Round And About by Behram Contractor  

Posted by Vee

A man is known by the company he keeps is now an overused clichéd and peeping at it from the same height would be a man is also known by the city he belongs to. Now it's all mixed up. You are born in one city/town/village, grow up somewhere else, get license to vote/drink/drive in some other place, date/marry someone from other planet altogether. There are more friends virtually than in blood and flesh, your neighbor thinks you are moving in when in actual fact you are moving out after staying in that house for gazillion years. Pheew!!!

But this is not the case with Behram Contractor aka Busybee who lived in Mumbai all his life. He was Parsi, and like an average Parsi in Mumbai he too believed till his last breath in 2001 that Parsis belong to Mumbai in a way that no other Indian race belongs to any other Indian city. This is not the narrative of this book. This is the story of the author of this book. Busybee technically never wrote this book. He worked as a columnist for various newspapers of Mumbai 365 days of the year for 30 plus years. He wrote about everything in his daily column and this is an attempt to bring out all his columns in a single book. Round and About is the first of the series covering year 1996-97. His style of writing is snappish and to the point, but it has a rhythm in it which creates an impression of straight-faced humor.

The city Mumbai has always fascinated me for various reasons. My being a big movie buff has nothing to do with that. I know more of Mumbai as a city than of her association with Bollywood. And I bet I am as good or bad as any average Mumbaikar in knowing this intriguing city in spite of not living for more than 10 days at stretch in my numerous visits to this city (Another one week of stay is in offing soon).

To be witty is not a big deal but to be humorous at the same time is. Busybee excelled at witty humor in all his columns, always. A man who lived with a wife, two sons and a dog left a mark on the psyche of every Mumbaikar capable of reading and comprehending so much that his columns became part of their lives and people bought copies of the newspaper plainly to read his columns. This first series is just an appetizer; the full feast is still to be consumed.

Mayanagri (Bombay): I say so as it was Bombay and not Mumbai those days. Busybee called it home and in one of his columns he mentioned not living anywhere else in the world even if he was paid five months salary in lump sum. On January 1, 1996, he honored aam aadmi of Mumbai in his columns as the "man of the year". Why? Because he felt people of Mumbai had never been given due. For surviving and coming out smiling from every adverse situation, for never been consulted in anyway by any from the authority, for his/her city being getting crowded day by day and dirty hour by hour and he/her has been welcoming always. For he had been fed empty promises, for he had been lived through bad monsoon, hot summer and constant threat from people wearing orange and yet in good spirits.

Mayanagri ke log (Her People): This second section of the book has some true, funny, interesting anecdotes of some truly famous, some austerely infamous, known, seen, read people of Bombay. Whats with that Michael Jackson-Raj Thackeray deal in the event of MJ's show in Mumbai back in 1996. The part stands out as the one of the most hilarious sections of the book. Indeed some of his best were people.

Rajniti (Politics): I sometimes feel politicians are not only the source of all the chaos in the country but also the fountainhead of all the humor. Busybee is at his best when it comes to scrutinizing the politicians of our country and especially those from Bombay. He wrote on everyone from Bal to Raj to one time MP Big B to Munde to Joshi. A section talks of the meeting Bal had with Deve Gowda (Ex-PM) at Big B's residence and boy, did Busybee come up with the authentic version of the meeting in his column. Yes, he did. You may take it or leave it.

Gol guttam lakad battam de dana dan khel (Cricket): Nation's favorite pastime. When it comes to cricket, I guess we all Indians tend to treat it as a war and not game and a Mumbaikar is no different. And if it is Mumbai it has to be Wankhede. The infamous hooting at the world famous local boy at his own home ground proves it more than ever. Yes we are fanatics. Period.

Chalo Chaupati (Eating Out): There are puri people and chapatti people. There are rice people and bread people. I am chapatti person. Busybee was rice person. He fed on rice twice a day and in this section he has discussed the eating habits of Mumbaikar. Mumbai is also known for the kind of food and eateries she provides. From Mexican to the vada pav, from German frankfurters to Italian sausages, his column on places for eat-outs is bible for the strangers in the city.

Samajik Titaliyaan (Cocktail Circuit): The most envious circle in whole India. The invitees who eat caviar (or is it chew they do) and drink champagne. Guests who come to outdo the others or to outdo themselves. The wannabes who have their freshly printed visiting card outstretched in their hand along with a shake from the other which straightly meant I-want-to-be-part-of-it.

Gol Chakkar (Round And About): What could not be covered into any aforementioned defined categories, Busybee put it in this section. It's all about what-goes-around-comes-around.

I have been visiting and interacting with all kinds of people from this absorbing city, and it never ceases to amuse me, every time. After having been befriended few elitist, few not so well off and few hanging in between; from the guy who sells beeda at the intersection of Churchgate station and Dalal Street to the service provider of all kinds. From not so famous singer who is a clandestine queer to the famous performer who cruises around the Gateway in her merc. From this much aged, highly obnoxious scribe to the middling commuter of local. These are the people who form the Mumbai and put in some way or the other a remarkable demonstration in the lives of the regulars or the unexpected. Behram knew them all and knew them too well. And let me end it by using another worn out clichéd: They do not make like him anymore.

I preferred reading his compliation as a book, but for lazy bums, here is the link to his work:

This review I had earlier published here and here.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 03, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .

7 Pointless but Viscous Comments.

Busybee used to be a fave of mine. At one time I was living in Punjabi Univ Patiala, and used to travel to the city especially to pick up Mid Day because it ran Busybee column.

Yeh to mujhe leni hi leni hai.

As I re-read this piece I was left wondering that how come I haven't picked it till now!!!

Hmmm got to get it soon :-)

Wonderful review I say!!

Oxy boyyyy...whats with you and the book reviews ?? ?Give these work to Smita, so that I dont have to comment anything relevant ! :D :D :D :D

bhai mereko book gift kerni padegi aapko... mere aate hi :)

Hmm, never read any newspapers in Bombay. But yes, the few times I've stayed there (and once, I stayed for a month for work and did the regular commute in the local trains everyday), Bombay does come across as a special special place. It's definitely got a very intereting buzz about it.


Sounds very interesting - I love to read what I cannot express so - anybody being able to see humour in the antics of our politicians is a fav... it's almost like if one can't blog about it atleast one can read about it. :)

I am going to be lazy and go through the link - first :)

My Zimbio
Top Stories