Tag Archives: Smell

Thoda aur sarko na – make some space!

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Thoda aur sarko na … (make some space)

Kya? (what?)

Aare thoda jagga karo … (make some space!)

This lady with a big tokri (basket of fresh, stinky mackerels) kept pushing me …

I was already sitting on top of four baskets of fish, fresh vegetables and probably soiled clothes. All dressed in my best with evening in paris, nina ricci. Now only the smell of dead blood (from those mackerels) ruled!

I was already sulking that theres no fun getting ready and traveling in Bombay local trains .. after all it’s going to be all sweat, dust and grime.. but then i had to meet Kinshuk at Hamla (naval base) …my date on a empty beach of Bombay, in the monsoons.

It was this thought that kept me going in the crowded local western railways … no I wasn’t sitting in the vendor compartment…it was very much the ladies dabba (compartment) but the wrong time… early mornings,when the fish from the docks had to reach the Bombay wallahs!

and I had to reach the beach.

Every week I took this train, to meet him. To walk on the sand and surf hand in hand, not to talk just to walk… on empty, quite shores of otherwise deafening, busting at the seams, dusty, raggy, stinky Bombay.

This was a private beach under the Defence land, no civilian had access to it and I felt privileged walking all alone in the early hours and late evening, who wouldn’t after all these are the small perks one gets to serve the nation!

Today, I was really getting irritated with the fisher folks in the train… they simply rule at this hour… they make you feel like you don’t belong, they curse you if you don’t make space for them and their stinky baggage. You can’t complain about the stink, the scattered fish scales all over or the stinky, slimy water on the floor. It’s okay if you just managed to save your self from slipping on that fish water, all you will get is toothy beetle nut juice laced grin. I always think they don’t belong here, they need to take the vendor compartment or take a tempo or anything but not the train, not a public transport at least! Each time I took the train I would sulk and complain but then finally when my station would arrive I would happily forget everything and head towards my privileged solitude. Today was no different, I jumped of the train (literally one has too if you have all the stinky obstacles and smelly hurdles)

I managed to reach my beach still smelling a bit of nina ricci and a lot of fish, but then the whole beach smells of fish.

There he was standing, waiting for me.

My whole week, I use to wait for this moment and now when I am here I don’t need to say or do anything, all I need is to be!

It was drizzling so we were told not to walk on the shore as the tide was high. I sat there on the edge of the Mess wall, overlooking the beach. I kept watching the waves leap high up and dash across the shores and sweep back sand and empty beer bottles. I could feel the salt in my hair and lips from the sea breeze. Kinshuk’s friends decided to play volley ball on the beach.Cadets usually did that in their free time. Now this was a dampener, I did not get my walk on the beach nor did I get my solitude. I wasn’t complaining as I still had my view.

As I was watching the sea rise and fall, suddenly I saw two hands jutting out of the waves in the middle of sea… first I thought it was a tree, then as I concentrated and realized it was a boy with hands waving… probably he was drowning or was asking for help… I yelled at the boys playing volley ball… I asked them to go save that boy in the sea… Kinshuk and is friend Hari, immediately jumped into the waves… they swam as fast as they could to reach the boy… all i could hear was the roar of waves … did not know what was happening… and then I see that they managed to get hold of the boy… but then I did not understand much… it was only when they reached the shore I realized that what they saved was a corpse already floating in the sea!

He was probably 12 year and his hands were stuck up ( rigor mortis) as if asking for help. That boy was all stiff and curled up! Like a log. They dragged the corpse to the shores and alerted the coast guard… and started playing volley ball again.!!

Hello is nobody going to check his pulse, is nobody going to call the doctor or the police!!! I stood there dumb! watching the routine… I did not know how to react..feel sad? that we could not save the boy, hoping had we seen him early probably we could have saved him, nobody seemed bothered… I was further shocked, disturbed. Nobody!!

