It was invariably a joyous occasion when Drupada and her little gang of beggars spotted their favourite Pravinshet somewhere near MG Road. Here in these few photos is captured one such joyous encounter. Here we are on Wellesly Road, not far from the Ohel David Synagoge (Lal Deval). Mumbiram is surrounded and has settled on the step of the Air India office next to Dorabjees supermarket. Drupada has settled comfortably right in front of Mumbiram. As always Drupada has a baby on her arm. Shaha Jahan’s Begum Mumtaz for whom he built the Taj Mahal had fourteen deliveries before she succumbed in the last one. No issue. Drupada’s babies grew up as Pravinshet’s born admirers. On this day Mumbiram was accompanied by Mathura’s brother, Sandipani. He was quite surprised and confused by this assault on his favourite Mamirao by unknown Phasepardhi beggars that seemed to be on very familiar terms. We don’t know who made the photos, most likely a passer-by who was requested and obliged. But the drama is wonderfully captured. We also have some photos some years later where members of the same group have found Mumbiram in the lane between Wonderland and the Marzorin Bakery-Café. The little ones have grown up but you see them exuding the same elation that you saw on them many years ago when they met Pravinshet.
Mumbiram met Drupada the very first time in Koregaon Park. That was some time in 1980- 81 outside the Kitkat Café. That was during so-called ´Pune 1´, which meant the time during Osho’s first stay in Pune before his departure for America. The Osho ashram was a place people from all over the world would go to. It was a popular place. Mumbiram was not at all into the Osho philosophy. The Kitkat was a café to go to after a visit to the ashram and unwind. In ‘Pune 2’, when Osho was back from America, the Café German Bakery came to be there. Drupada was begging outside the Kitkat.
Drupada was just sitting there on the sidewalk with her baby in her lap. Mumbiram noticed her very beautiful face, exquisite dark complexion and very delicate features. That was when this watchman of the Kitkat began to drive her away. Bird catchers are ‘sticky’ beggars. They are not doing it as just a part time activity. You can’t drive them away so easily. They act very independently and freely, sitting where they want and doing what they want. Drupada isn’t going to be told to move. Then this watchman picked up a big stone and wanted to throw it at her. That was when Mumbiram intercepted and took her to the side and said “Here, take this money. Don’t pick a fight with this guy.” Drupada always remembered that. Later on Mumbiram met her several times on MG Road. Because after the time of “Pune 1” the Rajneeshis left Koregaon Park, which then turned into a ghost town. Only a few Rajneeshis remained there. Drupada´s tribe began hanging out by M.G.Road.
Drupada initially called Mumbiram “vakeel saheb” or “honourable lawyer”. But later she coined the affectionate moniker “Parveen Shet” (‘shet’ or ´seth´ means ‘wealthy man or owner of a shop‘, Parveen could be Sanskrit ‘pravin’ which means ‘expert’ or it could be Persian `Perveen´ which happened to be the trending name of a wildly popular Bollywood actress). Drupada would not know the real meaning of the name. Phasepardhis give names to each other that sound good to them. That’s how they happen to have real unusual names. Drupada sounds like Draupadi or it could be Drupada, an esoteric school of Indian classical singing or the name of a certain raga. Mumbiram took it as Drupada. They might not know who Draupadi was. Bird catchers are like gypsies. They don’t follow any religion. They are fiercely independent.
Drupada never came to Mumbiram’s studio, whereas others of that so called ‘wild’ Phasepardhi tribe did. That was most unusual. Khutke and Naurang from the Nandgaon Phasepardhis were the first to visit Mumbiram’s studio. There must have been great trust and curiosity in them, if not romance for an artist, who saw their beauty of the spirit beyond everything else. Other Phasepardhis were Shaani and her family, who became regular visitors to Mumbiram’s studio. It was the magic and power of Rasa Art that was able to bridge these otherwise huge gaps between such very different people, the highly educated and idealistic artist with romantic dreams and the fiercely independent Phasepardhis, who were avoided by others.