Mumbai Diary page: Sunday shorts

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

Tree talking
What with all the threats to decimate the tree cover at Aarey, to develop the land for a metro car shed among other things, we think it is time every citizen is sensitised to tree cover and the benefits it provides. Activists will bat for the environment, but they need the help of the people, too.

BRANCH WISDOM: This tree at Nagesar Wadi, near Prabhadevi has a banner on the tree which reads, ‘Plant more trees, keep them alive’. We agree and approve. pic/hemal ashar
BRANCH WISDOM: This tree at Nagesar Wadi, near Prabhadevi has a banner on the tree which reads, ‘Plant more trees, keep them alive’. We agree and approve. Pic/Hemal Ashar

Now, besides people, supposing trees had a voice, supposing they could speak for themselves? Now, that would be saying something... or listening really. So, we came across this tree with its own message in Marathi pinned on to it. It was just off the Prabhadevi main road choked with traffic. This tree was near the popular Nagesar Wadi or market as it is locally known.

It imparts some leafy, verdant wisdom even as shoppers go about their business inside supermarkets nearby. We think it would be a good idea if every tree was to have a little signboard with messages like: ‘Don’t hack me; kill me and you will regret it; I give life and shade; development not at my cost’. It may not stop the hackers altogether but it will appeal to a person’s better sense. And, if even one tree is saved, it is all worth it.

Mini skirt, many views
Some men stared, shamelessly. Others, discreetly. A couple of schoolgirls pointed and giggled, while a few women, clad in salwar kameez, moved to another side.

pic for representation only
Pic for representation only

All this, because right next to us, standing and waiting for the train to arrive on the platform, was a girl wearing a mini-skirt. We wondered how, in today’s day and age, a piece of clothing could evoke such a wide range of reactions from so many people. As for us, we stood right where we were, wishing we had legs good enough to carry off a short skirt like her.

The Tour-ist
While World Cup fever is on the rise Down Under, the granddaughter of a famous former Australian batsman decides to visit the Indian subcontinent. Questions like ‘why’ and ‘how come’ to Megan Ponsford, the granddaughter of Bill Ponsford, are justified.

Megan Ponsford, the granddaughter of Bill Ponsford.
Megan Ponsford, the granddaughter of Bill Ponsford.

Megan, a photographer, put her camera down and began researching on the first Australian team to tour — a Jack Ryder-led outfit in 1935-36. Megan’s last stop for the completion of her PhD on Ryder’s tour is Mumbai after having been to Pakistan (to attend the Fayyaz Sumbal charity match in Lahore at Lahore Gymkhana where the 1935-36 team played) and then to Delhi. Of course, she has been to India before.

A souvenir  of the tour
A souvenir  of the tour

How did Megan think about researching the tour seven years ago? “After locating a box of artefacts (mainly 2D photographs, menus, scorecards, programmes and two signed balls) that pertained to the tour and had previously belonged to my great uncle, Victorian footballer and cricketer, Tom Leather,” she says.

“Tom had died whilst the box was on loan to the Melbourne Cricket Club. The photographic imagery was of particular interest to me as a visually literate person. In the thesis, I tell the story of the tour through an analysis of the imagery,” adds Megan.

Since the tour was not granted official status, it did not get the recognition it deserved but the fact is that the tour, funded by the Maharajah of Patiala, was aimed at India’s preparation tour of England in the summer of 1936.

The tour involving the Aussies was managed by Frank Tarrant, who coached Indian players of that era. And the Australians were well-paid for their participation — 300 pounds per player according to a recent report in The Age. Megan’s grandfather Bill was not allowed to tour despite him being a retired player. Absurdity and cricket administrators went hand in hand even then in some cases.

As for Megan, her next two days will be spent researching at the Cricket Club of India and then she’s off to Singapore for a small break. Well earned and well deserved, we must say. And yes, well done!

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