KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We flew to Mumbai in the evening and the timing was great because Deven Pabaru was leaving his office near the airport and picked us up on the way home. It's always great to pass through the new domestic terminal in Mumbai; it has set a standard that we hope will apply to major airports in the future. It was great to see Deven and Kajal, Anil's niece, again but we were a little disappointed that their thirteen-month old son Parth was already asleep for the night.
We sat up late catching up on all the news of the past year and debating whether or not the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai would have processed Anil's application for a birth certificate or not. If you were following my journal last year, you will remember that we spent the better part of a day tracking down the correct bureaucrat and then finally paying the Rs 17 fee (about 50 cents) for a certified copy of the certificate. We were told it would take at least three months because they were not able to locate the original register from the maternity hospital where Anil was born in 1947, just three weeks after India gained independence. We were told a search for the duplicate register stored in the municipal warehouses would take at least three months.
When we returned to the office where we had filed the application, we were surprised to see several changes there. While the building was still old and shabby, cupboards had been installed to house the huge registers and the senior officials had computer terminals at their desks. There was even a clerk on hand to handle inquiries and direct people to the correct officer. We did not have to wait very long to speak to the official in charge of birth certificates and after a search through a thick hand-written register; he informed us that the certificate had been prepared. Now he had to find it in all the stacks of documents piled around the room.
We were starting to get worried that he wouldn't be able to locate it, when he finally moved a pile of registers and discovered a stack of documents tied together with twine. He searched through them and then stopped to remove one from the pile. Lo and behold it was the certificate bearing Anil's name and the names of his father and mother. The official stamp and signature at the bottom right hand corner certified that all was in order. But there was one small hitch.
The official wanted the original receipt for the Rs 17 that we had paid for the search to be conducted. We only had a photocopy of the receipt; the original was with Deven at their home. At first the officer insisted that he must have the original, but when I intervened and said 'please don't do this to us, we have made a second trip from Canada for this', he nodded his head in the head-bobble way that is unique to Indians and presented Anil with a register to sign that he had received the birth certificate. We were thrilled, and I quickly snapped a couple of photos to celebrate our success.
Thanks to Deven for being the driving force and showing us where to go and how to navigate the complicated process. He was also the one who located the maternity home where Anil was born and took us there on our last visit to Mumbai. It was such a thrill for Anil because he has vague memories of living in the apartment above the maternity home until his family left Mumbai and moved to Patna when he was six years old.
We stayed with Deven and Kajal a couple of nights and then moved on to visit with Anil's cousin, Dr. Raj Kapoor and his wife Kusum. It was great to see them again but we were sorry to have missed the 75th birthday celebrations for the doctor earlier in the month. There was plenty of time to relax with them and one evening they invited their three daughters and their families over so we could all meet and catch up on happenings in the past year.
Kusum was delighted to show us a magazine that had recently done a feature on their youngest daughter, Roopali. Roopali is an architect and the article showcased a furniture showroom that she had designed and decorated. The cover of the magazine showed a picture similar to the photo I took when we went for a proper look ourselves. I was particularly impressed with the antelope along the staircase and her choice of painting the ceiling of the large space a deep vibrant red. She is a very talented young woman and somehow manages all this while raising two very active pre-school boys.
As we drove down a small lane to visit the showroom, I noticed several derelict brick buildings. This area in central Mumbai was once the heart of a thriving textile industry. The mills have all been abandoned and there are plans to gentrify the neighbourhood. The showroom we visited is one of several that have begun the turn around. I was delighted to be able to take a series of photographs before the lane loses its current character.
One afternoon we visited the dental clinic of Ravi Nadkarni, the Kapoors son-in-law, husband to Radhika. Ravi has done some dental work for me before and I had him check the work I had done in China. All was well and we were able to see the amazing transformation that Roopali has done in redesigning the clinic in the past year. The building, located in the heart of old Mumbai was beyond repair so the structure was demolished and rebuilt to resemble the heritage buildings along the busy street. Inside, it is now an oasis of cool and calm, exactly what any patient would want when coming to a dental clinic.
After leaving the clinic, we wanted to visit the famous Kotachiwadi (wadi means hamlet) nearby. This is a small enclave of Indian Christians that has survived in the shadow of some of South Mumbai's tallest high-rises. There are about thirty colourful two-story wooden buildings along narrow lanes and one houses the famous Anantashram restaurant. People come from all over greater Mumbai to savor the fish curry here. As non-fish eaters, we passed on the restaurant but enjoyed the heritage buildings.
Just as we were leaving Kotachiwadi, I was able to photograph a woman walking in front of me wearing the traditional nine-yard sari. This style of sari is worn throughout the state of Maharashtra. This garment allows the wearer more freedom of movement to work in manual labour and in the past, to even ride horses. I have failed in my several attempts to find someone who can show me how it is tied, but will not give up. I may have to wait until another trip to India but I won't give up until I learn how it's done.
The Kapoors had plans to travel out of Mumbai on Sunday so we moved back to the Pabarus for the weekend. This allowed us to spend some more time with Deven as he is very busy during the week and comes home fairly late in the evenings. We were up early for a Sunday morning walk on Juhu beach with the joggers and young men playing cricket. Then it was off to the Madras Café for a wonderful South Indian breakfast of idly, dosa, sambar and wadas. The coffee is so good here I indulged in two frothy cups to finish off the meal.
It was a short visit to Mumbai. We had planned on a little more time there but we hadn't factored being sick in Patna, Delhi and Nagpur into our plans. However, sometimes short visits are the sweetest and this one was as special as all our previous visits here. The humidity seemed to do wonders for my breathing and I left with my energy restored and ready to take on the Ajanta and Ellora caves with renewed vigor.