Migrants, Settlers & Originals: Shama Vazifdar
Director: Madhusree Dutta; Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 00:31:53; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 32.900; Saturation: 0.319; Lightness: 0.458; Volume: 0.142; Words per Minute: 140.611
Summary: Interview with Shama Vazifdar. Interviewer: Madhusree Dutta (M). Shot by Avijit Mukul Kishore. Shama is a retired corporate executive. She used to work with ICICI bank before taking voluntary retirement. She is a Bohra Muslim living in Colaba. Colaba popularly known as an affluent part of the south Bombay has a large population of Bohra Muslim. The interview was taken in her family home. This interview was organized as part of tracing the plurality of Bombay’s social structure.
Shama Vazifdar retired prematurely as her bank got shifted to the Suburb. Bandra-Kurla complex where the office shifted would be less than 20 kilometers from her residence. Hundreds of thousands of people in Mumbai commute much more distance than this everyday. Also her journey would have been against the rush and thus little easier. But for most residents of South Bombay, which is known as the island city – basically the southern tip of the land which touches the Arabian sea, the northern part of the city is an unknown zone. Popularly called as 'town' the south Bombay is considered as privileged gentrified area.
(M): So you have retired now?
(Shama): I took VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) from ICICI, because office was shifting from Mantralay to BKC (Bandra-Kurla complex)
(M): for you townies its very far) (Shama): my Bombay ends at Fountain, because beyond that there is so much traffic, I get very flustered if I go in that traffic. I don't even drive that side.
(M): So you are a pakka (authentic) Bambaiya
(Shama): Bambaiya. Born and brought up in Bombay, educated in Bombay
(M): So when did your family come to Bombay?
(Shama): We were in Bombay. My forefathers, they came from Madras. They settled in Bombay.
(M): Oh, from Madras. Thats interesting, I didn't know anybody whose family come from...
(Shama): My mothers side was from Madras. My grandfather came to Bombay, then we had a business. We still have a factory, at Duncan Road, cotton waste. And my uncles are still there, of course my grandfather died.My youngest uncle is still there so he's running the factory.
voluntary retirement scheme
Taj Mahal hotel, Colaba, Mumbai
Shama talks about good old days. The fast paced growth of the metropolis is getting on her nerves and she is thinking of re-locating in a smaller town.
(M): You said you'll tell us about the end of the Golden era. So you think this is not Golden Era.
(Shama): I don't think so. It has already ended and I don't think our next generation will ever see that. We were in a joint family first, with my grandfather, my uncles, my aunts, we were twenty of us and it was lot of fun to be together with all the cousins, and things were so cheap at that time. I've had Mangoes only 4 rupees a dozen, and oil was only 9 rupees a litre, edible oil was 9 rupees, things were so cheap. Every 5 minutes, there was one car passing by and it was pleasure to live in Bombay at that time, but now its so congested. I want to run away from here now. (Madhu: where?) Maybe somewhere far suburbs like Lonavala or something, not Pune but Lonavala. I have a place in Nerul, but I would prefer lonavala.
The usual complaint about the influx of people to the city and collapse of the infrastructure. People from the rural areas migrate or take refuge in the metropolis for many reasons – it could be for better living or for mere survival or for relative freedom and inanimity. That is how a city always gets built. But once people are settled in the city the consider the other people who arrive later as interloper. On the other hand people who own any property in a big city can sell that in high price and use the money to buy a much bigger property in smaller places. It is more true in the case of Bombay as the island city cannot grow any wider. Hence many elderly middle class people in Bombay are relocating themselves in other cities or living in their farm houses.
(M): Do you think a Bambaiya can really be happy somewhere else.
(Shama): yes. You see now every corner is stinking, there is garbage, its dirty and so much pollution. Its no more fun to live in Bombay.
(M): why do you think this is happening?
(Shama): Becasue whereever there is anything, floods, famines, anything, people just come to Bombay for shelter and that is why we Bombayites have to move out. Thats the situation we are in now.
