Mango Mania

The king is back! Nature’s continued munificence despite our unfriendly acts towards her is quite reassuring! The fruits are in such a plentiful supply – they are to be seen in the market, by the side of roads or on the trucks being transported. It is a time for me to celebrate! For the next three months, the treat to my palate and taste buds is guaranteed!

Green Mangoes hanging from branches (pic credit:

My relationship with mangoes started right from the days of my childhood. We had about ten mango trees around our home in a village in the northern part of West Bengal. I saw the trees blossom, the blossoms grow into green mangoes and then the fruits hang from all the branches. The blossoms were the first promise of a harvest.

But sadly, the storms at the beginning of the season would blow away half of them or make the small fruits that had just begun to grow fall to the ground. It was fun for me as a kid to collect those windfalls from the ground – the small mangoes that fell before fulfilling their promise.

But the fruits that remained would grow in a month into mature mangoes. Those green mangoes that were sour and tangy made our mouths water at the prospect of a bite. The boys or girls who were good at climbing trees would climb up to the branches, pluck the fruits, collect them in a bag and climb down. Or someone would take a pole with a forked end at the top, entangle the branches and shake them. A few twigs would invariably snap and fall to the ground and along with them some mangoes.

Cutting the fruits into slices and mixing it with chilli, salt and mustard oil and biting them, one would satisfy the taste buds craving for a taste of sour. Or better one can make chutney, which is such a wonderful delicacy after main course of the meals.

A month later, mangoes that survived the storm and greed would ripen and fall on their own in a windy night. Lest our neighbours have them in the next morning, my mother and I used to collect the windfall in the midnight itself. Some of them might not have ripened fully. My mother used to keep the green mangoes under the warmth of rice so that they ripen fast in the heat of summer.

In daytime, some of us would simply climb the tree and just shake the branches to make the ripe mangoes fall one after another – sometimes on our heads as we stood expectantly underneath. Some mangoes on the top of the trees would remain out of reach for us but well within the reach of the crows, bats and all other birds. Sometimes those ripe mangoes would be eaten by bats, crows and other birds and fall to the ground half-eaten.

Cut Mango ready to be feasted on

The mango saplings would grow naturally in my place where the seed would germinate under the ground. We would rub a side of those seeds and open them up. Then blowing air into the opening, we made the seeds whistle tunefully.

Coming back to the present, the mangoes are available in so many mind-boggling varieties – in so many sizes, shapes and colours. The sizes can be small or medium or big; taste can be sweet or sour even when ripe; and pulp can fibrous or fleshy. Commercial varieties like Langra or Alphonso are grown in orchards in huge quantities and marketed.

In South India where I live now, we have Bigonpilli, Mallika and many more! The climate and soil have a special impact on the growth. The seeds might be sown any where but they would not quite give the taste of the original.

Mangoes are a gift of nature and a part of our rich cultural heritage. The story of feast and joy with mangoes is related to us by our grandparents and it will be told and retold as life goes on and moves from one generation to another. But there is a difference perhaps. Our grandparents told us how they planted those trees, saw them grow and finally bear fruit. The satisfaction they drew from sowing the seeds and later enjoying the fruits after many years cannot be matched simply by the relish we have by consuming them.

With more urbanization and population growth, there is less space for having a sprawling homestead with trees, ponds and gardens around. But mango trees are grown by the roads and in orchards and there is more than enough production of fruits every year. And equally phenomenal is the consumption. Let the mania continue for centuries to come.

Remembering Two Mothers

My mother and mother-in-law have both left this world. When they were alive, they took great care of the family, home and the people around them. The simplicity of their lives, extraordinary courage, spirit of service and sacrifice humble me and keep me always down to earth. They were in some ways similar and some ways very different from each other.

My mother, Ranjita Ray, with grandson

Born in villages, they grew up in a way of life that has to deal with on a daily basis people, agricultural produce, village gods, livestock and nature. My mother’s birthplace is Shakhariyapara in Coochbehar district of West Bengal – a hamlet with families living closely together with agricultural lands producing crops, ponds abundant with fish, and milch cows and buffaloes giving bucketful of milk. Simplicity is naturally bred in people who live with small ambition of growing crops sufficient to feed the family throughout the year, of building a house that would withstand the vagaries of weather and of educating children for finding a job. My mother bragged about fish and milk that she had enough of in her childhood.

