All posts by Neeta

A lady journalist in permanent Azad mode, observer.. Developed a balcony garden, lover of & video journalist

Last goodbyes

Everyday I would say ‘me yet’ and call at a specific time to ask have you eaten dinner, how is baba, has he eaten, okay bye. Few words and then when I’d return I would check on my aai and Baba. Sometimes aai would get up to go to the toilet and we would be like ghosts in the dark. Next morning, would be a good morning raani and life would go on.

December 27, 2018, was last my aai took my name, actually screamed for help, for relief. And after that there were no exchange of words till she breathed her last on Jan 22, 2019.

We all tried. Many ways and methods to get response. She’d seen like she was listening, she wanted to respond, say something. The semlls, sounds, voices, aromas, massage, half a smile and I would convince myself she was feeling, was able to understand.

The nurse too said she was amazed at the recovery, but we knew in medicine there is no miracle, even if many would try to reassure. I was hoping aai would open her eyes and we could say one Last goodbye.

In my baba’s case he was sharp till his last breath, so we could bid him a farewell. This month its already six months since aai’s demise and I still feel often, I have to call at 8pm, I haven’t asked if they ate. I still feel on Sunday afternoons I need to check on them, ask if they want anything.

Today’s international chocolate day and whole aai would sneer at anything chocolate baba simply loved them. Ate a Lindt in his memory and shared this sentiment with her, I couldn’t say my last goodbye to my aai. Of course she knew we were by her side and she was NOT alone..but for 25 days I said aai bye, me yete hoping she has heard.

Clearing records

As if its not enough that one has to deal with the loss of both the parents within just over one month, one has to personally go and inform each agency, utility, bank and every institution that please to note both are no more. Worse still, every agency and institution then goes on to erase their records. Makes you want to slap them, hello they are no more, but they lived here, contributed and now the agencies are eager to erase their records. Strange is life.

Meanwhile, as one goes with an application to every agency it is a grave reminder of how our country has remained detached from technology, data and coping with the modern day demands. My being a single woman, who has no identity of her own, who has to leave aside everything and dedicate at least an hour on an average at every agency and is NOT taken seriously, especially if unaccompanied by a male is highlighted every single time.

I am time and again asked if I am single, then why no male? And when there has been a male as if its a ticket to paradise, my work gets done in a jiffy. Else I have had to wait for an hour on an average.

This country is just NOT prepared for the single working people. right form the postal services, gas company to courier, your life is a naught because none of the services cater to the working professionals without families. All of these services catered to ‘families’, guaranteeing someone would remain at home to take calls, be there to attend to the services. Now that I go to work from 3.00-11.00pm, when the house is shut, post delivery person will sure shot come to deliver the mail in that time. Then one has to make a special trip to the main post office of one’s area and go on various floors, from first level to the basement.

Try asking each agency do they consider about single working people who have NO relative at home and if they could put the mail directly in the post box or hand over to the immediate neighbour, they ask you to make a visit before 10.30am and speak directly with the postman, nodal person of that agency, if they consider your difficulty. Or usual response, ‘no madam, nothing can be done.’

As for the erasing records, it is less said the better. My only grouse is, we are in the modern days. Everything is computerised, all our records are now on the system and the BMC is the agency which hands over the death certificate, why can’t they all be interlinked and just send out the alert to other agencies -gas, utilities, etc that the person name, DOB, DOD, etc is no more. The onus is on the off spring, kin to do this all, is more traumatic and unnerving. Apart from saving a whole lot of time, it also makes every process transparent and legal.

A day at a time

Forget the relation of the person, how close she is to me and other issues. She is my life and we shall keep it at that. From December 27, our lives have turned upside down, moreover her life hangs in balance since

Before I embark saying anything, I urge all Indian parents, since they can influence their children, all adults to first make a ‘living will’. There is NO guarantee what can happen to us and when it will. This living will is for medical purposes–you want to be kept alive at any cost or would you want to live with dignity till your breath allows you. Because if you don’t make this will, it is not fair to put the onus on your children, (however old) to decide for you. The children are then forced to act on your behalf, in the best interest. Basically, ventilator is NOT living, it is extending life forcibly. And my opinion, after the age of 80, putting a person on ventilator should really be disallowed.

