Musings Circa 60’s! Eateries in my life!

My friend Suresh wrote something about canteens in COEP, on our WA group;  that took me back to my childhood and college days. My first visit to an eatery that I remember was when I was a child; I had gone with my mother and other family members to a place on Tilak Road, in Pune, called Jeevan! I was on the 7th cloud and I ate a Ghavan! Now I am not really sure if it was a dosa or the ghavan, both very thin roti type of bread, made of completely different batters. Later, I asked my mother a few times if we could go to Jeevan again. But she did not even bother to reply. Eating out in those days was something very rarely done. Then, of course, there was Diwadkar’s batata Wada (Patty) eaten during travel between Bombay and Pune. I used to eagerly wait for Karjat station to arrive. I think they used to give garlic chutney also along with hot wadas! This was the beginning of my journey about eateries, in 50’s.

My schooling was done in Bombay and I used to live in Dhobi Talao behind Metro Cinema. I used to go to school by us. Monsoon was the season I would eagerly await. I would cook a story that due to heavy rains buses were delayed and I had to walk home, a distance of about 25 minutes! Those four annas were used to eat Masala Dosa at a place called Kelkar or Batata Bhaji, yes only bhaji, no puris! This bhaji was the speciality of a place called Kulkarni’s, bang opposite our school at Prarthana Samaj in Girgaum. Both these places have gone away with time.

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One iconic place near our home in Dhobi Talao was Kyani’s. (The photo above) Bun Maska, chai, pastries and Omelette was their speciality. But how much money could one pinch from home? Once I managed to pinch money for an Omelette and a few times for bun Maska/chai, a couple of times for pastries. Ten years back I went there and had a full feed of everything, finally. Kyani is still around. My Mumbai story will not be completed without writing about Milk Bar behind Elphinstone College; custards, puddings and jellies and what have you! The last one in my list was Napoli Bistro opposite Brabourne Stadium. We used to go there during my Telang Memorial hostel stay on C road at Churchgate. We used to get expresso for a princely sum of Rs.1/, which we used to have once in a while. There was a jukebox in the restaurant which made us hang around for some time. One naughty guy called Nitin Khot took a bet with someone and somehow managed to pinch a chair from the restaurant. It was returned the next day!

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That brings me back to Pune of my engineering college days. Good Luck is like Kyani’s of Mumbai and served the similar foodstuff. There used to be a little more money in pockets during this phase which allowed us to eat chicken masala and roti! Wow! Mouth still waters! Bowing to the father time, now they serve Idli Sambhar also. Another joint for us night owls, was Olympia opposite Pune Corporation. We used to be awake with our other studious guys but most of the time was spent on serious discussions of the world at large, with special reference to girls! When we had some time free from these discussions, we would be busy in Rummy or Teen Patti (Flush). These serious activities would make us hungry past midnight and the only option was Olympia, famous for its Baida Masala! Boiled eggs cooked in a lovely curry! A couple months back I ate this dish at Fountain hotel near Vasai but I could not remember where I had eaten this beauty before! Of course, it was Olympia!

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Modern Café was our main Adda! Modern Café kept our gastric juices in control by providing us with piping hot Shira (something similar to porridge) and coffee at 5.30 am after all-night sessions of Teen Patti! In the afternoon the cafe would provide us with Idli, Dosa etc. At night around 10 pm we would go there for a cup of tea, theoretically to keep us awake for studies; oh yea! I also managed a Master’s Degree in Engineering too! Our main sessions in Modern Café were during our annual day functions. Preparations were done for a couple of months! I used to take part in these activities to hang around as Jaya used to play major roles in dramas. I was kept busy doing the backstage activity. Modern café had created a new facility at their backside called Bamboo House! This was a real cosy place where they had a charming manager called Shekhar. He was very talkative, we used to regularly have parties where someone from the group of 15 /20 of us would pay. Shekhar used to keep track of who had not paid for a long time and remind us that person’s name. The advantage of these parties was we could skip food in our common hostel mess! The money saved was money gained, which was fruitfully used on going to movies.

