Mrs. Patrawala

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As one of the wealthiest community in India: The Parsi’s celebrate their New Year this 21st March I can’t but think about my Parsi landlady in Mumbai: Mrs Patrawala.

Having lived in Mumbai for around seven years ending with the millennium, was lucky to have stayed most of those years in an amazing hostel a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Queen’s Necklace.

It was during the intervening period after my graduation and before I enrolled myself for Post-Graduation that I had to vacate the hostel and look for a suitable place that had to be close to my place of work as I was doing my CA Articleship then with Delloite’s and also within budget. My search ended rather grudgingly with the iconic Paying Guest accommodation of the octogenarian Mrs. Patrawala. She was the owner of two adjoining ground floor flats at Marine Drive, a widow living alone in one and renting out the other to college students and executives.

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She was a typical Parsi lady speaking highly accented Mumbaiya Hindi, wearing a head scarf and a dress, sitting on her wooden Recliner. At a first glance she reminded me of my great Grandmother and then she started talking. All the emotions that had started building up were soon consigned in the depths of the dirty waters of Arabian Sea.

Rules of the House were to be followed in both letter and spirit for she didn’t bat an eyelid before throwing the inmates out. No wasting of electricity, conservation of water, no drinking, no smoking and no noise. And in return we got a bed to sleep on whose bug infested mattress had never seen the sun since being put to use and I think our suitcases was the only place where our belongings were safe. Late nights were something that needed advance planning to ensure one of us was inside to open the flat door or else the Churchgate Station was to be our refuge. In order to conserve water or at least to keep up the pretence the clothes had to be washed in the dead of the night for fear of her waking up to the sound of running water.

With the rosary in her hand she was figure always on the move these flats were her empire and she ruled with an iron fist. We were her subjects; subjugated/ tormented but happy to find a shelter in her kingdom in the city that never slept. She did have a weakness for chocolates and we tried using that for our advantage alas the success depended only on her mood.

So Mrs. Patrawala wishing you a very Happy Navroze and thanking you for providing me with a place in your home, irrespective of how much I may have grudged and cursed you then, now on hindsight these were the very experiences that make me who I am today !!

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