December 28, 2007

Cricket and More

I have been lucky to have a TV set near my desk at my offices since the time I have come to Mumbai. So with the cricket season on, I see people stopping by and stealing furtive glances or if they are like me, sipping their coffee in front of the screen.

Anyway, with the Boxing Day test on, here is something about proving a point. Pushy always writes passionately about cricket and Sachin. If only he wrote a little more.

December 26, 2007

Warm Christmas

It is a warm Christmas afternoon in Mumbai. I am lying flat on my bed with the laptop snuggled on my knees and typing away. This has been an unforgettable Christmas; one of the best in my life till date. Being born and brought up in Calcutta and spending 12 years in a missionary school ensures that Christmas means something special. In Calcutta it was always the plum cakes from Nahoums, a sudden gift box from Flurry’s or Cathleen’s and a beautifully lit up Park Street. Mumbai disappointed me. You could not smell Christmas in the daily rush of office goers. You could not feel the nip in the air, the oranges that mom used to give every afternoon had transformed into packaged juice from tetra packs, Christmas was on the way of becoming just another date.

Things began to change with my trip to Bangalore. Forgetting my jacket back in Mumbai made certain that the night air chilled me to the bones; the Mallu bakeries had started putting the decorations in. Though not completely, but Christmas was arriving. And then friends went to Goa. Sitting in a luxury suite they called me to tell me about Christmas coming in Goa. Still, Mumbai was far behind.

My Christmas Eve was actually the Saturday night before Christmas. I spent it with a cherished friend, rummaging through the books on offer at Crosswords, picking up Mera Naam Joker and Kabhi Kabhi from Planet M, enjoying a dinner and coffee that felt so comfortable and at ease and without pretensions, running into a pastry shop just before it dropped its shutters and then walking down wide pavements savouring the taste of Blueberry cup cakes while the wind whispered with the trees lining the road. It was a magical night, made beautiful by the realization that at Christmas, we seldom are alone even we are miles away from home.

And so on the actual Christmas Eve I did not mind working late. The ‘call’ had come long back and so at around 10:30 in the night three wise men walked towards the old Portuguese Church in Dadar for the Midnight Mass. The hymns were grand and pompous and I felt as if I was in the sets of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie. Somewhere the innocence I remember in the voices of my school choir was missing but then as the clock struck midnight, a child was born unto this world to bring peace to mankind. When we came back it was pretty late. But that did not stop us from putting on music and dancing the night away. 2 CAs and 2 MBAs make an awful dance group. That’s all I have to say.

As a child, Christmas was never complete without the stocking and my sister would always win on the number of gifts we found every morning inside our stockings. Times have changed, but I always have a stocking by my bed before I tuck in for the night. Today I woke up late, almost when half the day was over. A quick glance at the stocking showed that it was empty. “The child has grown, the dream is gone.” Just as I was starting to make myself a nice Christmas Brunch, the doorbell rang. And there was a Christmas miracle at my doorstep.

I have a senior of mine in the beautiful city of Hyderabad. A senior who has been like an elder sister who never scolds even when you are acting like a complete nincompoop. A senior who never tires to hear of my cribs, a senior who exemplifies whatever good is left in this world. As I opened the door and in a complete daze signed the form, I could not believe my eyes. In front of me was a HUGE black current cake with the words on it, “Always be happy.”

Merry Christmas everyone.

PS: you read about the play Jazz in my last post. It had the most amazing original Christmas joke I have ever heard.

Why was Jesus not born in Bombay?

It requires three wise men and a virgin for the Birth of The Christ.

And then the Music Died

Yesterday I went to watch a play at St. Andrews. A small and beautiful play, Jazz was in many ways a personal tribute I have always wanted to make to music that is eternal. I live in a world where Rock is commercialized, I live in a world where folk is dead, and I live in a world where the Sax no longer plays the Jazz. And though perhaps it is better to respect the old times and not mourn about them, I can not help but feel a sense of loss whenever I put on my old music.

Witty, humourous and ‘in-your-face’, Jazz traversed the glory days of Bollywood music and the importance of music in those days. It spoke of musicians with a passion; it spoke of those unnamed geniuses whose only aim in life was to create music that mattered. All through the play the music kept flowing through the Sax. Music that came from a time when my dad was in college. Music... which yet had the hope of making a better world.

Why do we continue to hope for a Floyd reunion? Why does Bangalore cry when Mark Knofler plays Romeo and Juliet? Why does the world cheer for an Eagle come back? Why does the Rolling Stone never stop? The old bard answered it years ago, “if music be the food of life, play on.”