Out COEP hostel mess was very famous for the quality of food. Students and their relatives, friends from different colleges would come here for the Sunday feast. There were messes based on veg/non-veg food. Two of them, A & F were famous for non-vegetarian stuff. C was Maharashtrian, D was Gujarati type, E was Maharashtrian Kolhapur style hot food. Then later was born O club which had a mix of everything. A & F usually had the cosmopolitan crowd and the so-called Bombay crowd. I was in A club for two years. We had a guy called Aziz who used treat us to some lovely Biryanis and chicken Masala. Coke with Ice cream was the famous dessert of those times. I was friendly with all cooks and head waiters from all clubs. So, we could always “borrow” something from other clubs. My 3rd and 4th year were in C club. I was not admitted to this club in the first year because I was wearing a bold striped shirt for the interview. Medhekar and I used to be the first guys every day for breakfast for our morning quota of eggs. Another interesting thing used to be carrom games in the mess hall. There were some guys who used to be experts. But Bhave and I used to be Killers and we would beat the so-called champs. Just at the entrance of the hostel was a canteen run by Seva Sadan! It was really inexpensive and would sell home-made laddoos and Shankar pale! Next to that was table tennis room where would spend a lot of time. Even after marriage, we had opted for packed hostel food during exam time! We got married while we were doing our Masters!

Our major past time used to be watching movies! This would take us to different parts of Pune. Bedekar Misal, Sweet Home Khichadi and burun and tea at George’s in the camp were some of the famous places we would visit in those days before or after a movie! Pastries at NCR, opposite Jangali Maharaj Temple, were a treat. Near mandai we used to go Asara for very hot chicken! For us COEP gang Vaishali was just coming up on the horizon and was the place to see the Fergusson College girls!

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I could go on and on! But I must mention two places in camp! First one was Dorabajis where one of our gang, Nayan, Sharad, Ashok and others used to go for breakfast to celebrate birthdays! It was a real ritual. We used to sit in the area on the mezzanine floor. Then there was Latif’s. This has a special significance. Jaya and I used to go there as we were almost sure that no known persons will find us there. For Jaya from Sadashiv Peth to Latif’s was a big cultural jump! Until I told my friends, during my first year of post-graduation, about our marriage,  nobody had any inkling of our courtship. Latif’s was a great place “away from everything” in those days!

Let me find out if Latif’s still exists; its high time Jaya and I went there!

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So long farewell, we too say Goodbye!

Link below is a song from the famous 1965 English movie, “Sound of Music”. The situation for the song is appropriate; there is a party going on at home, and the father expects the children to withdraw and go to sleep. I love this song hence I am sharing the link for you.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiboazShcfdAhXKbSsKHc40Do0Q3ywwAHoECAYQBA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQy9_lfjQopU&usg=AOvVaw3Oypy-dx1J99WvYzEPFDBq

In our lives, we also say farewell to people, situations and homes. This is part of life and happens in the case of most of us. Sometimes we do so with knowledge, but sometimes we do it without realising. The question will come in mind “How do we do it without realising?” I did it without realising. After my first-year science year at Elphinstone College in Bombay, I moved to the college hostel at Churchgate in Mumbai. It was a natural recourse as my father was transferred outside Bombay. One beautiful day I entered the hostel, all bag and baggage! Little did I realise that I had left my home, as I had known it, forever. Our sister was married at that time, my parents, my elder brother and I was our family. The same year my brother moved to the United States. So, the family as we knew it, was reduced to only my parents!

I was all of 17 years old, and never realised the significance of my moving to the hostels. I completed my Inter-Science, moved from Elphinstone College Hostels to COEP Hostel in Pune. While in COEP I met Jaya, we got married after finishing my first degree and rest as they say is history. Did I realise the significance of moving to the hostel in Elphinstone College? Did I know that I will never go back “home”? Was I mentally prepared for that move? Was I mature enough to think in those terms? Honestly, I did not have that maturity; I did not have a clue! Studies were the last priority in those days, but we had a Parsee friend in  hostels taking the Arts course; he made us study to ensure that we could get ourselves admitted to engineering course. But we did have some students who had a tough time adjusting to life outside the warmth of their homes. I made one life long friend Sharad while at Telang Hostel!

