My aunt recently visited Mumbai and we used the opportunity to go search for my great-grandfather’s (my grandmother’s father) house near Metro Cinema. My great-grandfather was a zamindar in Andhra, but his passion was portrait art. He set up home in Mumbai to pursue his passion and love of the arts and culture.
I had heard many stories about the house in Mumbai being graced by the presence of great artists such as Balamurali Krishna and cultural stalwarts such as K.M. Munshi. But the story that is my favourite is of my grandparents in that house.
My grandfather was young, unmarried, and on his way to study law in England. On his way to England, he stayed at my great-grandfather’s house in Mumbai before boarding the ship to England, where he met my grandmother. Rather than board the ship to London, he went back to his home in Andhra Pradesh.
His father was perplexed at seeing his son at his doorstep at the time when his son should have been getting seasick on the Arabian Sea. My grandfather told his father that he had met the girl he wanted to marry and had changed his plans about going abroad. My grandfather’s father was now in two minds. On the one hand, he was unhappy that my grandfather was not going to England. On the other hand, he was happy that my grandfather liked a girl who was a friend of the family and a welcome choice.
Soon, my grandfather was back in Mumbai with his parents for a formal alliance meeting with my grandmother’s family. My grandmother’s parents were also quite happy about the potential alliance and were looking forward to putting their best foot forward and securing the marriage. Urban legend has it that my grandmother, who was supposed to act demure and retiring, opened the door to my grandfather’s family and, to the horror of her parents, looked at my grandfather and exclaimed “What! You’re back so soon???”
That, luckily, did not deter my grandfather. Thus, he gave up his education in England to be with my grandmother. The rest, as they say, became the future.
My aunt had visited the house last in 1975, but despite that, we found the house quite easily. It was a lot more decrepit that in the 70s, which was to be expected. The current residents were quite intrigued to meet us and actually allowed us in to see the house. Very few things had changed. Large rooms, old mosaic floors, the quarters for the domestic staff now being used as additional rooms.