(M): But thats Bombay's fate no, that people come...so
(Shama): yeah but it has some capacity, its an island it can't grow anymore. Like Hong Kong space is limited, things are getting more expensive. Now see, we have a flat like this today, becasue we bought this flat in 1971. But today if you try to buy a flat like this it will cost more than a crore of rupees. Where are you going to get that kind of money... and working people - they spend their whole lives paying for loans, and still you know they are not able to have a shelter. I mean its so taxing now to live in Bombay. I tried to sell one property and buy another place. I just couldn't. becasue its so expensive now. Proper Bombay has beocme very expensive, you can't buy a house so you have to move out into the suburbs. Thats why I was looking on New Bombay side, but even that didn't... the construction wasn't good so I've opted for still farther. I've reached upto Lonavala.
(M): What is your earliest memory of Bombay.
(Shama): Earliest memory of Bombay was that people were very nice and very sincere in those days. There was less pollution, less traffic, commodities were so cheap, traveling was no hassle, you could just hop onto the train. We travelled the whole of South in 1966 without any reseravation at all. My mother and myself travelled without any danger of anything happening to us on the journey. We were so comfortable travelling alone... you know – just both of us...almost for a month we were out and we were very comfortable. You can't do that sort of thing anymore now.
(M): Tell us some anecdotes about Bombay that you remember or you have heard from your seniors.
(Shama): In those days education was easy for us. We didn't have the problems that present children are having. Education wise we were happy, commuting wise we were happy, everything was not adulterated, it was cheap and pure, there was no pollution. And my gradfather ...we were a joint family of twenty people. We used to have a really good time because all the children were together. Every holiday we would go out for a month or more than a month. Now my uncles are so busy they can't take that kind of holiday anymore. That time the whole family used to go you know, more than a month we would be out of Bombay. So things have chaged so much you know, people don't have time now, and time is very important to enjoy life.
Shama laments the loss of free time in the present urban life style. In old days there were peace, happiness, safety, clean air, cheap commodities, good transport, and garbage free roads.
Shama is a Bohra Muslim. (for more about Bohra Muslim in Bombay please see other events under title 'Migrants, settlers & Originals: Mustanshir Barma' in this site). It is a trader community and came to Bombay in early-20th century from Gujarat. Bohras are distinct in their attires and cuisine. At some point in mid 20th century Bohras were very important part of the Bombay economy. There were many large scale commercial enterprises owned by them. Specially around the second world war Bohras expanded their trades to other port cities in Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Sanghai etc. But in recent time the importance of the Bohra community in the consumers' market of Bombay has decreased. Shama speculates that increasing Govt. bureaucracy could be a reason behind the fall. Could it also be some kind of discrimination in issuing licenses and permits?
(M): But Shama, always the previous generation says the time was good in our time and its not so good now - isn't it so?
(Shama): Well of course.
Technologywise its getting better. I say what hassles we had had before...because of latest technologies we have had better doctors, better equipments, better computerised things.. so that way we are better off, you know, in the modern age. But I mean that the old had some charm of its own you know.
(M): How it is said you know...I mean its a popular belief that Bohri families especially the business families....they are very enterprising in the previous century, but they could not cope with time and so they are not so significant in the economics today. So what do you think about it?
(Shama): No Bohris are basically a business community. If they have an option and if they have the money they will definitely do business, even a small business. The Bohra community is basically not a working community, they are into business. And even our religious head tells us that as far as possible try to do business, don't get into jobs. This is what... people do like to do business, but becasue of government policies and all the hassles of taxation, people feel that we should work so that we don't have any hassles of government bureaucracy.
Though traditionally a traders' (some claim that the word Bohra means trade) community, many among the younger generation of Bohra community are opting for professional jobs. The origin of the Bohra sect is in Yemen and Indian Bohras are mainly Gujratis converted from Hinduism. Shama mentions that there is still many overlapping cultural and religious rituals among the Bohras and Hindus. The cultural practices and rituals are influenced much more by the regional specificities than religious homogeneity.
