Bombay Blues

By Ahmed Bunglowala

From 1975 to 1983, we lived on Pedder Road, Bombay, as paying guests. Vijaya and I were recently married and the one-room-bath kitchenette accommodation suited us fine — especially after the few months we had spent in a shabby and claustrophobic place in Kurla East, with a nosey landlord as bonus. What hastened our exit from the Kurla place was that one day a chunk of the ceiling plaster came crashing down. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The landlady at Pedder Road was a jaded and quirky film star of yesteryears and my first meeting with her had evoked a strong association with Gloria Swanson’s character in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. She (the landlady) had advertised the PG room in the TOI. We had become voracious readers of the ‘accommodation available’ columns after the plaster falling incident. I had written her a postcard saying I was interested and would like to check out the place. She had phoned me after a couple of weeks and I went over to meet her. She looked at me with her cat-like green eyes, sizing me up. The usual interrogation followed. Soon, she agreed quite readily to rent the place to us. I was thrilled, and paid out a month’s rent in advance. Before leaving she let me know that the one thing that had greatly weighed in my favour was my handwriting — it was neat and clean, she said. Later, I was to understand that a good hand is the written equivalent of a good voice.

Soon we settled down in our new digs — we bought a second-hand fridge, an old cassette player and a pre-owned Jawa motorcycle; not all of them at the same time. So we were feeling pretty good about our lives — we had cold beer and ham in the fridge, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez for company, and our 250 cc bike for easy mobility to film screenings, beaches and friends’ houses — from Colaba to Versova.


Read the full short memoir in the print anthology The Brave New World of Goan Writing 2018. To order within India, click here.

Ahmed Bunglowala is the creator of Shorty Gomes, India’s iconic private eye of Goan origin. His publications include The Days and Nights of Shorty Gomes (Rupa, 1993) and Shorty Gomes: Vintage Indian Crime Stories (Goa 1556, 2015). Ahmed was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) where he spent his formative years.