My mother-in-law was born in Goalpara district of Assam. I visited the place only twice. It is a prosperous village in the floodplains of river, Brahmaputra, where people have abundance of agricultural produce and are culturally inclined towards song and dance.

After marriage, my mother moved to another village and my mother-in-law to the district town of Jalpaiguri.

My mother was a perfect homemaker. She kept our home and the surroundings absolutely clean. She would not allow fallen leaves to lie on the ground or dust to gather in furnitures, utensils or the floors of the house. With a broom, she would keep sweeping them away from time to time. She was well versed in puja (offering) to village gods and celebrations of religious festivals, harvesting season and all that. The rituals needed special knowledge and skills for which my mother was sought after by womenfolk in the village.

My mother taught me ABCD and taught me to be simple and honest. She took great care of me whenever I fell ill, nursing me waking sometimes the whole night. She brought up her two children – my elder sister and I – in this manner.

Mother-in-law, Purnaprava Barman, with grandchildren

My mother-in-law was a progressive woman who pursued her studies on law and her passions even after marriage. She later joined politics and fought many electoral battles and served people as municipal commissioner. She was also a matchmaker who took great interest in finding matches for marriageable boys and girls.

A trait shared in common by my mother and mother-in-law was, however, their penchant for inviting people for lunch or dinner.
Mother-in-law could make some very special cuisines and she would rustle up something for guests as soon as they arrived. Another trait of them was their expertise in home remedies for fever, cough and other ailments.

My mother-in-law was interested in literature and wrote poems in Bengali and Assamese and got them published. It is in this aspect that I had a special bond with her.

The lives of both mothers were lessons in service and humility. Their selfless service to family and all people connected with their lives without personal ambitions humble me. I have built my home in a big city. Here ambition, selfishness, greed, loads of aspirations and race for success suppress happiness, naturalness and simplicity of life. People do not have time to think about others. When I get swayed by ambition and greed, I take comfort from the fact that there is also a way to live devoid of all this and live a fulfilling life. The path shown by two mothers!

Durgapuja – A Celebration of Creativity

Durgapuja, the grand festival of Bengal, is around the corner. It is a yearly event, but the build-up of excitement starts not just a few days before the festivities but right after the end of previous year’s celebration, culminating in the four days of puja. The event has a few parallels in the world. Recently ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ has found place in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Durgapuja at my hometown, Maynaguri

I have very fond memories of new dress, pandal hopping and special food especially in my childhood which is the best time to enjoy any celebration. But what makes me marvel at is the enormity of creative energy that is unlocked by the celebration.

Firstly, the clay idol of the goddess Durga itself is made by idol makers with such dexterity, making it always look different from their old work or those of others. Then the pandals are decorated with colourful clothes, but often artists come up with innovative ideas and spring surprises by using materials such as jute, waste bottles, glass, paper and wood. They also base them maybe on themes such as current events, history and environment, to carry important message to the people.

The streets are festooned with lights with special patterns, creating a delightful panorama for the visitors as they push their way through the crowd up to the pandals. The competition between clubs that organize the mass celebration only improves the quality year after year as they try to outdo each other in grabbing attention of the public and having footfalls at their venues.

Publishers bring out special editions of magazines with more stories, novels and poems. The writers seem to save their best writings for the puja editions when they can reach the maximum readers and audience. The Bengalis are avid readers and make their budget for buying the puja editions.

Artist giving final touch to Durga idol (image courtesy:.

Similarly music is composed especially keeping in mind the celebrations and albums are released as music lovers eagerly look forward to them throughout the year. I relish the new stories and music at this time year after year.

Another aspect of it is adda (Bengali equivalent of long conversation by a group). The unadulterated adda goes on before, during and even after puja at homes and pandals, and Bengalis engage in conversation with near and dear ones about life, culture, achievements and their joys and sorrows. People who live away from family for livelihood return home to take part in the celebrations.

I am not a good conversationalist, but I do take part in the adda for exchange of notes, fun and also for reconnecting with friends and relatives whom I might be meeting perhaps after a long time.

Durgapuja is close to the hearts of the Bengalis. It is a time for renewal, a time to soak in the festivities greatly enriched by a huge amount of painstaking creative work. Autumn, the season, gives nature a facelift during the puja. The flowers that bloom and the dew on the grass and the clear blue sky are the signatures of the season. Together they act as the perfect foil for the colourful celebration of Durgapuja.

