The year could be 1950 here in Vasanthashram, a ‘boarding house’ in the heart of the city. Crawford market bustles around, three floors down from here. The high rises of Nariman Point occupy the skyscape outside. Inside here, the dorm is filled with men from South India, discussing cheap food options around the block. A few foreign visitors lie just the same, trousers hung on the hooks above the bed. There is a certain primordial feel to the place. The keepers of the house are two aging men, with one spending an uninterrupted session with a dashboard of framed Gods on the wall of reception. Several minutes later he moves out to the balcony and prays to the sun with the same time consuming solemnity. His mate meanwhile checks the new visitors in. To a stuck printer his remedy is repeated switching on and off. It escapes him that he needs to press the button that indicates the machine is out of paper.
Another in the dorm speaks of his nineteen years of visiting this city and of the impulsive things he has done here.
This place must survive. It needs to. For in this upscale area where average hotel prices are over 100 $ a night, a space as this pokes a finger into the eye of the city that always threatens to consume those who are short on cash.
While Crawford market wakes up, the men get ready after their bucket baths to do what they are here for. One reads a collection of Manto’s stories and quizzes other mates in the ante room.
Meanwhile, sunlight fills in the room fast enough to wake the last of the sleepers.