(It was routine for them…and yes it was … often in monsoon during high tide dead bodies came floating towards the shores and these Cadets usually ended up fishing them out… It was routine for them to fish these bodies out and then alert the coast guard )

But I am sure it meant something to somebody…someone’s kid, someone’s brother… Who was this boy? … How and when did he drown? There were so many questions… I just stood there watching and the boys got back to their game?

I requested that lets put a sheet over the boy to cover his body … and one of the Cadets said we don’t get a ration of sheets… we are running out of them!

I was speechless as I did not know how to react or say anything!

The Cadet informed me that these are normally fishermen and their families who go fishing and they get drowned in the high tides! These bodies come floating every second day during monsoon and its routine job of fishing them out.

I just stood there watching the corpse all bare, with waves roaring behind me and boys cheering the game.

Kinshuk immediately walked up to me, he took me aside and said ” This is your first time! ” … ” We all had ours! “

That evening on my way back home… the trains were rattling empty… it was just the cool breeze and my faint nina ricci .


Granny’s Smell

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“ No granny No! You are coming to Bangalore…”

Mane Java de! (Let me go!) … I don’t want go to Bangalore”

“ Come Granny, Natak mat kar (stop creating a scene)… you have to come with us!”

“ You can’t force me I want to stay at Grant Road with Naomi.”

A teenager kept pushing, dragging her old fragile, grey eyed wrinkled Granny in front of me while boarding a flight!

At first I thought the Granny was senile, had gone cuckoo and the young girl was trying to get her into the flight back home, but after listening to their argument I realized that the Granny was quite sane and she did not want to go to Bangalore with her granddaughter but wanted to stay back in Mumbai with her daughter Naomi, living at Grant Road.

It was really difficult for the young girl to get her cotton frock, red scarf Granny to buckle up in the seat!

Granny kept saying “ You cannot force me… you cheated me!”

Everyone on flight thought the granny had gone cuckoo and was giving a tough time to the granddaughter.

I was feeling angry with the young girl, as she was a bit rough with Granny! I was no one to judge but what ever I saw and heard I did not approve of it!

Just because she was old, just because someone else cannot take care of her, because she is weak and does not have enough money to take care of herself? Why did she not want to stay with her son? And why with her daughter? Was she ill-treated?

A million stereotyped questions came to my mind. I wanted to walk up to Granny sitting four rows in front, buckled up! I wanted to know why she was troubled… I wondered.

I saw Granny at the conveyor belt… she kept saying “Mane Java de! (Let me go!)” I brushed against her twice but did not have the courage to help her, but her smell still lingers, that old age smell that comes from old creased, weathered eye people. The smell of age, the smell of stories, the smell of years … I cannot forget this smell, my granny smelled the same.

Moist, warm and earthy!

My Crazy, Loony Granny!

Now this lady my Granny, was a tough cookie… I don’t think anybody could force her into anything, even at the age of ninety she would simply catch hold of me (I was eight!) and walk the busy streets of Bombay, often landing up on the footpath with the cyclists, all bruised! I still remember crimson blood dripping down her creased arms. Ahh! That texture would be really amazing for some of my graphic design work!

Now they say that my Granny was so feisty and courageous that she dug up her brother’s grave, to kiss him one last time. At an earlier time she did deliver her baby at the steps of the village temple, all alone using a sickle to chop the umbilical cord!

Granny always stacked some Hashish with her; village folks always had it in their metal trunks! Each time she baby-sat me, I would sleep soundly! The effect of Hashish, which Granny use to make me lick!

Granny loved me the most, but till the day she passed she didn’t know my name, she was hard of hearing and she always called me by a homophone “Ranju Baby!” I kept correcting her each time but in vein. I remember telling her its not “Ranju” it’s “Anju!” But she never got it!

Granny loved blessing as well as cursing!

She cursed her eldest son that he would go crazy like her and take the same medicines she took! It happened!

She blessed her youngest son, that may he get all the riches and lovely mansion! Bingo!

Now she blessed me “Ranju” to all riches, beauty and intelligence! It never happened?

Because it not “ Ranju” but it’s “Anju”!


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