Little lanes littered with portugese style cottages, the big church on tenth road, an ever-present diamond garden, the smell of kebabs that always lingers on the front entrance of Chembur gymkhana, the old Croissants bakery (now closed), and the colour green, lots and lots of green – this is the Chembur I know, have known, all my life. This is home.
“Chembur? Oh,that place we pass on the way to Pune?” A line that would draw the endless ire of any honest resident of this little suburb, but one we’d counter with a humble smile, knowing that Chembur is so much more than that, knowing that if we did respond they probably wouldn’t be able to hear us anyway (not everyone has the privilege of going to sleep at night without traffic sounds blaring in their ears).
Maybe it’s because it’s one of the only non-commercial areas left in the city, maybe it’s the sense of community, maybe it’s the old-worldly charm, but there’s something innately different about Chembur, that bang in the middle of the commercial capital, it exists with an identity of its own – a language of its own. You see there are some words that are so unique to the people of Chembur, that they mean something entirely different here.
To the layperson the post office is just an old government establishment, on its way out. To us, it’s the best vada pav in the world. Ratna is an old woman’s name. To an chemburite, it’s the place with the every snack you could ever desire, and where everyone stops before heading to Lonavala. To the average person, 16th road is a street number, to us it means Chembur Gymkhana. Mondays, hated by the world for an entirely different reason, are hated by us because it means all the station shops will be shut. Barista isn’t just another outlet cafe – but a place where you can witness friendships being made and chess games being played and fights breaking out and school kids banding their weekly savings together for that one slice of cake. Lamba isn’t just an old Punjabi uncle, but the number you call for the best prawns in the city. And suman nagar signal, well suman nagar signal sounds innocent enough to anyone from outside, but a resident of Chembur would quake in their shoes at the mere mention and the nightmares of traffic it brings.
We’ve created a history of our own for ourselves living in this suburb, one that only we know of, one that creates this sense of community. Chembur is a lot of things for a lot of us. But if there’s one way I could define it – it’s home.