnificent and we got the thrill of traveling in numerous long tunnels along the hill route.  Two engines pulling our train was an incredible sight for me.

Now let me come to the subject of this post.

At Mysore Station, before we boarded the train, we had met a few members from the Somayaji family that lived in our locality. His daughter and son-in-law with their families with two kids were in Bombay and were returning after a vacation. Somayaji's son and his family was accompanying them on the journey.  They were also traveling by the same trains.  Since they knew us quite well, they affectionately invited us to stay with them in their apartment in Bombay and they really meant it.  We soon boarded in different compartments and we could not meet again in the journey. We Dadar Railway Station which was one stop before Bombay [Victoria Terminus].  It was about 8 in the evening.  

I cannot remember if the train was late.  There were a large number of people outside the station looking to hire conveyances. My father was wondering where to go and stay.  He had a few open options in mind.  But since it was so late, he seemed to get worried about his prepared options.  We had forgotten about the kind invitation made by the Somayaji family.  At this time, I could locate them nearby in the sea of people.  I showed my father 'there they are'.  When he went up to them and explained about his options, they just wanted to dismiss all that but to go with them!!  What a wonderful gesture! 

Horse-driven carts were hired to reach their apartment.  It was not far from Dadar.  Actually it was a 'flat' given by that person's employer and was very very spacious, located in nearby King's Circle.  The next 3-4 days, we had a great fun time, playing various games and running around the house along with the children of that house who had also traveled in the train. They were so leisurely and enjoying school holidays, that December. 

King's Circle was a landmark in Matunga.  It has now been renamed as Maheshwari Udyan.  Matunga was a very familiar place to my father as he used to live at Mysore Association [which is still thriving!]!  What more could he ask?  An ad balloon in that area was an attraction to us and visible from a long distance. We were seeing such a thing for the first time.  When we returned from our sojourns we used to frequently look at it as a sort of guide.

My father took us to a few places, mostly a few relatives's houses.  One Rama Rao who was with Crompton Greaves lived in his apartment overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Marine Drive, the famous spot.  He had also taken us to 'Malabar Hill/Hanging Gardens' from where Marine Drive could be seen at night, like a "Queen's Necklace".  I remember we had gone to Sion to another relative who had given this little toy/model truck. 

We had a taste of how fast life in Bombay was, even in 1969, esp. on local trains. I could compare the increase in density of people when I visited on my own in 1983.  Plastic items were new at that time and so we bought quite a lot of them. Some are with us even today.  We had been to the Bombay Dyeing showroom because an uncle was in that famous company.  A few towels we bought lasted a long time.  He also took us to his favourite Mysore Association.

We had not seen such fast moving vehicles on roads, that were beautiful too.  Such a one nearly hit my little brother when he tried to cross the road.  

The trip satisfied my father and probably it was the only time he took us together on a tour and it was to be his final visit to that place. It was a really memorable trip to all of us. We thanked the family profusely for hosting us, including our meals. 

If I had not spotted that family in the crowd, I cannot imagine how the tour could have gone. 

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