This is Bombay meri jaan!
Our fave sutradhars reconnect after ages amidst the lockdown and discuss how the city will survive this Herculean challenge
"Pheroze, it's me… Flora; how have you been?" Lady Flora was yelling at the top of her voice to ensure that every letter of every word was audible to her beloved friend. She missed him, and so did he. "Lady, Lady Flora…my goodness! How lovely to hear from you; I hope you are well," she could sense the joy in his voice, despite the patchy network.
"That's such a relief to know, Pheroze. It's been so long. The kind caretaker at Akbarally's allowed me to use his phone to make this call. I got worried about you and the family ever since these lockdown extensions have been happening," she continued, eager to pack in as much as she could in her brief call. "So tell me, how have you been managing with food, essentials, Pheroze? Enough for you and the missus, I hope," she enquired. "Oh yes, we are doing okay. Rationing has become the need of the day, of course. And then, there's always good ole eedu to rely on, when there's nothing else. Ms Mehta makes a lovely masala, like a curry that's a winner, and then..." Lady Flora interrupted, "Eden, who?" She could hear a faint chuckle at the other end; "Not Eden, eedu – we call the egg, eedu. It's our lifesaver in such times. Brun or pao from good ole Kyani that's thankfully still operating, and we are set for a meal," shared Sir PM, quickly trying to find out about his friend, "What about you, Lady Flora? How have you been looking after yourself – are you getting regular supplies?"
Lady Flora was doing pretty okay for herself. "I have an arrangement for supplies with the kind captain at St Thomas Cathedral, Pheroze. He's the best. I've bumped into him several times in the past too during my rounds inside when it's all quiet. He's fought several wars for the Crown. Oh! and the stories he's regaled me with about those glory days. It's kept me going in this grim situation…" Now it was Sir PM's turn to interrupt his friend. His right eyebrow was raised. 'Who is this new gentleman that his friend seems to have found?' he thought to himself. "And, who is this Good Samaritan, Lady Flora?" Sir PM asked, with a hint of jealousy lining the question. Even she could sense it, and smiled to herself. "Not to worry, Pheroze. You are my No. 1. He's been a helpful soul. I cannot wait to resume our walks. I keep telling him all about it; he's heard of your legal exploits at the Bombay High Court," she said, quickly hoping to make amends. It worked. Sir PM was relieved.
In for the long haul
"When will all this end, Pheroze? What are your former bosses saying?" she asked, worried, and realising that she had to wrap up her call. "It's all too much to handle, Lady Flora. It's been such a challenge that they've had to change the top boss and shunt a few others, too. Just imagine. I hope the city's famed resilience holds up one more time. This has to be for the long haul, my sources tell me. Gargoyle was narrating these heart-wrenching scenes of migrant labourers leaving the city that once fed them. And my friend Viegas, apart from waiting to go hear Sunday mass, wishes he could dive in to help his medical brethren with his past expertise when the dreaded plague hit Bombay," Lady Flora could sense the sadness in his usually distinctive baritone. "I want the city to come out of this; I cannot imagine it's the same without its crowds, traffic and chaos. It's an eerie calm, almost apocalyptic. Bombay is all about life and colour," she rushed through, adding quickly, "I'll have to take your leave, Pheroze. Stay well, and my regards to the missus, too. I hope it's better news the next time we speak." Sir PM tried to retain his composure, "See you on the other side, Lady Flora. Stay safe. This great city will come out stronger, just like it always has in the past. Because it is Bombay Meri Jaan to all of us."
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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