Sadly this country has a judiciary that seems to dictate our lives and have banned euthanasia. It’s the most fucking bizarre ban. Would like the judges to come over and see, why only brain dead should be allowed to die with dignity. Dying with dignity is a fundamental right of any human being. But we being Indians, ruled by regressive traditions, we forget reason and more over human dignity.

Secondly, GO AND READ DR ATUL GAWANDE’S BEING MORTAL. It is truly needed. We all are going to die one day. This does NOT Mean one does not try within one’s reach all the medical options, often beyond what one can afford. But it also means dying with dignity and allowing those who need it.

On December 26, when S began shouting my name and said she cannot bear the pain, the family doctor was called and she was rushed to the hospital. She suffered severe cardiac arrest which made her unconscious. This was in the casualty room, known as emergency room. She became unconscious and has been since then.

The doctors took 7-8 minutes to revive her. Since then she was on a ventilator. The hospital and its staff, moreover doctors are extremely good. My school friend R has been rock solid and were the same voices. It is difficult to accept the situation for some. Each grapples with the situation in their own way. But above all remember if you are close to someone, their feelings, how they lived and would have liked to live or die is paramount. That should be the core of all one’s thoughts, NOT we want to all at any cost. Talk to your elders, family members– do they have any wish, anything that they’d want. S had liked my idea of organ donation, something which I had discussed with her and her Mr years ago. Ironically, just before she fell ill, few days prior to that, she had requested that I write a letter on her to behalf to the family doctor, who had lost her mother and friend of S, expressing her desire to donate her organs or give her body for medical research. But then everything just changed since December 27.

Each one has the over riding feeling they don’t want the last memory of their loved ones on ventilator or in tubes. Nobody does, but if that is the reality, then one needs to accept it. Keep loving the person. From the second day I differed with the family dr and siblings. Because by then I had studied the reports, spoken to doctors and when all tell you, “have faith, there is hope and believe in miracles,” READ THE FUCKING UNDERLYING MESSAGE… NOTHING CAN BE DONE, just take things as they come.

Remember the over riding rule, hope is the most exploited sentiment in the world. And there are whole lot of means and methods to exploit this sentiment. Also remember, once admitted to ICU, this sentiment is exploited. It does not mean you give up, NO. It means think of ways to make the person’s remaining time in the world more dignified, easy and practical for the family.

Once S was brought home, we are learning a lot along the way. It’s on-going. First remember, you need an air bed, hospital bed with a lever, rubber mat, soft big pillows, hard pillows, plenty of hand towels for the patient, nurses (we shall come to that soon), or trained ayahs working in shifts

Entire new diet plan in consultation with doctors, hand mixie, separate vessels, bowls, spoons and a huge vessel for sterilising all crockery and cutlery to be used for patients. Disposal gloves, masks, wet wipes, scissors, thermometer, torch, gowns, oil – olive, coconut, oodh, dhoop.

Firstly keep your views, personal feelings aside and think of what does the patient like around her/him? Well I also put few drops of wine on her lips so remember it’s what that person likes and their lasting memories, while still amidst us.

Have asked the top worker to brings fresh flowers daily. So when S was brought home, since then, fresh flowers are around her, her favourite perfume Chanel no5, which is sprayed on her, her pillow; her favourite music, favourite food is cooked and we all eat. We have a happy environment of serving tea, coffee, snacks for all.

Now coming to few practical requirements, we are lucky since family docs live across and entire family is in medical field. Moreover we live in ‘dinosaur land’ so all neighbours have some gadget or things which are needed. You never know when emergency will stirke.

