Author: Mohnaz Balsara

A Nostalgic Walk Down Memory Lane

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The meeting was going to start at 10am and as usual I was very early – a habit I had picked up from my very dear Mrs Bomanji whom I used to call the inspection teacher or what our batch used to call the dragon lady.

Absolutely loved being at school. I am very happy I made it. Oh it truly was a wonderful nostalgic happy memorable walk down memory lane right from the time I got off the station, walked up to the school, and then the school itself. So many memories, so many years, just rolled by all refreshed in my memories, all of it was just simply awesome. I went to attend a condolence meeting but I was smiling all the way to school and all throughout the meeting remembering the school days from the station to school, then taking round the school, popping into classroom, the assembly hall, everything. As one of my very dear batchmate Vaijanty said, “Made me nostalgic as hell!…..It felt great belting out! What was even more heartening was that no one missed  a single beat while singing our anthem. What a feeling that was!”

Was walking towards the School from Grant Road Station after 34+ years and it felt like I was going down memory lane. Walked past Bhaji galli, past my friend Dimple’s house the post office, Wallace apartments, stationery shop, the kurmura shop, the aarey milk tiny shack like shop, etc. While I was walking I remembered that there is a way from my friend’s house I used as short cut to school but forgot the way so continued walking on the outside road. Don’t know why I remember the way to school being a bit longer not so short maybe I felt that then because I was walking with a heavy school bag don’t know.

I remember the school building being white when did it turn green? I remember Girton High School name written on the building don’t remember Master Building written on it. The ground has completely changed. There is an ultra tech modern CCTV camera screen showing all the angles of the play area and grounds. The ground used to be just mud now it has a play area and no mud. I remember playing with the mud. I remember making the hopscotch squares with tiny stones lying all over the school and playing hopscotch in sand which would turn the white shoes brown by the time I went home. Had to wash and blanco them myself daily. The stage where we had our annual day functions I remembered that it was open on all sides but now its closed from the top as there is a covering put.

The principal’s office layout has completely changed. To my utter dismay it had shrunk drastically. It used to be a big open space outside the principal office but now it’s all enclosed. The classrooms on the ground floor have either disappeared or are under renovation as I couldn’t see them. There used to be a sofa outside the principal office now it’s just completely a closed area and there is a tiny digital display which shows the name of the school and the passing board results. The administrative office has gone from its original place. That’s when I realized God it’s been so very long. It’s been 34+ years since I left school when I passed out when I was in 6th Grade after that from 7th Grade I went to another school and that’s another story.

I saw the big black board where my friend and her mother used to draw with different coloured chalk for festivals like Holi, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Parsi New Year, Annual Day Functions etc.

Since I was very early decided to take a walk round the school grounds that’s when I noticed that there were so many plants around don’t remember tiny shrubs or plants before. I saw the tiny square benches that were still used in pre-primary and primary school. Then I decided I would go to the most eerie place in school the back side of the school building it used to be full of rubble, gutters, broken pieces of basins and toilets, etc. But to my pleasant surprise the backside was completely revamped no rubble, no gutters, no broken pieces of basins and toilets. I saw that and realized I have been walking around and no eerie feeling I used to get before when I was studying in school. Infact after seeing it I think it’s the most kid friendly play area I have seen in a long time in any school. Instead of being eerie it was peaceful, calm, and serene. It was absolutely beautiful, colourful, and very much catered and geared towards kids. The whole ground had become a big play area where tons of kids can play all at once.

Just before the meeting started I went up to my classroom and peeped in. The first thing I saw was the horizontally opening windows. I was so happy seeing them despite the fact that I had to clean them during detention. Then my eyes fell on the black board with duster and white chalk my most favourite daily saviour. I remembered thinking Thank God for white chalk!!! I used to go to school very early so I could sneak in the classroom, drop my bag down and take the biggest 2 pieces of white chalk I could find and rub it all over my white shoes and then I used to go to assembly and inspection. For quite some time poor Mrs Bomanji could not understand why my shoes were always white despite the fact that I came walking on dusty roads until she caught me one day and sadly that was the end of my dear saviour white chalk.

Then I went to the assembly hall and was met with a cool blast of AC air. Aah heaven as I had stepped in from the heat. I remember thinking this hall had no AC and I remembered PT, playing sakli, and other games with my friends. Then I turned around and was shocked. Where has the beautiful piano disappeared from the assembly hall? I remember Mrs Prabhakar playing piano and us pestering her to bring her daughter Sharon Prabhakar to school. Met an ex teacher Mrs Engineer and the daughter of another ex teacher Meher – Mrs Mistry’s daughter.

