I went to Surat & then to Bilimora on this weekend. For most Bilimora is the station after Valsad on way to Delhi. Bilimora is a far off suburb for the richie rich Navsari Parsis & Gujjus. There were industries & remaining were farmlands; it was a weekend getaways for the Navsariwalas.
Now Bilimora is a town which is unique – gets hot in summer & really cold in winters. It has a some river side area …small compared to even any stream in the western ghats. The drinking water tastes awful. Its salty, terribly hard for Bombayites like me. It was traumatic to say the least. I’d get Nightmares & was always ill. My aai’s (mother’s) maternal home wc was actually a palatial villa. See, there are few secrets of the family which I can’t reveal..some I may just let out…but believe me when I say palatial its NO exaggeration. It was 52 rooms like old palace…No rickety stairs but many swings..remember ayega…ayega?? (Old Hindi film).
Ok so on the Gandevi road to the left was this Sardesai villa –Lokesh Bhuvan. On Monday morn it was a mission for my cousin Milind & me to make our trip come true! Our maternal uncle’s daughter made contact wt me. She & her crafty, schizo husband called me one night persuading me to come to visit them. Now my last memories of this house, nearly 28 yrs ago, was what I remember… a beautiful memory that was, till I saw the eventual reality. I NEVER wanted to go there after the 50th wedding anniv of my grandparents. By which time I had got the power to say NO! Didn’t want to re-visit a place where I had memories of being abused. Physically and sexually.
Yet, my cousin, my mother’s younger sister’s son was my support. He & i have been buddies since childhood and he convinced me to go. We made a plan & I informed Sonali & her husband…they were all gungho, till they realised I wont be coming alone…they informed me –after I had made all the train bookings that “pl don’t come, We won’t be in Bilimora, we have to go to Ahmedabad for an unlimited period of time.” I called Milind & he said I shld come to Surat, only to prove a point we should go to Bilimora.
Yes, both our instincts told us that this was all a BIG lie, no one was going anywhere…they did NOT want us to come. We both wanted to make a point. But you know what, NO one can deny us the right to visit our maternal grandparents home. Bcoz of our mothers, all cousins, till I was born, were born either in Surat or Bilimora, bcoz cousin’s father was a fine gynac. I was the first to be born in Bombay.
A fleet of 11 cars, lined this entrance, greenery that would make environmentalists proud! A variety of flowering plants, trees that bloomed as my dada ajoba would talk to his plants. Board which said, ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted, beware of the dogs” fascinated us always. In addition, a mini maidan, huge compound, open space ahead and behind, a compound for dogs plus cattleshed…it was absolutely unbelievable, the amount of land owned by my grand parents. And ofcourse the mango wadi, which was near some river.
Today, atthe entrance of the bungalow, a stuffed Bear’s face juts out – just like the olden days, yet the lamp is broken, walls are discoloured, with patches & black spots. The rest wc used to be a guest room with bath tub, my dada’s room & the hall, all of it is destroyed. The god’s room stands closed. Don’t know what’s hidden inside. Then a 30 -40 ft verandah is now reduced to 5ft where 2 Labradors are tied…the dogs’ kennels, playing ground and a compound is no more. It looks as if this shanty is an encroachment on a huge mass of land which once belonged to Sardesai family. A lady forced to expose herself due to compelling circumstances.
The servant’s quarters, the 3 extra rooms of the kitchen, the store rooms, other rooms…all gone. We looked to our right & the entrance is still dark & dingy. Sudha maushi’s room & aaji-dada’s room wt their toilet is there, rest, NOTHING.
Milind told me aai’s & his mother’s rooms were intact…but it was out of bounds for us. My maternal uncle seemed terribly upset upon seeing us. Me especially 🙂 Mami who I feel sad for, yes despite her silent support to that crafty b@#%&*@$d who is actually her brother-in-law, but left my older abusive uncle for this monster, seems resigned to her fate- consequences for NOT making a change for herself & letting herself live in this strange house….I feel bad for her, though she seems happy, even with the actions she has taken. Guess she has resigned to her fate. Ok, he has been a monster with me, but has loved her always, so I guess she will have a soft corner. We both spoke after like 28 yrs??? It was my uncle’s b’day a few days ago and she made sweets & offered us. We both ate reluctantly…that man refused to look in our direction. He has NO idea that the most eccentric nephew & niece were on his doorstep, especially the niece…I can IGNORE people wt such elan, he will be surprised. Later some sense dawned on him & he stood up to talk to us.. he had worn a shirt wt 6-7 holes…his teeth discoloured & mouth filled beetle nut, as usual.
The Mapara household was funnier, as Manish the husband, my so-called brother in law, a crafty man, ran away. We were only offered tea but we never saw anything at the table served for us. We then headed to Nandan Math, an ashram that once was promoted by my dada ajoba… there we were treated better than our own ‘relatives.’ The former cook and her daughters recognised Milind & me. They gave us tea & sweets!! Mostly they made us feel at home in their 2 room cozy chawl room. Despite living in an ashram, they were warm & down to earth. They related to us as if they were our real family. They know the family’s secrets & truths far better than the ‘players’ themselves.