August 25, 2008

On the Roads of Mumbai

A Drive Less Ordinary - I seem to have fallen in love with the Mumbai Pune Expressway and the adjoining roads. Over the past few weeks I have been to Kalwa, Panvel, Khapoli, Thakurwari and the innermost parts of Raigarh District. It has been an eye opener. I met people who living within a couple of hundred kilometres from Mumbai had never seen Mumbai. I learnt what being content was all about. I learnt what it meant to be able to live life as it pans out without any excitement, every single day of ones own life. Here in Mumbai we live from weekend to weekend, going through the normal routine of waking up, catching the train to office and then back again. Friday evenings and weekends become the most hyped up taglines on gtalk status messages without anything spectacular ever happening to anyone on any weekend. Yet, Mumbai lives in hope. But in Thakurwari, every morning is the same and yet every day the work in the fields is different. (In case you remember an amazing movie called Sarkar Raaj, you’ll remember this village. In an aside, Amitabh Bachhan never ceases to amaze me. I am eagerly waiting for The Last Lear)

While coming back from one of these trips, I heard the clouds rumble above me and before I knew it the rains hit the roads. Have you ever driven in blinding rain on a highway? Have you ever seen droplets of water on your window screen defy gravity and travel upwards? Have you ever wondered if the droplets had a mind of their own and wanted to go back home, to the clouds, where they belonged?

With All Due Respect – Culture is an acquired taste. It is also a very complex taste. In Calcutta, it’s very ease to identify the real connoisseurs from the pretenders but in Mumbai it is really difficult. And perhaps it is almost impossible in the auditoriums of the NCPA. I was there in the Experimental Theatre the other day for a piano recital and in my office attire felt like a sore thumb sticking out. The audience was mostly elderly or people who were whispering loudly about how amazing Mr. Maciej Pikulski would be. I was definitely the least knowledgeable in the crowd. I can not even differentiate between a d-flat and a c-minor. For me music has always been one that soothes my soul. One that can keep me awake at night for hours or lull me to sleep when I need it the most. Anyway, coming back to the point, I was appalled at the behaviour by some of the members of the audience. The cell phones kept on ringing. People kept talking between themselves with complete disregard to the performers. And it was then that I could differentiate the chaff from the wheat. Unfortunately in Mumbai, the chaff and the wheat are almost inseparable unless thrown into the water together.

Ala Re Govinda Ala Re – Janmastami has been special in many ways in my life. I still remember collecting my Physics Paper in BITS and the Prof commenting, “Well this is expected when you are celebrating Janmastami with your friends before the exam.” In my defence, I was just having dinner. Secondly I remember a very excited Dee strategizing about how to have the least time in Matki Phod competition at IIMB and encouraging us to take swigs of Gatorade or some other energy drinks. Well, the very unsporting H block of mine did not win in the two years Dee and I were on campus. Anyway, this Janmastami I was in the heart of Mumbai looking at the various Dahi Handis being organized across the city. The ones at Wadala were perhaps smaller in size and prize money but definitely not small in terms of enthusiasm. It felt nice to stand with the crowd waiting for the teams to come in and break the handis and yet something felt not right. Every team was brandishing Tee Shirts from one political outfit or the other. And this was everywhere. Perhaps the days, when every person across communities came together to celebrate a festival, are indeed gone from the memory of Mumbai.


Anonymous said...

"We live from weekend to weekend." ....isn't that what life becomes once we start working....makes one accept this fact and yet yearn for those days of school and college all over again....nice post, specially the Culture is an acquires taste part.

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

Yes tell me about it :( especially on a Monday morning