I work in Bandra (East), which means most of my dinners and plans centre on the suburb, the West. My association with Bandra goes back to the beginning of my time in Mumbai.
I messaged a friend telling him what I felt. His reply, “It’s called nostalgia. The biggest bitch in the book”. He was slightly right…Bandra was a love that I had and lost, and that is an equally big bitch.
Let me backtrack.
My affair with Bandra has been a three-year-old passionate one. It gave me love and a family when I least expected it; beautiful food memories to help the budding food writer in me; nights where I’ve learned to embrace and not fear solitude and days spent reveling in the familiarity of being in a Goan, Catholic surrounding.
My first meeting with Bandra happened in a small lane called Waroda Road. I had gone to see a potential house (for rent). I fell in love but there was one problem – it was too expensive. Walking out and looking back at the building, something told me I would be back. A few days later, the landlady called..she couldn’t find anyone else.
The house was mine. My love story had begun.
My family was happy. This was a safe neighbourhood, there was a church close by and I would not be found wanting in terms of home-cooked food/ provisions. My friends were suitably impressed and envious. Office was close by which gave me enough time to spend walking Bandra’s little lanes and discovering new stores and shortcuts to her better known landmarks. Walking to and from the station, overcoming the temptation to spend money on Hill Road, watching late-night movies at G7 theatres: most of my time away from office was spent in Bandra. My weekly offs were spent at home sitting in the balcony, drinking hot tea, looking out on to a sea of tiled roofs, high rise buildings and the church grounds.
The breakup happened within five months. I had to move house and thus, cut ties with Bandra. It hurt. I wouldn’t get to spend Christmas in the one place I really wanted to.
Vakola beckoned and I stayed there for a year. But I somehow found myself coming back. I took everyone I knew to show my former house. I spent evenings and nights walking about Carter Road. I found excuses to do stories which would take me to Bandra. And I had dinners and lunches there. I knew I had to come back.
A chance call to the landlady and I found that there was no one staying there. I chanced at the opportunity. December 2010 saw me move in alone to my former house.
My affair reignited, this time with a vengeance. I lived each day like there wouldn’t be a tomorrow. I ate good, home cooked food from an Uncle down the lane. I went for Easter Mass and chatted with the priests there. Unlike the last time, I had friends come over, all the time. They made my home theirs. They would cook for me and buy me stuff to put in the house. I became ‘mommy’. We went for late night walks, exploring Carters and Bandra’s other little lanes. We played music on the terrace and sat in the balcony welcoming the rain.
The weekends were the best. They would be filled with home-cooked food, bad (and good) movies, late night music and drinking sessions, dance programmes and sleepovers. There was not a dull day.
Change was inevitable. This time the parting was worse because I knew I would never come back.
Malad, Sion and now Chembur happened. Bandra still has my heart.
I’ve visited before but never alone. These days, when I go there, I sometimes follow a path that I would take when living there, walking from the station, stopping at the kebab guy on Hill Road, stopping to buy clothes and secondhand books and visiting St Peter’s church for some quiet.
It was familiar and yet distant. Just like my love story with Bandra.