And yes…he was just called “Bhau”, which means “brother” in Marathi. Bhau’s real name is Chandrakant ( I hope I remember it right). He has been a part of the lives of all 20 flats in Guruganesh Society in Mulund, where I grew up for years together. He has literally seen most of the folks in the building to grow up from tiny toddlers to adults who now have spread out in different parts of the world. Some of the original tenants of Guruganesh have already moved to much more luxurious apartments in and around Mumbai and out of Mumbai. But I am sure, Bhau would still be there. He has to.
He has been a part of that area even before our society was constructed way back in the late 1960’s. The times before which there was a cemetery with dead bodies of animals and small wet and waste lands, where now our building stands tall with 4 storeys, having been a roof of fun, sorrow , success and pain for 20 flats (or apartments) and over 80 lives. Bhau has been one of the guys who could always be counted on for the odd jobs at home. Though he had a job of his own which included working in the nearby godown in the beginning after which he shifted gears to having his own autorickshaw. He did not have to really do a lot of odd jobs, like lifting some heavy stuff from the attic before festivals or restoring them to their original place post festivals, but still he used to support all of us in all ways he could.
There was a time when I was caught onto a small gambling kind of a game in the nearby shops, where for 25 paisa we could flick a card hanging out of the shops and get a small gift that might be written on the card. Most of the time it would be things which were not of much value and the shop keepers smartly used to plan it that way to shortchange us kids of whatever miniscule pocket money we could quietly wriggle out of our homes in our sagging pockets. It was also called “Saurat” in the local lingo, the name which still ponders me. Bhau has also been kind to sponsor my “Saurat” games at times. And then there were his “Rickshaw” days when he decided to be an entrepreneur. So during the last two years in school I literally stopped cycling to school (which I did for almost 4 years) and started taking his rick, sharing it with other kids from my building. Be it rain, sun or winter we knew that three wheeler was a short joy ride and moment to enjoy. At times we used to be 5 of us in that 3 seater (excluding the driver – Bhau) and still I don’t remember a time it broke down and we couldn’t reach where we ought to have reached. Bhau was kind enough to also sponsor lot of “on the house” trips to folks from the Society, when he caught them coming from the local markets.
His extended family including his wife “Sobha”, sister-in-law “Shakuntala” and other folks from his basti were the extended support strengths who helped the women in Guruganesh to keep their houses clean and those utensils shiny for the next meal. His brother “Vitthal” and other friends were a good source of stories and it was almost like Bhau and his family, were virtually family members for a lot of us as we knew so much of each other’s lives. I still can distinctly remember his mother, who though aged, had a sweet smile on here face always. I remember the time when his son was born and was named “Sagar” and every time I used to enquire about him for some reason I remembered Kamal Hasan and Dimple Kapadia as they had acted in the movie “Sagar”. I guess I saw the movie “Sagar” around the time “Sagar Chandrakant” was born? He also had a daughter names “Kavita” and another kid between Kavita and Sagar. I am sure they would all now be pursuing a different career and into a different phase in their lives.
I grew up running around the shanties which gave way to concretized houses of Bhau and his fellow colleagues with my friends, playing hide and seek. The smell of firewood and the strange smoke that emanates when tea is kept boiling on it is still freshly ingrained in my memories and my nose can still sense it and remember those times. Of course things have now changed and there is LPG cylinder and piped gas in those areas. The last time I had been there was close to 2-3 years back in 2007-08 when I wanted to return to the place I was born and see the apartments which had 22 years of my lifes memories out there in the open. I did visit his house and unfortunately couldn’t find him, but found his mobile number. I am not sure the profession he is in now, but the last I heard was his rickshaw days were nearing to an end after he had his first heart attack. I hope he is doing well for now and relaxed in life. Bhau, wherever you are, hope you are doing well and next time I am in Mumbai, want to catch up with you and take you out for a dinner!