A neighbour of mine introduced me to the Alfa stores at Irla a couple of years ago.
Once when the 2 of us were walking back from Alfa to her car which was
parked in the parking space around the nallah, i noticed a small raddi
shop. I assumed it was a raddi shop as I found a pile of books outside.
The next time I went to irla, I dropped in at the store. Santosh Book Stall.
It wasnt a raddi ki dukaan.
It was a bookstore, selling secondhand books, cheap versions of new
releases and a lot more. I bought a couple of books and as is 'stree
sulabh', I asked him fr a discount. The books were already marked down,
even when compared to my usual 2nd hand haunts in Parla east. And yet.
A gentleman who was also browsing for books there, handed me a
laminated sheet. On it was an appeal - Do not bargain. It had a small
story on how he started the book store and how the books are anyway
reasonably priced. How the owner is a book lover . . etc etc.
I was suitably chastised. And I was hooked. Santosh Pande found a place in the contact list in my phone.
He has a good selection of books. Once he is familiar with your tastes ,
he gently suggests titles. Even otherwise . And he is never pushy.
You request a book and he will make a genuine attmept to look for it.
For a book which is difficult to source, when he eventually does manage
to trace it, he will call you to check if you are ok with the price...
oh, santosh pande is a delight !
The last time I went to his
shop he shyly mentioned that he had written a book. On mythology and in
hindi. . The book he has written is his take on the Ramayana.. where he
portrays Kaikeyi as a very positive character who was never given her
You can only imagine the expression on my face as he was
speaking to me. He mentioned that the book is being translated into
english and will be out in Feb. I was impressed. and very happy for him .
“Jab chhap ke aa jaayega, main aapko call karunga” , he said, with a
Santosh Book stall has a web presence. A patron has designed/ created it for him.
Santosh Pandey is with the times..I just recieved a Watsapp messageg
from him.. yessir.. he is on watsapp too. He texted – “aapka book aaya
hai”. and before I could reply with a 'kaunsa' (i had given him a list
of 3)... there was another message. A picture of the book.
Santosh Pandey , to the appearance is a tall , dark, pan masala chewing ,
ordinary kind of a guy . Turns out he is nothing short of extraordinary
The passion he has for his chosen line of work is simply amazing
Santosh Pande, the man with the personal touch.. has touched many a lives, many a heart. Mine included !
The painting ordeal is over and done with. The painters have left. we have got our home back for ourselves.
For the last 33 days, 3 of them would be here from 10.00 am to 6.30 pm,
every day. They would greet us with a 'namaskaar" as they came into the
house. After that they went about their work silently. Meticulously
With the painters around the house, we had to adapt to a new routine, finishing most of the chores before they arrived so that we didn't cross paths. Literally .
We have always been a small family , not used to having too many people
around us and are very possessive about our space. i was sure i would
be glad to see the back of them.
33 days. one gets used to a
situation , a routine, however mundane it maybe. if something has to be
done, it better be done. no use fighting the situation.
33 days. i have gotten used to seeing these people around the house.
Today as they packed up their stuff and got ready to leave, it wasn't easy for me to say a "achha" to their "chalte hain".
It is ashtami today, the son's birthday as per the lunar calendar.
Saw the pictures posted by a friend on FB. Ashtami pictures... with the picture of Ma Durga and the prashad of puri, chaney , and halwa. The ashtami pooja amongst the North Indians, the devi pooja, the kanchak pooja and the prasaad. I was
immediately transported to the childhood when it was a special day for
There were 2 Punjabi families and 1 one sindhi family in our building. We would dress up with bindis and paayals , call out to the
other friends and visit these 3 families. There were never any formal
invitations. The aunties would call out from their balconies and our
mothers would get us ready and pack us off.
We arrived to a
warm welcome at the neighbours... "aao beta, yahaan baitho." we would
all sit in a straight row. The uncle would arrive with a small basin of
water. He would then wash our feet and wipe them with a towel. Our
foreheads would then be adorned with a vermillon teeka...I can almost
feel the kumkum, cool , as it touched our forehead.
the best part.. the Prashaad. Poori, with halwa, a little black chanaa on
the side, a spoonful of fragrant long grained basmati rice and the best
part - a coin. 5 paise at one household, 10 paise at the other. and we loved the aunty who gave us the 25 paise coin.
