Went to the Maritime Museum at Sydney’s Darling Harbour a couple of days ago and saw all these school kids buzzing around one particular exhibit, ‘Les Bateaux Jouets’ – a collection of toy boats from Paris dating back to the 1850s. Which reminded me of the two kinds of toy boats we sailed as kids – the paper boat and the motor boat.
The Paper Boat
If it’s June it Bombay, it must be the start of a new academic year, and if it’s a new school year, it must be the monsoon, and if it’s the monsoon, you must have paper boats to welcome the rains.
And what better way to eradicate all evidence of your previous school year’s dismal performance than to transform all those tedious textbooks into paper sailboats. So the pages would be ripped from their binding and after folding, folding again and folding some more, the folds were pulled apart to reveal a paper-boat. Experience taught you to make extra since the wet weather was sure to knock the wind out the sails of a few of them. Or, if you were nifty enough, you could pinch an old Times of India newspaper before your mom hoarded it for the raddiwalla. Imagine your boat the entire size of a broadsheet! You’d be the envy of your peers...
Armed with your armada, you'd get set to launch your ships. Open gutters were the best bet. Gutters were also great for catching tadpoles in your gumboots, but that’s another story. Sitting on your haunches, you’d place the boats into the gushing water and off they’d go on their perilous journey, bobbing up and down at the mercy of the rips and eddies, sailing further and further away, until at last, they’d meet their watery graves.
The Motor Boat
If it’s September in Bandra, it must be the Bandra Fair, and if it’s the Bandra Fair, it must be the Novena at Mount Mary’s Basilica, and if it’s a trip to the Mount on the Feast Day, it must be numerous stops down the way back home to the various toy stalls, and if it were the toy stalls, it must be a china tea-set for me and a tin motor boat painted red and yellow for my brother.
Of course, bathrooms in Bombay didn’t come with bathtubs, but a large plastic bucket filled with water was enough to float your boat. You grabbed a short stump of a candle from the family altar (thank-you Jesus!), stuck said candle to one of your dad’s beer bottle billas and set this inside the boat. Next, you filled two tubes in the boat with water, then nicked your uncle’s cigarette lighter to light the candle and, before your eyes, the boat would take off, putt-putt-putt-putt-putt-putt, propelled by the heated water. Ingenious!
Must remind my dad to buy a motorboat from this year’s Bandra Fair so that Caitlyn sail away on her own adventure.