26 January, 2010

a lifetime journey from Bombay to Mumbai

[Today being the Republic Day, I'm here sharing a is the true story based on the personal eventual life experience. Read the post patiently as the details in between is important to grasp for understanding the ultimate edge and twist of the tale present at the end. Kindly bear this as long post.]

I was a happy child barely ten years old, always painting and dancing around. To go school and to play were acts in the list of the standard routine I had to do daily just like any other child.

We were staying in Baroda, Gujarat. My uncle who was working in Bombay then (named as Mumbai now) invited us on the Diwali vacation to spend the time together with his family.

Preferably all arrangements were made to go but as my father had few projects at the dot line, so he decided to join us latter directly at Bombay.

Consequently, I with my mom went alone to Bombay in the train. I remember it was not my first visit to the city however it was the first trip to this city through the train. Earlier than this trip we visited Bombay in car and that drive was totally different. It was interesting because of its magnificent stopover in between at the day time. Perhaps this being an overnight journey we had no option but to sleep early in the train.

However, next day early morning we reached safely and found my uncle waiting on the platform for us. He came to receive us, hence there was no more worrying on our side

I and my uncle share a very close affectionate bond always. Though he loves me like his little daughter but treats me as his best buddy ever since my childhood. Hence my inclination and fondness for him has been always there. In addition to this, I owe some of my best moments and memories of life with him.
My stay and vacation at Bombay was a great time spent all together. It was a complete delight for me being a little girl. I made as many as my friends with the neighboring children and played merely all the time.

One fine day, my uncle told me that he will take me tomorrow to his Office for a small visit. I was too excited and keen to go to watch his Office and his workings.

Next day I woke up early with the excitement and got ready quickly. I wore my favorite cream color frill-skirt and soon followed by having done the heavy breakfast, we hurried to catch the train. We changed two local trains, one bus and one auto rickshaw to reach the destination.
Running entirely to catch the train was just a first lesson of the day! Wow!! I was realizing the rush and dust of the city. Traveling at Bombay is by itself an experience. And having said that all it was also a real big and busy day of my life to realize how hard all throughout the day my dear uncle works. Perhaps, after lots of physical activity, we reached the Office.

I can still recall that he used to spend almost 12 hours everyday working and the traveling time was separate to be counted. Nevertheless, I never saw him losing his smile, a definite genuine smile! He was in the Hospitality Industry and he knew that well. He worked at Juhu Centaur Hotel (today the hotel is known as the Tulip Star Hotel).

I was very much fascinated to see the big hotel. It was tall and spectacle patterned building standing firm. In early nineties, this Juhu Centaur Hotel was one of the finest and most popular reputed hotels. I had seen the visitors’ side, the glamorous luxurious well-furnished angle of the hotel. This was my second visit to the hotel, however it was the first time I was allowed to go through the staff-gate.

After security check, I entered the hotel with my uncle through the staff-gate. The first thing I noticed were those white chef coats dressed man with huge chef caps on their head. Although people were just rushing here and there, yet they never forget to greet each other with an integral smile.
Many of them came to my uncle, said “Good Morning”, followed by “Hello” to me. And I simply loved that moment of the day.

Then, my uncle took me straight away in the main kitchen at the bakery & patisserie room. I still bear in mind the moment I came into the aura of the Bakery, I could smell the sweet strong scent of the vanilla, and no sooner my mouth was full of water. As he opened the door of the room and we walked in, I realize that I was standing around the cakes, pastries and chocolates. It was a complete delight place for a ten years old small girl, who was a core lover of chocolate.

Chef who made My Birthday Cakes

My uncle told the other chef present there, that I was his niece. My uncle had some work, so he left me in the bakery room.
This Chef was busy doing icing on the cakes, and this was first time I was noticing that this man definitely was unbeatable in his talent of doing so swift yet subtle and beautiful icing on the cakes, making delicate flowers all around. He was simply supreme at his work.
Suddenly, I heard him saying, “Rachana, you would love to eat pastry, choose from here.”
I got shocked to see that he knew my name somehow. Without answering him, I questioned him back in a most cute and humble voice, “How do you know my name uncle?”