Good Times in Life (Musings)

I have spent over half of my life. Age is not only a taker but also a giver. It takes away our vitality but leaves us with the gift of experiences and realizations that only mature as years pass by.

The journey of life is our own but is made together with family, friends, relatives and colleagues. We seek happiness, joy and satisfaction in our personal, social and professional lives, but good times when life seems to sway with particular rhyme and rhythm come occasionally and are short lived.

Good Times – representative image (Image Credit:

The phase of life we are in has a role in the making of these good times. We cannot remember the period of our infancy. However, our childhood and school and college life are the times when friendship happens effortlessly, and games, fun, frolic and entertainment that follow make them so enjoyable and exciting. Our natural curiosity at that age gives us a sense of discovery as we learn things and know the world we live in. 

After college life, it is quite a struggle to establish ourselves in life. We are lone rangers in looking for jobs or other livelihood to satisfy our needs. The struggle makes us face some harsh realities not experienced in student life.

Then when we become parents, growing children fill our lives with unbound joy and happiness. A family perhaps spends its best time when all three generations –  the grandparents, parents and children – are around.

In professional spheres, teamwork yields salutary outcome, when team gains its rhyme and rhythm in the way of working. Like in orchestra where all instruments have to be in sync to create music, team members have to work with clear understanding of their roles and coordination to produce outstanding results. But such times when a team is built that works in perfect harmony and delivers best results may be rare.

A nation also has its share of good times in its long life. In India, remarkable progress was made in nation building and outstanding work was done in literature, art, science, music, cinema before and after independence. People with talent were born in that period and they produced work that had a long lasting impact on the economic, social and cultural lives of the people of India. Even with technology available now, we are not able to touch the height they reached without much resources at that time.

Good times do come and go, and we need to have the patience to wait for them. But when they come, we need to make the most of them. They leave great dividends and also memories which give us the mileage to move on with the rest of our lives.

Hill Stations I Visited

Nature beckons us, and for me, it is the mountains that have held an irresistible charm since my childhood. I was born and brought up in the Dooars region of West Bengal which is the door or the entry to the North Eastern part of India. The Himalayas are to the north of Dooars, and on a morning of clear blue sky, one can see the mountains standing silhouetted far away in the horizon, stretching from the east to the west. When capped with snow, the peaks look resplendent in the morning sunshine.

Darjeeling (Image Credit :

My father was posted in the hill stations of Kalimpong for some time and then Karseung and Darjeeling in those years. I could not really imagine how and where those hill stations were nestling at that high altitude of those mountains.

So I had discovery of sorts when my father took my mother, sister and me on a trip to Darjeeling. I have vivid memories of that trip. From Silliguri the journey to Darjeeling by bus is through curvy roads, sharp bends, U-turns by the flank of the hills. The dizzy heights of the hills filled me with wonder and consternation. Sitting in the bus though, I had wonderful view of tea gardens and forest of eucalyptus, deodar and pines in the slopes of the hills.

It was in a winter of biting cold that we went to Darjeeling, carrying a luggage of warm garments – sweaters, woollen caps, etc. We put up in a house where my father stayed along with his colleagues. I told them that I would one day build my house there by carving the hills. We had a great fun with uncles who were greatly amused by this ambition of mine.

Nainital (Image Credit :

Afterwards, I made trips to other hill stations like Nainital and Ranikhet of Uttaranchal. The quaint lakes – Naini tal, Bhim tal, Saat tal, Naukuchia tal – at Nainital surprised me by their very existence at the high altitude of the mountains. Then there was that grassland at Ranikhet, which is ideal for film shoot and I watched dances of heroes and heroines in many popular Hindi movies shot in that location.

Every hill station has a history. Many of them were developed by the British who had retreat in the comfort of pleasant weather and scenic beauty of the hills. Many Englishmen made these hills their homes and stayed on even after the British left India.

My favourite writer, Ruskin Bond, lives in the hills. His writing familiarises me with life in the hills and with people, animals, birds and trees especially at Dehradun and Musoorie. No other writer explored life in the hills better than Ruskin. Rusty and his characters’ hill adventures are a great read for the kids. The scenic beauty, sound and light and people’s lives in the hills are nowhere else so prominent as they are in his stories and novels.

At Ooty

Ooty and Kodaikanal are the two great hill stations in South India that I had been to. The pine forests, lakes, tea gardens and flowers such as rhododendron are great attractions in these hill stations. As I walked by the sides of the lakes, clouds came and engulfed me on all sides. I am yet to experience snowfall for which I have to schedule my visit perfectly.

