Midnight at Marine Drive, pavbhaji on various chowpattys, a stroll through the Hanging Gardens: most of the Mumbai Darshan items and more, had been ticked off, having lived in the city for five years. However a little hamlet remained unnoticed, undiscovered. Enclosed in a blink-and-miss by-lane of Charni Road, Khotachi Wadi is where Bombay pauses to breathe. It’s a world of crayoned bungalows with wooden staircases, of chrome walls and mosaic murals, and armchairs and floors polished by daylight. With each step into this pastel palette, the din of Girgaum chowpatty ceases to be muffled background noise. There are no cars, no autos and no two-wheelers squirming their way through the crimson BEST buses. Only one little boy calling out to another to fetch a new cricket-ball. Only an aged man reading the newspaper in the sun, his morning tea steady on a rickety wooden stool. And a cat escaping Mrs. D’Souza’s wrath as she hangs out the day’s laundry to dry.
It was Christmas when I visited Khotachi Wadi. A time of repose and rejoicing. The village, with a predominantly Christian population, had decked itself with fairy lights and porcelain figurines of the Babe in the Manger and the Three Wise Men. I sat on one of the benches outside the chapel and noticed, that in a world of unfeeling anonymity, the inhabitants of Khotachi Wadi were known to each other on a first and surname basis. A Mr. Pereira had been invited to dine with the Mistry family. Unfortunately for Mr. Mistry, the guest had not been mindful of the invitation and Mrs. Mistry’s loud grievances of having fried the surmai in vain were now upon the old gentleman.
Taking in snippets of the lives of the families who resisted the mad rush outside so effortlessly, I felt the balmy sea-breeze graze my face, as did the high-rises looming over Khotachi Wadi from all sides. I wanted to pinpoint where the beauty lay, whether in the seamless blend of vibrant colours, the quiet quaintness or simply the gentle assertion to hold on to heritage.
It is fashionable to visit the English countryside and put up a ‘check-in’ on Facebook. There’s also no doubt that Juliet’s casa in Verona can enrobe one in a romantic reverie at any time of the day. However, the window-sill above me, with flowers longing to swing down just a little lower, shouldn’t have to credit itself any less. It is just as beautiful. Khotachi Wadi is a small space, and there isn’t much to see. It does not overwhelm you; it may not inspire you to compose a lyrical ballad. But it does allow you to forget the blurred chaos for a while. The quiet here is the sweetest sort of silence. Maybe Khotachi Wadi does not make Bombay what it is, but it certainly is the oasis the metropolis needs.
Images by Deyasini Chatterjee
Vagabonding ft. Chai
Ramblings from the life of an insomniac Lit major living by Stevenson’s aphorism: “The great affair is to move”, and trying to make sense of life and its squiggles.