Bombay, now renamed Mumbai, was my first home in India. Anil and I touched down at the airport in late June 1974. We were married in Canada on May 18th and this trip was part honeymoon and part remarriage, as we planned to have a Hindu wedding in Patna on July 7th. I will never forget the heat and humidity that blasted our faces when the airplane door opened and we stepped out into India at 3:00am local time.
Despite the early hour, there were several family members there to meet us, foremost among them, Anil’s cousin-brother Dr. Rajan Kapoor and his welcoming wife Kusum. They drove us through the sleeping streets of the sprawling city to their tiny apartment overlooking the sea. We stepped over four sleeping children and one grandfather to take our place on a comfy bed located on the balcony to give us some privacy. We were newly-weds after all.
The next three days were a blur of shops and markets as we gathered an appropriate wardrobe of saris, shawls, petticoats and jewellery for our wedding in Patna. The monsoon rains had started and we had to dodge the downpours and suffer the intense humidity. At times it was difficult to keep both dry and clean as the streets were often filled with muddy puddles and getting from one side of the street to the other was an adventure in itself.
Thank goodness I had recently spent more than two years in Africa or I think the climate and the culture would have overwhelmed me completely. At last we were ready to head to the train station for our two-day journey aboard the Junta Express. Anil’s father had insisted that Kusum Kapoor accompany us and make sure his newest daughter-in-law was made to feel welcome and comfortable, and Kusum brought along her two youngest girls. It was not an easy trip for her, especially as she had to return alone with a three-year-old and a one-year-old.
The skies opened as we boarded the train and we learned later that the city was hit with a record rainfall the night we left. The deluge dumped 24 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. The resulting flooding brought much of the city to a standstill.
In the intervening years, I have returned to Mumbai several times and each time the warmth with which I am greeted only strengthens. Despite the almost fifteen years difference in age, Kusum and I have become close friends as well as sisters-in-law. Dr. Kapoor, as we playfully refer to the eldest member of the Kapoor extended family, and Kusum were both at the airport when Anil left for Canada in 1968 and they continue to play an important role in both our lives.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Now we were back for what would be my 10th visit to India. We had no plans to do any sightseeing, we were visiting in order for me to have my nephew-in-law, Ravi Nadkarni, repair all the damage done to my teeth when I had a dentist in Tunisia attempt to crown several teeth. What had I been thinking? Ravi has done four crowns for me, dating as far back as 1995, and all of them are still in fine form.
Dr. Kapoor and Kusum Kapoor are getting on in years and they were both happy that we were content to just spend the time between dentist visits relaxing in their home and catching up on all the news of the extended family. Kusum was in her element, cooking up all our favourite dishes. How does she remember the likes and dislikes of all who visit?
A modern new mall has just come up very near the Kapoor apartment in Worli; and we were delighted to find that there was an Apple™ store in the mall. I was able to purchase a ‘stick’ that would allow me to connect to the Internet through a satellite, one that is compatible with my MacBook. The mall also featured a world-class cinema and we were able to see six first-run movies during the afternoon when Kusum liked to have her naps.
It wasn’t the most comfortable of times, running back and forth to the dentist through Mumbai traffic and then having root canals drilled and crowns fitted, but I knew it would all be worth it in the end. Ravi is a highly skilled professional and I would recommend his work to anyone I know. Our three weeks in Mumbai passed relatively quickly and we managed a quick get-away to Patna for four days while we were waiting for the permanent crowns to be completed.