He took a quick look at me with a modest curve on his lips and said something that I could not forget till date and feel so humbled for his gestures. He said, "I know you and your name too as I’m the one who make cake for you every year on your birthday in September."
Wow, that was just too little much for me to hear and cherish forever.
Yeah, how could I forget that every year, my loving uncle came my birthday, making an over-night journey in train from Bombay to Baroda! He used to come with a huge cake-box in his hand, protecting it from the rainy splash; perhaps my birthday comes in the peak of the rainy season. I still cherish, the moment when I used to wake up in the morning hearing his voice. He used to be the first one in the morning to HUG me and wish me “Happy Birthday”. Quickly than I used to run to see in the refrigerator to check the design of the cake he had brought, which used to be made just that same evening before catching up the train.

And apparently that cake was made by, this brilliant Chef!

In the mean time, my uncle came back to take me and by then I had already relish a lovely black-forest pastry. I did not know that my uncle had taken an optional holiday before Diwali festival and had come to hotel only to complete urgent some paper work. Certainly I was thoroughly enjoying, the discovering and the learning opportunity with him to see the operation management working successful right through.

He then took me to his boss office too.
His boss office was quite far and we had to walk a lot. For me it was great moment as I was simply thrilled to see the happening around. Huge vessels, and somewhere in the corner people were doing some flambé, some people pulling big trolleys loaded with fruits…the things to discovery were plenty at every single foot step. We went through many short cuts, went from the behind doors of the conference hall, banquet halls and there came one restaurant too.

We covered together few stairs more, and I realized entering into a very weird place. Weird as I perceived a peculiarly creepy and unbelievable sight. I noticed abruptly the hall which was all shaded in black, there were curtains half burnt, a red carpet burnt in patches, furniture completely destroyed and burnt and all around there were glass and mirror pieces scattered. Also I noticed a yellow tape string running over to divide and avoid entering the other side of the tape. This tape was at the both sides of the walking path, from where we were passing by. Capturing the havoc looking scene around, I could not resist the confusion and asking him, “What happened here, Uncle?”
He promptly replied my query and said, Nothing, an accident took place. A gas cylinder busted sometime here.'
Yeah! It looked very much like that. I understood that and moved on.

Soon we reached, to my uncle’s boss cabinet. His boss seemed very much warm hearted and there too I was completely pampered with chocolates. No wonder, he knew me too, as he had read all my letters and seen the self hand-made greeting-cards sent to my uncle from me.
I was in a way surprised to see and discover the bond being shared between each staff member of the hotel. 
Evidently it was day to learn many lessons of the challenging life

Time rolled on and I grew up. But the spark and spirit of the Hospitality Industry people made a sure huge impression over me, because of which I could not resist to joining Institute of Hotel Management over MBBS after class 12.
If someone asks my opinion, I hardly find any difference that exists between the people working in hotel and other working in Hospital. Perhaps, both the persons come under the same category of the hospitality industry and their purpose is to serve.
Nevertheless, the awesome participation of the staff members of the Taj and Oberoi hotel on the 26/11, have been remarkably acclaimed and shall be cherished throughout the history.

OK Back to the story line!

Years passed and months fluttered…since my most memorable visit at the Centaur Hotel made, countless changes have been taken place. The name and the ownership of the hotel changed from Centaur Hotel to Tulip Star Hotel. Astonishingly the name of the city has also changed since then. The city Bombay renamed as Mumbai.
Yet the sparkling attractions of the city owing to charm of the celebrities, amending hard-working people, huge festivals, sea, merging culture, and bounce back attitude still exits to add up the spice in the spirit of the city.