(M): So its basically a traders community, more of a business community, but now that small business is no longer popular...
(Shama): See the prices of the shop and everything has gone up. Then getting licenses and registration. Whereever you go in governement departmetns, there is so much of corruption, you can't get papers moved unless you have a lot of money. That is why people are opting to get jobs, they say its better to work than to go through all these hassles.
(M): Around what time they came to Bombay?
(Shama): Actually the first prophet who came long back from Yemen, I don't remember the Hijri calendar year, they came to Cambay and from there the Bohra comunity started.
(M): that was in Surat right?
(Shama): Cambay, Cambay was the first port they came to, from there the conversion... actually we are converts from Brahmins, as far as I know we are converts... because first the Nawab of Cambay, he had a Pundit who first converted and thereafter so many Brahmins converted into Bohris...so even our customs are very much like....Bohri customs are very much like Brahmins ... like marriage customs, death customs... now slowly we are changing into something else, we are trying to erase that background.
(M): Yeah there is overlapping of cultures ... but food wise also you think...I mean Bohri food is very distinct....cuisine is very famous. So is there any overlapping... (Shama: thats what we are famous for) Tell us something about it.
(Shama): We have very rich food and of course we believe that when you feed people you get you know....what should I say... Good deed (Punya) as they say... you get more of blessings from god if you feed the poor ...so thats why when we have special ocassions, or functions, it is always followed by a dinner or a lunch. We will always have dinners and lunches for any celebration. Its only in the month of ramzan we fast the whole month. But any other feast we celebrate by dinners and lunches. No function is without that.
(M): The food is more influenced by Arab cuisine or by Gujarati cuisine.
(Shama): No its more of a Moghlai type of food we have. Our food is very rich. You've had Bohri food?
(M): yeah yeah...
Affluent Bohras are known for their 'Langarkhanas' – where they everyday feed some poor people. Bohra cuisine is very distinct and not easily available in commercial eateries. It is almost impossible to eat a good Bohra meal unless invited to a Bohra household. The ritual of even the everyday meal is rather elaborate. Meals are eaten together from large common plates kept at the centre. It is rather strange that a community known for their business acumen never considered marketing their own cuisine.
Bohras are being recognized internationally.
M): What about Bohri community's contribution in this city. Because this city was island... so people came and made it into a city.
(Shama): See Bohras are actually increasing in number everywhere all over the world, not only in Bombay city. First we were like, nobody knew Bohris, now we are on the world map. Everybody knows... we are all scattered all over the world. Especially where his holiness goes, everybody follows him so... last two his holiness have been very prominent in bringing the Bohra community on the world map. Its because their followers are increasing so much...we had 52 religious heads, the present one is the 52nd one, before that we had 51. But only these last two heads are responsible for bringing the Bohra community on the world map.
(M): But Bohra muslims are essnetially Indian muslim, I mean people migrate is a different story... (Shama): yes we are all Indians. Whoever is in India are all Indians. (M): no no no..I am not talking about that. Like Parsees - there are many kinds of Zorastrians, but Parsee means Indian Zorastrians. So Bohri muslim is also that kind of connection or there will be a Bohri Muslims in other countries also... not people who migrated from India, I am not talking about that.
(Shama): No like Dawoodi Bohras are all over the world we are Dawoodi Bohras... but we have certain Bohras who stopped believing since the 48th religious head and they are a differnt sect you know. So we had different sects at differnt times when we turned away from the religious head and they formed their own sect...so we do have Suleimani Bohras, we have the 48 wallahs, Dawoodi Bohras and I suppose now we are called the Najmi Bohras. So we have sects like that.
Though the actual population is small Bohra Muslim is an international religion. There are many subsects among Bohras.
(M): No what I am trying to say is that...I am trying to understand....like even if a Parsee person is living in Canada, he will say I am an Indian in the sense that Parsees don't live anywhere else, Zorastrians live somewhere else. There are more Zorastrians than Parsees.