By the way, have you ever wondered what John Lennon’s last hit was? It was the pavement.

December 24, 2007

Aamchi Mumbai

Of Gods – The visits to Hazi Ali and Siddhi Vinayak were interesting. On the way I picked up some fascinating pieces of information. It seems the road leading to Hazi Ali is under water for a span of time and the visits are obviously barred during those hours of the day. When we went to Hazi Ali, it was at a rush hour and one of us could not take the jostling in the crowd. We returned back half way over the sea and realized that the ‘call’ was yet to come. In Siddhi Vinayak I found a separate enclosure for breast feeding your kids. I think whoever thought of it was amazing. It shows that in India where ‘Godmen’ often rule our minds, the lesser Gods do sometimes care. Siddhi Vinayak actually reminded me of the Saraswati Temple at BITS. Teeming with people, yet quite, tranquil and majestic, it stood with open arms for one and all. The Churches are aplenty in Mumbai and even the smallest of them look beautiful. There is a Japanese Pagoda I saw on the way to Dadar and I think that’s somewhere I have to visit in the months to come.

And of Men – My works takes me to various parts of the town and meet different people. I think that is one thing that keeps me going and ensures that I do not actually dislike the Monday mornings as much as I claim to do. Anyway, ever since coming to Mumbai I have been hearing how Mumbai is a city for the rich but in my day to day work I keep finding examples that clearly says that to live happily ‘All you need is love’. (It is by the way one of my favourite movie taglines). A friend of mine coming into Mumbai called me up to ask if a certain amount of stipend was enough for survival in Mumbai. I agree I was stunned for a moment. Maybe life has been good for me until now and I have not had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, but when people ask if a ‘substantial’ amount of money is enough for survival, I do have my worries. Substantial anyway is a relative term. I was searching for my answer and this answer came to me from a housewife in sub-urban Mumbai who told me how happy her family was with the money her husband made. It was heartening to see how beautiful she had made her small 1 BHK apartment. ‘Mast rehneka, mast jeeneka.’ If only we could learn something from her.

Mumbai’s shame – I think if Mumbai loses its shine in any aspect, it is in its rude and insolent autorickshaws. In a city where the taxis set an example of hospitality, the autos remind you of your nightmare in Delhi and Chennai. In fact, I think the only place where the autos can’t do whatever they want is in Calcutta. But anyway, there they would do whatever the union wants them to do. The sad part is that the taxis are these days slowly but surely moving in the way of the autos. Refusals which were unheard of are now a reality.

Thank You Calcutta – I always knew that my upbringing in Calcutta will do me some good in ways I would never think of. It suddenly struck me while crossing the road outside Andheri Station. Anyone who has grown up in Calcutta knows that the sidewalks are for the hawkers, the roads are for the pedestrians and the automobiles must find their way between the two. So it gives us an uncanny sense of understanding the drivers’ mindsets while crossing road. In Cal, the speed of the traffic is so slow at times that you can cross the road twice before the car reaches anywhere near you. Mumbai is a little better but even then they can’t stop a Calcuttan from becoming a King of the roads. During the first two days, I waited and waited and waited and then the Calcuttan in me realized that he could teach a thing or two to the Mumbaikar. I fail to understand how a city which waits patiently in a line to get up on a bus do not know how to safely cross the roads.

I am my Own Fantasy - The shopper is the deity that I worship day in and day out and the stores are my places of pilgrimage. My shopping expeditions have been mostly with Amit who introduced me to the food loving bachelor’s saving grace; Muesli and (given the proliferation of corny people around me) to packed corn and baked beans. Anyway the other day I ditched Amit and went with Vishy to Hypercity and there to quote him “I went crazy”. Exotic salads, freshly prepared bread, fresh fruits, not so fresh packaged foods and around 20 kgs of milk and juice of every imaginable flavour filled up the trolley. By the time I left Hypercity, the food bill had almost touched the Rs. 2700 mark and I hoped if only all my shoppers were like me, life would have been so less complicated.

The Wedding and The Travel

It was the first wedding of the wing and there was no way I was going to miss the wedding of the guy who has stood by me through thick and thin since the day I met him for the first time in June 2001. Weddings are a time when at our age we begin to introspect. I will have to admit a lot us were freaked out thinking what the future might hold for us. But that did not matter. The entire wing, well almost the entire wing, a huge number of juniors who were now successful men and women by their own rights came to the wedding and it was sort of a BITSian reunion in Bangalore. The food, the music, the dancing and friends, Bangalore turned out to be magical. And they looked so wonderful together. Meri Yaar ki shaadi thi aur main bahut hi khus tha. It’s not always that you are a good friend of both the bride and the groom.

