I visited Nana in Bombay during my summer vacations. Since Nana and Viju both worked they would give me detailed directions about the bus and train routes so I could travel alone.
“You have to be careful of pickpockets here, Acchu. This is a big city,” he said.
Then one day he took me to the Fort area to show me the commercial market. We took the train. We were the only passengers on the platform. The ticket booth was at the entrance to the station. Nana paid for two tickets in cash. The train arrived and we took our seats. Nana started checking his pockets and looked worried.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Did you see the clerk give me the change?” he asked. “I am sure I gave him a twenty rupee note. Now I can’t find the change.”
“It should be in one of your pockets.”
“No. I looked. It’s gone.”
“You were telling me about pick pockets.”
“I know. But, you saw there was no one on the platform.”
We never solved the mystery of where the money disappeared.
That weekend Nana said I should visit the famous Juhu beach. The beach was famous for the big bungalows owned by famous actors and other rich people. In conservative, puritan India the ladies never ventured out in a swim suit. They would enter the water by just raising the hem of their sarees above their ankles. The Christian ladies, however, had no such inhibition. Looking at them in their swimming dresses was a novelty and sense of curiosity.
I went to the beach as directed and returned home without getting lost.
“Well, how was it?” Nana asked. He had returned from office and was taking tea as he read the newspaper.
“It was good.”
“Did you see anybody swimming?”
“Yes. But they were all old.”
Nana broke out in loud laughter. I didn’t realize that I had made a joke.
In the evening Nana would take me out with him to meet his neighbors who gathered on the front lawns of the complex. We sat on the grass as the men talked of politics and the rampant corruption everywhere — how it was difficult to get anything done without greasing palms. Nana would turn his face once in the while and spit the tobacco juice.