Step One

12 Nov

The morning after Cousin S was married, Banoo Bilimoria waited until the respectable hour of 7.14 before shuffling across the corridor and pressing her gnarled, arthritic finger to the bell. Her myopic eyes took in the vivid colors of the chowk designs that had taken Sanobar 4 hours to create yesterday and she expertly pushed back the phlegm in her throat. She waited one minute, then four, then seven. Silence reigned in the Pardiwalla household. Even the maid hadn’t stirred. She turned back, the sound of her sapaat scraping the mosaic-tiled floor of building number 14 in Soonawala Colony—a green, quiet haven of Parsi existence amidst the bustle of  South Bombay.

Back in her immaculate two-room flat and many cups of choy later, she hovered by the door until Jai Singh arrived. “Kachra-walo!” he’d announce on each floor, in an accent of indeterminate origin, and the denizens of number 14 would, on cue, pop out with their garbage bins and subject him to their pidgin Hindi, never mind that he was Gujarati. She waited until she heard the Pardiwallas’ maid undo their latch and popped her head out in a hurry. “Nahin bai, they’re not up,” said the maid shortly, before Banoo could ask her usual question, and shut the door behind her.

Marere,” Banoo mumbled, feeling slighted and unsure about what to do next. She had missed out on the wedding reception the night before, thanks to a resurgence of gout, and could feel curiosity burning a hole through her faded housecoat. Silloo Damania on the other side of her had been to the celebrations and would gladly share details if asked, with the superior air of Those In The Know. As she stood in the hallway, dithering over her next move, the Damanias’ door opened and Silloo Samachar, as she was fondly known, called out her name.

Back in Silloo and Burjor’s elegant flat, where a shiny black grand piano held court, Banoo was informed in breathy undertones about the Flat in the Suburbs that the newly-weds would have to live in—in (gasp) remote Andheri East. Apparently, the boy’s mother had refused to let her son and his bride live in with her in the colony since the day both women had squabbled over who would sit in the passenger seat of his car. “Suburb maan?” Banoo repeated blankly, her eyes widening at this novel idea and her brain frothing with more questions than it could queue. She had been to the suburbs once—on a picnic to Vihar Lake in 2nd grade. They had even packed sandwiches for the journey. And now, Cousin S (mine, not hers,) was trundling off to a place where the Tata Electric Power Supply Company held no sway—and of course, everyone knew that pelo Reliance is a muo chor.

An hour in good traffic, replied Silloo, who had got this nugget of information on good authority from another clueless guest at the wedding. Yes, only rickshaws ply there, poor things, but they will take the car. I know, so far from aapru Parsi General and Doongerwadi, and not even a good naatak on Navroze, she responded to a group that had burgeoned to include Dolat and Persis from the ground floor and Dara and Roshan from building 7. The merits and demerits of modern, marble-floored apartments versus pothole-ridden streets were analyzed to an inch of their lives, and stinking politicians and “all these immigrants” verbally flayed for their role in inflation, population, corruption and Rodabeh’s bad breath, and the questions and concerns came faster and thicker, until the Damania home was in the throes of raucous agitation.

“I’ve heard you get everything there now,” chimed in the gentle Roshan, who had made the mammoth move from building number 4 to 7 when she married her chaddi sweetheart. “Cinemas show English movies?” asked Dolat skeptically, as Banoo wondered aloud whether the couple would splurge on a First Class railway pass. So far away from their parents, cluck clucked Dara, whose foray into adulthood had meant moving into the room down the passage and ended there 34 years ago.

More cups of tea and consolation were passed around, and there we shall leave them, fielding questions and cooking up answers, as the Pardiwalla family blissfully slumbers on, their daughter curled up in the arms of her sweet colony boy, ready to take their first big step into the harsh sunlight of the world outside the leafy, familiar lanes of Soonawala Colony.

22 Responses to “Step One”

  1. alice November 12, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    You’ve painted such a lovely picture there. I <3.

  2. Mudra November 12, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    🙂 🙂 Love it.

  3. sukanyabora November 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    enjoyed it….will there be a step 2?

  4. The Bride November 14, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Is this the opening of your novel? If so, don’t post any more here.. get it published! Okay, I’m a cheapskate… post it all here, I’ll be reading.

  5. Phantasmagoria November 14, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    We likey!! And so much has changed for you. Congratulations!


  6. Aunty G. November 15, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    This has been delightful to read
    For more such stories, we ardently plead
    Echo Sukanybora and The Bride
    WHEN published, OUR pride
    You’ll never be able to satiate our greed!

  7. Sue November 16, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Loved it, ‘Jammie. Especially the sandwiches.

  8. Orange Jammies November 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    alice: Glad. 🙂

    Mudra: Thank you!

    sukanyabora: I’ll have to check with them.

    The Bride: Okay then, El Cheapo. 😛

    Phantasmagoria: Ph! You live!! ((hugs)) Thanks–are you writing again?

    Aunty G: I’ve been writing, Aunty G– just not on the blog. 🙂 These days it’s all about scribbling songs for my kiddos.

    Sue: Those were actually borrowed from real life. 😉

  9. Phantasmagoria November 17, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    I live indeed. But sadly I do not write. I think I forgot how. 😦

    Glad to see you haven’t!

  10. Thinking Cramps November 18, 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Beautiful. And guess what?! I’m invited to a Parsi wedding (my first) and the bride-to-be casually admitted that she’d be moving into another flat in the same colony and only taking along as much of her stuff as could fit into half of an occupied cupboard 🙂

  11. dipali November 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    Beautiful, as ever!

  12. Orange Jammies December 1, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Phantasmagoria: 😦 I wanted to be you when I grew up.

    Thinking Cramps: Why am I not surprised? How was the bhonu? And the Birdy Dance?

    dipali: Hugs, Dipali.

  13. rajni December 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Andhere East?I wonder what they would say to Borivali (West);)
    Looking forward to step 2.

  14. rajni December 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm #


  15. Orange Jammies December 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    rajni: They’d first shuffle to get their bifocals. Then they’d pull out the atlas. Then they’d collectively pass out after a loud “Oh mara khodae!”

  16. rajni December 9, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    And I was tempted to mention Boisar where Tata Housing under “aapro Ratan”has set up a beautiful housing township:)

  17. Faredoon December 10, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    …In other news, praise from renowned Canadian author Rohinton Mistry flows for a lesser-known writer also based in North America. Mistry notes that her impressive style is a reflection of their Parsi culture, and is a writing phenomenon he witnessed himself when he immigrated from India more than 35 years ago…

  18. Orange Jammies December 18, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    rajni: Baby steps, Rajnikins, itsy-bitsy teensy-weensy baby steps.

    Faredoon: 😀 You are well, yes?

  19. Faredoon January 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    that was a compliment. Pity it wasn’t taken that way. When did you turn psychiatrist from psychologist?

  20. Orange Jammies January 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Faredoon: Of course it was! And such a thoughtful one too. I was merely asking after you. 😦


  1. Phase Two « Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas - January 1, 2012

    […] Happy 2012! Here’s another tale about the good folks at Soonawala Colony. To read The One that Came Before, go here. […]

  2. The Blog That Keeps on Giving / Platform 3 | Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas - July 2, 2015

    […] and for the sake of continuity–because it’s the third in a series–read Chapters One and Two […]

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