But Bangalore was not just that. Bangalore was the nip in the air that the winter in Mumbai lacked. It was an empty terrace, at two in the night, opening my heart out. It was letting go of Corner House for Gelato. It was staying awake watching Johnny Gaddar. It was a fearful biking ride late into the night. It was having innumerable cups of chai squatting on the steps in front of a shop that had pulled down its shutters. It was waking up in the morning to aroma of filter coffee and Rawa Dosas. It was going back to the profs who made me what I am and find reconfirmation for my choices. It was Coffee Day on Airport Road. It was going back to a life that keeps calling me back.


What shall we use

To fill the empty spaces

Where we used to talk?

How shall I fill

The final places?

How can I complete the wall?

Floyd as usual came to the rescue on a lonely Thursday night.

December 05, 2007

Of Love and Un-love

“Hi Sis, Sid here… Na I’m fine… No I’m going out for Dinner… With B of course… Who’s B… Oh right you wouldn’t know. She works at the Office next door. A? Arre, A is just a friend…Haan Z is a good friend too... No.. yes… Arre… What!!!... Didi listen, I’m not a Casanova. Hallo Hallo Didi? Didi?”

Sid was exasperated. First Adi, his best friend and now his Sis. Everyone thought he was becoming a bohemian. No one understood what he wanted, who he searched for.

The cell rang again. It was A.

A: Hi Sid
Sid: Hey. How are you?
A: Sid, tell me something. Do you like me?
S: Of course I do. You aren’t a devil incarnate as far as I know.
A: I knew it. You are in love with me.
S: (faints) What???????????????
A: That’s why you are trying to avoid me tonight.
S: No, I’m actually going for a Dinner with B.
A: Don’t lie to me. Chirag told me everything.

Now Sid got thinking. Who was Chirag? “Ahh… that old geezer at Retail Banking.” Self imposed elder brother, the matchmaker of Indians in New York. He was famous for ‘sensing’ relationships, most of which reminded Sid of the famous Maine Pyar Kiya Dialogue. “Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahin ban sakte.”

That movie was the mother of K serials, Sid thought. Anyway, Chirag must have told A I like her because I too irritated to answer his question on what’s going on between us. Focus Sid Focus. You are on a call.

S: Now look A. I don’t know what Chirag said. But I seriously think there’s nothing between us. You were new to the city and I thought I should help you out. I help dozens of people. Sometimes I even help the cats of Mrs. Nopani when she brings a new one from her parent’s home in Lucknow.
A: Sid all my friends know that you have feelings for me.
S: (now searching for a rope to hang himself) And how do they know?
A: I told them. But wasn’t it obvious from the way you looked at me with tears in your eyes?
S: Well, unfortunately, onions do bring tears to my eyes. But… no listen… but… no… seriously… arre.. listen… jahhhhhh

The phone rang again.

B: Sid is that you?
S: B I am not in love with you.
B: (splutters) What was that?
S: No, please confirm that going out to dinner with you would not imply I am in love with you.
B: You must be crazy. Come on I am hungry.

25 years later
Sid is a married man, living happily without a care in the world. He claims he found his soulmate who claims she did the biggest mistake by marrying him. They have a cherubic daughter D.
D: Pop. Someone’s on line for you.
S: Who’s it?
D: It’s A aunty.
S: What now?
D: She wants to know if you have feelings for her still and why you have not moved on?
S: #^$^&#$#$%@#@#. Stop acting smart (takes the phone) Hi A. How are you?
A: Sid, I read the last book you wrote. It’s about our relationship right?
S: It’s about two megalomaniac robots lost in the tribal planet of Zinziba.
A: Come one Sid, don’t lie. The metaphor was so striking.
S: I think you are right. In my subconscious you are a megalomaniac robot. (Someone Kill Him. What did the Japanese do? Right Harakiri. Focus Sid. Focus. She’s on the line)
A: I hate you Sid.
D till now is listening intently to the conversation.
D: Pops. What’s wrong with her?
S: Well, she thinks I fell head over heels for her while I was working in NY.
D: Did you meet Mom then?
S: Nopes I met her when I was back in India.
Now Mom M returns from office at this point.
D: Mom, Dad’s extra marital affair continues
S: Et tu Brute?
M: Did A call again?
D: (Giggles) Yeah
M: Poor Girl
D: Mom, why does pop keep harping about you being the soul-mate he thought he would never find? In fact, B aunty keeps telling me, Dad bored every friend about how no woman he met was what he was looking for.
M: Actually, we were cellmates. We met while both of us were caught traveling without ticket at Mumbai and we spent the night in the lock up together. We got talking and somehow after three years we realized we were looking for each other all this while.

