THE CHICKEN MAP OF BANDRA
When she sees a chicken, she crosses the road, because my daughter Amaia has alektorophobia."Sometimes I dream there's a chicken on my quilt. It's a legitimate phobia," she reassures me, "I looked it up."
We don't know where the phobia came from. It is not, as was the case with a close friend, that there was an alarming encounter with a full-grown hen that, in a panic, landed on her head and refused to jump off. The first we knew of it, we were lost in a small village in Anjuna, Goa, and our rambunctious, restless 2-year -old suddenly went catatonic in horror at a couple of silly pullets.
"I have a live chicken map of Bandra," my child tells me. I get my notepad out.
Bandra's chickens, puk-pukking around, are the last remnants of the village the suburb once was. Time was when every second family kept a small clutch of hens, and there was at least one dysfunctional rooster per street who would cock-a-doodle-do your afternoon siesta to hell, oblivious to loud threats of murder most fowl and having him roasted for Christmas lunch.
Bandra's chickens, puk-pukking around, are the last remnants of the village the suburb once was.
There was other livestock too – donkeys, the odd cow – and oldies will remember the saying, "Throw a stone in Bandra, and you'll hit a pig or a Pereira." The pigs, in fact, were by far the most colourful. In the time of prohibition when the good Catholics of the suburb would brew their own not-so-holy spirits, the wrung-out fermented fruit or hops would be thrown into the gutters on which the occasional pig would feast and then roll into the village pig-drunk, looking for a fight. As a boy, my father was once wrestled to the ground by one in Pali Village. He was saved by his brother with a shotgun and as much courage as he had aim.
Amaia's live chicken map of Bandra begins in Chimbai Village, where she has her earliest memory of being pukking freaked out. At 7, she was sitting on the family scooter while her dad bought puri-bhaji and a chicken just stood next to her. She considered starting the scooter and riding away. Khar-Danda also has its share of chickens, some of whom make their way to Carter Road, near the amphitheatre. I ask if this helps her sprint past on her weekly morning runs there. She rolls her eyes at me. Jogger's Park is also a no-no because of all the big birds. The D'Monte Park has a couple of huge roosters and other large birds, including guinea fowl, which she shudders at and says, "They're all the same, feathery, gross." The road outside St. Andrew's College also has a few chickens hanging around with the teenagers. No one is allowed to throw "birds of a feather" shade though, apparently. She saves the worst for last. Marcus' Pets, an old Bandra institution, has the largest birds she has ever seen. "Those chickens have distinct shoulders," she says retching now, "and the clucking! The clucking is horrific! Once I couldn't cross because of traffic, so I closed my eyes and just prayed aloud in the general direction of heaven." She's being raised agnostic, so I ask her what words she used. She says, "just please please please please please."
The girl is just chicken.