Tie up with whole sale pharmacist, surgical shops. We again are lucky to live in an area where both are in abundance. You need regular supplies of : gloves, wept wipes, creams, ointments, options, medicated hand sanitizer–enforce it on all, just do not allow anyone to touch the patient otherwise, even if family member, male a list of things needed. Oxypulse reader, BP machine, stethoscope and ask the doctors.

Most of all keep the environment warm, normal and friendly. Remember, even if in coma or not, unconscious state (as in this case), the person IS STILL ALIVE. The person opens eyes, responds to feel, touch, smell and voices, then we owe it to them to make it memorable.

Think of all those the patient has liked, likes, is fond of, either ask them to visit or make video calls, don’t miss on anyone. Let there be people around, always. Crack jokes, tell stories, goad, tease, as one would when the person was speaking to us.

A vital and can’t do without integral part of palliative care, is lot of people are the nurses. Now every ward boy and nurse has started their own bureau, and if you don’t believe check around. Prices vary with most expensive rates in SoBo, because of its location. But if you befriend them and ask them to come directly, its less expensive. You spend an average of ₹2700-3000 is daily nurse expense. Well, equivalent to one month’s pay, literally. It is an expensive feat and most medical insurance conveniently do not cover nurse expense. Something may be you all need to anticipate and plan to include.

Most of all remember, 100s will give you unasked for advice, especially those seem to have ‘seen’ witnessed miracles, dead person walking types. Many self-medication experts will not wait for your response. Simply ignore it, since they will blabber on names of ‘babas’ fraudsters who give some powder or magical cures for those who docs have given up on and are now running marathons. Sure, you know what, mumble to yourself or in your mind, “shove it right up your arse.”

I am sure meditation helps to calm our nerves, some soothing sholokas. Use practical sense which does NOT mean giving up and Live life everyday, is all it tells us.

Choice of being mortal

Recently my father who suffers from prostate cancer informed the uro-oncologist he will not take any medicines henceforth and will not undergo any surgery at the age of 86. This had upset me initially. Not because he asserted his right to be mortal, but in that journey he is opting to suffer, which is what annoyed me. Choosing to die can be without suffering.

When my father turned 82, he had to be rushed to the hospital, for a man who had never been admitted to one, this stint was rather long. 10 days with family doctors telling me be prepared for the worst and it could be total renal failure. I shared every detail with him, prepping to resolve. And if anyone knows my dad, his will power is stronger than steel. Like his mother
(Aaji) and elder sister, both who died.of cancer. Thereafter the treatment we chose was No chemo or or radiation. We opted for hormone therapy, medicines only, keeping in mind the possible effect, one being a paralysis stroke. That also not necessary. But all exceptions are in this family and on the day of Diwali within four months of treatment, father got a stroke.

His journey then onwards has been of immense recovery. Yes, prostate is a slow growing cancer, lily of the patient fyi g of other forms is what is believed. But it’s a cancer with no uniform pattern. With only medicines and his resolve, father can’t climb up and down stairs, but is mobile in the house. He is aging, obviously but looks good. There are days, but that if one assesses rationally, is also part of aging.

During this entire process, the provider, care taker and the patient do not necessarily have the most pleasant relationship. It be understood it will get infuriating, emotionally draining. But patient is going through far worse and one needs to be slightly detached. It only helps to maintain sanity. During this time my school friend, a doctor pushed me to read ‘being mortal’ by Dr Atul Gawande. Well written, in detail how aging and old age illnesses, terminal diseases for aged impacts lives of all those around and most of all the patient.

Having experienced it all, read it, when father said no more, I did try to reason (believe me its tough) of don’t opt for suffering, but he has made his choice. We have to respect it. Saying is easy than experiencing it. But guess that is life,a journey.