I spent a few days at Shillong and then Cherrapunjee – the place that receives highest rainfall on earth. The waterfalls in Cherrapunjee that look like white chiffon offer a great view for which tourists throng these places.

Hill stations are the places that restless souls visit for peace and calm. The enormity, stillness and scenic beauty have a quality in themselves that instills sanity and peace into our minds. It provides much needed healing to the wounded souls. Though I have no such need, the trips to the hills have a lasting calming effect on me and I feel like being a permanent resident of the hills so that I can enjoy nature all the time rather than have a slice of it as a tourist.

Musical Evenings

One of the most important ingredients of the evenings in my life has been music. In my boyhood, when I used to return home after playing football in the afternoon, my elder sisters in the village would be rehearsing musical notes ‘Sa Re Ga Ma…’ or some songs like prayers, Rabindrasangeet (Rabindranath Tagore’s songs) etc.

I would walk back home, tired and hungry, listening to the lovely music – the next activity in my routine being a few hours of studies. The brief musical interludes then energized me to read for two or three hours before going to bed.

Representative Image (PC : Pixabay)

Flute is one thing village boys are good at playing. So quite often flute music would come wafting from a distance through the darkness in the evenings. The melancholy tunes of the flute filled my mind with both joy and sorrow. The silence in the evening was the perfect foil for the music to travel and reach a large audience. As painting requires a canvas so does music need silence to be heard in its purest form.

I also hear birdsong before sunset. Birds also perhaps sense that evening is the best time to warble and send their music into the air. Notes sung by one are picked up by the others in the vicinity who replay the same and thus they continue their musical conversations for some time.

Music is abundant in nature, birds being just one of their best exponents. In the rainy seasons, the swish of the rains, wind coming in gusts and rustle of leaves together create a music that has a particular rhyme and rhythm.

Besides, it is again music in which human creativity is at its best and is endless. I studied in a residential college. The alleys of college campus very often resonated with evergreen  Kishore Kumar songs, ‘Pal pal dil ke paas’, ‘Aanewala pal janewala hai’, etc.  that blared from the college hostels in the evenings. Those songs brought a spring in our steps as we moved inside the campus.

I used to enjoy songs differently though. Doors shut and lights switched off, lying on bed, I switched on my radio at the time of scheduled musical programmes and listened to the songs telecast by the radio centre. And before exams, when I had to stay up and study till midnight,  music helped me reset my mind for long hours of studies.

After I moved to Hyderabad for my job, the evenings are even more musical with community programmes and musical concerts happening every now and then. I hear great singers singing Hindi playback, ghazal, khayal, classical, etc. I marvel at the talent of the lyricists, composers, singers and instrumentalists who put together all the elements to produce great music.

The lyrics carry a wide variety of emotions. A song that is rich in lyrics can be inspirational and can make great impact on our minds. Songs with good lyrics and melody touch a chord and soothe my mind. Rabindrasangeet carries deep emotions and makes a great impact on one’s mind.

The vagaries of life make us pass through never ending twists and turns that make us both laugh and cry. I have at least one thing to fall back on in all circumstances – musical evenings

Cycling in A Park

Yesterday I went cycling to Pala Pita Park at Gachibowli, Hyderabad, which has been developed exclusively for bicycle rides. A park for cycling has two admirable aspects about it – firstly, the park itself that offers lung space and a pleasing sight to our eyes, and secondly, the cycling that exercises our muscles and refreshes our mind and spirit.

Inside Pala Pitta Park

Pala Pita Park has both of them in equal measure. Cycling tracks wind their way through trees and bushes, and seem to take us deep into the unknown. The long paths without any traffic and the excitement of the fellow riders inspire one to keep on pedalling till the time it is dark and the park authorities blow whistle for visitors to leave the park. By that time, the body gets exercised, and mind become de-stressed.

Bicycles are available on rent from the park office. I hired one of them and went for the ride. The tracks are undulating as usual for the terrains of the Deccan Plateau, making the ride more enjoyable. While riding, I could hear the birds chirping in the trees and see peacocks roaming around the open spaces of the park. I stopped at the turnings and took a few clicks on my mobile camera.

