October 31, 2008

The Changing Face of Movies

Even though I am suffering from a severe cash flow issue and might have to be bailed out soon, I just can not seem to let go off the habit of watching every movie that gets released. At the cost of getting disowned by most people, I have to admit that I have watched Heroes, Roadside Romeo and Body of Lies at a stretch over the last few days. The point however is not to discuss how the movies were. It’s for you to decide. You have the choice to go and watch the movie and like or dislike it. And also say it out or not.

Long back, someone said to me, there are good movies and bad movies, just like there are books. I somehow do not agree. Every movie and book has something you might want to carry back with you. And if it doesn’t make sense to you, it might make to someone else. For example, I never found what was so extraordinary about Catcher in the Rye.

Anyway, the point of the post was how things have changed and how some things have not. We have travelled far from the enemy bashing jingoistic patriotism of Gadar and LOC. Heroes poses an important question, “Why should someone join the Indian Army?” It has been a question I have been asking myself for a long time. None of my friends are in the Army. From a total batch strength of around 200 in school, around 800 in BITS and around 230 odd in IIMB, not a single young man or woman moved into the armed forces.

Heroes could have become a second Lakshya if it did not try to placate all the friends the director and producer had made on their way. I would not want to see Sunny Deol fight 20 goons with his bare hands. I have seen Prahaar and after its realities I did not want to see a super human Sunny Deol.

There was an extremely telling moment in the movie lost in the histrionics of Sohail Khan. When a kid was asked if he went to the army who would take care of his mom, the kid answered, “Mom takes care of everyone. She can take care of herself. I shall take care of the nation.”

I think that’s what the movie was all about. Pride

Roadside Romeo is the first step of Indian animation towards adulthood and I do not care two hoots if Disney lent us a hand. If I can go and spend money on Meet the Robinsons, I can very well spend my money on Roadside Romeo. Javed Jaffrey steals the show with his overdone accent that reminds you of the stereotypes of the South that Bollywood so lovingly treasures. But seriously, someone should go and tell YashRaj Films that one can not live off DDLJ for ever. But frankly, after all the 2-D animations that hit the Indian screens recently, this was a step change.

I was watching True Lies on Star the other night, having come back from a morning show of Body of Lies. And I suddenly realized how the entire ball game had changed. Hollywood has no more any place for a Rambo or an Arnold. Of course till Bruce Willis can ride a wheelchair, he’ll continue to make Die Hard. But even then, Hollywood has agreed that terror is smarter and deadlier than it ever was imagined. It’s no longer about the Chinese stealing nuclear secrets or some mad hatter Russian scientist out to rule the world. It’s about terror that lives amongst us. Terror that’s full of lies, deceit, pawns and kings and a game of chess.

October 30, 2008

The Festival of Lights

Ojas had come down to Mumbai on his way back to his home and he made an interesting statement. He said Maharashtra liked to celebrate its festivals over a long period of time. After the week long Diwali Celebrations in Mumbai I guess I agree with him. My Diwali started almost a week back when I was forced to walk half my way back from Dadar as everyone seemed to have gone crazy over shopping. This is a craze I have seen only during Pre Puja shopping in the markets of Gariahaat and Hatibagan in Calcutta. And Mumbai almost matched the insanity. Due to unfortunate incidents that make almost everyone ask, “Whose Mumbai is it anyway?” few of the days saw almost all shops down their shutters, Shivaji Park always being in the centre of news these days for all the wrong reasons.

In fact, on the day everyone advised people to stay back at home, I decided to walk around Mahim and Shivaji Park just to figure out the pulse of the city and the pulse was throbbing with pain over lost sales on a day that was perfect otherwise for shopping.

We had a small wing get together at the TIFR campus and I realized how badly I miss the campus life. Lying down after lunch under the shades of a tree on a beautiful lawn transferred me back into time, to a terrestrial green sky I had left behind. Opening your eyes after a good afternoon siesta to a vast expanse of the ocean can do wonders to your spirit, battered from the daily travels in local trains in order to plug in your laptops and fight for market share. And to see Kishor and Ojas still have their craze for Rubick’s cube makes me want to smile. And remember.

While we sat on the rocks in the evening, the fireworks went up from Navinagar. The army had rung in Diwali and when the rockets burst over the sea without the city skyline blocking your view, you can feel an exhilarating sense of belonging, even though Diwali might not be the most important festival for the part of the country you come from.

Even though The Times of India is known for Mumbai Mirror more than anything else, I think they should be given credit for organizing some of the best free concerts in the city. On Sunday night, Times Diwali Festival hosted U. Srinivasan and Shivkumar Sharma for a concert at Bandra Fort. Just like Kochi Fort has no fort, Bandra also has no Fort but with lights adorning the trees and flowers strewn on the paths, the atmosphere does make you forget that you are in Mumbai. And Of course, the crowd is much more down to earth than the usual NCPA crowd.

The night before Diwali something nice happened. I was walking in the middle of nowhere. There was a huge traffic condition that I had left behind and there was no way a bus or a cab would come along. I was also too near my house for any self respecting Indian cabbie to agree to go. Suddenly however a cab stopped by my side and asked me if I wanted to go to my house. It turned out to be a cab I had used before to go to Dadar. He actually stopped on the way seeing me. It felt nice. They make all sorts of feel good movies for Christmas in Hollywood. Maybe we should do one for Diwali.

