The rain clattering on the roof seemed to teleport me forty years back to when I was a boy playing games with my friends and roaming about the little by-lanes that criss-crossed to form the neighbourhood of Byculla. It's been a few years since I have moved to Mira Road and the one thing that I miss the most is the rich, vibrant diversity of the people and religions that co-exist peacefully in Byculla. Back then, it wasn't uncommon to have grand celebrations for every festival with the kind of fervour that left the 'community outsiders' bewildered. The very atmosphere of Byculla radiated love and harmony.
The market was a hub of activity, where I loved buying groceries for my mother. It became a ritual for me and my friends; Sunday groceries coupled with delicious patties bought from the Irani restaurant.
As I moved on in life, Byculla continued to be that one place where I could always feel peace. When I had kids of my own, I made it my mission to introduce them to the same experiences that had added so many colours to my life. Taking my little ones to the Gloria Church chapel to immerse in its serenity and playing cricket with them on the church grounds was a weekend highlight for all of us.
My wife used to come home with a huge goodie bag of snacks from the infamous Byculla Restaurant that served an after-mass snack on Sundays. Walking all the way to Claire Road and taking the kids to their school where they held short-distance races is one of my fondest memories ever. The streets used to be lined with vendors, who sold tasty food sans the fear of illness.
I grew up, worked, got married and retired without having to deal with any of the travelling hassles and safety issues that my kids face today. My children seem to go to battle every day on their way to work as they board overcrowded trains and hang on for dear life. I haven't stepped into a local train since I moved to Mira Road. The roads in Mira Road are not the hubbub of activity that they were in town; they seem so deserted at night. While that makes the atmosphere peaceful, I still miss the vibrant and chaotic life of Byculla that thrilled me.