In retrospection, did I miss something? Yes, of course, I did. I miss my father especially as he died quite early at the age of 63 when I was 31.  I was busy setting up my family and my home. My father was a person who would call a spade a spade; this trait I have picked up from him. He used to like to pun, would make some while chatting, another trait that I picked up from him. I once remember him pulling legs of his younger brother, bhau. My uncle, bhaukaka, in those days used to wear hard contact lenses; once he was having difficulty to wear them.

My father coolly told him, “Bhau, why don’t you wear glasses first,  so that you will be able to see where you are putting your lenses”! I would have laughed wholeheartedly, but due to the respect of the elderly, I only smiled looking, at my father. He was supposedly adamant outwardly, but Jaya and I had an excellent rapport with him. Jaya was the first professional lady working in our family, and my father was supportive of her, always. When Jaya received a UN scholarship for MS degree in the US, she asked my father if she can take this opportunity. Our son was six years old at that time. My father told her, “What is there to ask? Just go. Why do you think we are here?” Unfortunately, he died within three months of Jaya going to the US. I was lucky that my mother lived to be with us for the next 25 years. When I ruminate about leaving home in 1966, I always feel that I missed out on my father’s company. But the “If-Else” scenario is a double-edged weapon. If I had not left home in 1966, then I would not have met Jaya!

Till the end of the first half of the last century, life was quite straightforward not as dynamic as today. One was born and brought up in a town or a village. He lived in the same home as ancestors, either owned or rented. Went to school, going to college was not very common in those days. Took up some work that was available, married, procreated and died. There was not much change in their lives. If at all there was any migration, only the breadwinner would move to a bigger town or city, but the family would stay behind.  So, there were hardly any So Longs, Alvida or Sayonara!

My niece’s son got admitted to IIT ten years back. The day he was to move to IIT, we were with them in Bombay. I asked the kid, “Do you understand the significance of today?” He said, “Yes, I am joining IIT!” I said, “That is not what is important. Starting today, when you come to this place, which just now is your home, you will come with your bag as a guest. After your education, you will move elsewhere for further education. Then settle there and will get married and …..” I am sure if he reads this blog, he will remember what I had said. He works in Tesla in the US and is getting married in November!

In life, there are many other situations where “so long” situations come up. These are when you change your job when you retire, and another common situation that is coming up in people’s lives is divorce. In all these situations the decision is not sudden. Yes and we change homes too! I will share a small anecdote about home changing. A friend of my daughter met me once, and while chatting asked me where we lived. Then I told him about our home changes. He said, “You seem to be very cool, about changing homes. My father still thinks of our Bombay home which we left 30 years back, and he still feels unsettled.”

When you change a job, it is an ongoing thing, and we generally know at least a couple of months before we change the position. Job change could result in a new job, starting your own business or moving to another country. In this situation, the relations that you have formed are not very deep, but for a small duration, we may feel a little uneasy. During one such job, I met a friend who became my life-long friend, Dilip;  he unfortunately died last year. But such occurrences are infrequent. When you move to a foreign country, it’s both exciting and tough call. Exciting for obvious reasons but the tough call is because we are going to get cut off from our roots. Modern communication helps you reduce the distance, virtually, but there is no replacement for physical proximity. The “so long” is emotional because you are going to be far from your near and dear ones, your friends and your daily smells and daily noises!

Even tougher “so long” must be the case where couples divorce each other. Tough situations are the reality of life and cannot be ignored. This number is increasing; during the process of divorce the couples, I am sure, have a lot of animosity with each other. Then there will be aspects of money, children and many other important aspects of life. So, I shudder to think as there may not be any “so long” after such a close relation!

The retirement phase, of course, must be a real emotional phase because you get cut off from whatever you were doing every day for 40 years, you get cut off from the very same people with whom you have been meeting day in and day out! I have now semi-retired, and I have gone through this phase recently. Everything else is manageable except the emotional part, but I think time heals everything.

Toughest of course is the final parting with this world! But there is a silver lining to this. You don’t have to say “so long” as you don’t get time to do so! You also don’t know whether people really miss you or they are happy that you are gone! 😊😊

Alvida for now! Don’t you worry, I am not going anywhere!

