A cousin, who left Bombay for London some 30 years ago to live and work there, is returning home for the first time. He will be here for three weeks, which is the statutory period of leave the they grant in the West, not the month, plus sick leave, plus casual leave, plus the telegram saying mother not well, plus the second telegram informing all train tickets booked for the next ten days so cannot return - that we have in India.
To return to the cousin, he is excited at the prospect of seeing how much of the old Bombay that he knew and grew up in is still there and how much of it has changed. I would say that he is in for several surprises, but then again I could be wrong.
He himself has changed a lot. He has lost all the hair on his head, he has been married to an English woman, has had children who in turn have got married, while he himself has got divorced, has acquired a house on mortgage, a car, and South London accent.
In Bombay, he will find that some things have remained. Balaram House in Balaram Street, where he was born and where he lived, is still there. With probably the same families as neighbours, though another generation of those families. But the trams that used to run through Balaram Street are no longer there, and I wonder if the Super Cinema, that existed practically in his backyard, is there.
I have myself not been in that area for a while now, so I do not know of the recent changes. And this is something that I regret, because I like to keep myself in touch with all developments in the city. So I do not know if Hardinge Store at Charni Road Junction is still there, and the Irani in the opposite corner of the junction, who did not allow customers to smoke in his restaurant.
But, further down the road, Motilal Masalawalla, now more famous than ever, continues; and there is a new fashion store called Sheetal, with, I understand, its own valet parking service, which should impress the cousin from London.
And he is looking forward to renewing contacts with his old friends, with most of whom he has lost contact and about a large number of whom he does not known whether they are alive or passed away. Among his friends were several Parsi boxers (in those days, boxing was very much a Parsi sport, along with cycling), the Daruwalla brothers, Percy Khatau. I wonder if he will be able to trace them. He probably will.
But other things he will not be able to trace. The Golwalla swimming pool and the Maccabi Club, where a whole new downtown has been created on what must be the most highly-priced real estate in the country.
All in all, it is going to be a strange homecoming for his. And the odd thing is that it is not even a homecoming, it is just a brief holiday away from home. Because home now for him is London.