My first vivid images of life are from the time when we used to live in Ahmednagar, about 120 km from Pune or 260 km from Mumbai. I vaguely remember having taken part in some running races and won them! I was 3 or 4 years old. I did not even know what winning was. I also remember that we used to live in a bungalow, which was my father’s official residence as a Police Officer. Incidentally, my father could never buy a home on his own in his lifetime. Another incident I remember was of the dacoity we had in our house, yes in a Police Officers home! I was sleeping with my mother and heard a distinct sound of something being pulled on the floor. (A bag was being pulled!!) I woke my mom up and told her about the noise. She told me that I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. Dacoits had entered our home by breaking a wall near our back door, for access. The front door was secured by taking care of the watchman, by pointing a crowbar at his head!! The most important part of the episode was no one from our home including my siblings, my grandfather nor my parents got up while this was happening!! The dacoits, after they were caught, were very scared when they came to know about my father; but they said that if anyone had gotten up during the episode, that person would have been killed.
After Nagar, we were in Pune for a couple of years, 2nd and 3rd grade in good old Modern High School. We stayed in a house near Sambhaji Park. We used to go walking to school, no parents or autos or buses to drop us! Pune was a small town in those days. A couple of incidents come in front of my eyes. Once, a few Army tanks were clanking on the JM Road from Deccan towards JM temple. Our gang saw the same, and we just started running on the footpath along with tanks (there were footpaths in those where one could run!!). At some stage, we decided to stop the pursuit, and we started looking here and there, confused. We had come near the JM temple which was about ½ km ahead of the school. Were we scared!
One from the gang started crying because he thought we were lost; ultimately yours truly took charge and decided to trace the path back, and ten/fifteen minutes later we were home. Another incident I remember was when my father was required to rush to attend a fire alarm. Believe it or not, but we could see the plumes of smoke from distant Bhawani Peth where there was a big fire in “timber market”. Today you won’t be able to see the plumes if a fire starts, even if you are in “timber market” as there is so much rush & crowd and taller buildings! I have an interesting incident to share based on this period. In the late 60’s I moved to Pune for engineering. On our playground, I saw one guy, and I was trying to place him. Suddenly both of us called each other. I said, “Hey Vicky” and he said hey “PRAMOD”. He was from the battle tank gang. Vicky never used to call me by name but used to spell it in verbal communication also, every time he wanted to call me!!
After this, we moved to Mumbai in the early ’60s. There was sea, there were trams, and there were test matches and what have you. Bombay had everything. For the initial period, we lived in Girgaum in a hotel because my father could not get the official residence. There was a school nearby, and I remember that in the class we used to have a song and dance session, once in a while. I used to sing “माना जनाब ने पुकारा नही” with my friend Gopal dancing! God bless him, where is Gopal? I remember his face distinctly but don’t remember anything else.
Then we moved to Dhobi Talao in Police Quarters just behind Metro Cinema. From here we started getting senior friends also. One such friend was Sawant. Our home was bang opposite rear exit of Metro Cinema, where Sawant used to work. His role was dual, he used to paint posters, and during the shows, he also was the doorkeeper or usher. Ushers in those days at Metro were suited and booted, decked with Bow Ties!! Of course, we had a great benefit of being friends with Sawant. He would let us see a few movies on the fly if many seats were empty.
We stayed there till I passed SSC. That was the most exciting place to live and most innocent times to be in. I remember murder committed by Naval Commander Nanavati in those days was a big thing. Today such news could be a blimp, with so many murders around!
Friends if I go into Dhobi Talao spin, I will end up writing a full chapter! I will come back with a theme on Dhobi Talao, at a later date. So till then Ta Ta, Bye Bye, Ciao… and नमस्ते!!