Friday 1 March 2013

Cutting Chai with Bhawana Somaaya - Day 57

Sheila O Sheila…Dil tune cheena…
28.2. 2013, Mumbai

The first time I saw Sheila Patel I was sitting in a double decked BEST bus heading from Chembur to South Bombay. My niece sitting next to me beside the window suddenly spotted Sheila at the traffic signal and yelled out to her. I was curious and leaned forward to catch a glimpse. Draped in a pink chiffon saree with a deep neck blouse, sunglasses parked on her head my niece and Sheila conducted an unabashed conversation across the road. When the traffic lights turned green, Sheila changed gears, waved at us flamboyantly and drove off.

The image froze in my memory…

In the 70s it was not common for women to drive. Sheila drove like a man and headed Mercury Travels at Mumbai’s Oberoi Towers! Soon Sheila was married and relegated us with stories of new found domesticity. They were simple stories of her making a pile of rotlis in her saural kitchen, her adjustments with Sindhi cuisine and in-laws but we were riveted like she was narrating a pot boiler.

As friends of her younger sibling, we looked up to Sheila for guidance and wisdom. She was our window for lessons of life and no matter how preoccupied she was, she always indulged us and answered our most irrelevant questions. We participated in all her milestone moments. We rejoiced when she moved into her new home at Breach Candy…We applauded when she became pregnant and celebrated when Kunal was born. Since none of us were married as yet, we asked her foolish questions like how did she know that the baby was on his way…?

She giggled lying on the hospital bed and said that we will know when the time came...

A few years later, when the twins arrived and she couldn’t cope with two, her mother took charge of one baby in Chembur while the second baby stayed with parents in Breach Candy and we played truant masis and formed camps and pitched Chembur baby v/s Breach Candy baby.

Years rolled into decades. Today the kids have grown up and moved out of the nest. The family lives in a bigger home and Vashu and Sheila are grandparents of bonny children. Vashu spends most of his time tinkering into gadgets, Sheila, always a good cook experiments with her culinary skills for her kitty friends.

On the surface Sheila is older and wiser, tell her a secret and watch her roll her eyes! Present her a gift and she is almost childlike. Years ago I gifted her with a Ganesha idol. When I visited her again, she opened her wardrobe and said “Your Ganpati is here with me forever looking after my family.”

I have preserved the dining mats you presented me Sheila and every time I display them for my guests, I remember you.

It is watching you that all of us imbibed commitment to career, adjustment to life, you gave us lessons on marriage, child birth, menopause and now retirement.

Thank you Sheila for being you aur isiliye dil tune cheena…

Bhawana Somaaya/

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