That's an anomaly. Rarely do you find a goood-looking cop or hawaldar on the streets of Mumbai. Pot-bellied, unfit...time and again we've had newspaper reports that write off the various fitness regimes designed for our cops. So I was in for a really pleasant surprise when I actually bumped into a smart-looking pandu aka hawaldar at Prabhadevi. And if that wasn't enough - he even smiled at me. A good-looking pandu smiling one of the rarest phenomenon in Mumbai. So when I excitedly told my senior colleague about it, I expected her to be surprised. Instead, what I got was, "Why the hell were you looking at a pandu? Your generation is weird." Phew!
"This cabbie can speak English. We'd better shut up"
We were returning home by cab after an afternoon show of the film Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic (that's one of the worst versions of Mary Poppins I have come across). Our middle-aged cabbie slowed down at the Haji Ali signal. While we waited for the lights to turn green, he whisked out his cellphone (don't cabbies love to flaunt them in front of passengers?). In impeccable English he asked the person at the other end: "What's for dinner dude?" "No drinks today, please. Let's have fish. Yeah, prawns are fine. Prawns it is!" I was impressed. But mom was a little un comfortable. I remarked on one of the hoardings when mom turned to me and said, "Don't speak in English. 'He' (cabbie) can understand. Speak in Bengali."
It reminds me of this incident in Byculla last year. My photographer and I were on an assignment to do a story on the fledging Byculla vegetable market. I wanted to interview a few shopkeepers about the business. I started off in Hindi, only to get a response from one of them in pucca 'Oxbridge' English - "There was a time when people would come here from far-flung suburbs to buy fresh veggies, but now we don't see any of that. Those days are gone." I felt silly that I had assumed that a vegetable seller may not know English.