I’d like to believe that Bandra has the highest density of musical instruments per sq km than any other place in Mumbai. When we moved back here, I remember being kept up long into the night by the beating of a ‘ghoomat’ and the relentless strumming of an old guitar as our drunk neighbours sang the moon away. Willy-nilly, I learnt a lot of old classics from Minglya and his sodden minstrels… “if ayeeeda hammah… aye’d hammer in duh mornin… aye’d hammer in duh eeeeeevenin… all over dis land…’
Bandra homes always had a few instruments thrown around; a dusty piano, ivories yellowing, the routine of the cranky, eccentric tuner coming in once in a while clicking his tongue at your neglect of the instrument. Generations of guitars, some held together with masking tape, some newer, maybe an electric… And then the odd wind instrument here, a violin there and often, the ubiquitous ‘ghoomat’.
I was soon to learn that traditionally, all maca-powows descend into community harmonizing. I always like to tell people that when I went to Xavier’s one of ‘my groups’ sat near the girls’ toilets. This is true. What I failed to add was that this group always had at least two guitars and they were constantly singing, learning riffs and chords off one another. Admittedly, I was always slightly embarrassed by these public displays of musicality (PDMs). Like jiving, I thought it was ‘sooo mac’. Like jiving, I wish I’d been more mature and learned some when I was young.
A couple of my siblings taught themselves to play guitar a few years ago. They inspired my 8 year old who takes her guitar once a week to the YMCA from whose windows you hear the sweetest discordant meld of hesitant ‘Casio’ picking and tender baby fingers, still getting bruised by copper guitar strings.
In these last two weeks, I’ve been to two Bandra parties that have ended in much music. Friends came round and took turns playing and singing; Pink Floyd, Bengali and French love songs and some really bawdy home-grown choruses. Then, at a close friend’s home, a world class musician, Sanjay Divecha, still unsung, played the guitar like we’ve never heard before. Something shifted in the ether. And we fell in heavy, heart-breaking love with Bandra again.
If you can play, please take your guitar out in public and bring music to your neighbours. I want to see some PDM’s… all over dis land men!