Then the ride also reminded me of the days in my boyhood when my legs would be itching to go cycling every afternoon. I was born and brought up in a village in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. I would cycle along the village paths bifurcating the agricultural fields and the road that connects my village to the National Highway. I went from one end of the road to the other and did the same over and over till the time the Sun was setting and it was time to return home. But I never really felt tired of cycling.

In those good old days, there were not so many bikes and cars as we see in the streets nowadays. Very few could afford expensive vehicles and people mostly used bicycles. And there were two or three brands of bicycles – Hero, Hercules and Raleigh. The design was just plain and simple with straight cross bar and the handle bent inward. People used bicycles for going to office or market, making short trips and carrying goods. My private tutor used to ride to our home on a bicycle. The tinkle of bells indicated to me that he arrived.

Inside Pala Pitta Park

Nowadays newspapermen, milkmen and postmen still use bicycles as they ferry newspapers and milk packets or deliver letters to people’s houses. It is convenient for them to move through the narrow paths and alleys, and to mount, ride and then dismount within short distances. But with economic progress, people now have bikes and cars. The streets are owned by cars and bicycles are very rare in the roads in cities or even villages. If one wants to cycle for nothing but just exercise, they have to use the extreme side of the road, intimidated by the large vehicles.

The saving grace is that people today are health conscious and have taken to regular exercises in a big way. While bicycles are not used much for commuting or going to market, youths or even middle-aged people can be seen setting off early in the morning or late in the afternoon on the less crowded roads, wearing helmets and they ride long distances for pleasure and exercise. What was a necessity once for day-to-day activities now has to be nurtured as a passion for exercise.

As for myself, I still enjoy cycling but not amidst the din and bustle of the city’s roads. Ideally, I would love to cycle on a village path or a park like Pala Pitta undisturbed by the noise of traffic or the fear of being hit by a bike or a car. For me, it is as enjoyable as boating in a lake or swimming in a pool.

Peter and Paul ring in 2022 (A Skit)

The Sun is rising on the first day of the new year, 2022. Paul is one of the early risers among the crow community in the Tali Park. He wakes up and flies to his friend Peter’s nest to greet him with a rhyme.

PAUL: Hello, Peter,
Mr. Late Riser,
Crow name spoiler,
Get up and see the new dawn,
Good moments don’t last long.

(Peter takes a moment to respond to his friend’s call – it is a little earlier than his usual waking time in the morning.)

Sunrise (Image Credit :

PETER:  What’s happened? Sounding so poetic today! Let me have a drink. I’ll soon be back.

(Peter flies to the lake inside the park, has a drink and quickly comes back.)

PETER:  So what rhyme were you singing?

PAUL:  Idiot, this is the new year! Year 2022! See the wonderful sunrise in the new dawn! Ah, see the crimson hue in the sky! Is it a time to sleep?

PETER:  Oh, I see. That’s why you’re so excited!

PAUL:  Naturally so.

PETER:  But is the sunrise different from any other day? Is the crimson hue brighter than usual?

PAUL:  Oh, you’re being cynical as always. This is the beginning of the new year. You have to be optimistic.

PETER:  What optimism? Is there fresh air to breathe? Is the food safe to eat? Will the new year be any different for us – the crows? Will the cyclones stop coming? Will humans love rather than hate us?

PAUL:  Oh, Peter, will there ever be a moment in life without any problems? You have to live with them. And when it’s time to celebrate, you celebrate, or else life will be boring!

PETER:  Yes, they were celebrating it with song and dance yesterday night. I was watching them from the top. Then they started bursting firecrackers. I choked and almost died. Is that the way to celebrate, tell me? The air is already polluted and now you make it dirtier.

PAUL:  Oh, that’s pathetic. Are you fine?  

PETER:  Is the food safe to eat? They’re using pesticides to kill insects, rats and using chemicals for all purposes. They’re poisoning us slowly and silently. Vultures have almost become extinct! We don’t know when it’ll be our turn to die.

PAUL:  By polluting the environment, they’re, in fact, digging their own graves. They live in this world for many more years than us and therefore should be more concerned. But now it seems they’re realizing what harm they’ve caused to life on Earth.

PETER:  We’ve the right to live in this world. We don’t need their mercy.

PAUL:  You’re right. The world is ours – and literally so. They live in small compartments while the entire sky belongs to us. Why don’t we take advantage of it and move elsewhere?  

PETER:  That won’t save you from cyclones, you know. My nest was blown away twice. Thank God, I was not and am alive to tell you my story. I sheltered under the roof of a building and saved my life.

