Bambai, meri jaan

Will there be trouble in Mumbai? That was the query being asked around. I did not know. I can only recall moments that are trouble-free…

One evening we were trying to find a spot to park near Shanmukhananda Hall where we were attending a Jagjit Singh concert. There just wasn’t any space. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this kid, about 13 years old, appeared and raced ahead guiding us. He made us take a loop, but finally managed to get a slot, held back the cars behind with tact and charm. I realised that I had no change. My cousin said she had chillar. (We had dropped the others who were with us at the entrance to save them the trudge.) He deserved at least ten bucks. She managed to find enough. But the lad protested.

Bees rupaiya rate hai (The rate is 20 rupees),” he said with complete confidence.

“Rate? Yeh pay-and-park nahin hai…udhar se idhar hi tau laaye ho…(What rate? This isn't a pay-and-park slot, you just brought us from there)...” I said without much conviction.

Nahin, eik kaam karo…aate time mein de dena…(No, but you can give me the money on your return)...”

Haan, haan theek hai…(All right)...” I said, feeling a mix of guilt and irritation.

After the show, we were walking to the car and, hoisted at the split level, we heard a voice, “Main idhar hoon.(I am here.)” Ah, he sounded so chirpy at almost 11 pm. How did he keep track of the cars he helped to park? There were other boys – how did they divide their work? It seemed that they had fine-tuned the operation. I began thinking about him… Had he had his meal? Where would he sleep? I told him how congested the place had become and impossible to park.

He said nonchalantly, “Fikar nahin karne ka, apun hai na yeh fit karne ka waastey.(Don't worry, I am here to fit everything)”

I gave him the money.

And like a chivalrous gentleman he opened the door for me.

Do you still want to know why I love Mumbai?


  1. FV:

    You love Mumbai because of the boys. That's not a secret anymore.

    The innocence of this kid will turn into cynicism soon. He ought to be at school, not guiding cars and opening doors! The tragedy that is India.

  2. "You love Mumbai because of the boys. That's not a secret anymore."

    What is this supposed to mean?

    As for this boy being at school, sure. But if you do go to places where child labour is employed, you will see a picture that is vastly different.

    And am not certain that going to school has made any of our brats any better and less cynical.

  3. Oh that reminds me so much of parking chaos at zainab market in karachi and I.I chundrigar road, specially when I was a young sweaty palm driver.

    @1: I feel child labor is such a myth. I realized it even more while coming to terms with shoe polish walahs on karachi streets.


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