Monday, February 27, 2012

Mumbai Mumbles : Heir of the Hair Raiser - 1

How many autos would have gone by?  How many people would have boarded them?   How many cars would have crossed the circle?   The nukkad-wallah chai shop minted money because of them.  Endless Goldflake lights and cutting.   The guys - Munna, Chota and Naser would spend endless days like this.  

We left the dusty roads of Latur 20 years back, when the earth-quake struck havoc into our lives.  

I used to spend a lot of time in my father's salon.  He had two rickety chairs - from the sarpanch to the chaprasi, all visited him.   Everybody would pour their woes to him, and he invariably be the news-courier.  
That day in 1993 - the quake
destroyed my family

Young and old would flock to hear cricket commentary in the salon's radio.  The teen's would pop in suddenly to comb their hair and adjust their dress to impress the double-pig-tailed-gals who would leave the nearby school at 3 pm.

Life was a stand still - everyday would be the same- until the morning of September 30,1993.   That morning, when we were asleep, everything was destroyed - my house, my family - everything.  My young sister and mom were buried under the roof - they were sleeping inside the house.  My elder brother and I survived.  My father's leg was amputated in the nearby hospital.    We all used to sleep outside the house.

My neighbour's family completed went under the ruins.  Their bodies were discovered 3 days later by a gora saheb.   Only my friend survived.   We all had slept outside the house that early morning. 

The sarkar saheb's came and went.  Promises were made, but finally, my father ignored them, and decided to move with his antique barber set and some clothes.  He wanted to forget the tragedy, but he always carried the photo of our family in his box - it had all of us smiling.  My elder brother, my mom, my sister, my father and me ...

He dragged us - a reluctant bunch of 3 kids to Mumbai. After three days of journey on foot, bus and passenger trains, we reached Aawaara Chacha's place Damu Nagar Basti

My chacha still has a large chawl there.  He is very old and can't see, but he left Latur and settle in this place almost 30 years ago - all against my grandfather's wishes. 

My father started a small salon in the corner of Aawaraa chacha's house.  Now he had two chairs and about 20 customers - regulars - both working and the lazy.

The endless vigil of the nukkad continued
We all became very close  - my elder brother Munna, my neighbourhood friend Naser and I.  The shock of the loss of our families left us together - in this unknown city.  We now eat, sleep and spend our time under the same roof. 

My father called us to clean the hair left overs at the end of the day like everyday.   We would use the old broom and the plastic bucket to remove the hair pile and return to the nukkad.  

Another cutting, and another lights.   The song chikni chameli still played in my ears from my new Nokia phone.  Munna yawned and Naser went to get some vada-pav. 

Then our eternal vigil of the mundane would start.

For Chota and gang,  things were so easy.  Occasional chore and the endless vigil.   The chaiwala chuckled at these furniture in front of his shop.  Almost 15 years had passed -  large buildings had sprung up in the neighbourhood, an air conditioned school and two malls had appeare from nowhere - but for the three young men the eternal time pass continued. Till that day - ...

( To be continued)

-The One

Pics courtesy The One and Internet


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