The Patli Gully

Recently I took my sons to a cricket camp just outside London. It brought back a flood of memories. Today, living in my well manicured South London home with my wife and kids, an NRI of some twenty years, it all seems to be in stark contrast to the simple but spontaneous childhoods that people of my generation had back home in India. Today, I was bringing my boys to a Tony cricket camp at a suburban club. But all I could think of was my own patli gully!

So let me tell you all about this narrow lane. To me growing up in the heart of Dadar in Mumbai with typical middle class values, the narrow lane outside our building wasn’t just some ordinary lane. It was to me, a wonderland of endless possibilities and fun. It was where I played cricket with all my building and society friends. It was where I first kissed a girl and held hands with her. It was also where I hid from my parents and tried my first cigarette with my then best buddy, Pendharkar. To put it plainly, the patli gully was a world unto itself. A heaven for us young adolescents who would wait with baited breadth for the school bell to ring, signaling the end of studies for the day, and the beginning of another adventure, at times several together, in our narrow lane!

On a slightly more philosophical level, it is largely that narrow lane that today keeps my grounded and rooted, not just to home and India, but also, to a sense of modesty and discretion. To not flout the privileges my life now affords me. So to that end, my patli gully has been much more than a source of mischief and fun. And as I look onto my boys playing properly padded up at the nets of this upmarket cricket camp, I have decided that I must take them back to where I grew up, to my patli gully, so that they understand me, and life, a little bit better!

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