I remember rushing home , asking mum to pack all the prasaad for my tiffin box that day, the poori , the halwa and the chanaa.
And then for the most interesting part, counting the loot. 40 paise was a big amount.
Pocket money, spending money was never a part of the culture at home. If we really wanted something , we would tell mum and if she approved, she or dad would
get it for us, as and when possible.
One item which was never
even considered was the bubblegum. How I longed to chew on that piece
of pink gum!! The fruity fragrance as friends chewed on it was enticing. What
was more attractive was blowing that bubble balloon , and then seeing it
go splat across your lips... peeling it from your face, pushing it back
in the mouth , chomping on it again and then blowing another bubble .
But no, the bubblegum word was banned at home.
Then there were the smaller gum balls. red, green in color, available in the school at the small store in the school compound.
The ashtami money was ours to spend. or so Ii thought. I would bravely
declare, "This is my money, I am going to buy the gum balls and the
bubble gum". Mother would try to convince me otherwise. "why not the
'seeti wala' lollipop?" I had really not learnt to rebel then, so mostly
it was the lollipop.
One day somehow, mother relented. and
bought me a bubblegum. The square of pink gum in a brown wrapper. That
was one happy day.
Munch, Munch ...Chomp Chomp.... and then I tried to
blow that bubble. The friends saidyou have to suck every bit of
sweetness from it. Only then would the bubble happen. So I chewed some
more. and then tried again. Naaa!!..I could not do it. Plus there were
hazaaar other instructions.... "don't swallow it, it will stick inside
the throat, don't swallow it, it will stick inside the tummy" ...stories
and more stories. I remember being so tense that after 2 unscucessful
attempts gave up. Have never touched one again.
I was a generous mom to my kids and bought it for them on one or 2 occasions. They were never fascinated.
Ashtami. We also had a maharashtrian family as neighbours . They celebrated
this day too. Here the rituals were a bit different. Kaka would wash our
feet and adorn it with a dot of kumkum. His wife whom we called "aai",
would apply the halad kunku . After this we sat with with our arms
outstretched and then she or kaaka would apply chandan black bhukka and
on our wrists .. right upto the elbow. Sweet puris made out of red
pumpkin - vaan - they called it, and masala milk in little silver
'vaatis' would be offered to us. The keshar strands floating in it and
the odd bits of chaaroli . I was the pet of this family and the earlier
night I would have helped aai remove the silver vaatis from her
cupboard and wipe them clean after she had washed them. I also got the privilege of selecting the vaati of my choice - one shaped like a द्रोण
We moved from goregaon in 1980 . Moved into a gujarati
neighbourhood where these rituals were not followed. We had moved from
the chawl culture to the flat culture... a strange one where you lived
in a CO-operative Society but hardly socialized.
I grew up, and was no longer the kanchak...
When the daughter was born, through her I once again relived some of the joys of my childhood, of Ashtami days.. The prashaad. the same request of packing it in the tiffin box.
The 5ps , 10 ps and 25 paise aunties were replaced by the tiffin box
aunty, the Rs 10 aunty and another who gave a little gift each year - a
box of fancy hair rubber bands, hair bands, small purses or a pack of
Then we moved to this new place. and
here on ashtami day, we saw a new tradition . The prasaad would be
sent to the girls... to their homes. a paper plate with the eats and
some money would be sent over. most of the joy was lost. the tradition
was being followed alrite... the rituals only. it is after all the age of
Why do we hold back? we want to, we do it to,, but why the
half hearted effort?
The pictues the friend posted today brought back so many memories of the childhood... mine and the daughter's
year, it is a very busy period after navaratri. Cleaning the house for
Diwali, looking for new beaded torans, .. interesting "Lakshmi chi
pavale" stickers , some ethnic knick knacks. doing the rounds of the
exhibitions... Bling fascinates and anything ornate - zardosi or the
kundan were picked up . the faraal would be planned, magazine stalls
were hounded for the kalnirnay calendar .. the diwali anka …... aayi diwali... aayi diwali
I think this has been one of the very few times.. no ...... rather the 1st time that i haven't felt very upbeat around Diwali.
The kandil... my father had always put up a star shaped lantern.