The condolence meeting was for Mrs Mistry and Mrs Wadia mainly but also for other teachers and staff members who had passed away.

Remembered having met Mrs Wadia randomly at Mahim Station once. She was on her way to school and I was on my way to work. She immediately recognized me and said you are Mohnaz Balsara I said yes very surprised and asked her how she remembered. She said I was the only student who shocked her during the hearing test and I remembered that day I went into splits remembering what I had done during the mandatory hearing test and I told her the real reason why I did what I did. She being the stern principal that she was smiled but didn’t laugh nor chuckle but just smiled and I could see a naughty twinkle in her eyes. That day during the test the poor technician was just doing his job. So while adjusting frequencies he kept asking me can you hear this can you hear that. I got fed up so finally I told him I cannot hear anything. Poor fellow must have got scared and he adjusted all the possible frequencies asking me if I could hear and I just replied no. Mrs Wadia got a shock of her life and she immediately called my parents. Poor mum rushed to school thinking what happened why I couldn’t hear. She immediately took me home and on reaching home when I told her the reason she was certainly not very pleased and gave me a good solid piece of her mind so loudly that forget the whole building a seriously deaf person could have heard her that day.

Always remembered Mrs Mistry’s story telling sessions and her elocution class after school. It is because of her efforts that my English Language and Diction improved so drastically. Years later when I went to the corporate sector or travlled abroad for holidays people would be astounded hearing my perfect diction. Every time someone praised my diction I would tell them thanks to Mrs Mistry. Every time I said that my memories of her would rush back to me.

Oh btw our school has a YouTube page just incase you all want to see today’s pictures and videos.

I even went up to the 4th floor where we used to have our needlework class. Couldn’t see the lunch room as it was closed. But standing there remembered Josephine and Hilda and their Pepsicolas and Samosas. Remembered that during lunch time we were not allowed to eat till we had a proper table mat, fork, spoon, and plate and I remember the neighbour’s maid Savita bringing my lunch daily.

When I was walking up the stairs to go to the 4th floor I remembered one day none other than who else Mrs Bomanji caught me because I was a bit tired and my shoes were making that typical dragging sound. She made me walk up and down the stairs till I learned how to walk without my shoes making a sound. I even went to the toilet to check if I got that eerie feeling I had felt several times. But I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of white walls and white tiles on the toilet floor there were coloured tiles with a teddy bear balloons and floating clouds and it felt like a happy place. I never felt that eerie ghost feeling I felt a few times infact it felt quite peaceful, calm, serene, and beautiful the entire time I was in school.

Looks like the ghosts were either exorcised or they left or they were as our teachers always said overactive imagination or what one of my dear batchmate Freny said Moni ghosts got scared of us and left.



On my various trips around the different countries and across waters and different parts of India my memoirs and my camera have been my constant companion. This time it’s a slightly funny but a hugely humbling, grounding, and heart touching experience on my travel time spent touring the length and breadth of Indonesia.

Since ASA Convention was going to be held in Indonesia I decided to take a 15 days tour throughout Indonesia prior to the Convention. Before setting out as usual I always buy forex of the country I am visiting so went to the forex branch I always go to but was told we only give USD for Indonesia you will have to exchange USD in Indonesia with Indonesia Rupaiyya (IDR). I thought it was a bit strange but then again I needed the forex so I said yes.

