Saturday, February 23, 2008


Ruhi had never been on an airplane and I don't think she particularly wanted to, except that only I felt she was missing out on a wonderful experience at that age where fairies have wings and there are castles on the clouds. 

I had been yearning for her to fly but couldn't think of a place to fly to, specially in the middle of her school term. We could have gone to Jodhpur but I didn't think my very regular in laws would understand the fun of visiting them for a touch and go trip. So when Linda casually invited me to her eight year old son, Joshua's first 'Holy Communion', I most readily accepted to attend. A day before Republic day we took an early morning flight with a very excited Ruhi who hardly slept the previous night but right after boarding was quick to declare that trains were much more fun !!!

Sri had sent the driver to fetch us at the airport and we went to her Bandra flat for a quick bite and shower. The maid was waiting for us and my little poppet fell in  love with the pretty little flat and announced she wanted to live there for the next '100 days' !!

I had planned every minute of her Bombay trip and the first stop was going to be the Nehru Planetarium at Worli, to watch the Planetary movements show. For many years, I had read much about the fantastic experience but never felt motivated enough to visit the place till now.

We were just in time for the hour long Hindi show inside an impressive dome shaped Sky theater auditorium. When the lights dimmed, a 3 D movie about Bombay started, it took you over the buildings, onto the sea, under the Gateway of India, sped up on marine drive to zoom up again on the Taj Mahal hotel. It was very exciting and exhilarating till the sky darkened and the planets came on.

What followed was an hour long explanation of the constellation and the planets. The commentary in Hindi fabulously explained constellations - Orion sketched in the sky like a hunter, Leo, forming a lion ( obviously ), Scorpius, Crux which is a spoke of the discovery expeditions and of how much more is left for us to still discover of the infinite universe...the black hole in front of the milky way.... awesome and so very frightening to think that we are such a petty, negligible part of a humongous cosmic dance.

I noticed there were hardly any people in the audience - just about 10 of us and it seemed like such a pity since it was an amazing way to understand the mystery and depth of our universe. The air-conditioning was freezing us and I sat there clutching little Ruhi with all I had to keep her warm, while she made me miserable crying and pestering us to leave the place since the darkness was scaring her and the constellations and planets coming upon us where very frightening. I couldnt blame her...maybe it was a bit too early for her and the content was obviously targeted at a grown up audience.

When we finally got out we saw hundreds of government school kids sitting all over the corridors and lawns eating their tiffins. Perhaps they were to watch the next show. We hopped and skipped over them and were delighted to come out of the eerie cold darkness into bright scorching sunlight !

The next stop was the Gateway of India and while we were driving past the Marine Drive I was excitedly jumping up and down the car when we approached the sea, pointing it out to her as if it may be the most brilliant sight in the world ! However my overexcitement irritated her more than anything else !

I have noticed that nothing is ever a big deal for her. In many ways its very disappointing for me since I find so much pleasure in showing her every wonderful sight , sound, smell or place as if I was going to see it anew with her eyes...but then I also realise I am quite foolishly in love with her and am doing what often fool do in love !!! LOL

We got dropped off at Nariman Point and walked around the Gateway of India which is being renovated and looked cold, grey and ugly with the filthy even more grey waters in the background. Ruhi saw the boats and started a tantrum to sit on the ferry.  When I checked with  a few, they were mostly headed to the elephanta caves which would have taken an entire day to visit and come back.

After howling a bit she found diversion in collecting small stones which she collected in a pile and carefully threw into the murky waters sitting on the ledge opposite the majestic Taj Mahal hotel. 

It was breezy and quite cold. Its been a rare winter in Bombay this year and I sat there shivering and staring at the sea. We had sat on the same spot when I was here a few months ago with Fatema. We had walked to that point from Colaba, and it was drizzling. And  once before that many years ago while attending an exhibition at the Oberois... I was completely unfamiliar with South Bombay those days and it was the quaintest experience to discover the lanes and bylanes behind the Taj Hotel and the many places to eat wonderful food long after all pubs and restaurants had gone to sleep. Specially 'Bade Miyan'...

That place also reminded me of sitting in the coffee shop at the Taj with Aditi and staring down at the sea. During my first few visits to Bombay, I used to always stay with her. She was a woman of the world, ambitious, intense...and I was a gawky, wide eyed simpleton and there was always so much to discover from her. I loved the way she would initiate me to everything that she thought I was missing out on...its still so much like that in fact.

When she was bored of throwing stones, Ruhi settled for a fan made of peacock feathers from a roadside hawker and we decided it was time for lunch. We jumped into the car and went next to Cafe Mondegar. I wanted to take her to all the places that are in some ways special to me. I remember the first time a friend of mine took me to Mondies I bought a lot of memorabilia like coasters and a tray to carry back to Delhi ! Even from Not Just Jazz by the a very excitedly touristy way ! I tried to dive into my memory to figure where Leopold used to be ...but it was too vague to remember...too many years had piled on the dust.