(Shama): So that way, Bohris are all from India only. (Madhu: thats what I am trying to understand) because first our seat was in Yemen, from yemen it came to India.
(M): And the whole community came right?
(Shama): No actually not the whole community... the religious head came to India and he spread the religion here. First the Bohra community was in Yemen. All our 24 religious heads were in Yemen. From there one of them came to India and they spread Dawoodi Bohra community over here.
(M): so the people who are in yemen are not called Dawoodi Bohras?
(Shama): no, they are also called Dawoodi Bohras, but they are Yemenis. We are Indian Dawoodi Bohras, they are Yemeni Dawoodi Bohras.
(M): thats what I am trying to understand whether its an Indian concept or international concept. Obviously its an international concept.
Shama: Yeah international.
Madhu: Like Parsee is not an international concept
(Shama): no no ours is international, we have all over like... there have been Bohris in Africa, Karachi, Yemen, Middle East countries for many years. Naturally the first 24 religious heads were in Yemen so there have to be Bohras over there.
Bohra religion came to India from Yemen and also spread in middle east and east African countries. Bohra diaspora is visible in UK and north America too.
Till the time of second world war and India's independence Bombay ports were a busy trade centre. That is the time large number of Bohras too migrated to Bombay and got engaged in business of export-import with many Asian countries. The migration from gujarat may have chiefly happened because of the relocation of the religious leader, but the role of the port trade cannot be denied in the history of Bohras in Bombay. (for more on this subject please see other events under title 'Migrants, settlers & Originals: Mustanshir Barma' in this site).
(M): Do you think that this concentration of Bohras in Bombay and also Surat is because of the port city, as a traders community it needed a port city.
(Shama): Not so much because of the port city but because the religious head is seated here now, thats why. First it was in Surat, now he has shifted to Bombay. So because of our religious head more and more Bohris would like to stay in Bombay.
(M): So you don't think its anything to do with port, I mean port is good for their work..
Shama: no no...
Joint family system is breaking down due to contemporary urban life style – longer work hours, time spend on commuting, space crunch etc.
(M): Shama tell us some stories...old family stories...this and that.
(Shama): Family stories, I had my grandmother and my grandfather... we were living in joint family....my grandfather had fourteen children, of course now we can't even think of it. Today all my aunts and uncles, because we had lived togehther so we had very close ties with the family. Some of my aunts and uncles have died, but still whatwever is left, like my cousins are there... so we are trying to... of course in Bombay its very difficult to find time. You do want to keep in touch, but its very longer like what it was before. But somehow on the phone, email, we keep in touch now, but we are not able to get together under one roof very often.
'Branded as outsider in one's own country!' How does the right to citizenship and alliance to the land get calculated, in the head of the xenophobic? If birth right is the criteria then Shama in more 'daughter of the soil' than many self proclaimed Hindus patriots in this city. In reality average Indian Muslims are far less pre-occupied with Pakisthan than many Indian Hindus. Even after almost sixty years of partition the majority Hindus in India could not yet accept the existence of Pakisthan as an independent country. For them Pakisthan is still just another clan that they are engaged in a feud with. Why else would they abuse somebody as 'go to Pakisthan'. Who would arrange the residential visa!!
(M): How it is to be treated like a minority. I mean do you live in fear. (Shama): yes all the time. We do live in fear...
(M): I mean this city is yours, you were born here..I have come 15 years back ...its your city I have come to, but I happen to live in a majority community...so I have no fear. How do you ..
(Shama): No people say like we should go back... like once when I was working in ICICI... I don't know I was at the dispatch counter and someone said 'go to Pakistan' and I got so mad at that person, I said, 'I am born in 1944 I am staying here in India and India is my country, why should I go to Pakistan...just because I am a muslim that doesn't mean I am patriotic towards Pakistan'. I felt terrible when he said that to me. I am, we are, born and brought up in India...we have nothing to do with Pakistan. I mean those who migrated at that time and they are staying there... it by choice...I mean it was not their choice but the political situation was such that they had to leave from here. But if we are born and brought up here why should we want to go and live in Pakistan? For what?
