On my side, seems like just a foot or two from the bus window, is the shuttered establishment called "Shagun Video Game Amussment." Is it closed because this is Sunday morning? Or because below the name is a line saying its operation is "Stayed by High Court"? I try to lean out of the window to glean a few more details as we go past, then I have to very swiftly pull my head back in because I'm not keen that it be lopped off by this other bus going in the other direction and it doesn't seem like, it is only inches, possibly no more than three inches, from my window. From my hurriedly pulled-back head and limbs.
The road narrows and winds, and the bus follows every turn faithfully. So do the other buses going in the other direction.
Now we pass the non-shuttered establishment called "Om Balasai Video Game Parlour." Below that name, it says "Open with High Court permission." What's the court doing, fiddling with video game parlours in this heart of vintage Bombay?
Every few yards there's a glimpse of a shady tempting doorway in an old building, restful looking courtyard of sorts beyond, where a child frolics. We stop for a minute or so right outside another old edifice, the lovingly carved ornamentation of its outside wall and balconies on display for this Sunday morning gawker who ordinarily never comes through here and never looks so closely anyway. From the bottom of one balcony hangs a rope tied to a small knob of stone, a square tray attached to the other end. Which brave soul managed to tie it there right under the balcony; but more important, what's a square tray doing hanging from a three-foot rope?
Another bus inches past. I smile uncertainly at one of the men in the window, his mug less than a foot away for a second or two. He looks back stonily.
I get off the bus near a church that has a deceptively small entrance. The word "Nero" drifts out of there, which is intriguing enough to draw me in. I've passed this church a million times over four decades, and this is the first time I've set foot in it. Deceptive, because the room yawns before me. It is packed with Sunday morning worshippers, and they are learning about Nero because the priest at the distant other end is telling them about how that fiddling emperor fed Christians to "lions, cheetahs, tigers and leopards" for the enjoyment of his ancient Roman subjects.
"Lions, cheetahs, tigers and leopards!" repeats the priest, pausing for emphasis.
I step out and on. I'm on the road that leads to a venerable Bombay cinema theatre, a true landmark of this city that featured in the flick Kenner that I remember from my childhood for the sad beauty of its heroine whose name I can't remember. The landmark is now closed for good, which is almost unimaginable for anyone who grew up in this city. Almost heresy. Would Radio City Music Hall shut down, I want to know.
I turn off onto a busy lane, where a huge crowd stands outside another old theatre. There is not a single woman in the crowd. That is possibly because there are two women up on the posters for the film that's playing, a "sublime love story" that should really be called Bust-saat and if you've seen those posters I know you'll agree with me.
Beyond the crowd, I walk into the quiet lobby of a hotel. In one corner behind a low desk, looking for all the world like a receptionist or a bellhop, sits one of the world's more famous authors.