The treatment has not been easy, absolute depletion of resources, but that is something you opt for if one does not want the patient to suffer. We opted for making father’s life comfortable and not to prolong it,that is right up Dr Gawande’s medical ideology. This end,too is. I too believe if one has led a whole life and instead of suffering opting wilfull death is a better option. But in a country where judiciary determines our private loves, euthanasia will never be allowed. Sad, till then all those whose end is known are forced to suffer. Their only choice is to wait for the end.

Meanwhile, discussions on organ donation have been taken seriously and steps towards getting it endorsed from the family doctors in process. These realities too need to be openly discussed and weighed. An open relationship with the family doctors helps. It’s a way forward, I believe and when I first discussed, few years ago, father was fit and fine. Both took it seriously, but till now we didn’t work towards it

The one stark fact that hits you in the face is this country is just not prepared for old age oppmedication. We have no decent medical centre, it’s your get good doctors who have got, good faculties and treatment. This whole waiting for death is tragic. We need to find a way around it. Which can only come with futuristic options,R&D,facilities. Not sure iny lifetime I will see.

Give yourself a treat this Diwali

Diwali and festival time is for giving and sharing. I will share my fine experience of a fantastic Japanese spa treatment at Aeropagus, at Sukh Sagar, in SoBo.

I had featured them when they first launched at Shivaji park 10 years ago and must say their training and quality of treatments are up to the mark. For me a lot of things make Aeropagus a favorite. First of course is the location, which is close-to-home near Girgaum Chowaptty. Second the services, top class. The therapists are well trained, who have a firm hand and excellent grip. Third, is their ambiance, which is really warm and nice. Last, they are clean and hygenic. They are strong and receptive to one’s suggestion.

I can suggest, one must try their Signature Therapies. Take some me-time out from one’s daily rushed life to try their Signature Therapies. Shiatsu is a Japanese massage modality developed in 1320. “Shi” means fingers and “Atsu” means pressure. The Japanese Ministry of Health defines shiatsu as “a form of manipulation by thumbs, fingers and palms without the use of instruments, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin to correct internal malfunctions, promote and maintain health, and treat specific diseases.

There is Grounding Therapy, then for lovers there is a treat, so both can get relaxing therapy, Cupid of Lovers. Aeropagus Signature is fantastic therapy and after a hot shower, one can feel rejuvenated and refreshed. I have also tried the Tai Chi, if a person likes a bit rough and tough, exercise kinda massage, believe me is therapeutic. Along with a Ritual foot spa.

My therapist was a thorough professional young lady, who had a strong grip and when doing Tai Chi exercise-kind therapy, it was like a treatment my body needed.

The entire experience is definitely one which makes you want go back for more. And this festival season this is one gift we can give to our loved ones, families and friends. Spa treatments as gifts are not passe’, rather much needed in today’s lifestyle that one has, full of tension and hard work. Not all can travel extensively as one would like. This is a good way to invest in some me-time.

A humbling experience

Last week I was invited by the principal of Ela Sarawat School as the Chief Guest, for the farewell of their tenth class students. The biggest lesson I learnt, educated professionals like us are immensely privileged and we should be thankful for our education and the opportunities we have got. Moreover, be humble about it. My experience to the slum school and their function was most humbling. Children can be happy and can still be innovative in the most stifling environments, it is a miracle.

This school is located off the kachcha road at Malvani. Now if anyone remotely thinks India is a highly developed nation, a political and economic superpower, I request all to take a walk to this school for a reality test. Your stomach will churn, you will develop a lump in your throat and as you approach a brightly coloured school from the front, by the time your vehicle has moved towards the muddy road entrance, the entire school and Junior College resembles a rather posh slum.

This is the most depressing part. The school is run by a family trust which has the best colleges and school in the elite part of Bandra. But they seem least interested in giving money to this slum school. Guess the family treats this as their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project like many forced CSR projects run in India. As I recovered from being half covered by mud and tolerating the stench, I was asked to jump on a motorcycle to reach the venue which I was told was 10 minutes away. I was taken straight inside a slum. The roads were not continuous or well-laid. After every plot completed and next began, the middle portion was patched unevenly by rough concrete with no guarantee of balance. Goats and adults strayed in our path, carts were strewn in the middle and more stench from gutters which killed me bit by bit. It was a complete culture shock, to say the least. Mind you, I have covered stories in the gullies of slums in this city, but Malvani is inexplicable an experience.

