Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words, but a much-hidden meaning is there in this word. This word fully covers the life that we live. There are many hidden gems linked to everyone’s life. The Abode can be a tiny tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life, but in one’s 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 every Abode, one big episode, but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.
The first Abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in the early ’50s. 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 the USA. Thirty years later, I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure. 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 experiences, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our grey 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 a transferable job. From Andheri, we went to a small town called Ahmednagar, about 250 km from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarter. 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 the surprise of surprises! Some dacoits decided to make a housebreak and steal things from our home; Diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there would be some stuff worth stealing at our house. 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 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 halfway 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 ten years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that 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 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 the 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 centre of the city and not end of the city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from the 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 screwdriver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did, but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both my friend and me. 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 lifetime and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a high 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 house, I, of course, had a high affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.
From Pune again we moved to Mumbai 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 the same school (we did not know that) and met on 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 favourite 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 the 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 the holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket, and during monsoons, we used to play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with massive waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used to walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans, there used to be a 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 the backside. 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 theatre. 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 a sin in those days, especially with roadside 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 to inculcate different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes lasts 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. It has helped me mainly 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…