Mumbai Diary page: Monday Musings

The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce

Bloody but unbowed
As the ongoing India vs England cricket Test match at Lord’s in London continues to inject excitement into our afternoons and evenings, we thought it’s a good time to remember a heroic innings that doesn’t get enough mention these days.

Nari Contractor
Nari Contractor

For obvious reasons, Mumbai man Nari Contractor (80) will be forever remembered for the skull fracture that he suffered on India’s 1961-62 tour of the West Indies courtesy a Charlie Griffith delivery during a colony game against Barbados. He never played Test cricket again.

But three years prior to his mishap in the Caribbean, opening batsman Contractor, facing his fourth ball, was hit by England pacer Brian Statham, a blow which resulted in the cracking of two ribs. He batted on with intense pain for more than four hours before he being bowled for 81 by leg break bowler Thomas Greenhough, the same man whom he hit for six.

“I only realised that I had broken my ribs at lunch time. I had to carry on because we were losing wickets,” said Contractor. Charismatic Australian all-rounder Keith Miller, then retired, paid Contractor the ultimate tribute in his column where he wrote that the battler should be presented with a ‘Victoria Cross’ for his bravery. For the record, India lost by eight wickets but that shouldn’t stop us from saluting aapro Naribhai.

No time to stand and stare?
Voyeurism is a human trait. Disaster voyeurism perhaps even more so. This diarist saw a prime example of it during the pouring rains recently, while driving along the Western Express Highway, when a traffic jam formed. There was no great density of vehicles on the road, and no untoward traffic movement, so what was really causing the jam?

As it turned out, a car had stalled, probably due to the heavy rain, and the passersby were just looking it. For no reason. The car was just one of the thousands using the highway. The driver was human (not a dolphin). So what made all the autorickshaw, taxi, bus and car drivers stop, stare and only then move ahead?

We were reminded of the gruesome practice of disaster tourism, when human beings travel to a disaster area just for curiosity. Remember the famous tour of the Taj Mahal Hotel given to a film director soon after the 26/11 terror attack? That didn’t go well for the then chief minister — or the filmmaker. On the highway, too, stopping and staring at stalled cars has not worked out well for anyone either.

The tall and short of it
Nahur railway station on the Central line is one place you can get a cold drink of water — from the water cooler on the platform. It’s a boon for thirsty commuters, and many people fill up their travelling water bottles from this cooler.

Innovative ways to reach the water cooler when you’re too short. Pic/Shrikant Khuperkar
Innovative ways to reach the water cooler when you’re too short. Pic/Shrikant Khuperkar

Naturally, it’s a blessing for the underprivileged people as well, for where else will you get cool water without cost? There’s only one drawback, though — and that is the placement of the cooler. It’s at a height that suits most adults, but when it comes to children, the cooler’s taps are at a height beyond their reach.

What do kids do when they need water but there is no adult accompanying them to help? This little girl, who helps her family earn a living by begging, faced this dilemma recently. Well, there is a useful facility built around the cooler — a grille which allows the height-challenged to climb on it and access the water!

Gearing up for Gatari
The approach of Shravan month in the Hindu calendar, in the thick of the monsoon season, also signals a short but much-awaited celebration of sorts — Gatari Amavasya. As Hindus are traditionally expected to abstain from non-vegetarian food and alcohol during Shravan, the last new moon in the preceding month of Ashadh is a chance to tuck in before the austerity begins.

This year, as Amavasya is on Saturday (July 26), it is likely that Gatari will be held on Friday instead, as Saturday is usually a day when people stick to a vegetarian diet. But some have already begun feasting before the fasting... as one colleague put it, they are playing the “quarter” finals before reaching the final.

A friend at MIG club in Bandra informs us that the restaurant there even has a Gatari menu, featuring coastal specialities including crab and other seafood, as well as the famed vade. Gatari is notorious not only for non-veg indulgence but also drinking to excess. Some joke that it is “guttery”, when people get smashed and fall into the gutters. We hope that does not happen this year. Eat in moderation and drink responsibly!

Sol music!
This former supermodel, known as much for his chiselled good looks as his love for athletics, was spotted with a gang of around 20 friends, feasting at a suburban seafood restaurant on Saturday night.

The group really drew attention when they decided to belt out old Hindi songs at the tops of their voices, to the surprise of the other guests at the restaurant who tried their best to savour their sol kadi in peace.

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