Are we fast losing slow?

Mar 23, 2014, 03:41 IST | Rahul da Cunha

There are two Bombays in my head. The old one that’s filled with memories, of a time expired. And a new Mumbai that, quite frankly, gives me a splitting headache.

We’ve completely devolved, our jewel of seven islands has sunk in the Arabian Sea without an oxygen tank. Anarchy rules our streets, iron rods appear as weapons of choice in routine disputes, hype overshadows true talent, and success is judged by acquisition of ‘paisa’ and Porsches. Much has been written about these issues, and much worry expressed.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

My concern is a different one. It’s about pace, the pace of life. We’ve become a 200 mph city without the benefit of a brake. I’m all for fast but not at the cost of slow. We’ve inherited the inability to just stand and stare. If you’re not overachieving every second moment, “you’re not living life to the fullest”. Pondering is passé. Repose has been deleted from our dictionary.

Have we just lost the concept of down-time, eradicated the luxury of the daydream? What happened to the desultory nature of leisure, the just ‘do nothing’ moments of chill? And we just have no time for what is old. We’ve truly
hara-kiried heritage.

The city of my adolescence was unhurried. The adult avatar is manic.

There are days when I want to feel old-fashioned, so I climb into a time machine and capsule back to a part of the city that’s familiar. Invariably, I lead myself back to the lanes of Lamington Road and the galli-guchis of Grant Road.

The nubile maiden that fronted Naaz cinema is all that remains of a lost world of ’70s cinema. A mall stands on the remains of matinee shows at Minerva. Most of the landmarks of that world have gradually vanished into the cold grey light of modernity.

And then, I read about B Merwan & Co closing down. That quaint Irani café outside platform number four at Grant Road Station East. Where the service is fast and the living is easy.

“Why are you closing, sir?” I ask the seemingly curmudgeonly owner sitting at the ‘galla’.

“Redevelopement,” he says, resignedly, looking at a portrait of Zarathustra on the wall.

Peshotam Batliwala shuffles in, a Jughead look-alike, sporting a maroon beret with a pompom. He places his Bhavna Xerox, Boxwala Mansion, Dadar (East) plastic bag on a chair. He then checks to see how much loose change he has in his beige pockets and orders a chai and brun maska.

Shabbir Zainwalla, flowing Gandalf beard and Bohri topi intact, settles down next to the ageing Parsi relic.

“Kem che, Peshotambhai?” he asks with the familiarity of great filial affection.

“Theek, chaaley aveh”, Batliwala answers and continues to read his Jam-e-Jamshed.

Time passes on the clock, but not a moment passes inside this café.

Every great city has an old quarter. Ours I fear has been drawn, quartered and destroyed.

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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