At Mondies now, though we sat right in the corner, almost stuffed inside the huge jukebox, the smoke was disturbing her so we came inside to the tiny room with the ugly mirror which is a complete contrast to the 'pop art' mario on the walls! She had some fries and a strawberry milkshake after which we roamed around aimlessly in the corridor of Colaba shops, picking trinkets etc and suddenly Ruhi, who had been sticking a finger in her mouth constantly announced that she had pulled out a tooth !!! We bought a small kitty coin purse from the pavement to save the tooth so that the tooth fairy could take it later !!!

It was late afternoon by now and I had to make a quick mandatory stop at a shop in Kalbadevi to pick up some stuff that Wasi needed. I had never been there before and nothing had prepared me for that market.

It was like the Jama Masjid area of Delhi with narrow lanes crowded with people who seemed to have all the time in the world to chat up friends and neighbors right in the middle of the road. Ruhi was already sleeping in my arms and the driver winded through the mess to bring me to my destination.

I had hoped to take Ruhi to the Hanging gardens on Malabar Hills. I had a vague memory of a huge shoe house that I had seen probably as a 9 or 10 year old when we had visited Chachi Ji in Bombay during our summer vacations. The shoe was stuck like a post-it note in my mind till today. But Ruhi was very tired so we headed back to Bandra and she crashed on the bed till I coaxed her to get up again !

I knew she was tired but she hadn't seen a beach yet and I wanted to take her to the Bandstand. On my very first visit to Bombay after I started to work, Rameet had enthusiastically shown me whatever he thought I would like of Bombay. He was in his first year at NMIMS and after showing me the wonderful Portuguese buildings in South Bombay all morning he brought me to Lands End to watch the sunset and we sat barefoot on the huge rocks to witness a brilliant orange sunset over the dark blue sea.

The driver had left to fetch Sri so I put Ruhi in an auto rickshaw and as we rode past Sharukh Khan's house, Ruhi wanted to know if we can walk in and meet him ! It was already about 9 PM and the area was dark and deserted. We walked along the bandstand area till we stumbled upon an amphitheater tucked away behind Taj Land's End. It was an open air ampitheater and I came to know later that it is one of the most popular amphitheaters in Bombay. We sat in one corner of the front row to watch a Bharatnatyam performance. The dancers were Rahul & Mitali D'souza and this was the Times of India Mumbai Dance festival we had discovered while searching for the Lands end Rocks ! Ruhi was completely enthralled by the dance, she refused to budge and shyly whispered in my ears that she wants to learn to dance. I decided to come back and find a dance school close to home...

I had to drag here back to Sri's house where we had dinner and tried to catch up later that night punctuated with Ruhi getting up from sleep almost a hundred times. She was getting nightmares about the Planets, constellations, moon craters and what not. It was certainly a bad idea to have taken her to the Planetarium. Maybe the Taraporewala aquarium would have been a better place for her age. Too late though since we were all set to go to Esselworld the next morning.

January 26, 2008

The next morning was Josh's Holy Communion ceremony at the Sacred Heart Church in Worli and I didn't want to miss it though Linda had said that I could skip the ceremony since she was having  a party in the evening anyway. 

As is usual with me, I forgot it was the Worli church and we landed up at a very deserted Sacred Heart church in Mahim and till we reached the right venue, the ceremony was just over ! The colorful looking Church is located on the sea face and the compound was filled with families and little boys dressed their best in white tuxedo suits and girls in frilly white gowns, tiaras with a veil attached and white long gloves.

As I discovered later, the first 'communion' is the most important Christian ceremony after baptism and it requires the child to receive the holy eucharist, i.e. bread and wine symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. The ritual comes from the 'Last Supper' where Jesus broke bread over wine with his disciples just before they became his executioners. Thus by having wine ( usually fed in a spoon) and a bite of the bread, the child remembers the great sacrifice of Christ and is inspired to live a good Christian life. Its an occasion of great family celebration and scores of kids receive the Eucharist together by kneeling down row by row in front of the holy table. 

We reached when the Kids had just come out 
and family photos were being taken. 
I had seen nothing like this before and was quite overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Ruhi looked dazed & stared longingly at the girls in pretty white gowns !

Linda stays next door to the church in her brother's flat and I stopped over for a while. Her brother breeds fish, turtles, tortoises etc and I met her cute little turtle who came to say hello sitting on her palm. 

Ruhi was shy as ever, clinging to me and scowling at the friendly people all around us. Strangely, she transforms when we are both alone into a mature, confident and wise little girl. 

On the way back at Dadar we were stopped by school kids marching on the road with tricolor flags in their hands. I suddenly remembered it was Republic Day...

We were back to Sri's house just in time to head off to a long road trip to Esselworld

More later...

No comments: