Bombay Diaries

Pachi* found my diary once. It was a white spiral bound notebook that said ‘My Diary’. She said she wanted to read it. When I gave her a dirty look, she promised she wouldn’t tell ma about it. After I handed it over, she scratched the ‘Diary’ out and wrote in bold, confident letters ‘Dairy’.

She wakes up at 5:00 every morning to do Pranayama and Yoga. It all began with Baba Ramdev 10 years ago. That evening after he demonstrated how to grow hair—ma, aunty and everybody else at home sat and rubbed their finger nails. They have been doing it since. They do it while watching TV, in the theatre while watching a movie and in restaurants while we wait for food. Dad joined in when he realised that all the ‘grow hair in one week’ medicines were failing him.

Pachi lives in Andheri, Mumbai. She has lived there since Mumbai was Bombay. A man who lived in her building used to be secretary to Juhi Chawla and then later to Hrithik Roshan. When they got Juhi Chawla to come to aunty’s home one day, my cousin L – Aunty’s son, picked a strand of Juhi Chawla’s hair and put it in a plastic cover. He hid it in his cupboard and never showed it to us.

Because of the secretary connection, she claims that her gossip about Bollywood movie stars is 100% pakka. She is convinced that Rani Mukherjee drinks and smokes; that Aishwarya doesn’t; and that there really is something between Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan. Her maid who has connections too, tells her some of these things. When my sister and I were 13, 14, and 15 – we listened to all these stories with envious interests. We had to know if L had really hugged Hrithik Roshan or if Shah Rukh’s son was really promised to Madhuri’s daughter or if Salman really stood outside Aishwarya’s door every night, threatening to break it down, miles apart from how Amitabh stood outside Rekha’s apartment (My mother and pachi swear by this. They say that in all the award functions, they have seen nothing but true love for Rekha in Amitabh’s eyes)

When we became 21, 22, and 23 – we resisted these stories like we resisted everything else at that age. We were rude to pachi and back-answered her at every chance we saw fit. Somehow we were more vulnerable then than we were at 13, 14 and 15. We refused to believe that she even saw these stars close-up—let alone knew them in person. We were mad at ourselves for having believed the stories in the first place. At 25, 26 and 27 – we forgave her because we had learnt a lot about her life by then.

She is a mindless exaggerator of details, almost to the point where she knows nobody is going to believe her but she continues anyway – I have never been able to find out why.

When I was in Mangalore for summer vacations some years ago, she thought it was a good idea to drag me the Government College that she had studied in- to pull out some really old records. I tagged along hoping it would be an interesting expedition. We took a bus and at the college I witnessed what my aunt is really famous for – her negotiations. All the women in my family from my mother’s side bargain beautifully. Neither my dad nor anybody from his side of the family knows how to bargain. I think I have his genes. I sat at a long, oval brown table and watched as my aunt had them pull out record after record from the 70’s.

Innu swalpa nodi, tumba problem aagtade illa andre. Nanna maganige interview untu americadalli. Nanna doucuments sikkilla andre avanige visa illa.

In the train, on their way back to Bombay – my aunt sat in somebody else’s seat the first half of the journey. Neither of the four of my family members that were on that train had a ticket. They just got on the train and left. My aunt- her son; my other aunt and her son. When the man whose seat it was boarded the train and asked politely to see their tickets, she fought with him.When the poor thing kept showing his ticket to her, saying that he had paid for it, my aunt only said – Toh hum kya phokat main aaye hain?

*Pachi in Konkani means aunt.

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