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Archive for April 7th, 2006

Arz Hai!

Of the many mails I receive, one was from my friend’s wife who says that I write one line mails and I have ceased to ask them about how they are doing.

To make her point clear, she sent me a tiger, I mean a sher

Laut jati hai duniya gam hamara dekhkar,
Jaise laut jaati hai lehere kinara dekhkar.
Tu kandha na dena mere janaze ko,
Kahi fir se zinda na ho jau tere sahara dekhkar

Now if somebody sends me a poetry or tiger like that, my creative juices starts flowing from my head and I replied back with a dashu sher

Duniya dekhti hai hamara gum, ki yeh apna afsana kya bata raha hai!
Duniya dekhti hai hamara gum, ki yeh apna afsana kya bata raha hai!

Jara TV laga do, ki match live aa raha hai

Clearly the choice is universal, I suck!

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In between building no: 22, 23 25, 27 and 26 is our colony, is a small ground. Its like a small patch of land in the concrete jungle of Mumbai. Although our building had names and registered societies, there were known by their numbers.

One day the municipality decided to build a 2 feet wall around the small ground of ours and the ‘Katta’ was born. Katta (pronounced as Kat as in cut and ta, so its cutta) in Marathi is a small wall, a kind of boundary but in Marathi slang it means a place to sit and waste away time. I don’t know the situation now, but Katta is hated by most parents especially by parents with young boys in the family. My parents would also hate the katta. My mom still does.

Our Katta was a small part of the wall under a big tree which had small leaves. It provided the much needed shadow from the Mumbai heat. It was the place we use to sit when we cheered for our building team. It was the place where we use to sit and discuss about everything from sex to politics to parents. Our katta was called “Sugandhi Katta” or the scented wall ‘inspired’ by a 1974 Marathi movie. Nobody has seen the movie, but the name stuck. A katta by any other name is a ‘Katta’.

During vacation it was always occupied. The same part of the wall was always occupied because it was in between two buildings. The other part of the wall remained unoccupied and dirty with dust around. We never had to go and clean the katta because someone was sitting there and dust never gather there.

The morning the first occupants were milk boys who would count their money after delivering milk. Sometimes and mostly during vacations, it would be youngsters who were ‘jogging’ to keep themselves fit. ‘Jogging’ was a special exercise which most of us remembered during our summer vacations. I was too thin then and jogging was looked to make myself fit. The first two week, it was religiously followed. The number of people would drop and then by the end it was completely stopped until the next vacation. When the whole ‘jogging’ sickness would take over again.

The katta was mostly vacant during the rest of the day unless it was vacations. Then the first occupant would be with a cricket bat in his hand waiting for the others to come down. The whole morning till lunch would be occupied by shouting children playing mostly cricket but sometimes volleyball and even badminton. The katta would fall silent mostly in the afternoon unless occupied by the woman of the building where again the topics would span a wide range from In-laws to children to the latest gossip. These neighboring aunties would be like small children discussing everything oblivious of the surrounding and still keeping track of what’s happening in the building.

The evening would belong to the children again. The katta would be filled with children shouting, yelling cheering and just running around. Children here would be mostly children between 10 and 18 or even 20. I know above 15 is termed as teenagers but when you see these teenagers playing and fighting over a non-existent rule in crcket, you really wonder if they had grown up.

After that, the katta is never free till almost midnight when the last of its occupant leaves it alone for a good night sleep. From dawn to the wee hours of the night, the katta would bust with activities.

Friendship, rivalry, fights, affairs, secrets and gossips the katta has seen it all and will continue to see it. It has seen children growing up into teenagers and then into adults. It has seen marriages and now their children walk on the katta continuing the life cycle.

The katta has a life of its own, a mood of it own. The mood of the katta was mostly in tune with the people sitting on the katta. The silence in the morning when the Milk boys and the early joggers would sit after a tiring morning. The excitement of the morning cricket game when the morning sunlight would slowly turn into scorching heat and with that there would be an increase in the noise and adrenalin of the occupants there. The afternoon would be lazy with sometimes the ladies or the children who were still active even after a morning cricket match. The evenings it was back to excitement again when the whole katta would be taken over by friends who were rivals now playing against each other. The nights when everything would be on the way to settling down, the talking turning to whispers when after dinner everyone wants to discus everything in great details. The katta always highlighted the mood of the katta-wasi (the katta occupant).

The katta is a small wall near our building but it does not have to be a wall every time. It could be a bench, it could be a closed shop, it could be an abandon car and it could be anything. It just has to have a place to sit. A katta exist in every corner of Mumbai. A place where people meet, talk, share and grow up. A katta is where you re-live your life, your memories, your days.

The katta sees youths eyeing women but rarely teasing. That is because everybody stays in the same area and something very Romeo-like would certainly attract the attention of the parents which was the least desirable thing. But it does not mean there was a shortage of gossips about girls. The age of growing up and in a conservative environment, there were proposals going on. A card here, a flower there, a eye here and a knowing smile there, the katta sees it all and so do a thousand eyes. An affair was a very rare possibility on the katta. Girls were rarely found on the katta excluding those occasion when the katta was surprisingly left unoccupied by any of the male species. During those occasions, boys would patiently and shyly wait till the girls leave and then they would capture their territory again.

Each group would guard their katta and the attendees would always be the same people rarely finding a new set of faces. Each locality, each building has its own katta. Its always occupied, it always alive

As the days pass, the faces on the katta change, a generation gives way to another generation. People become busy, change houses but the katta is never left unoccupied. When I use to come home late, I always found these kattas occupied. Rich, poor, high class, low class does not matter. What matters is a nice place to sit, friends and a topic to discuss.

In this fast life maybe someday the clubs, the pubs and the mochas would become more famous but for a time with the friends

“Chal Katte par chalete hai” (Lets go to the Katta!)

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