A regular level of intolerance or contempt for other culture and religion do not actually result in communal violence. Riots are orchestrated with the hidden or not so hidden blessings of the state and public support to the riots are mobilized by using the dormant intolerance. Shama thinks that the lower class suffer more in communal violence. But recent statistics show that during riots there have been planned attacks on the commercial establishments of the minority. The strategy is to break the economic back bone of a community. Also vicious campaigns such as not to buy anything for Muslim establishments, not to rent out flats to Muslim tenants, not give school admission to Muslim children etc. affect the middle class severely. Infact such discriminations force the community into ghettos and start a process of descend in the class ladder.
(M): Do you think the city has become less tolerant over the years?
(Shama): Yes lots of changes have taken place since the riots of '85 and other political people (she meant Shivsena) being in power. There is a little difference now, its not like before.
(M): Forget politics, I am talking about people, general life, you were born here, you know the pulse of this city.
(Shama): See people are not that indifferent you know...but as... when something happens then people's attitude changes. Like after riots, people are very negative about Muslims. These things keep happening... for sometime there are repurcussions and afterwards it gets ok you know. I mean I have all non-muslim friends and I don't feel anything because we are in a totally different society, we move around with educated people, so nobody thinks that way. But other sectors they do feel they are being oppressed.
The city of Bombay was developed by major contribution from several philanthropic citizens. Earlier a few Bohra Muslim names too were there in the list of significant donors. But that social status is slowly diminishing.
(M): Do you feel bad?
(Shama): Feel bad that being an Indian and being born and brought up here we should have an equal status but it doesn't happen that way all the time. Maybe few are lucky to get on top, but it doesn't happen all the time.
(M): You think that class protects you...
(M)u: class factor...your education, your status in society protects you.
(Shama): Yes of course it does.
(M): I am sorry I have to ask this question, I hope I am not hurting you. Shama, Bohri muslim was one of the first communities, along with Parsees, Pathare Prabhus etc. so they were very important, because they were one of the major communities here, but they are not so important now. I mean even within the muslims they are not necessarily the most important sect. Why their importance has gone down? In terms of ... you know political hold, social status...
(Shama): I cannot tell you why it has gone down. But may be you know people are not so prominent....first the Bohris had lot of land and had a lot of money to give and thats how they became very prominent, like Peerbhoy, Mr Jabeer Mehta, they gave lots of land and opened schools and hospitals and all those things. But now people don't have money to give so they are not so much in public eye and prominenece. Of course our Syedna keeps giving money for everything, whenever there are disasters, natural disasters...he gives money...but the general Bohris don't have money, because of the infaltion they don't have that kind of money to give. So naturally now they are not being so much noticed you know.
(M): Are you sure they are also not doing so well...
(Shama): yes the business also has gone dodhu: it is also said that they do business in a little old fashioned way, they are not coping with the change in the modern economy.
Shama: that could be in some cases...
(M): You have worked in financial institutes... so ..
(Shama): Its not like in all... now people who have very large businesses of export import, they are keeping up to the world standards. In London there are some good Bohri families who have got thumping business, they are doing very well, in Africa they are doing very well. But may be you know the governemnt policies might be affecting them and they are not able to cope up with taxation problem and other problems. That is why they don't feel like expanding their business.
Traditional trading system is failing to cope with the globalised market. The govt. regulation (and maybe also discrimination) making it difficult to conduct trading. So many riots in Maharashtra and Gujarat in last two decades and so much property loss for the Muslims. The reasons could be any.
Shama tries to count the city landmarks which can be considered as a recognition to Bohra community's presence in the city.
(M): Do you think the contribution of Bohra community in making this city... I mean its not easy to make a city out of islands, is adequately recognized, by history.
