Happily Unmarried

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sherley, Off Carter Road, Bandra

Happiness is… an unexpected mid-week holiday. So today feels like Monday, except it is Wednesday and that means Saturday is two as opposed to four days away. I know, it’s a pathetic thing to say in my third week in a new job... But a holiday is a holiday is a holiday.

Oinks found a new house in Sherley yesterday, which means I stand to lose the world’s best neighbour. But what the hell, it’s a bigger house in the same neighbourhood, so I can continue to pile on with her and Reuben almost as much as I already do. Her new landlord looks like he could be vaguely associated with Abu Salem, but it’s not a nice thing to say to her just now, considering that I sort of helped her find the house through Joseph, fell in love when I saw it and told her she would be a moron for not taking it.

I love Sherley; I think of it as Bandra’s best kept secret. It’s quaint in a kitsch Goaesque way, it’s just off the sea face and it has more trees and blue sky than any other neighbourhood I’ve seen in Bombay. Sherley is a place where one still sees slope-roofed, candy-pink cottages named “Thelma Villa” and “Rose Cottage” and the dialect one hears, whether it's English or Hindi, is unmistakably Mac. "What, man! I told you no! Why are doing like this and saying bad things and all?"

This is a place where one can hear kids playing “Oranges and Lemon” and see them spinning tops on Sunday afternoons when richer kids elsewhere are glued to their Gameboys and Playstations. And the older boys, both Maharashtrian and Mac, play soccer in a small playground while the more affluent teenagers race each other up and down Carter Road on their mean machines. The young women are well turned out and Mac chic, while older women still wear floral dresses, or skirts and tops with bold prints, high heels and lots of makeup. The men are reserved and polite, drink their beer, play their music real loud, but are never ever lewd or crass. And entire neighbourhoods disappear in the afternoon for siestas.

Vendors of all sorts - selling fish, fruit, vegetables, curd, cotton candy, kachoris, samosas, bhel and things I don’t recognise from the shrill sales cries - roam the narrow lanes, lanes too narrow for anything other than a bicycle or an occasional motorbike or scooter. Every lane and street is guarded by crosses placed on pedestals and they also serve as landmarks when you give directions to delivery boys from Candies or Kareem’s. Talking of home delivery, like elsewhere in Bombay, this is a place where you can order everything from grocery to booze and vegetables to cigarettes. Even plumbers, electricians, key-makers are a phone call away.

Living in Sherley means the sea is never too far away; whether it’s for a walk on the promenade, a jog in Jogger’s Park, a post-drink, late-night cigarette and cutting - sitting on one of the benches, or even a brief, soothing glimpse of the grey Arabian Sea when you are rushing to work. Especially during high tide, and a full moon, any premium you pay to live Off Carter Road seems more than worth it.

I missed Christmas in Bombay last year, but the build up itself was picture-booking charming. Carols playing on tape decks, baking fragrances wafting out of kitchens, illuminated stars strung in front of homes… but being heart broken, I had refused to revel in the festive spirit. In fact, I had hated it so much that I’d packed my bags and headed homeward. This year, I hope, I will stay. And celebrate.

Before I moved in, a few friends warned me against Bandra. The hype. The unreasonable rents. The high cost of living. And a few others had told me that it’s the best place in Bombay for a single person. Young, hip, cool. Great options for shopping, eating out and partying. Both these perspectives are true. But given a choice between a bigger and cheaper house in Andheri or elsewhere in the Northern suburbs, an address in a coveted part of South Bombay, or a studio apartment in Sherley, I’d pick this middle ground any day. I’m much too in love with Sherley with an 'e'.

- H


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