We were made to sit in a duplex slum, the upholstery was rich for the environs. Later we were taken to a terrace, where there were no fans! An asbestos roof (killer) and the four sides open, completely surrounded by slums. One clarification, these slums are concrete, tin roof-shed types. Obviously there were peeping tots from surrounding neighbourhood. Finally the trustee, member of a rich Muslim family that owns numerous educational institutions made an appearance. Crisp white pants, silk shirt and white shoes, of course. Why did I seem surprised? Felt my eyebrows rise in horror. For the gentleman, this school is a compulsion and how they make it public! I cannot even remotely imagine a school with NO playground, but here was one. The principal T, is one beautiful, creative lady with a nerve of steel. She had whispered, this trustee, after much pleading had given the principal only Rs 2000/- for the school’s sports day. I was shocked beyond belief. Rs 2000 per child I would have believed, but as she told me with disbelief I seriously wanted to throw this man over the terrace. These kids will grow up into adults who have no medals or certificates to show their children and grand children. No extra cirricular activities which can hone their skills and help them discover their personalities, in the first place.

As I inquired about the school results, I got the best news which lifted my spirits. The school has a record of 98-99% results and same was the case for junior college. Imagine for a school that caters to may be the first generation learners, living in complete poverty–to come out of their deprivation and achieve these results is definitely a huge achievement. It is way above the 90+-100% high scores the rote learners, from rich families get after numerous tuitions and coaching. The school has zero extra curricular activities, music, other hobbies and the trustee has banned teaching or learning Music in this school. It was a like flash across my eyes, ‘how to make criminals’ that pervades such mentality.

Now in this environment yours truly was invited. If anyone knows anything about me, I love to break rules. I lived on the playground till I was forced out of injuries in my twenties; this was going to be one challenge for me to reach out to students from this school to motivate and inspire them. What can I tell someone who has never been on a ground? Hats off to T who simply has immense faith in me.

So the first rule I broke was to tell the trustee that he has a creative and a wonderful principal. Second rule I broke, to tell him sports IS important for the overall growth of children and third, to tell him it is amazing the students have given laudable results despite the impediments. I only got polite nods. And yes, he was felicitated and he simply walked out.

After his exit, it was like a heavy air was lifted from the terrace. Then there was a party. It may be the first time I have witnessed a farewell of this sort, where teachers put up a skit. Must give it to them, talented lot of teachers with minute observation, depicted the behaviour of their students. This was followed by another round of some beautiful singing. 3 talented teachers- lady sang, 1 played guitar, other the piano. Now the lady teacher comes from strict, conservative Muslim family. She is immensely gifted but is barred from singing (such tragedy). She loves it and is her passion, knowing her circumstances, the principal lets her sing in such events.

Around this time I heard the teachers dedicate a song to one Imran, who is no more. I was told he was given wrong medication and treatment by a hospital after he fell ill and died. I was aghast. Imagine the circumstances in which these kids are surviving. Lack of education, facilities and basic primary health. This was just 2 months before the board exams. This is the pathetic condition of our poor. A kid died only because of lack resources prevented the family from even getting the right medicine. The tribute brought tears to the eyes of the entire class. I am hopeful with this lot, after seeing young boys cry. By god, I held myself back, it was an absolutely low moment for all.

I was further informed, these adult teachers had never heard of the word, trek. And contrast it to our lives, I began to go on hikes and treks from fourth standard. The principal took them on a trek in Thane district and now they are excited to go on more.