(Shama): Yes we have some prominent landmarks, like we have the Saifee hospital, we have the Burhani College, our present Syedna's bungalow, then this handloom house, they have some prominent properties (background sound) which you can say that they have retained it and maintained it for all these years. (some distracted conversation)
(M): No Shama, what I am trying to say is that there is a public memory. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi got independence. Its a public memory. Even if you don't have a road called MG road, its a public perception, it will be remembered. In that sense as someone from that community as one of the earliest community and it is also affluent, do you think its recognized?
(Shama): We have landmarks like you know Saifee Hospital, Handloom house, we have that Badri mahal. All these landamrks like schools, hospitals, by which people say, well you know, the Bohra comunity was there for so many years because all these place are contributed by very philanthropist Bohris and now of course it is under our Syedna. It has been given as charity to the community and that makes the landmark and the proof that they were here. It was like I am talking about the early 19th century when the British people were here. Since then the Bohras have been donating to the community. So the landmarks will never be erased. Of course it may have a different name but still that landmark is there of that family.
A city carries its accepted notion of history in its body through the names of the roads and streets, landmarks, institutions and public places. Thus the change of regime is always marked by renaming of public places. Bombay has recently renamed even the city along with other institutions. Following the dominant trend most of the important public institutions are renamed after the Hindu-Marathi king – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
(M): But you know how that game of renaming goes on.
(Shama): yes that goes on. Thats why the people who are the original donors, their names are totally erased.
(M): Because theres always an attempt to rewrite history. Thats why we are making this film, we are trying to get back at a few things. So how do you feel this whole attmept at rewriting and renaming?
(Shama): I think its not fair to the people who put in so much effort and gave so much to the community and to Bombay. At least their name should be kept if nothing else.
(M): Any landmark or instance you remember where the renaming has happened?
(Shama): Yes there is one property...I don't know much my aunt would be knowing better because she's much elder to me since and has seen that time. There is one property at Mazgaon which was donated by Jabbir Mehta. Now nobody knows his name. It has..its name has changed. Even this Saifee hospital in time to come... Sir Adamjo Peerbhoy's name will be erased. (M: which hospital?)... Saifee hospital...
(Shama): They have put up this Saifee Hospital board but it was originally donated by Sir Adamji Peerbhoy. But even that name will be gone in time to come I suppose.
(M): its obviously an attempt to not to remeber a few things about the city.
(Shama): You see things have changed. Like there were some policies during British time when bills were passed - by which our present religious head had a right to change the title. You know the bills were passed in such a way that it was given to them and they could do anything with it. It was their right, then the donor had no say in it.
(M): No no thats ok, but it is done always for a purpose, a motive. It is never done neutrally.
chhatrapati shivaji maharaj
(M): How was Bohra community's relationship with the British.
(Shama): It was good. In those days you know the Bohris contributed a lot. For example this Matheran railway was built by a Bohri, for that reason he got the title of Sir Adamji Peerbhoy.
(M): There was no conflict between Christian conversion .. (Shama: no no)..no conflict of Christianity versus Islam?
(Shama): no no...
(Shama): As I told you the first Bohra community came to Cambay and we were mainly converts of Bhramins. So there was no question of Christianity coming in.
(M): ... also there have been cases of conversions...
(Shama): That is in South you know. There have been some people changing to Muslim...not to Bohris as such but changing to Muslims. Not for Bohra community, there has never been any clash between Bohra community and Christians.
(M): And before the British was there any relationship, economic relationship with the Portuguese.
(Shama): No... I wouldn't know that.
As traders Bohras got along well with the British. As a community who had been persecuted they knew how to how to survive in any situation and remain agile and adaptable.
sir adamji peerbhoy
(M): Anything else you want to tell us
(Shama): See my thing is....my vision is that I don't go by religion. I only go by humanity. No matter who or what religion they belong to I feel humanity comes first. You have to be first a human, then your nationality comes and then your religion.