Simple,,no frills. The light thrown out through the circles punched on
the spokes of the star,,,,. sometimes these would be lined with coloured
paper … i loved the patterns it made on the wall . I never thought of
another option when it was time to buy one for my house and the star
came home each year.
till one day , when i remembered that the
traditional maharashtrian kandil was the one which had fascinated me
always... the one which appears in all "Diwali" pictures.
happened to be in Pune one year.. just before diwali. and i found the
one i was looking for. i also got to know that it was called the ,
"shepticha kandil". the kandil with a 'shepoot' - a tail.
i bought 2
the next yr i went beyond our local market in andheri.. to vile parle . found many more varieties of the shepticha kandil
the chidren weren't much fascinated by it. so the next couple of yrs i
took them along and got them to pick one for the home. the daughter
loved to exercise her right to expression and selection. she was quite
enthusiastic . i was pleased with one burden off me. decision making is
not one of my strong points.
then one diwali we were out again,
kandil shopping and the daughter pointed out to the kandil with "paper
strips hanging below". i enlightened her – “it is called the shepticha
kandil”. i remember the grin of amusement on her face.
has been a strange one. i have been forgetting things. the mandatory
'ghar ki safaai' was undertaken. but the other things - honestly , they
just did not come to my mind. infact 4 days before diwali, the husband
irritatedly mentioned that the kandil had not been put up and that's
when i realised i had not even thought of buying it.
it was a mad rush to the market with the daughter in tow
and no... nothing seemed to please us. there was a huge variety, but
yet nothing appealed to the heart. we were driving back home when we saw
a young lad on a footpath. there was a bamboo stand he had put up and
hanging on this rod were 6 kandils, Yeayyy ... sheptiche kandil. we selected one... paid for it .. and as he was giving me back my change, he smiled and wished me - "happy diwali".
it was unexpected. it was warm. and it was contagious. I couldn't help
but smile back at him.. a biiig smile... and i wished him too -
"tumhala hee diwalichya shubhechha, Happy Diwali."
it was just the impetus i needed. Just the nudge I needed to get started and moving. It just set the mood.
From that moment onwards , it has indeed been a Happy Diwali.
mumbai of the 80's and the early 90's. especially the mumbai around fort
and churchgate. the victorian architecture, the stone buildings, with
their pillars and arches... the book stalls under these buildings ,
walking the cobbled path below these arches... walking, browsing,
purchasing... the books, the odd curio..
my father would have the saturday and sunday off from work each week.
1st saturday of the month, he would leave home leisurely around 10. am.
he would be casually dressed in a handloom shirt. yeah... casual meant a
shirt. he was never a t-shirt man. the handloom fabric bought from
handloom house... the fabric arriving home in a bag with the famed
i am going to Bombay, "bombai vochhun yetta" ,
he would tell us and he would be off. and when he would return, it was
always with something special.... something from bombay store or
something from chimanlal or from khadi bhandar, something from
akbarally's or from asiatic. a swiss roll or an eclair from mongini's -
monginis had a corner at akbarally's. , music from Hiro and rhythm house
. a shirt for him from double bull. a saree for mom from khatau or KVIC
and then later for me , from vimal's or garden's..
the surrounding area always held that fascination for me . dad took us
out for a treat there , once in a while. a movie at sterling, lunch at
gopal ashram, a konkani jackfruit based delicacy - 'muddo' - at west
coast, or a bhel at vittal's... a snack at rasna - the restaurant with
the apple shaped entrance.
then when i began working at maker towers, i , who had been fascinated by 'bombai' forged my own love story with the area.
the khaddar kurtas , ethnic jewellery, kolhapuris and the honey laced
limbu sharbat at the Khadi Bhandar, bandhani dupattas from the street
opposite the central telegraph office, books and bags from the
pavements, chimanlal's for the handmade paper and the golden khadi
printed sheets, litchi juice at an outlet near kayson's (Rustomjees??)
satyam's for the crazy greeting cards, asiatic again for silver jewelry,
gurjari.., and then just for the simple pleasure of walking down those
lanes which were a part of history - of the city and my childhood.
the work place then moved to BKC. the children arrived and i became a
stay at home mom. but as a special birthday treat , we would go and
spend the day in 'town' . my dad's 'bombai' was now the 'town side'.
we would drive upto WTC and MT , then satyam's , walk along the shaded
streets of Wodehouse road, drive upto the gateway, khadi bhandar,
strand, and the rasta book stalls, bombay stores.....
were the changes... handloom house had long gone up in flames.. time,
modernization, glitz, the swank had changed the face of the area.