I had to talk to motivate them to break rules, become fine adults and more so fun-loving. My concern was for the girl students. I was thrilled to hear from the students none of the girls wanted to marry soon. 1 wants to be a dancer, 1 a journalist and most had some dream. And I am eternally hopeful after listening to their dreams. They were happy, smiling, sang, danced and were not influenced by the forced choices expected from girls. Imagine an open terrace, kids from neighbouring slum terraces looking into, no great acoustics, no auditorium, no great food and still they had big dreams, were hopeful and believed in change. Wish Gandhi was alive to witness this.

The staff and principal are immensely creative. They lit a candle of knowledge, painted pots, cards with personalised touch to make us feel special. I can only say this is one school where teachers are surely doing a revolutionary job. They need more power and it only reminds us we take our privilege for granted.

Experience of lifetime

We all have heard of #northernlights or aurora borealis. A magical dislay of lights,ainly, green, pink and purple in the skies, seen mostly in countries of north and south pole. This is the 50th year for my friend and me, we saved money for this trip. To celebrate this year we started planning for a memorable trip, beginning with Cuba and ended up in Norway. We wanted the trip to be splendid and decided we wanted to witness Aurora Borealis and so we booked on a cruise.

Believe me it is one thing to see them in films, photographs and online, than to witness it. My first reaction was NOT to reach for the camera, but to stand there and take it in. After we left Bergen on the second or third night while we waited on the top deck we heard to go out to experience the northern lights. There we stood transfixed at the natural splendour.

Lights for sure they are called, what I saw was, colours that blew in the skies with the wind like smoke and engulfed the entire area. It was absolute magic! It is indescribable, to say the least. Over the last few days I have seen these lights every night. Last night far away I saw a red colour, I clicked it on my DSLR. Oh, by the way the settings have to be manual, below one fourth a second speed, 1600 ISO, exposure etc to be adjusted accordingly. It is funny, we were told one has to be alert on the cruise, every night. They will make an announcement in the corridor and one has to run to the top deck.

The first night at 11pm I heard some sound and spring up instantly. Thankfully I have invested in a cellphone that has a camera of DSLR quality. And after the first few minutes I take in the experience every night I click. Interestingly, on November 18, I saw a red colour smoky light far away and I clicked. It got bit brighter and clicked again. Later I showed it to the bar tender lady who initally did not believe me. Tonight (Nov 19th) was magical. I yet again saw red and green lights. I clicked on the camera and showed the lady who was accompanied by another staffer and they appreciated the ‘different lights.’

Like I said it is a natural phenomenon, no fixed formula but one needs to witness it at least once in life. In fact it was a double bonus. The first two days we saw rainbows and at night the northern lights. I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate life! This cruise is good sent, relaxed, living every moment and enjoying nature’s splendour. I definitely could not have asked for a better way to end this year.


Now many may have seen me with a Chinese fan on the roads, in bus, cab and at the bus stop. Obviously I get smirks, people look at amusingly. As i touched 50, I was aware of THE BIG change in my life, menopause. I was all prepared for it, or rather willing to welcome it with open arms. Believe me if there is one thing about being a woman I completely detest, were the menstruation cycles. So as 2017 dawned I was happy. But what started was not something I was ever prepared for.

Suddenly a cyst in my ovary was detected, followed with dental issues, then I found myself getting slightly emotional, which in turn unnerved me. I sat in front of my childhood friend bawling and he has never seen me like this and was astonished. After that day I decided I do NOT want to be like this. Believe me, any amount of reading, preparations (I started on natural supplements and precautions (peri-menopause time) since last few years. The symptoms were loud and clear – loud sounds, especially honking would sound magnified, (which made me ANGRY) and in addition, the professional stress. The last HAS BEEN a huge precipitating factor. The 24×7 broadcast news culture is such, remember bosses have to switch off and can take weekly offs, holidays, but none of it for us. We are bonded labour. Sorry for this slight stray, but this was huge detrimental factor at the onset of menopause.