Years latter, I was doing my MBA. I was no more a kid but the lasting memories of childhood always existed making me cheerful. Perhaps, I considered myself fortunate to have been able to experience the best in early stage of life, adding to my awareness. This was the forth and final semester of the course. And by then my age was 22!

It was almost the winding time of the college and only exams were left to give a shot. In between there was a huge study leave. So there is no more attending the lectures, no more working late nights on the projects, no more to make the PPT. We friends had enough time to go out the campus and have lots of fun in and out of the hostel.

Perhaps, study-leave does not mandatory states only to study, I guess! And the matter of the fact is that study-leave is the best time to enjoy a lot of life at the fullest. Interestingly I utilized my study-leave at the best ;)

My friends suggested watching the movies for a change during the break. Well the movies not just any but the movies of substance. The movies which were critically appreciated Oscar award nominated or the one which had fetched some good acclaimed awards in protecting the best stories.

We brought everyday one cd on rent and saw a huge list of movies like, Pursuit of Happiness, Little Miss Sunshine, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Black, Page 3, Gladiator, Shoot Out at Lokhandwala, Company, Water and…Black Friday…

It was May 2007 and we were watching the Black Friday movie on the computer of my roommate. We made the room dark, pulling back the curtains to experience the perfect effect. Now adjusting the volume and the movies runs smoothly.

