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Bombay, my Bombay

Bombay, sorry Mumbai, has a very special place in my heart, writes Yavar Abbas.
PTI | By Yavar Abbas, London
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2005 07:40 PM IST
Bombay, sorry Mumbai, has a very special place in my heart, and, in my mind. It is the city to which I came for the first time as a fresh faced youth, prior to joining the Indian Army in 1942 and was gob smacked by, what seemed to my then un-travelled eyes, its grandeur. It is also the city from which I sailed in 1946 to Japan with 268 Indian Brigade commanded by then Brigadier Thimayya (my bridge partner during the voyage when we won the ship’s championship) to join BRINDIV (British Indian Division) of BCOF (British and Commonwealth Occupation Forces) as part of Gen. Douglas Macarthur’s Occupation of Japan.

It is also the city where Cadet Ensign Vera Marian Kett, an officer in the FANY's (First Aid Nursing Yoemenry), sailing from England, changed ships and joined mine to be part of Brindiv as well. We married in Japan and lived happily, through thick and thin, for twenty-five years, through the traumas of the Partition of India and the subsequent trials of carving a new career in post war, devastated and still rationing ridden England, and  bringing up a family of three spirited and independent minded children, in a household blessed and battered at the same time with the tensions involved in the making of un-sponsored and un-backed films in which, at times, only the filmmaker seemed to believe. INDIA! MY INDIA!
my first major film, is a living proof of not only my faith in India but also of the love of my English wife and family who suffered terribly during the making of it but who never wavered in their support—a support without which the film, honestly, could never have been made.

Bombay, sorry Mumbai, is also my Diyar-e-Habib (the Land of The Beloved). For it was here that I was dazzled by its beauty in the person of the multi-talented and mercurial elder daughter of the late Justice Tayabali, ex-Chief Justice of Udaipur, whose family lived in Sandrigham Villa, one of the four rather grand mansions at Breach Candy curiously named after four British royal residences: Windsor Villa where Salman Rushdie the boy was a neighbour, Glamis Villa and a fourth one whose name I cannot recall just now. Tayabalis, unfortunately, had to leave their beautiful Sandringham Villa as a consequence of the riots that followed the desecration and demolition of  Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992.  But I am digressing.

Bombay, sorry Mumbai, is also the city that honoured me in June 1970 with a
five day Retrospect of all my films till then, under the banner of YAVAR ABBAS FILM FESTIVAL, at the Bhulabhai Desai Auditorium, and inaugurated by the one and only Prithvi Raj the Great who held my arm up in triumphant acknowledgement to introduce me to a packed audience—one of the proudest and most cherished moments of my life, more cherished than all the awards that the films have won.

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