Growing up in Colaba:

 

1 had quite an amazing childhood. During most of my childhood and early years, I lived in a place called Colaba, which is on the southern tip of Mumbai in India. Colaba was formerly known as the Old Woman's Island.

 

Colaba of the 80s was greener and had fewer peo-ple living there. The Gothic structures, the typical ar-chitecture and the red public buses that ply were strangely similar to that of Central London.

 

Even the area and the building names such as The Hampton Court, The Shangrilla and the Duxbury Lane are reminiscent of the British past.

One of my earliest memories is that of the 'Wafer factory. An old Parsi couple owned a wafer factory near the Colaba post office and this wafer factory just produced 'one type' of the mild salted wafer. I used to think, "Wow, that's a lot of wafer in there and how wonderful it would be to eat wafers all day".

 

Across the road was The Private European School and it was quite an arduous experience for my dad to get me to the doorsteps of this school, especially on a Monday morning.

 

I re-member how I hated school but loved the music classes, especially when the music teacher played the 'I wish I was a space-man' theme song from the Fireball XL5 TV series.

 

As you move in this direction along the Lower Colaba Road, you reach a basalt church with a lofty limestone called the Afghan Church as it came to be known after the first Afghan War of 1838.

 

The Afghan church was also our first sugarcane-juice-break stop during our early morning summer holiday cycling I wish the children born in Dubai would have the same access to simple pleasures of life such as explore the city on a bicycle, go fishing or spend hours during the summer vacation to explore the school library rides.

 

We were a group of about 15 children who rented these bicycles and the ones who woke up ear-ly got the best ones.

 

Somehow, my brothers and I were the last to wake up and we ended up with the worst ones. The girls in our group always got the best ones. After some time, my younger brother, who was seven years old at that time, struck some-kind of a deal with the owner of that shop and got the best bikes reserved for us, even if we were late.

 

The girls were not too happy with him after that.

 

The early 80s also saw the emergence of colour TV and the VHS player and we saw new images emerge out of the TV sets almost miraculously.

 

We loved Pop music and there was a heavy influence of music in 
the form of blaring sounds, especially from the houses of our neighbours — the Anglo Indian community.

 

I gathered up the courage once and walked up to a video library and simply said, "I want pop music," and was handed a VHS of Top of the Pops and I carefully counted my pocket money, well saved for this moment. My two brothers and I played this VHS and were awestruck at how well these two men danced.

They were later introduced as WHAM!.

 

And needless to say, the next few weeks we tried to imitate their steps.

A short walk to the south of Colaba takes you to the army cantonment area and a place called R.C. Church which is a prominent landmark.

 

Here is the St. Joseph's High school where I was a student until the end my secondary education.

 

My younger brother and I used to lie on the open field across the school and stare at the sky. Our conversation mostly were 'Where do you think the sky ends?, 'Is God watching us?' or more immediately-useful topics such as 'Do you think we have to go to school when we are in Heaven?'

 

Fast forward a couple of decades, we still find our-selves asking some of those questions here in Dubai. We haven't changed much and my younger brother still strikes some unusual deals for us. We are happy to be here and be a part of a historical development. However, I wish the children born in Dubai would have the same access to simple pleasures of life such as explore the city on a bicycle, go fishing or spend hours during the summer vacation to explore the school library.

 

Best summarised in Cat Steven's lyrics: I know we've come a long way, We're changing day to day. But tell me, where do the children play?