I had been a new arrival at this part of town, now running out of cash I had decided to put up in a cheaper hotel. Chaar Bangla has become more like an urban gettoo of sorts, like Brooklyn and Harlem in New York, this is more where the scum and slime of Mumbai throb and prosper. The youth mainly unemployed roam around the streets in Bikes smoking pot or just chasing skirts. The by alleys are where the small and dingy houses are most shopkeepers and their helpers live in very small and squalid spaces. The few good shops are the ones dealing with casting and talent scouting. There is an acting school of the great actor, Mukesh Khanna, here as well, the large cut out of Shaktimaan put one the front gate, as its granite walls wait for new students to come in and learn the finer art of acting.
I venture out and wander its many streets at night either looking for a snack or a bite of sweat meat to eat. The by lanes are patrolled by the local police regularly by night you can see many police cars and bikes wandering around looking to catch youth selling pot or just loitering around. I myself had to bear the brunt of their eire once as I stood behind some trees just staring at the view infant of me.” Arrey Kya chal raha hei wanhan ? go back to your home this is the police, don’t you know this is Corona Time.” A female police officer pointed her torch towards me and asked me to push off, which I duly did.
My Days are spent watching YouTube videos and trying to cook up ideas for my new books. Last night I got sight of an amazing old lady, she was a rag picker called Pyari who was surrounded by cats as she walked the bylines with food in her hand, she wanted to feed her little Kittens. There were more than eight cats running all around her as she sat on the street corner feeding them one by one.” Pyari her name is no one knows where she came from and how old she is, but she has been feeding these street cats for ages, she even steals food from the local chaat shop and Kirana store to feed these cats that’s how much she loves them. “ a young man who worked as a waiter in the nearby food joint told me.” She has been beaten by the shop owners for doing that but, she doesn’t stop even then, she can do anything for these street cats.” Ahmed the waiter boy told me.” Well, they are so many of them, thin, fat, brown, white, and black it seems she treats them like her babies.” I said after making my observations about the old rag-picker called Pyari. She was short less than 5 feet frail dark brown in complexion and with a wrinkled face and a thin bony body with short limbs. You could mistake her as an Adivasi of sorts.
I returned my game to her and saw her chewing on a broken piece of Samosa, she had been feeding the cats some potato chips which I am sure she stole from the Kirana store across the street. The cats crowded around her now there were more than a dozen, some purring at her feet the others trying to grab at her dirty petticoat which was torn and had mud stains on them. They made cat noises and tried to climb into her lap and she would let them, now and again she gave a toothy smile and a laugh as she held a cat with her tail and swirled it around as if doing it to her only child in the park.
Chaar Bangal is a different zone that’s for sure it is cheaper than many other areas, but is worn down and very much a back area of the city. Not a slum but an urban Dump Yard for the have nots. Crime is high and the youth have nothing much to do except work in small shops or try and get the odd acting assignment.
There is a local school nearby a Marathi Medium, the fees must below and I am sure the local Marathi manus with modest income must be sending their kids here.
“ Babu Sahib, Dus rupees meri billi bhookhi hei.” Pyaari looked at me with empty eyes, the only emotion she showed was the one of hunger. I handed her a crumpled note and she smiled back with an empty smile that showcased her gums and just a few pointed teeth, these shown out like car headlights in the middle of the night. I was happy to have helped her, in a neighborhood infested with petty crime, police violence, and shabby desolate housing, she stood out to me as a real saint and savior of animals. I walked off with admiration for what Pyaari was doing for the cats. After years spent on the street, I am sure she would have realized there was no need to save the humans of this locality as they were all far gone, but at least she could save her cats and keep them well feed and safe.