Till I was about 12 years old I used take the arduous route to Madras from Rajkot. Bombay was a logical halt before proceeding to Madras. Logical because it was where an uncle of mine used to reside.
Jean-François Champollion the one who revealed the secret of the Egyptian hieroglyphic spent his childhood with his brother Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac an archaeologist. Jean went to master several languages and finally cracked the Rosetta Stone.
Jean spent his childhood exploring the collections of his brother. Something similar happened to me. Not that I cracked any code let alone any language. What Jean experienced was the mentoring of his brother who would often let him explore his collections, books and artifacts.
My uncle used to work in the Navy, not exactly on seas, but on terra firma in the Indian Naval Dockyard. He was also a football enthusiast which later led him to become a FIFA referee. His collections though not as large as an archeologist’s were nonetheless wondrous and intriguing. Some books, some football pennants, some cups and some medals made up his cabinet of curiosities. I do remember some maps of Teheran.
Every summer trip through Bombay meant for me a trip across the world reading his treasure chest. I am indebted to him for igniting my interest in reading and it was a resultant of him allowing me full access to that cabinet. No craning over the neck admonishing me to keep things clean or being worried about me tearing or breaking a thing or two.
A great conversationalist, I used to miss him during the school back at Rajkot. Not given to writing copious letters I used to look forward to that arduous journey to Madras because it went through Bombay.
Alas he is now no more. He passed away recently. I pray his soul rests in peace. The Hindu carried an article on him. You can read it here.