Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bad memories.

With all the "oust the outsiders" poison currently vitiating the atmosphere in Mumbai, I'm reminded of two sorry events from my childhood at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. http://tinyurl.com/48tnw4. The first one took place toward the end of World War II. There was strict rationing in force. The rationing administrative office nearest to our house was at Muzzffarabad Hall (aka The People's Jinnah Hall), on the Grant Road Bridge close to Novelty Cinema http://digbig.com/4xwdb, within easy strolling distance from our house. My sister http://digbig.com/4xwdc used to work there. She had learned Urdu in her spare time before taking up the job. She was an ardent movie goer and used to buy and listen to all the latest 78 rpm discs of the hit songs from the movies. With hindsight, it seems likely that she was deeply affected by the passionate love stories she witnessed on the silver screen in the companionable twilight of the movie hall. Those were probably the days when Ratan starring Swarna Lata and featuring the hit song Ankhiyan Milake had just been released. On Saturdays, my sister's office used to close an hour and a half after noon and she would be home by 2 pm. One fateful Saturday afternoon, she did not turn up at her usual arrival time. My mother was frantic with worry. As soon as my father returned home, they had a whispered confab. Phone calls were made and enquiries too all over the city with our relatives and her friends. That night, I was woken up by the weeping of my father and mother. It scared and saddened me no end. I don't recall being particularly saddened by my sister's disappearance, though. This was because, except for surface cordiality, she was not at all fond of me. She must have viewed the late arrival of a male heir on the family scene http://digbig.com/4xwdf when she was already 18 as a threat to her prospects of inheritance. I was in awe of her, even a bit afraid too. Eventually, my sister was traced to my aunt's house in Nowroji Street. She had made this defiant move to declare her intention of marrying a Muslim colleague. I am not aware of what transpired when my parents went to fetch her. In a couple of days, she returned home and resigned her job. Broad-minded as my parents were, the shock of their daughter wanting to marry a Muslim must have been way too much for them to bear. The other sad event occured some time later, maybe in the early fifties. It concerned a cousin of mine from Khar who married a Hindu girl not of our caste. My uncle and, more particularly, my aunt http://digbig.com/4xwdg made it a point to ostracize him from the clan. Although, in their heart of hearts, my parents who were rather fond of the boy, did not want to do it, they had to follow suit. I do not think I was much bothered by all the fuss that was being made. I had never been much concerned with caste and creed right from the beginning. It perturbed me to hear much later that one of my professors in Sydenham College who was also a favourite Marathi author of mine disowned his daughter for marrying a Muslim and went to the extent of taking in her name a purificatory bath that an orthodox Hindu takes after returning home from the crematorium or the burning grounds. In short, he declared to the world that, in his eyes, she was dead and gone. Later on, though, I discovered that malicious rumour mongering had inspired this vicious canard. That, at least, is a good memory to treasure.