Life’s Journey!

We have different phases in our lives from childhood, youthful student, working professional, married person with family, and retired person. All these phases are like mini journeys that we take up in life. Longest and most enjoyable journey that I remember is our so called “educational tour” I had taken during final year of engineering. It was a train journey for three weeks where we had one bogey to ourselves and did we have fun! But it’s not the journey that I am writing about today. It’s the end of journey that I am writing about.

When we entered Maharashtra on the way back to Bombay, I remember someone got down at Bhusawal, then Nasik, Thane, Dadar and finally VT. The reason for there getting down was  that these friends’ homes were at these places. So it was natural for them to get down there. But in our life’s journey we all have the same final home, address is known, “station” to get down is same for all! But it is like musical chair and when music stops those who are “left standing”  have to go. Though the “station” is one, the timings to get down are different in perpetual journey of life.

These thoughts came to mind when I came to understand about Prakash’s death this morning. Some are lucky enough like us, who have reached “retirement” phase, though we may not actually retire physically. When our “ultimate” time comes, though we may not know ourselves, we have to get down from life’s train and there is no option.

The difference between all our previous “journey’s” and the ultimate journey is that knowing the exact time when our journey is ending. In all previous journey’s sometimes we remember the end, sometimes we don’t. When I completed my first two years in college in Elphinstone Mumbai, I simply don’t remember when this journey ended. There are many very happy memories of those two years but for some reason I don’t remember the end distinctly. Same thing happened with my COEP journey. After I completed my Bachelor’s degree, I continued with my Master’s degree. The ending phase also coincided with my courtship with Jaya, in fact six months before ME we got married. Most of the friends left COEP and started new life of professionals. My being busy in Master’s degree and courtship, made the end of journey at COEP a bit hazy.

I distinctly remember my last day of working for someone. I was in Bombay with Premier Automobiles on company work. My boss had requested me to complete one pending issue! Since then I am on own and continue to work full time in my “retirement” phase.

For around last 15 years sporadic information about friends and relatives going on their ultimate journey started trickling in. But 2017 has been watershed year. Swati Ekbote (Sudhir Ekbote’s wife) on 1st January, Pappy Deshmukh, Maheshbhai my friend and mentor, Dilip Panjikar, Chandar Mekhale, Pendse- Jaya’s guru in computers and now Prakash Karandikar; so many till date.

When I heard about Prakash’s death today I felt empty the way I felt when people were getting down on different railway stations at the end of educational tour, as I got down last at VT and  I was feeling empty! But at that time I knew that I am going to meet all these guys again after a few days. Today I know that I am not going to meet these guys again, ever!

Every person handles death in a different way. But I am sure all of us get that melancholy feeling when we hear about death of friends and dear ones. Today morning things looked dark and bleak, I was mechanically getting ready for office and was trying to write this piece. Out of blue one of my seniors from industry, he is ten years elder to me, called and said, “Hey Panvalkar, how are you doing?” I was happy to hear his usual pleasant voice and chatted with him for about ten minutes. I asked him,” Sir, is there any specific reason you called me?”. He said, “No, since we had not spoken for sometime I thought why not speak to you today! I keep on reading your blogs and I am keeping track of what you write.” We ended our conversation and he invited me for a chit chat at his home! This event, I feel was the God’s way of trying to bring me back to normal and this chat was definitely a bright light that suddenly shone through the dark clouds surrounding me. Thank you Doctor for bringing me back almost to normal through this melancholy period.

God has designed the human in such a way that probably in a day or two we will all be back to normal. In our retirement phase we should try different things to keep ourselves busy besides the normal things like walking, yoga, religious stuff. With the help of net we can study new languages, start writing own experiences, not necessarily for sharing with others! My friend Sudhakar has taken up painting in big way. Try to complete your wish list which in modern language is called bucket list! Travel, read, listen to music do something which you could not do before.

One good thing about the end of journey is when ones time comes, that person does not know that his/her time has come! So live your life King size as if there is no end! Happy journey folks! Every day try to talk a friend or a cousin or an  uncle on phone! You never know ……

 

Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…