One who is not familiar with the movie Black Friday; let me tell you very briefly few facts of the movie as follows:
This movie is based on the true story based on the Bombay bombings which were in a series of 13 bomb explosions that took place in Bombay (now Mumbai), Maharashtra, India on March 12, 1993. The coordinated attacks were the most destructive bomb explosions in Indian history. The single-day attacks resulted in up to 250 civilian fatalities and 700 injuries. The evidence uncovered pointed to the involvement of underworld D-Company, This movie is based on Black Friday - The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, a book by S. Hussain Zaidi, the film is made by Anurag Kashyap as an attempts to recreate those events and the intense feelings that followed them. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and was a nominee for the Best Film (Golden Leopard) award at the Locarno International Film Festival. Black Friday was not released in Indian theaters for 2 years, as on the eve of its release, a petition seeking a stay was filed by the people named in the film, the alleged perpetrators of the crime. Since the verdict was still pending. British director Danny Boyle has cited Black Friday as an inspiration for his 2008 award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle stated that a chase in one of the opening scenes of Slumdog Millionaire was based on a "12-minute police chase through the crowded Dharavi slum" in Black Friday.
The story proceeded at the mid way, describing the conspiracy of planting the bombs at different parts of the city Bombay (Mumbai). As I had already visited the city couple of times and hence was very much aware of most the places stated in the movie. This made much easier to follow and see simultaneously the story line.
  • Locations attacked are as follows:
Fisherman's Colony in Mahim causeway; Zaveri Bazaar; Plaza Cinema;Century Bazaar; Katha Bazaar; Hotel Sea Rock; Plaza Theatre; Lucky Petrol; Worli; Santa Cruz; Area opposite of Century Bazaar; Passport Office; Bombay Stock Exchange Building; Sahar Airport; Air India Building Hotel Centaur and Hotel Juhu Centaur;

~~~```````````Hotel Juhu Centaur!!

It took me a set back for couple of minutes. The feeling was awful, maybe because of my very salient personal and emotional attachment with the place. It was more than 13 years, but my feeling still strongly intact to the Hotel Juhu Centuar. I could no more see the movie which was depicting the forms of destroy and despair in the city and apparently in the Centaur Hotel.

The movie got over, leaving a tiny tear slipping my cheek. There was a strange feeling lingering the soul. That whole night I kept wondering the scary scenes and the whole conspiracy. The movies is so well made that one might just feel like believing as if the things are happening right there in front of the eyes live.

Next morning, after the terrific turmoil, I all alone decided to watch the movie ones again. Forwarding and slipping few strong scenes. There was again the same thing that hocked my attention.
I watched much keenly the same scene of planting the bombs in the city.

Hotel Juhu Centaur …#..*…! Echoed in my head badly !!!!..........!!!!!!

There was a sudden pause in my thinking, a strange vacuum in my thoughts and here was a flash. In the micro second my brain started analyzing and speculating the things, making a bit difficult to grasp it.
I recalled the burnt curtain…burning patch in carpet…smoky walls…fully blown window mirrors…That was not the cylinder busting accident, I doted!

Conceivably the year, I went to spend my Diwali vacation at Mumbai…perhaps it was the same year, 1993…

My uncle could not tell the truth to his niece, considering the humble age to understand anything in between the context. Correctly, accurately and barely I was only ten years old then.

It has been the most conflicting moment of my life to understand and accept the fact after 13 years; I got to know the daunting truth which left back an irreversible scare. I’ve seen plenty of things in my life that had a disturbing impact. None stand out as much as this one moment provided by a bizarre twist of fate flash that shook my soul forever. This incident of my life made me more empathetic and compassionate towards the life. Probably, this incident was also one more reason to have my heart pound and bleed badly looking at the 26/11 live for 72hours.

The bomb-planter at the Juhu Centaur hotel took bomb in the suitcase. He got arrested and faces a maximum punishment of life imprisonment by the court. I have found a link to his real confessional statement about the steps and procedures carried in bomb planting at Hotel Juhu Centaur, injuring three persons and causing a damage of Rs 2.1 crore to the building.  You will be amazed to read his quotes. Please go through this LINK toooo.

  • I want to humbly thank, Madhulika who suggested us to watch the movies.
  • Nupur for her computer being used to watch the movie.
  • Heartily thanks to my uncle .R. who gave me an opportunity to visit the internal hotel, which added so much of experience to my life.
  • Anurag Kashyap, for making such a heart-felt movie which holds the true extract and litmus test of the historical incident reflection.
  • And Thank you Readers for your constant support..Love Yeah!
This post was referred by BlogAdda - the week of  30th January, 2010.
The post "a lifetime journey from Bombay to Mumbai" has been selected by Blogadda as one of the Spicy Saturday pick. Click here or the image to read the info and related List on BlogAdda Site.


  1. Nice post...reminiscing the good old days and how innocence can be lost. I remember hearing about Centaur hotel bomb blasts even though I wasn't living in Bombay at that time...my grandparents lived close to Juhu back then.

    And Bombay will always be Bombay for me. Never Mumbai.

  2. Gr8888 post!

    Life shower many things over us ..but some times ..it catches us unaware. As it caught Mumbai (or India?)that day.

  3. Excellent post Rachana.
    You captured all that went through your mind very effectively in your words.

