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Mumbai Mubarak

October 20, 2009

The battle is over and the Indian fever that hit me by surprise has been conquered by the over compensating Indian drugs.  My return to homeostasis offered me some time to consider the things around me that make life a slice.  Family is one of those elements which has always completed the pie.

FamilyMy cousin Kunal, who you may have already seen disrobed in an earlier post, has already been in India for three months.  It certainly helped with the adjustment having him lay out part of the foundation for me here.  Born only three weeks my junior, he and I grew up like brothers.  Having many of the same social circles, opportunities and experiences, there were times when we were inseparable.  As kids, we even had the same living arrangements when both our families were housed under one roof.  It did become chaotic, but there was never a shortage of entertainment.  Hanisha, my older sister, would often amuse herself by dressing Kunal and I up as girls or making us do dance shows.  We called her Ben, which is Gujarati for Sister, but along with the title came all of the cruel things that are a part of an older siblings’ job description.  We all had a harmonious dynamic where we would do family activities such as watch the Cosby show every Thursday, play squash every Saturday, go to the Temple every Sunday; it was life, it was fun.  Of course there were always a few curve balls in the mix, such as the time my Dad and uncle armed themselves with a laundry basket to capture a squirrel which had found its way into the house.  Eventually, that fiasco of a lifestyle came to an end.  With the addition of Kunal’s younger brother, Rishaal, and changing times led us to move into a separate house.  Innocent and fruitful, looking back those were some of the best years of my life.

When I arrived in India a couple weeks ago, I was joined by Rishaal from Toronto.  He had just finished his undergrad and came here looking for a post grad travel experience and an opportunity to develop and share his musical creations.  His company had made the flight more amusing.  One such amusing moment was our attempt to catch a nap in the luxurious British Airways business class lounge at our stopover in London Heathrow.  A failed attempt and a few moments later, the two of us could be found sleeping on a patch of carpet a mere 15 feet outside the lounge door!  Upon our arrival in Mumbai, we were welcomed by Kunal and a garland of flowers.  He had found a quaint two bedroom flat in West Bandra which we now call home.  It would only seem appropriate that more family would join us here.  Hanisha and her husband, Rakesh, were next to meet us in Mumbai during their brief trip to India.

Rakesh, Hanisha, Kunal, Rishaal, Prasheen

Rakesh, Hanisha, Kunal, Rishaal, Prasheen

A few days ago we went to an Italian restaurant called Del Italia in Juhu beach.  It felt like a good old fashioned family meal.  Kunal was full of one-liners that night, though most of which are too inappropriate to share with a global audience.  One such theory he came up with, I’ll dub the incompetent waiter theory.  This theory held that waiters were one of the few people on the planet who do not know how to operate a digital camera.  According to the theory it would follow that upon asking a waiter to take a picture, phrases such as these would ensue, “no, you have to PRESS the button,” or, “Hold it down.  Yes.  HOLD.”  In order to test the theory we had 2 waiters lined up as candidates for our experiment.  The first actually surpassed all expectations and directed us as a photographer would to capture a perfect snap!  The second waiter struggled and eventually managed to hold the button down – 50/50, I suppose!  The theories continued that the restaurant only had one pizza oven for approximately 30 tables.  To test this theory we compiled a series of questions in order to yield a conclusion.  As it would turn out the first question would suffice, “Does the restaurant only have one pizza oven?”  Not only was our theory correct, but it resulted in free dessert.  It was not the countless theories or the non-stop laughter that made the night any different, it was that in that moment, it felt like home.


A couple days later, the childishness games continued, when we decided to buy a couple inflatable hammers from a street vendor.  After hitting each other incessantly back and forth, we agreed to settle the debauchery with an idea that would make Johnny Knoxville proud.  It was decided that Kunal and I would get one chance to hit each other in the face as hard as we could.  I wound up and in one swift move slammed Kunal as the hammer released a loud squeal against his face.Smile I still think I had some natural reserve, but by now the people in the street nearby had turned their heads to see what would follow.  I closed my eyes and after a bash to my left cheek, Kunal’s hammer actually popped on my face.  Yes, he won that round.  I ended up giving my hammer to a boy on the street who I hope would put it to better use.

All this caring was in the good spirit of Diwali which was just around the corner.  It would be the first time I’ve spent it away from the whole family.  Traditionally we would have a massive get-together at home in Toronto with grandparents, extended family, and family friends (collectively known as the gang).  If asked what Diwali means to me, I would hardly go so far as to say that I am celebrating Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile (see origins of Diwali).  In my opinion, Ram is to Diwali as Santa Claus is to Christmas.  It isn’t the origins of these tales or the belief in religion where meaning in the occasion is derived for me.  Instead, like Christmas, Diwali is a time for giving, reflection, social gatherings, lights, a precursor to New Years, and most importantly family.

As was tradition over the years, it would not be the same if I didn’t pay a visit to Temple.  Ben, Rakesh and I chose to visit the Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, Mumbai.  This experience was nothing like attending our local Temple in Toronto.  Back in Toronto, people could come and go as they please, without an imposed fee or overbearing instruction.  The only way to describe the hoards of people and the roller-coaster style line ups was organized chaos.  Once inside the temple, we diligently followed the crowd to an area not unlike stadium seating for a concert.  Once the “audience” was in place, an oversized Dhol (which looked more like a samurai drum) signaled the opening of the enormous wooden doors to reveal a gold-plated sanctum.  It was then that the VIP’s, or those who donated more, were ushered into their front row seats for the show.  The clapping in the audience corresponded with the beating of the drum.  Starting as a slow-clap it would increase in speed throughout the performance until it reached the three-clap climax marking the end of the twenty minute spectacle.  Once finished, we made our way through the stampede and exited to the safety of the streets outside.

Diwali in The StreetsWalking through the streets was also no easy feat.  The remainder of the evening would be marked by sneaking through minefields of firecrackers.  The makeshift duct-taped fireworks we lit in my Toronto backyard last year seemed like a sophisticated operation by comparison to Mumbai festivities.  Here, there were kids no taller than my knee lighting grenade style firecrackers in the middle of a high-traffic street and then running for cover. We thought it wouldn’t be right if we spent a Diwali here without engaging in the pyro-madness.  The highlight of our adventures would be when Kunal decided to throw a cherry bomb outside our bedroom window.  In theory, the plan would have worked had the cherry bomb not ricocheted off the window bars and landed back inside the flat!

Tomfoolery, firecrackers, family laughs, and the epic performance at the Temple made this Diwali one for the books.  Here’s wishing each of you a year filled with health, happiness and success in all that you touch.  Happy Diwali and Sal Mubarak!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Roopa Lodhia permalink
    October 27, 2009 4:49 pm

    Hey Prash,
    Just read your blog and thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Great penmanship! I am so glad you took the plunge explore mystic India. Enjoy your trip and our blessing and best wishes are always with you.
    ” May the wind always be on your back and the sun upon your face and may the winds of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.” Johnny Depp
    Love Chuck kaka and Roopa kaki

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