At that time, I came across the concept of a pelvic magnet. I read up on it in details and women in UK, US said it helped to control the flushes. Over 7 years I have been wearing, beginning with peri-menopause and not that it has helped me overcome insomnia, but it has done no harm. While at it, I increased my dose of vitamins, had to undergo series of tests, that are needed and the blood hormone test pinned it. Yes menopause had just begun.

Being on medication is not something I like, especially for the side effects. The medication for cyst made me lethargic. I changed my job, took something less stressful and moreover my timings simply matched the changed body clock. I am more like an owl at night and slow in the morning. Accepting it with a work profile, a newspaper job, made my Life less stressful. Heading a team of young reporters has is it pluses and few disadvantages. They may give you many a frustrating moments, but it is less stressful than broadcast. There is a sense of fulfilment when you can mould young minds to think differently. It gives you a sense of hope in the current political climate when they move for better prospects. Even in the hot flushes moment, you get a sense of fulfillment, one has helped them to try and be rational journalists who can look deeper.

I began staying more with people who are younger, happy, for less stressful interactions. Friends apart, of course. I avoid the ones who provoke. This phase makes women bit more sensitive and before I get into situations where there could be misunderstandings, moreso make me feel vulnerable, I simply stay away from such situations. In this initial phase things may not be as they occur— often things seem magnified for no reason. When you exchange notes of menopause with other women and friends, one realises each is going through similar emotions and changes. In fact when we school friends meet, we realised for a while all of us were talking about menopause making us sensitive, hormones, hot flushes and bladder issues. Fuck! Never in my life I’d have imagined to be like this.

Among few compulsory things I imbibed, I stopped battling the changes. These are body changes which are natural and one needs to work around them. Yes, I feel like a walking volcano all the while. Though I have tried to make changes in my diet, it is the acceptance which helps one to deal with situation. So while I am taking vitamins and suddenly a spur pain crops up in the heel, I am more open to accupuncturist and naturopathy, than medication. Coming from a family that has history of cancer, the HRT is completely ruled out. Apart from which personally I am NOT in favour of it.

Currently, I want be in a happy place, more comfortable in my skin and that dear women friends is the most imprtant determining factor. Hot flushes, now that is normal and less bothersome.

‘Pakmodia street, the HQ of Mumbai underworld gangs’

This morning when I heard that a building had collapsed near Pakmodia street, it was a walk down memory lane. As a reporter and lover of old Bombay, I had gorwn up with the tales of crime and underworld.

Pakomodia street, once this name would send shivers down the spine of people when the underworld ruled the old streets of Bombay. People dreaded a phone call or visit from this locality till the 90s. A person was called by ‘Bhai’ or his man meant the worst. The Hussaini building was where Ibrahim Kaskar, the father of Dawood and his family lived when he worked as the head constable with the Mumbai Police. His eldest son, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, alias Bhai, ‘D’ started the Dawood gang from this street.

In the urban legend of the old Bombay city, Pakmodia was the Head Quarters of D gang. From late 60s, 70s till early 80s, there were there were 3 main gangs, Dawood, Pathan, Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. The Pathan and D gang were juxtaposed opposite each other, even geographically. These were the two ferocious gangs that were violent and controlled initially the smuggling, supari killings and were notorious.

These were situated in Dongri, off Mohammed Ali Road. From there to Byculla boudn ary began much later Dagdi chawl, the den of Arun Gawli. Then from Jacob’s Circle or Saath Rasta, was the domain of Amar Naik. Even today police believe the Pakmodia street has spotter, informers and is the stronghold of Dawood. Families are said to receive calls from Bhai and there is informal exchange of information and business.

Till many years after Dawood fled from Bombay, the room where his father lived was locked. After Idrahim kaskar returned to Mumbai he began staying in the same vicinity. He recalled the childhood memories of living in the old Hussaini building, where his father had a room.