Sid looked fondly at his family. Yet, he was sad for someone. Sad for the Indian girl A who came to live in the apartment next to his and in that new world met people who changed her. Sad for A, who even 25 years later cannot accept the fact that someone could have nothing to do with her, except as an acquaintance. Sad for A, who takes pride in having the upper hand in relationships with others. Sad for A, who never was the remotest picture of his soulmate.

M looked at the frown on Sid’s forehead. He must be thinking about A. Sid always hoped that A would one day move on. What Sid did not realize that this thought of Sid being in love with her kept A going on for all these years instilling her sense of pride in herself.
Men, they would never understand women.

December 03, 2007

Aap ki Dua se Baki thik thak hain

It has been a strange day. Twenty minutes after the hour hand crossed twelve; I was woken up by yet another phone call, the last of them all. Time zones across the world play pretty tricks at times. After I kept down the phone, I lay thinking. It had been a no-events day as far as I was concerned and something felt wrong. For a change, I was not greatly excited about the fact that I was alive. Since morning I was trying to find a meaning for my life and just once statement kept popping up,
“My life is combination of piping hot oranges and icy cold baggages.”

Wow! That was profound. Blame it on the fever maybe. But that was not a reason for me to make ‘smart-alecy’ comments to the souls who were kind enough to call. Sometimes I felt the comments almost tip-toed across the line to become idiotic and rude. I guess I had nothing to talk to people and the place where the words come out of was on a high after an overdose of Strepsils. I guess the irritation was in not having a cake for the first time. Yups, that's a believable excuse in my case.

I have always believed that there is an author hidden within each one of us and it remains to us to find that special writer from amongst the people around us. The time I did my CF, I was searching everywhere possible for a theme verse. The ones I wrote perhaps were the most horrible, pompous and shallow at the same time. No one seemed to be able to pen a verse that would capture the lives and times of the 5000 odd BITSians and the numerous alumni. And then Saha came in with the most poignant melancholy and yet soothing verse I have ever seen in my life. That soon became the most powerful opening verse for any CF I have seen in my lifetime. But that is another story. A writer hearing only the calls of his inner voice, Saha has been the most reticent of them all.

Today as I tried to figure out what was troubling me, he came to my rescue with something he had penned a few months back. One of the best articles I have seen so far describing exactly what I feel today.

Twenty something...
It is when you stop going along with the crowd and start realizing that there are many things about yourself that you didn't know and may not like. You start feeling insecure and wonder where you will be in a year or two, but then get scared because you barely know where you are now. You start realizing that people are selfish and that, maybe, those friends that you thought you were so close to aren't exactly the greatest people you have ever met, and the people you have lost touch with are some of the most important ones. What you don't recognize is that they are realizing that too, and aren't really cold, catty, mean or insincere, but that they are as confused as you. You look at your job... and it is not even close to what you thought you would be doing, or maybe you are looking for a job and realizing that you are going to have to start at the bottom and that scares you. Your opinions have gotten stronger. You see what others are doing and find yourself judging more than usual because suddenly you realize that you have certain boundaries in your life and are constantly adding things to your list of what is acceptable and what isn't. One minute, you are insecure and then the next, secure. You laugh and cry with the greatest force of your life. You feel alone and scared and confused. Suddenly, change is the enemy and you try and cling on to the past with dear life, but soon realize that the past is drifting further and further away, and there is nothing to do but stay where you are or move forward. You get your heart broken and wonder how someone you loved could do such damage to you. Or you lie in bed and wonder why you can't meet anyone decent enough that you want to get to know better. Or maybe you love someone but love someone else too and cannot figure out why you're doing this because you know that you aren't a bad person. One night stands and random hook ups start to look cheap. Getting wasted and acting like an idiot starts to look pathetic. You go through the same emotions and questions over and over, and talk with your friends about the same topics because you cannot seem to make a decision. You worry about loans, money, the future and making a life for yourself...and while winning the race would be great, right now you'd just like to be a contender! What you may not realize is that every one reading this relates to it.
We are in our best of times and our worst of times; trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out.