(M): Is your family... you will consider as an old family... like you know some families are old familes
(Shama): We've been in Bombay I would say almost 70-80 years. I don't know if that would be old enough.
(M): its a matter of perceptions...
Shama: More than that I think it would be.
(M): yeah, since you were born here...
(Shama): definitely 80 years, because I have lived 60 years here and my grandfather and grandmother they came from Madras long back, when my aunt was very small. Now my aunt is about 75. So at least 80 years we've been in Bombay, my family.
(M): So you people are from Gujarat or from Bombay what do you think?
(Shama):My father was from Bhavnagar and my mother is from Surashtra. We are Nagris.
(M): but what are you?
Shama: I'm a Nagri. Actually all people from north Saurashtra are called Nagris. We have the Surtis, those who come from Surat are the Surti Bohris, then those who come from Saurashtra are the Nagris, then the Kapadwanj people are called the kapadwanjis, then we have the Dahod people from Godhra, whichever town they come from they are known by that. Dawoodi Bohra is a sect and after that whichever town they come from, they are called, from that place.
(M): So you should be called Shama Bambaiya.
(Shama): yeah I would be bambaiya. I have not seen my hometown at all.
Indian Bohra Muslims are named by their home town. And the home towns are all small cities in Gujarat – Dahod, Godhra, Surat, Saurashtra, Bhavnagar etc. These places are currently in public mind as in 2002 the fanatic Hindtva brigade under the leadership of BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) unleashed a month long pogrom against the Muslims in these places. Bohras may carry the names of the cities as their primary identity, but the pro-Hindu establishment had chased them out from those cities. The politics of citizenship!
Shama's visit to her ancestor's home town. Her home is in Bombay and nowhere else. But the decline of civic amenities in Bombay makes her thinking of shifting out.
(M): How come?
(Shama): I don't know, there was no chance to go. I went to my father's hometown in 1980, when we had the Maharaja of Bhavnagar's case, my husband was a lawyer, criminal lawyer and we were state guests because he was conducting the case. So 1980 was the first time I saw Bhavnagar. So the Maharaja was very happy that I was form his subject. We got a very royal treatment, as state guests. We really enjoyed our stay there in Bhavnagar.
(M): But otherwise you are born and bred and raised in Bombay. (Shama nods)
(Shama): I like Bombay, but I don't know I am only very adverse to this dirt you know, too much of smell and garbage on the road. That puts me off staying in Bombay. Otherwise Bombay is a nice city, it has got the latest theatres everything, whatever, its a happening place...only thing...my problem is cleanliness problem. That is my only problem here.
Finally it comes down to class. The slums and shanties are at the centre of the problem. Even somebody who knows the pain of communal hatred, can be quite intolerant to the lower class.
(M): What can be done?
(Shama): I don't know what can we do about this.
(M): Stopping people from coming?
(Shama): No, but the thing is people don't have civic sense and with all these Jhopadpattis (shanties/huts) they don't have proper sanitation... what can you expect. You see all along the road people littering... its really disgusting. When I moved here in 1971 Colaba was a very very clean place. You know we were staying opposite Taj (Tajmahal hotel) in fact. First in 1959, when we broke away from the joint family, my brother went to Bahrain, my mother and myself shifted to Colaba in 1959 opposite the Taj. It was such a clean place and such a change of environment from Bhendi Bazar, we were staying at Bhendi bazar-JJ hospital. So we found this place very clean, so we moved from there. From `59 to `71 we lived behind Taj, then from `71 we moved over here to Woddhouse Road. It was a very quiet place. When we used to come back from weddings, wedding used to get over by 7 , we used to get scared and keep looking back if someone is following us. It was so lonely at that time. And now theres so much noise pollution that you have to shut the doors everytime you want to talk. So thats the difference. Because of this Cuffe Parade jungle that has come we don't have our peace anymore now.
(M): hmnn... ok... thank you...
taj mahal hotel