Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

The grass is nice and warm at Oval Maidan in the evenings. If you are lucky, you may find a friendly cat sitting and observing the world, as cats always do. You will find it sitting cosily between the two worlds – Gothic and Art Deco on either side. The cat will stride confidently on the grass and may become friends with you if you feed her prawns gassi. The cat lives in a heritage site, a living site, one of the few in the world. Look up and you may find Sirius twinkling in the sky. Some folks maybe napping on that warm bed of grass. Turn to the east and you find Roychand’s two creations standing back to back. 

The Rajabai tower twinkling in the sky, the BSE not too far behind. If you are lucky and on time the clock will start to chime at 845 PM. It will take you back a few eras where the only public music was the band at bandstand not too far near Cooperage and the music processions. A slight breeze will blow as the tired, last remaining chakarmani – the salaried employees make their way back before the gates of the maidaan close. The shortcut to the station passes via the big maidan. The maidan is expansive – complete with its underground chambers which supply water and allows for self maintenance throughout the year. The oval maidan is beautiful. Adorned with the glinting art deco buildings on side and the silent and stoic gothic architecture on the other. 

It is one of my favourite places in the city. Slightly to the north, you will see the Art Deco building of Eros cinema. As I walk past it everytime, I remember watching Chota Chetan here in 1998, a poorly dubbed version of the classic My Dear Kuttichattan – India’s first 3D film. It was a fantastic experience, wearing the glasses and everything. It was an absolute rage back then. I also remember watching Delhi Belly here in 2011 on the same day, bombs exploded in Zaveri Bazaar and other areas. I see its perfect symmetrical facade and the towers each time I pass by, even though I never get a chance to watch a movie here. But it seems perfect and you may spend a moment or four here.

You may realise that life in Bombay is built around such moments. Such moments shared with a good conversation, with great ideas and an absolute passionate exchange of a life worth living. Good food helps, like the gassi at Pratap Lunch Home and the neer dosa to go with it. Even as you pass through the sepia toned streets, life seems just a tad bit more beautiful, more hopeful.

The interplay of shadow and light at every corner seems like a homage to the shades of life in general. And between the darkness and the light, you lose and find yourself on the streets of Bombay. And you know, that just like the fast meting ice-cream sandwich of Rustom & Co, life is slipping by. And even though the stench of the sea wafts through at times, nothing beats sitting at Marine Drive and turning your back upon the world, even just for a bit. Letting your limbs hang over the tetrapods, while you share stories of your dreams and ambitions. And hope that the city will conspire with you to make them come true.