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Peace Watch » Editor's Take » Bombay Days: The City Is Not All About Darker Alleys And Thugs

Bombay Days: The City Is Not All About Darker Alleys And Thugs


 Outside Darker Alleys


The city of seven islands for me was not just about the tinsel town with all its flashy glamour and scandalous stories making covers of glamour magazines.  Or some making to the cover pages and topless female centerfolds of the Debonair magazine. It was not all about spicy gossip columns of Devayani Chaubel ’s about film stars, actors, and actresses. Her concocted stories’ precariously brimming with an “intimacy” that unnerved topmost film actors. On Bombay media grapevine there were lots of stories about her peeping into the bedrooms of film stars.  She was so brute in her writings ‘that once Dharmendra for her scandalous column about him waylaid her near the racecourse.’ In 1983, one day she wanted to interview the chief executive of our state. He was in the city to woo Bombay industrialists to invest in the state. For seeking an appointment she used Rukhsana Sultana of Sanjay Gandhi fame, I timely briefed the chief executive about her outrageous writing about actors and VIPs.   
The city is not all about those wretched and disreputable colonies and localities, where scoundrels gleefully direct gullible to use a top Bombay born novelists phrase into ‘ever-darker’ alleys, where gullible are stripped of all belongings including clothes and left to be found by police on some pavement. Once, son of a VIP, from our land who had gone missing was found by the ‘Missing Person Bureau’ of Bombay Police in one of those wretched lanes-   stark naked robbed of money, watch and even undergarments.   Lodged in the Nagpada Police Station on the Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, when my colleagues and I visited him in in the lockup he looked like Ban-Manus in a cage. Sadly, these offensively nauseating streets blurred the image of the metropolitan and made many denounce it as the City of Sin’, where “every drop of the families bloodline is stained with sin.”  It so happened one day a classmate of my father, a respected senior citizen who was heading an important public office, along with his secretary visited the metropolitan. I invited them over lunch in Gulshan-I-Iran restaurant in the Crawford Market. After lunch, he wanted to have a stroll in the market, out of sheer tomfoolery the Secretary despite my cautioning guided him into a long winding street that led to one of the wretched streets.

Devyani Chaubal

The sickening scenes on the street enraged him, out of parental love he told me you would get spoiled in this city of sin and I will get you shifted back to Srinagar. It was difficult to convince him that the city was more than a rainbow. It had so many colors and shades that even a painter of M. F. Husain’s fame would fall short colors to paint it in its all shades. Then, as late as the early eighties, when the cartoonist turned politician was yet to have an avatar of a tiger the great city with all its vivacity welcomed all communities with open arms and every community added one after other shade to its cultural landscape.
There was something inherent in the city that converted religious occasions of every faith into grand pageant- a cascade of colors. The gaiety of the holy month of Ramadan was felt in large part of the city days before sighting of the moon.   On the stroke of clocks, loudly announcing break the fast, when sun drowned in the sea, from Crawford Market to   Mohammad Ali Road to Mahim to Haji Ali, everything around bustled doubly. I often joined a friend Dr. Fida, and colleague of mine Nisar Hussain for Iftar. Nisar lived in a narrow a by lane of Dongri, Bhendi Bazar near historic Moghul Masjid with one his relation popularly called John Kashmiri by Kashmiri fraternity. The mid-nineteenth century Masjid was a piece of Iranian heritage in the city. Despite, congestion it had retained its old serenity. My colleague Nisar Hussain and his relation followed Jafari fiqh, so they broke their fast ten minutes after me. More than the variety and taste of cuisines, it was the Ramadan ambiance in this part of the city that made me travel six to seven kilometer from airy surroundings of the Colaba to the congested areas of Bhendi Bazar.
 And Tarawih at Masjid Haji Ali, with the soothing breeze from the Arabian Sea, had its spiritual solace- something unparalleled.

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