Memories of Bombay 1950s

Joginder Anand


Dr. Anand - an unholy person born in 1932 in the holy town of Nankana Sahib, central Punjab. A lawyer father, a doctor mother. Peripatetic childhood - almost gypsy style. Many schools. Many friends, ranging from a cobbler's son (poorly shod as the proverb goes) to a judge's son. MB from Glancy (now Government) Medical College Amritsar, 1958. Comet 4 to Heathrow, 1960.

Ancient widower. Two children and their families keep an eye on him. He lives alone in a small house with a small garden. Very fat pigeons, occasional sparrows, finches green and gold drop in to the garden, pick a seed or two and fly away.

In 1956, or was it 1955, I Spent about two months in Bombay. Rented a large room with bathroom and toilet but no kitchen, jointly with a young man (sight unseen) who worked in some office. A decent man, he went out early, came back late.

The room was on the first floor. My bed was next to the window. Out of the window you saw the Arabian Sea on which you saw little freighters with seamen wearing rings hopping in to boats. They would wave but I never waved back.

It was the monsoon season. You had a shower and "dried" yourself with a wet towel. The towel never dried. Every other day the towel would become mouldy and had to be thrown away.

Food? First thing in the morning I would get dressed and walk down. Catch a bus. Would alight by a Poori Bhaji stall. Then walk a bit and buy small red bananas.

Then take the tram to the medical school. Somewhere, I cannot remember where, but I think it was Falkland Road. There were windows with women hanging out. Painted faces. In the evenings, red bulbs lit the windows.

In the evening, starving, no taste for Gujrati food. Would take a tram and a bus to the Punjabi lorry drivers' adda (meeting place). There, at last, I would have my fill of bakri meat curry and eat it with Roti.

Not an enjoyable sojourn, though Chowpatty beach was good. Naarial da Paani (coconut water).

Decided that Bombay was not my scene. Could I transfer to Medical College, Amritsar?

Returned to Ludhiana. Next day developed a fever. No diagnosis. Up in the afternoon. Up to 102 degree Fahrenheit, down to 96 in the morning.

A week later I received letter of admission to Amritsar. Went to the Post Office, withdrew the money for the fee, took the train to Amritsar, paid the fee, returned to Ludhiana. Had my fill of my grandmother's cooking and went to sleep.

Normal life. A few days later it struck me that I had lost my illness. Whatever It was. Good Punjabi food.

Yet, here today, I might cook Punjabi food once a week.


© Joginder Anand 2016

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