On landing I checked in and didn’t have any local currency so gave a 1 USD coin the person who brought my luggage in to my room and he almost fainted in happiness and I suddenly remembered the forex branch saying they can’t give IDR but dismissed the thought but dismissed the thought and didn’t think much about it. However during check in I had seen a sign on the reception saying money exchange done here so I went to the reception to exchange my 100 USD note and the receptionist said sorry mam you will have to go to the bank we are not allowed to exchange anything above 50 USD. I was a bit tired but needed local currency so I went to the bank with the directions provided by the reception. I went to the counter and said I wanted to exchange a 100 USD note the woman at the counter said please wait the manager will meet you in a few moments. I was like its just 100 USD why the manager needs to meet me but they insisted so I took a seat. In a few seconds the manager came out smiling almost gushing with happiness. I told him I needed to exchange USD 100 note and a very elated manager just said sure. In a few minutes he got IDR notes and said here thank you so much for using our bank services. I was thinking in my mind its only 100 USD why is he thanking me so profusely but then dismissed the thought and went to the hotel room and started counting the IDR and it shocked me as the manager had given me literally several million IDR and not thousands or hundreds as I expected. I had never seen a million in my hands ever in my entire life and was so shocked seeing a million IDR note and I had quite a few of them that my mind went numb I was very scared and called my mum immediately using the room phone. My mom got really wild as to how much did I exchange but I assured her I had only exchanged a single 100 USD note that’s when she said please go to the bank immediately and point out the error as the manager must have made a grave mistake if you don’t go back the poor fellow will have to pay millions. I agreed and immediately set out for the bank clutching the millions in my hands very tightly and with a pounding heart I went to the bank really scared as I was carrying so much money and I had never seen so much in my entire life. I told the manager that there was a big error made as I exchanged only a single 100 USD and I received millions of IDR the manager assured me he hadn’t made a mistake but I was holding millions literally MILLIONS in my hands so I made the manager count again not once but twice and he assured me it was the correct amount. I was not sure what to do with millions that I had in my possession. I went to the hotel room still seriously scared that I had millions and because of that I could not sleep the whole night.

It was only the next day I realized why the bank manager said he had not made a mistake despite giving me millions. I needed to buy water but I did not have any note less than a million denomination. I was absolutely certain that I would be shooed away as I had nothing less than a million Rupaiyya note. The 2 litre water bottle normally costs only 15-20 INR in India and I was wondering what to do how to buy. But I needed water so I nervously entered a shop which was selling water bottles. I picked a 2 litre water bottle which showed 3,5 I did not see the coma and thought it was 35 IDR but I had nothing less than a million IDR note and very timidly and sheepishly gave one million IDR note to the lady at the counter bracing myself for her ridicule and anger. I was absolutely sure that she was going to tell me to get lost as I was going to exchange a million IDR for just 35 IDR water bottle. But to my utter surprise she simply smiled and immediately exchanged the million IDR note and gave me change. In the car I counted my money and realized that I was short by a few thousand as she took 3500 IDR instead of 35 IDR but I thought maybe she did not have so much change so gave me what she had and didn’t say anything. On seeing my troubled look the driver inquired what had happened and I told him. He stopped the car and with a very shocked look and asked if he can see the price tag on the bottle. I gave him the bottle and he said no mam its 3500 and not 35. He pointed out that see there is a coma between 3 & 5 so it reads as 3,5 that means 3500 IDR. Now it was my turn to be utterly shocked as I had just paid IDR 3500 for a 2 litre bottle!!! I was thinking OMG I have to be very careful with my consumption of water because it is so expensive!!! Looking at my shocked expression the driver said this was very cheap and I was thinking in my mind CHEAP I just paid IDR 3500 for a 2 litre water bottle. The driver must have seen a very bewildered look on my face and he explained to me why the bottle cost IDR 3500 and yet it’s cheap and why the bank manager gave me millions when I had exchanged only 1 single USD 100 note. He explained to me that Indonesia was unfortunately sitting on 3 natural disaster belts ie volcanoes, flash floods, and earthquakes. Natural disasters were a very frequent and constant part of their lives having an omnipresent presence at all times no matter what. Every alternate day there is either a volcano exploding or a flash flood gushing or an earthquake shaking Indonesia and yes I had seen flash floods, I had felt tremors and my volcano flight was cancelled as there was a thick black smoke coming out of the volcano when I was touring Indonesia. This situation unfortunately is a perfect recipe for creating havoc literally to the Indonesian
economy as everything they strive for is destroyed by nature on almost on a daily basis.

After that humbling experience I was a completely changed person. After careful calculation I realized that 1 IDR = LESS THAN HALF A PAISE INR!!! After that throughout my trip I never took the change back and always insisted on overpaying because I realized that a tiny single INR 5 coin can provide a single person 2 square meals a day for a full week. Despite living in the shadow of constant natural disasters they are still satisfied with their life and are so peaceful, calm, and serene. I realized how much pampered, spoiled, and lucky we are in India are and yet we take so much prosperity for granted. We fight over petty things like religion, caste, reservations, etc. Then there is a country like Indonesia which is so devastated by nature almost on a daily basis and yet doesn’t fight. I was a completely changed person after my Indonesia trip and never took a single thing or a single moment for granted and was always grateful for what I have.

Mohnaz Balsara

Sole Proprietor – DeiaMo Paradiso