Ripe papaya in plant (Image Credit:

PAUL:  That’s worrisome. But that’s a natural phenomenon.

PETER:  Natural phenomenon? You know so many things but not this or are just pretending not to know. It’s again pollution that’s warming the ocean. Thus, more and more cyclones are happening.

PAUL:  Ok, Peter, no point arguing on this. I can’t force you to celebrate. If you don’t want to celebrate, so be it. But be thankful to God, we’re alive despite all this. At least, be grateful to the mother Earth. She’s completed another journey around the Sun. At least say cheers to her!

PETER:  OK, cheers to mother Earth! And I’m done with my lecture. Tell me what you want me to do.

PAUL:  Papaya? Are you interested?

PETER: Yes, very much.

PAUL:  Can you see the spire of a temple above the trees there? There’s a clump of papaya near the temple. It’s a little far from here. But it’s worth the effort.

PETER:  Oh, I know that very well.  

PAUL:  But there’re scarecrows.

PETER:   Oh, they’re quite funny. I love them and find it amusing that those fellows invented this stupid thing to keep us away. What made them think that we will see those zombies and fly away, frightened?

PAUL:  OK then, let’s go and meet them.

Peter and Paul fly to the clump of papaya where the ripe fruits are hanging tantalizingly from the crowns of the plants. They peck holes in the papayas and start feasting on their soft red pulp. They quickly devour two or three fruits to celebrate the new year as the scarecrows stand overseeing the plunder happening under their noses. 

Old Theatres and Golden Days of Watching Movies

You see them by the side of a road, at the corner of a town or beside a busy market. The buildings with auditoriums inside are standing there, forlorn and abandoned, waiting with a faint hope for return to the days of long queues, houseful shows and a spellbound audience. But ten or fifteen years back, no one imagined this was what they were destined to be for these theatres were then a great source of entertainment.

I was in my hometown, Maynaguri, a few days back. Wandering aimlessly in the streets, I went to one corner of the town, where there is the theatre, Bharati. The marquee has been closed for the last few years. I am keen to see it open again, so I asked a bystander whether anything was being done to restart the shows. He told me that the owners were indeed keen but would like to combine it with some other business to make the whole thing profitable.

Theatre, Bharati, in my hometown, Maynaguri.

Elsewhere in the country too, single-screen theatres are struggling to survive with audience turning to television, internet, streaming platforms and cinemas in the multiplexes for entertainment. Technology and lifestyle have changed the way people now watch films. Now they go to the malls, do shopping, have lunch or dinner and choose movies from multiple screens available there. The digital screens offer better viewing experience with improved picture quality, sound system or even 3-D view.

However, at one time, there were only those single-screen theatres with projectors and they were part of our growing up into adulthood. My schooling was at Jalpesh and Coochbehar of North Bengal, and then I spent my college life at Howrah. During those days, every Friday, town criers used to come in cabs or rickshaws in the mornings to announce the screening of a new movie. I had to strain my ears to hear those announcements. After the morning hours of studies, I used to go to the market to see the posters, which was a welcome distraction from the daily routine.

Going to cinemas, however, required consent from parents and arrangement of tickets. Parents were concerned about our losing focus from studies and going astray. This concern only resulted in seeing only a few of them, whether it was in company with them or with friends. On those rare occasions, we used to take rickshaws or ride to the theatres on bicycles. After watching movies, we would go to a restaurant, eat egg-rolls or cutlets and come back home. Thankfully, with the artistry of great actors and directors, and music by master musicians, remarkable art films and blockbusters were made those days, and the old screen hardly made the fun any less for us.

Then there were those guys who maintained hairstyles like those of the matinee idols, roam the towns on motorcycles, loaf about the teashops and perhaps watched each and every movie screened in the town. I envied them for their freedom and way of life. Sadly, they are the kind of boys that our parents tried to keep us away from and feared we would be like, if allowed to watch more films.

While too much of anything is bad, it is tough to survive in this complex world, being innocent of things happening around us – styles and fashion, love and romance, crime and violence, and inequalities in the society. Those screens were our windows on the world and helped us grow as adults by both educating and entertaining us.

In later years, when I was a grown-up, I had the freedom to go to the cinemas with friends and colleagues. I spent the time in theatres, when I had few hours’ break during journeys just long enough to squeeze in a matinee or evening show. The theatres – Bharati, Rupmaya, Dipti, Lipi, Kamala, Bhavani, etc. just to name a few – were there almost everywhere in the country to entertain me.

