The excellent Naresh Fernandes on the life and bizarre career of Captain F D Colaabavala, ex-Indian Army (and Navy) man who hitchiked around the world, wrote colourful and almost certainly exaggerated accounts of his exploits (Time Out Mumbai link: might require subscription/registration):
He walked on the wild side. In Indian Mafia in Action, he set out to uncover “the heartland of the crime world” and had encounters with “smugglers, drug merchants, fake currency and traffickers in girls and women”. In Bombay By Night, he discovered a metropolis that is a “round-the-clock, twenty four hours, action-packed, ring-a-ding place of unbridled friendliness…a riot of fun and sex in the raw”. In Sex Slaves of India, he found himself in Mumbai’s red-light district, “a queer mixture of a place – perhaps the world’s toughest, most savage, unprincipled, dissolute [area], stepped in violence and full of bizarre, thrilling sextoxications for a man looking for the fulfilment of his libido”.
If you’re a Mumbaikar of a certain vintage (and bent of mind), you’ll have no trouble identifying the distinctive prose of Captain Firooze Darasha Colaabavala, the indefatigable chronicler of life in the city’s darker alleyways. His alliterative, hyperbolic reportage could once be found everywhere: in the Blitz, in his own short-lived tabloid, Whisper, and in the half-a-dozen or so slim paperbacks he wrote from the mid-1970s to the early ’80s.
Until recently, Mumbai’s pavement booksellers always seemed to have a copy or two of such Colaabavala classics as Tantra: The Erotic Cult, Witchcraft: The Forbidden World of th e Devil and Sin Cities of the World (“There is sexitement, sexation, sexapades, sexoticism, sextravaganzas round-the-clock 24 hours go-go-go,” promises the cover). Of late, though, all Colaabavala’s books seem to have disappeared into the great shredder in the sky, with rare copies selling on the internet for an average price of $25.
Naresh reports that Captain Colaabavaala’s Hippie Dharma might find its way back into print, with a little help from Pankaj Mishra. Gwan of Gwan’s Book Club offers a glimpse of Colaabavala’s style:
WITH REAL-LIFE PHOTOGRAPHS, by Captain F.D. Colaabavala. The first such REAL-LIFE PHOTOGRAPH features a naked woman dancing in front of a man (back to the camera) in a loin cloth. Here’s the caption: ‘Look! And look again! A lissom lass dancing a voluptuous nautch around a man who stands bewildered and helpless’ (how they knew from his back he was ‘bewildered and helpless’ ask me not…)