Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mumbai Local

Statutory warning: The piece of writing may not inspire non-mumbaities!!!

Accepted my blogs are becoming too Mumbai-centric now, but the fact that I had just been to aammchi Mumbai should make you guys excuse me for a while. The city has an intoxicating air and an effect so strong that it will take me a while before I start writing about the other roller-coaster rides of my life.
It’s hard to imagine Mumbai without one thing- the local trains. Those who are from Mumbai will agree more on this than anyone else. On an average -a typical Mumbaite travels one hour (at least) everyday in the locals and believe me this monotonous journeys can rarely ever bore you. I remember the time when I used to catch the fast local from Dadar , every day after college around 1800 hrs .
This time when I went to Mumbai, I couldn’t help get the taste of the local train- trek again. Things haven’t changed much. The fast local ( the ladies compartment) is packed with a hodgepodge of women – some have just finished their work-shift at the call centre and occupying the standing area near the door with their expensive i-pods and are decked up for another party .Then there are the gold-laden women wearing blank expressions and with at least 4 kids each doing gymnastics around their bodies , (I think they are returning from some wedding- the only theme around which their lives is crafted) .
The office-going middle-aged ones are who sit down on the floor, cutting bhindi with their knives with the expertise of a chef and they are in a group chatting about their bosses/husbands/neighbours etc.. .you name it and they have an opinion to share! Then there is the juvenile gang of girls who seem to have just joined college, with an awkward sense of dressing as they are now at the experimentation stage after shedding their grey and boring school uniforms. The spark in their eyes while they talk about their new-founded “love of life” is worth a look. There is one more species, the ladies selling bhel-puri , and wada pav – I call them the plucky of all. Their business sense, selling skills and customer service is something to learn from.
The crowd is mind-boggling, and the cat-fights for the seats even more so. Wish I was an artist to capture each colour on to the canvas….but all I can do is write about it.:).
As many stories as the people…To experience the city of Mumbai… travel in its local trains - get a glimpse of the mélange of people here and their lives…and believe me you will never get bored …Its The city that never sleeps and you miss out a lot if you sleep a wink!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Something Amiss @ Pop-tates

I have been born and brought up in the city of Mumbai.10 years of my school-life has certainly given me something to cherish- my gang of girls.
We five, come from different backgrounds, culture and value systems. I opine that it is this difference that makes us so special as a gang. Whenever I come back to my hometown, we make sure that we have a revelry at pop-tates .
Now – Pop tates is almost always a certain venue. The reason being its strategic location where all the girls can come after their work-shifts and more importantly – it’s a place where we can ask for our fav. Mojitos and cosmopolitans and be sure that any after-effects there of will not attract negative attention. So this time it was yet again “pop-tates”!
Our conversations are mostly as vibrant as we are…ranging from bitchy gossips to dawn of “new friendships” and extinction of “old friends”(u know what I mean, girls). Tête-à-tête about how we all think of marriage as a social trap with a dash of male bashing off course. However…the mood always has been light and refreshing.
This time however something was amiss. One of our girls arrived late, decked up in a ultra-traditional salwar kameez. This was not unusual. What followed definitely was! The shock::::of late, her parents had started the recruitment process ( pls note there s a difference between recruitment and selection here) for a prospective groom. She just had finished one of the interviews. The worst part: She is not even ready and doesn’t know what she wants in a life partner but has just given in to the entire drama. In her so-called interviews she is acting just as a “good girl” is supposed to act. (I mean the societal definition of good). To me her wickedness is her USP…and something I genuinely love.
Am very sure the poor guy is also equally unaware ! No excitement, no thrill. Its as simple as---A good family wanting a value-ridden girl who can take-care of things (yawn!). It seemed to me as a compromise for life…I could not speak much after that …nor show my happiness (as the suffocation had taken over).
The only thought in mind was….However modern we become, not many of us have the mettle to drive biggest decisions of life…and end up “just giving in”.
I wondered and ordered another mojito …and am still wondering.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Same Busy Road....

Memories of childhood seldom fade away. The early years of my childhood were spent at a baby-sitter .It was a period when the demand of baby-sitting services had clearly started exceeding the supply , due to more and more women becoming career-oriented. My mom was no exception! And truly speaking I am proud she is not…
After school, I used to drag myself to this jaded house where amma used to be busy forcing food down some poor kids throats as it was usually lunch time . She used to think I am a well-behaved kid and for this reason the noble gesture was not showered onto me anytime. I still remember rushing to the balcony of the house (which had a black paling so that no one of little devils jump out of frustration) and take my tiffin there which mom used to pack for me before leaving for office.
I have always been petite and used to fit perfectly on the wall of the balcony and hang my legs down on the side facing the busy road. I loved looking at people the entire afternoon, the cars and the stray dogs, the ice-cream vendors, the rickshaws standing on the sides of the road, rag-pickers, men and women always rushing to reach some other part of the globe. ….For me, the road was a world in itself. Childhood is a time when something as immaterial as a road can be the most exciting part of one’s life.
My naani was however a lady with a strong view that children must always be brought up by their mothers and no one else…(traditional inflexible mind). I am glad that my mom never budged and in the end..My stubborn naani shifted from bangalore to our town and adopted me from the baby-sitter. The apartment she took was right across the same road, just parallel to my ex-baby-sitter.
I wouldn’t complain, the days I spent with my naani were awesome. My obsession changed from looking at the road the entire afternoon to the new Colour TV she bought for me . Gradually, the busy road lost all its significance from my life .Naani is a small, fat cute lady with a typical Punjabi accent and is entertaining to the core. I spent 10 years – 12 hours every day of my life with her. I call her “badima” and aptly so.
However after those 10 years , my priorities started changing. Late-night parties and friends suddenly replaced badima. I started spending time after college-hours at the beach with my gang and seldom used to meet her. As I finished graduation, I got a job in Kolkata and being in the exceedingly busy hotel industry, badima’s calls on my cell phone went unanswered most times.
It’s been 3 years I have stayed away from her and the last time I went home …naani was no longer the same. She has grown old and has nothing much to pass her time. I asked her casually so what you do the entire day , she replied ..” I just sit by the balcony and look at the road most times ….its the only thing that keeps me busy”….
The road is still the same…just the spectators have changed and their priorities….i thought.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