    Life is full of countless surprises. Sometime we take longer than a moment or a day to unveil/understand the full meaning of the secrets these surprises hold. But never the less all those moments are life changing.

  4. Dear Rachana.....U hv an amazing skill to express..n u write every touching things in yr posts.....

    Also I appreciate yr appreciating my suggestion...Thnx for being so kind....

  5. A very touching post Rachna. Like Pysch said, Bombay will be Bombay, Bangalore , Bangalore. I just got off giving a piece of my mind to a comment that berated people who did not call Bangalore by it's new name.

    Fools cling onto superficial and let go the innocence and the heart the city embodies...

    Good post..

  6. I must say you are a lucky soul to have an uncle who would travel overnight to wish Happy Birthday to his niece and that too with a cake :)

    You have beautifully captured your emotions in this post.

    Being a Bombayite myself, I don't think changing names have any effect. It will be always Bombay for me.

    BTW, you have a colorful template.

  7. Really nice Rachu. It was a Bigiggggggg read. And you're from Bombay!!!! amazing yaar!

    By the way, that's what make a chef different from a cook!

  8. Hey rachana, this is an Excellent , Awsome and very touchy Article. U have sucessfully expressed everything u had in your mind. Just keep going & keep wrting and more imortantly keep informed me abt your new articles. Thank you very much... i really enjoyed it.

  9. read in twooo parts!!! lucky yu!! god bles yur uncle :)

  10. HI, Shankar here,
    Good Morning, and i thank u to write such a beautiful experience. I am totally moved. U should write a book, really u should do it. (dont worrk if ur book did not get sold me and my friends will talk 10,000,0000 copy of it.) I now ur love towards food and that y u joint MM business. Well my birthday is on very odd day Feb 29, my birthday comes once in 4 years. (that sad na). But i will still wait for ur cake with lot of iceing over here. On that day i will to run towards my fridge to ur that cake :). it is a beautiful sunday morning here in Pune that time is 11:53. i am in a cyber and the owner of the cyber is gone some were. And and i eating Vada pav mumbai fav junk food. Have to run my bike is gone dirty i have to wash it. (and i am a very bad writer na Rachna, well i will improve on it)

    Vijender M

    P.S. Mumbai is great, city of Dreams, i was there one and had a wounderful experience too. One day i will to pen it.

  11. That was an amazing post, Rachana! Very thoughtful, very touching, sending a message out to the readers.

    And sometimes it makes a lot of sense to make long posts just to let people feel everything you felt and everything you thought.

  12. THanks for making us read the long yet very interesting post, err thanks for writing the long yet interesting post :)

    Starting from your childhood exp to the present day realisation of bomb blast you kept the momentum of the narration, taking through us step by step very smoothly. Your writing skills are commendable!

    And I am so sorry about the turmoil you went throug, I could really empathise with that feeling of realising that something that meant so much to your childhood was a victim of terrorism,so sorry.

    Its through our thoughts deeds and actions that we create the future of us, and that of surroundings, your words can change so many things, so keep writing and spreading your beautiful thoughts, remember Gandhigiri was one single thought of one single man

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. @ READERS

    Pardon me for not commenting individually...

    …I’m completely touched and overwhelmed to read your response. This post has been my life urging based incident and to be able to adopt same on the canvas had been a bit difficult, perhaps your reply shows that I have been successful in reflecting the best of the beats and heat.

    This post has been one black page of my life-book.

    Indeed life cannot be too easy to live...otherwise where will all the adventure go of the merry-go- round!

    13 long years to make me realize...has been remarkable indeed! Many of you could co related with the incident and the memories with the City and Terrorism.

    Yes this is a bit soul stirring historical incidents which touch the heart directly…even not being directly involved into it...perhaps U felt same!

    This is truly strange but somehow...I agree and love remembering almost all the Indian cities with the old name…but try calling with the new name…Ah! I extreme dislike this syndrome of NAMESAKE!

    I’m glad that through this post I’m able to show bloom more to show up and cover up more living stories of my life.

    You liked the way my emotions where correctly portrayed in words and lines...it feels great when I know my emotions in words have reached MY REDAERS...the right way as I wanted to.

    Also it feel so nice to know some of you understood the best the importance of the people in the hotel Industry, I feel so obliged.

    I’m grateful to the readers...who loved me and my Uncle and conveyed the best wishes for both of us.

    When I read your comments...it encourages me to improve upon more of my writing skills..I really want to…! It just that please do keep me updated with your views and sensitivity...as I do take each word of your very seriously!

    Though being a long post, you have read this and appreciated each aspect reflected in the post is wonderful.
    Thank you for loving me and being patience in reading long posts.

    I shall come up with some my personal life incidents which shall be soul stirring and hope you will accept and nurture with the experience dwelling on.

    Thank you My Loving Cheer Leaders:)

    Trust me You too got ONE cheerleader in me for U..

    Luv yeah!
    Keep the spark Alive..

  15. Amazing post, Rachana! Bombay, now Mumbai, has weathered many blasts and can withstand any attack, but what it needs is the attention when it comes to the woes of its residents, who travel and work hard here. The lack of infrastructure is appalling. Loved your narration here...you told the story so well... thanks for bringing this post to my notice.


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