For Mumbai police though this was an area for ‘look out.’ They were tricky days for policing and many a challenging night. “Long back Pakmodia was known as Dawood’s gulli. One of the main gang of the underworld was headquartered here,” Rakesh Maria, the former commissioner of police said in a telephonic call from London. Maria recalled his days of policing in this area, “This was the origin from where Mumbai’s underworld began.” Maria said the location was such that areas were demarcated. “On one side was the Pathan gang and on the other Dawood gang. Ahead was Haji mastan, these were the main gangs.”

These controlled the crime – murders, shoto outs, extorition, smuggling and much later drifted into drugs and major killings.

Veteran IPS officer and former DG of Maharashtra, Arvind Inamdar was one of the first to have gone in this area to bust the smuggled gold. The mention of a building collapse and Pakmodia brought a cheer to his face. “Yes, I remember Pakmodia street. Sometime in 1988, we had raided this street. Gone inside and busted their plans. We seized gold worth Rs 3 crores at that time. It was the first time police had taken such a strong stand,” said Inamdar.

This was the first kind of direct action by police in Pakmodia street, for which the entire team was enthusiastic. Inamdar would frequently parole the area in plain clothes. “I would go to Pakmodia and the entire area in plain clothes as part of my job. In fact one could see spotters. We ensured that whatever action we took, the police would have an upper hand.”

Today, life has changed a lot. Name of Dawood does not evoke any awe or fear. Residents would rather stay away and get on with their lives. Nature too has its way of alarming. Dawood’s younger brother Ibrahim Kaskar who lives in the adjacent building got a rude shock this morning when his building too vibrated as he heard an explosion-like sound when the Hussaini building fell.

Stray love

I am proud to be part of this team. I am not the pet loving sorts, because I am of the opinion animals should be allowed to remain in their natural habitat. My childhood friend drew me in her world of helping strays and for someone with zero experience I helped her rescue small kitten from under a car at an elite club in SoBo (South Bombay).

I had to keep it entertained and ensure it wasn’t scared to death. That the kitten was not aware not to paw me and scratch nails was evidently absent! From then on the number cats in our catland have touched a dozen.

I have been often stalked by stray dogs and cats. Demanding a pat or two, like it is their right. Must say it is far more enjoyable than proud parents who believe only their child is special or extraordinary.

Recently as I sat at the regular take away counter near my house for my quota of falooda just before the monsoons, I saw a blood eyed cat. He was scared, wanted affection but was trembling with fear. His right eye was not to be seen and when I queried the feeder Safwal Bhai, owner of Al Baik and he said it had been few days he was in this state. It sure looked infected and likely to cause more damage. I immediately put up on Twitter, sorwd the word among cat lovers. Most of all, I called Shankar, caretaker of cats in our compounds. He has been trained and is in constant touch with the venetnary hospital. He did primary investigation and told me to keep the cat occupied near us while he will rush back with a cat cage, he needed immedii hospitalisation.

As you see to your right, Jack Sparrow (I call him that and looks on adoringl) had a bloody eye. It was all quickly that we lured him with chicken and lifted him to put him in a cage. He screamed, howled, but obviously, but we knew we were doing it for his sake They promptly injected him and put him in a cage at the hospital. After a few days he was operated, the gangerine had spread and we couldn’t save Jack Sparrow’s (yes, you have to call him by the full name not just either) eye but his life was saved.

Then one fine day he returned to his domain, he rannup the stairs of a building. A night later I went to check on him and I haven’t seen such pure love! He ran to me, never thought cats had these emotions or showed them. He got himself patted, purred, playfully nudged with his open jaw where he wanted more pats and it was unusual friendship. Alao may be because ginger boy’s are more adorable says a cat lovers friend.

He knows my voice, he still has various sounds. My moments with Jack Sparrow are interesting. When he is getting attention, recently a stray dog came by and our pirate purred nastily that actually drove the dog away 😁 glad one cat saved, nine lives it is?

He is a joy to watch as he now has adopted a grey stray kitten under his guidance. So the whole existence continues, love taken forward in our universe.