As different as finger prints

I am not that old…To be precise I am Just 23 (lol)…but I must admit that I have been opportune enough to travel a lot and meet many people in life. Knowing people has been an adventure in itself.
Come to think about it, every person that I encountered was a product of complex permutation and combination of characteristics and traits, not to forget circumstances. It’s easy at this point of time to draw a metaphor between finger prints and people. Just as two fingerprints in the world are not similar, so are we! The creator sure is a mathematician and a strategist- and definitely a witty one!
I have been so tied up lately with myself that I forgot to enjoy meeting people - and I resolve to correct it immediately. It was a sleepy afternoon that I was roaming in my hostel corridor to fetch some water from the cooler when I overheard my hostel bai (the maid who cleans the rooms) crying in one of the balconies. She is the one who comes and cleans our rooms every Sunday and the corridors everyday. I never even had given her a look, forget about a smile or acknowledgement in these 2 months. Coming back to that afternoon, I went and asked her if she’s all right – she replied in her bungling hindi that she is pregnant and for the third time she is being taken for a foetus-sex determination. (Which I dint know how they managed as its illegal). The first two times, her in-laws had managed her to undergo an abortion since the unlucky life inside her was a girl.
She was worried and trembling with fear. A person who held no meaning in my life made me see the reality of life. We are so comfortable in our nests of life that sometimes we live in a mirage of happiness and content. I made her some glucose, the only thing that is always present in abundance in my hostel room. I was so stunned that I could not tell her any of my “nari atyachar” lecture which I always confidently share amongst my gang of friends. The reality is stanger than illusion.
I could not believe that I said to her “Best luck.I pray It to be a boy” and left. Someone like me , who should have been angry and asked her to complaint against her in-laws walked away without saying much.
The next day she came back, woke me up from my sleep at 0800 and gave me a e-clair . She was beaming and said “Ladka Hai”. I am happy for her.
It’s high time I get back to my favorite sport—appreciating fingerprints as they are!

Journey without destination

Sitting in my boring lecture today, a thought passed my mind : Is journey more important or is it the destination??
I dont know how this thought made my mind drift to Sealdah station 2 years was my journey to Darjeeling-the queen of hills..The train left at around 2100 hrs from the over-crowded station to start an overnight journey to New Jalpaiguri. I was not very excited as I dint hold any expectations about my trip to darj. I was so absorbed in the journey that the destination hardly mattered. Reading my favourite Paulo Coelho's masterpiece "Veronica Decides To die" , I was immensely inspired to try out "new" things and experiment in life . Non-conformist,I always was!!!
New-Jalpaiguri is a small-town , where one can find cycle rickshaws and dingy eateries. However , I dint waste time , my toy train was waiting on another platform.To be frank,I wasnt particularly impressed with the heritage train(which seemed to impress everyone else), it was one uncomfy place ( as initially i was in the general compartment).The first class was good enough and the chinki TC who arranged for me the ticket for it was even cuter...
Many hours passed in the toy train and finally there it was - First glimpse of Darj. . Some things that stilll starkly stands out in my memories even today were the school girls wearing red short skirts and waving to us.The households selling "momos" with the sichuan sauce , which are just a "perfect" welcome token for anyone coming to darj.And yes the clouds that I could touch with my fingers.
It was a rainy evening whwn I reached Darj. Being a choosy girl that I am, I had a tough time searching for the hotel and more so the view I wanted from my window. Lucky me ! got what i wanted. The window opened to a beautiful glimpse of the town and it seemed as the place where i could stand forever and never get bored.The window opened to happiness of the twinkling lights of the town-houses and also opened to a melancholy of a small light source tucked away from all the other fancy ones - perched at the top of a hill.It opened to the hustle-bustle and also to the silence.
The next day , I could have acted as a tourist jumping around to do some sight seeing--- but I for one, was not pepped up to do that at darj. Instead I treaded on the roads that I dint know will lead to where...However I think wherever they were leading to was surely the way to the heaven , or were heaven themselves...There was beauty in everyone and everything around ..The cosy English pubs , the roadside markets, the temples and the churches...
My journey was not searching for the destination,. but I have to admit that in life I would love to take up many more such journeys without destinations...

P.S. a special thanks to all people i met during the journey , without whom there wouldnt have been any journey nor destination.:)