the pavement stalls had shrunk or disappeared.. the chaos had given way
to order.... but for me the charm was soon lost. the uniqueness of the
place, the beauty , the flavour, the soul ... was lost.
calcutta... kolkata doesn’t come naturally to the mind or even the lips..
the park street and the store facades which remind me of apna Fort and
churchgate.. the pavement bookstalls every few meters, the esplanade
which reminds me of the stretch outside and opposite american dryfruits
at flora fountain... stalls selling everything from socks, sun glasses,
key chains , junk jewellery, bags, t-shirts...The heritage buildings,
the old world charm ... they all look as if they have been frozen in
time... like one from the sepia toned pictures. the not so very wide
streets in their golden light in the evenings, the unhurried pace of
other parts of the city resemble colaba, or even parel. . calcutta charms, attracts...
calcutta is dirty ,i had been told. the son wondered why we were going
there. calcutta looks like the mumbai of 10 yrs ago, said the son. and
yeah , he was not wrong.
calcutta manages to retain its flavour.
the people are warm.. where u are not a 'sir' or 'madam'... not even
the behenji (eeeeyow!! ) anywhere u go u are welcomed with a "Ashoon
didi"... “boloon dada”.. the bond immediately forged. and it sounds
sweeter to the ears than the bolo 'sister' that u get to hear in the
streets of mumbai.
calcutta is not the impersonal metro yet .
it doesn’t suffer from the ' u could be in any city ' syndrome, yet. u r
in calcutta and it feels like calcutta. the people, the loud chatter,
the accented hindi and even the english.. yes,, it is distinctly
where in india can u see a tram which chugs along the
streets looking like a baby train.. and the pleasure of crossing the
track right in the face of an on coming tram …. some cheap thrills !
calcutta looks like the mumbai of 10 yrs ago... calcutta looks like its
10 yrs behind Mumbai, the son had said. i am not angry with him or
offended. i loved the bombay of my childhhod and my youth.. Calcutta…
the son was spot - on when he said what he said... and i loved calcutta
some more for it.
my cousin visited us today. he is a doctor in mumbai and a reputed one. has been the president of the IMA too.
he is in his 50's now.
he has always had this habit of sharing interesting incidents with us
whenever we meet. he can hold court for hours and i for one , never get
bored or tired. even when he had just joined medical college way
back.. he would relatete experiences. he was the first doctor in my
family and his stories always fascinated.
Today he told us
about a doctor he met in a small village in nandurbar. this was about 5
- 6 yrs ago. the doctor was about 82 yrs of age then. His name - Dr
After he finished his studies in the
field of medicine, he decided to practise in a remote village.
inhabited mostly by the adivasis, said my cousin.
He was doing
so much good work there that the missionaries next door gave him land so
that a health centre could come up. the small hospital conducts
surgeries, deliveries and extends medical support to the people there.
The hospital bed charges were about Rs 2.50 - for a shared room (about
4 beds in a room) and about Rs 5 for a twin share...
the patients is often the food cooked by is wife for her family. his
son and daughter-in-law now work alongside him.. equally committed to
now for the best part. my cousin told us, "hernia
operaitons require a mest to be place in yr body. a small square bit of
mesh would cost about Rs 2,500/-
Dr Tongaonkar, improvised and
used a piece of our regular plastic mesh.. the netlon kind. the one we
used on our windows to ward of mosquitoes. He sterilised the plastic
mesh and has been using it with great success. "
isn't that amazing !
surgeries and operations require uninterrupted power when they are
being conducted. there could be no assurance of such luxury in that
remote village. The doctor started using a tractor and its engine for a
But supply of diesel isnt regular either. so the
dr started using coconut shells, paper and other stff which could be
burnt and the steam would be used to generate power for his Operation
lack of resources, lack
of regular infrastructure , lack of equipment... are common excuses we
hear. but he didnt let anything come in the way.. he keeps marhcing on.
he found a way to surmount each difficulty. he accepted the
realities and worked around them, finding the best solutions possible.
he could have given up, beaten... but he was committed to the cause.
i had never heard of this great personality and the terrific work he has been doing. and i can't keep myself from sharing this.
he has written a book in marathi. google dev helped - and i found the
name of the book , now translated in english - Making of a rural
i for one will be on the look out for this book .
this one, or the original marathi version... whichever i can lay my
hands on firs