Review: Ramblings of a Bandra Boy by Joy Bimal Roy - Hindustan Times

Review: Ramblings of a Bandra Boy by Joy Bimal Roy

ByShoma A Chatterji
Jun 13, 2024 05:57 PM IST

Divided into sections titled Travel, Family, People, Me, Jol-Khabar and Supernatural, this book, comprising a collection of the author’s Facebook posts, educates, entertains and informs

It’s difficult to get my head around the fact that the toddler whose annaprashan (ritual first day of tasting rice) as an eleven-year-old is now a grown man with a great sense of fun. I next met him when he was five and my sister and I stayed at his family home for two weeks. My mother, a great friend of his mother, Manobina, had to go out of town for two weeks. Incidentally, Manobina and her twin Debalina, were one of independent India’s early women photographers. His father was, of course, the legendary Bimal Roy, maker of classic films such as Do Bigha Zamin, Madhumati, Sujata and Bandini.

Remnants of old Bandra (Shutterstock)
Remnants of old Bandra (Shutterstock)

As a child, Joy, a student of Bombay Scottish, was excellent at art so I assumed he would become an artist. He is now a successful designer with an elite clientele whose old saris he completely transforms.

443pp, Rs500; Self published
443pp, Rs500; Self published

I next met him many years later at an exhibition in Kolkata of his mother’s black-and-white photographs. Some of those excellent pictures have been included in Ramblings of a Bandra Boy.

Joy Bimal Roy, the youngest of four siblings and the only son of the family, worked with Shyam Benegal and in the music industry too but his heart was always in design, which can be seen in the home he shares with his sister Aparajita (Bubuni) and her litter of cats.

Ramblings of a Bandra Boy, comprising 166 brief chapters with a wonderful foreword by Rachel Dwyer, is actually a collection of the author’s Facebook posts. Divided into sections like Travel, Family, People, Me, Jol-Khabar (Bengali for snacks) and Supernatural, all the pieces in the book educate, entertain and inform. Most of all, they are great fun.

Love means Never Having to say you are Sari is a hilarious take on a red sari he gifted to his sister. She did not like it but kept it aside for her daughter who too, did not touch it. It was then gifted to Sanjana Kapoor, daughter of Shashi Kapoor, who loved it and had herself photographed in it. The picture pops up in the book. Devoid of ornamentation or polysyllabic words, this lovely piece of writing invites you to read between the lines and chuckle. “It means you have to gift a sari,” he writes in the end.

In Sleepless Nights in the ICU, Roy describes his insomnia: “One feels trapped in eternal doom unable to turn even from side to side lest one sets off jangling alarms and lights flashing on the ever-sentient monitor.”

In Memoriam, his tribute to Girish Karnad, includes a calm admission of theft. Roy reveals that he stole a photograph of Karnad and his wife Saraswati “looking absolutely smashing” from Ram Rahman. “What a handsome pair they made!” he writes, adding tongue in cheek that the aesthetics of the picture alone justified the theft.

Author Joy Bimal Roy (Courtesy Facebook)
Author Joy Bimal Roy (Courtesy Facebook)

One brief chapter is devoted to jhinge posto a vegetable dish prepared mainly with ridge gourd (jhingey), potatoes and posto (poppy seeds or khus khus) cooked in mustard oil with lots of green chillies. This dish is a great favourite of Bengalis around the world though poppy seeds are now in short supply because they are largely diverted to the opium market. “The poppy seeds have a soporific effect apparently. This could explain the archetypal Bengali’s predilection towards an afternoon nap. No self-respecting Bengali is expected to stay awake in the afternoon. I wonder how Bengali babus employed in offices manage to stave off sleep after lunch.”

The book is also suffused with nostalgia for old Bandra, where the author has lived all his life. It took this reviewer back to the days when the Godiwala Bungalow, the Roy family home, was down the road from Mount Mary Church. Now, of course, the place is occupied by a posh multistoried apartment building.

This then is the happy story of a Bengali brought up in Bandra, one of Mumbai’s old cosmopolitan neighbourhoods where aristocratic Parsi families once lived alongside East Indian villagers before real estate developers replaced quaint cottages with tall monsters. Beautifully written, this is a fun read.

Shoma A Chatterji is an independent journalist. She lives in Kolkata.

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