Yeh hai Bambai Meri Jaaaan….

I just read a blog of a fellow blogger who’s an American working in India about her experience in Mumbai and that just reminded me of one such incident in my own life so I thought it would be worth while typing it down.

For the record I was born in Mumbai and also did a bit of schooling in Mumbai but that was only till I was 6 years of age. So it does not count for much the rest of my youth was shaped in Jamnagar & than in Bharuch…

Now coming to the incident I want to relate… Its bout when I went to Mumbai while I was in 9th class so about 16 years of age… I used to go to Mumbai very often almost every vacation with my Mom and two brothers but that usually used to be under their care and apart from playing around my Mama’s (maternal uncle) house we did no traveling by ourselves. We had the luxury of having the cars to take us where ever we wanted to go.

At 16 neither an adult nor a kid I had friends from Bharuch who had also come to Mumbai… I used to live in Santacruz (w) and they were put up in Lower Parel at some of their relatives.

Allow me to introduce my friends : Amit who was of my age, his younger brother Aniket & his cousin Laloo (Pratik his real name) were 4 years younger to us along with Amit’s eldest cousin Nikhil 3 years older to us. We all had decided when in Mumbai we would meet up and go to Victoria Terminus (VT as it was called than).

The plan was to visit VT, go to fashion street, eat the famous road side food of Mumbai and visit Gateway of India and basically be alone for a day away from parents in an unknown city. So we had decided to meet at the gate of the Swami Narayan Mandir out side Dadar Station from where we would all go together.

Things went as per plan and we met at Dadar, took a ticket to VT station. For us kids from Gujarat the Mumbai trains have always been fascinating and a bit scary I might admit. As usual we let atleast two trains go by hoping the crowd would lessen… but Mumbai never stops… there were trains every 3 minutes that would go to VT, they would stop for about 15 seconds and bunches of people would come out and go in. Making all sorts of sounds and barging into one another, crushing each other. Sometimes people wanted to get down but they wouldn’t be able to get down as too many were boarding the trains. Everytime the train would go the platform would be empty but within the next two minutes don’t know from where, actually from everywhere, people would swarm and the platform would be full. Truly Mumbai local trains aren’t for the soft hearted. So after two trains went it was decided that come what may this next train we will push in and get in.

So much tension is in the minds before the train comes but once inside its quite amazingly organized actually. The guys who want to get down are in the middle while the last stop fellas are sleeping besides the windows…

Eventually we got to VT and out… as teenagers we saw lots of movies and were always aware that you get lots of hookers on VT station. I and Amit kept looking but in the morning at 12 there was no one to be found, however we convinced ourselves that some innocent looking female standing near a pillar was a hooker and both of us were proud that we had spotted one and were thinking of stories to relate to our other friends in Bharuch after adding lots of spice to that story.

Outside the station and hungry was our time to savour the special Mumbai Vada Pav… no matter how many times I have gone to Mumbai and no matter what time I go to Mumbai I have never come back without eating the Vada Pav, I simply love it… and I can never have enough of the Vadapav…

After the Vada Pav we set towards Gateway of India walking through lots and lots of shops selling books, encyclopedia’s, electronic games, glasses, bags, clothes and what not… probably everything…

At Gateway of India we saw a few female foreigners and immediately we were kinda attracted… Amit and I decided we were going to talk to them… at that age we were fascinated by the white skin and more than the white skin the English movies had taught us that the foreigners are a lot more of a liberated lot. I hope you understand what I mean. However no luck for us with the foreign females. We hung around there a long time. That was also the time I had just begun smoking so it was great to be able to smoke on the roads without any fear of being caught. After getting the customary photograph clicked with the Gateway of India behind us, we started our return journey.

On our way back all of us together had about 1500 Rs. and we had decided that we wont go back home in the local train as they were simply too crowded and people smelt of perspiration. We decided we would take a taxi home. On the way back out side the Jehangir Art Gallery we saw a group of about 8 to 10 men in a crowd and we couldn’t help noticing that one man had a bag put on a stool and he was putting cards while other men were betting.

Instead of keeping away we got interested, Nikhil the eldest warned us to stay away and wouldn’t join us but I and Amit decided to look in. Amit got in a lot closer and reached the first line. We understood that the guy would put 3 cards and if you selected the queen of hearts amongst the 3 you can double your bet. Minimum bet was Rs. 100. It was quite fast and chaotic. At times we couldn’t even come to know who bet and who won. There was a White guy (read foreigner) amongst the onlookers and suddenly the one guy bet for the White man Rs. 500 and whoa.. the White man won. He had doubled his money. But the White man refused to take the money and started walking away. The group had trouble explaining to him. So I the English medium educated guy started translating you won!!! Take the money, the guy said I didn’t play. He told us kids also to go away from here.. and went away…. I and Amit were kinda puzzled but we reckoned the White man was a crazy guy not to have taken the 500 he just won. Just as we were discussing the same man bet 500 on Amit’s behalf suddenly…. and whoa … we won. They said we won 500.. Amit unsure said he didn’t bet.. “aap jeet gaya sahib le jao” (you won take the money). I told him lets take the money. He took the money but before we could put the money in the pocket he asked “Tumhare paas 500 hai ??” (Do you have 500 in your pocket??) we said “yes”.. He said in hindi, “You can take this 500 if you have 500 in your pocket or else give it back.” Amit instinctively searched his pocket and came up with 400, my greed got the better of me as I handed over Amit 100 from my pocket to make it 500 hoping to double my own 100. Immediately as soon as the money was shown another bet was placed by the same man on behalf of Amit for 1000 and alas we lost…

The 1000 was snatched from our hands, and we shocked in disbelief started complaining that we didn’t bet. Immediately came the reply that you had not bet in the first place yet we were claiming the winning sum so why not lose the same way. It was as if we had been punched badly in the stomach. They shoved us away and told us to get lost. The eldest Nikhil got angry and decided he would win back the 500 and went to bet only to lose another 400 in a few minutes. That was big money for us then… we were pushed shoved and finally we decided to find a cop, by the time we reached a traffic police officer these men had gone from that place…

With the men went our money, and hopes of a taxi ride home, we had to be content with the most crowded and draining journey in perspiration stenched local train of Mumbai back home…. Quite shocked yet we all decided to tell all at home that we all had spent the money in the restaurant in Taj Hotel and not tell anything about the cards game to any one at home…