‘Old order changeth yielding place to new.’ The world keeps changing and there is no point holding on to the past. Screens in the multiplexes offer better viewing experience, making it impossible for the old theatres to compete with them and survive, especially in the cities. But in small towns like mine, there is now no screening at all as for many reasons cinemas have closed. People are obsessed with televisions or smartphones, but they can hardly replace the experience of big screens and social viewing. I believe audience in small towns will return to these theatres, if they upgrade their facilities to suit the taste of the modern viewers. Coupled with these, incentives from governments can help. The theatres in small towns must survive and the show must go on.

Salaam Mumbai

‘Ee hai Bambai nagariya tu dekh Babua,’ (This is the city of Mumbai, my boy) I crooned to myself as I, along with my family, stepped out of Dadar railway station of Mumbai. That was in 2003 and I was in the city for the first time as we went to visit a relative there. Before that, the city was known to me in those days without internet through glimpses I had of it in Hindi movies, bioscope, postcards of its landmarks and images in newspapers and magazines.

On that visit, I was struck by the city’s skyscrapers, the dizzy heights of which filled me with awe and wonder. No other city in India has them in such heights and numbers! But then the city has sea fronts on its sides. Walking along the breezy Juhu beach and Marine drive relieved me of the dizziness. The atmosphere was relaxing and I promised myself a visit to these spots next time I am in Mumbai. 

At Taj Palace Hotel

Mumbai is a city of contrast. The opulence of the billionaires is as much in contrast to the poverty in the slums as the high-rises are to the depth of the Arabian sea. Pomp and splendour coexist with the stench and squalor. Asia’s biggest slum, Dharavy, are there as much as are the castles of industrialists, film stars and cricketer. 

But the city welcomes all with a friendly spirit. Ask a taxi driver where he is from. He would probably be from UP or Bihar. The city respects industry and enterprise as also talent in art. If anyone has them, Maya ki nagariya mein Badle jhatpat badle muqaddar ka lekh babuwa (In this city of wealth, writing on one’s destiny changes very quickly), irrespective of who they are and where they are from. Few cities in the world lift one’s destiny the way Mumbai does. There are so many instances of people rising from rags to riches.

Bandra-Worli sea link (Image Credit:.

The city was a beacon of hope for the educated youth looking for job opportunities. Later IT revolution created jobs in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai and took away much of sheen from Mumbai. But the city still remains a destination for jobs in manufacturing and service as all major industries are headquartered there. Many of my relatives and friends are well settled in the city with jobs, condos, cars and other comforts of life.

The city is overcrowded and space is at a premium. One could see how people squeeze themselves in small compartments, which is not quite living in wretched conditions. They may have willingly embraced this life and are used to it. And who knows some of them might well be living their Mumbai dreams, trying to make it big in some walks of life? We hear stories of people making their beginnings in railway station and footpaths and later becoming successful in music, film, fashion or modelling.

Despite the paucity of space, the citizens of Mumbai zealously protect its green zones and wildlife. Sanjay Gandhi National Park spreads out to a large part of the city and leopards often come into conflict with people living in adjoining areas. Still the support of citizens for the forest and wildlife remains undiminished! Recent movement of Mumbai citizens for protection of Arrey forest is a shining example of their commitment to environment.

Skyscrapers in Mumbai (Image Courtesy:

I have been to Mumbai many times later for personal and official work. My admiration for the city only grew with those visits and with time watching the way the city responds to situations of celebrations as well as of distress. The city’s legendary resilience enables it to come back to normal life quickly even after very tragic incidents. I had a feel of it when I had to board a train from Mumbai at CST railway station barely a month after 26/11 terror attack.

Trains are the fastest mode of travel in the city. The southern tip where the Gateway of India, Marine Drive and the Taj Palace Hotel are located is relatively calm and less congested. It is the ideal place for tourists to stay and relax with the view of the sea and get refreshed by the breeze from the Arabian sea.

Very often it is only a one-day trip for me to Mumbai and I have to return by the evening flight. Look downward from the flight, the city looks resplendent with lights from streets and high-rise buildings. Surrounded by the sea, the city lights remain concentrated, increasing the brightness of the place at night. I wish that the city retains its virtues and remains bright like this forever. ‘Jai ho Bambai dham ki.’ (Glory to the city of Mumbai.)