It’s Diwali night. The people in my apartment building seem to have been not affected at all by the financial crunch. The amount of sparklers and fire crackers that have been burning outside on the road could very well substitute for my annual income for the next five years. I of course am not complaining. I have drawn aside the curtains of the window and it looks beautiful. Whether you have celebrated Diwali as an invocation to Goddess Laxmi, as the homecoming of Rama to Ayodhya or as the destruction of Narkasur it doesn’t matter. As my grandma used to say, “Let good things happen to everyone- Sobar Bhalo hok

Afterthought: Why on earth can the societies/ public take responsibility for the general mess that they make with all the debris left behind from the crackers and clean up the streets? In Pilani too people just left things scattered on the road. Would we do it in our own homes?

October 23, 2008

A Reconciliation Post and The Goalkeeper Theory

Yesterday’s post seemed to have ruffled quite a few feathers. Normally docile men and women who have forgiven many of my crazy theories have taken a strong exception to my last post, especially since it seemed to be misaligned completely to the popularly held theories. The point being sometimes it is good to incite people. At least they call you up to ask you to get your head checked or better still get married.

As if relatives weren’t enough.

Let me try to put my view point straight. I have always said, friendship is more important than love. Friendship can exist without love but love can not exist without friendship. It is purely a case of logical reasoning. I mean leaving aside the complications of the heart; it is merely a matter of a mathematical equation of A meeting B to give rise to situation C. Now the fun part is that once the first few moments of anxiety and excitement of the process of courtship is over, the relationship becomes a compromise for existing in a comfortable position. You are just comfortable being in the relationship. Any change just creates chaos. Like most other cases of living a static life, it is then that people look out for better options. The greener pastures may come in the form of a second honeymoon, an extra marital affair, or maybe just a simple double timing of your existing partner. So what is so great about this whole thing about being in relationship that people spend reams of paper and aeons of time writing about?

In fact I think this is just an extension of the Goalkeeper theory. For those uninitiated, I first came to know about this great theory in the hallowed portals of IIMB. Many great men have researched this topic extensively so I will not go into the gory details. Let me just jot down the main points.

First, imagine the woman of your dream to be The Goal. For all you geeks, the Goal need not be one of the best books on Operations. Normally, most goals have a Goalkeeper in the form of a current boyfriend or an imaginary boyfriend or an aura of mystery that you can not penetrate. There are also a lot of defenders. Some of the defenders come in the form of family, the most difficult being an elder brother or an Amrish Puri type father. There are also “brothers” that the woman makes. These often are men who would have loved to be the Goalkeeper but were unable to. So they now defend like there’s no tomorrow. The penultimate set of defenders is the most dangerous. These are people who would have loved to be the Goalkeeper themselves but since there is someone already for that post, they are trying to prevent all the other hopefuls and waiting to foul the other defenders. The last set of defenders is of course a result of Cold War Spy stories. These are your friends whom you have put as defenders in order to give you inside story about the opposition. Non Family Defenders often make a self goal. Some love the experience. Some go through a guilt phase and then love it anyway.

The beauty of this game is that once you score you yourself become the goalkeeper and the game continues. This is the classical goalkeeper theory.

Now I present to you Banjo’s Postulate I – If a goalkeeper is able to sustain his position for a long time, slowly he will get frustrated and leave for scoring a goal somewhere else. One by one, the defenders will lose interest and finally the big burly Big Brother defender and the Amrish Puri think-alike father will grudgingly accept him as an inevitable pest. As a result, he’ll take it easy, the goal will take it easy and both the parties involved will be comfortable in their peaceful co-existence.

Given such a situation, if you are as lazy as the average Homo sapiens, you’ll just stick on here since it is comfortable and you do not think that there is any merit in going through the entire rigmarole of trying to defend, score and be the Goalkeeper for another goal, even though you are aware of the existence of better goals.

I mean, it is just plain and simple economics people. You do not want to invest money in new ventures when the existing business is a Star in the BCG 2X2.

Oh by the way, this is very gender specific. I do not know if women have the same theory. If I knew what women think, I would at least have sold some more soaps and asked for a pay hike in order to pay my credit card bills.

But knowing God is easier than knowing women. So I continue to live on plastic money.

October 22, 2008

When Pictures Say What I Can't

This is a classic from xkcd. And I think this tells best what I often feel about familiarity and relationships. And why people can't ever understand that compromise is not necessarily a bad thing. Once people accept that relationships are a compromise I think they can afford to put down their rose tinted glasses.

The Big Questions Facing Me Today

I was wondering on a crowded local train yesterday morning what the Big Questions in my life are. Yeah, it’s funny. I actually am having the time to think about the Big Questions which are my personal quest for answers. So without indulging in wasting more time, let me get straight to the point, errr I mean Questions.

Question 1 – If someone who’s six feet tall goes to learn swimming when he’s old and bald, would they put him in the kiddy pool? But that might just wet the palm of the feet.

Question 2 – When people assign a nickname to someone else and they turn out to be prophetic, can the nickname givers make a living out of naming people? For example, whoever named Miss T, Miss T is prophetic. She’s still a Miss and sells tea. When she decides to marry, she’ll just modify it to Ms. T. That’s more politically correct too. But whoever named Banjo, Banjo is definitely not so. Last known Banjo had not yet learnt to play any instrument, leave alone the Banjo.

Question 3 – If the Chocolate Man in the Axe Ad really existed, would he be able to resist the temptation of eating himself up? And Why not Tiramisu?

Question 4 – Why can’t we name people like chemical formulae? For example, 1-ethyl, 2-methyl benzyl chloride seems an awesome name to me. Imagine Dil to Pagal Hain. SRK walks in and says, “Hi, I’m 1-ethyl, 2-methyl benzyl chloride, naam toh suna hoga.”

And Finally Question 5 –Why was Gunda, the greatest movie ever made in Bollywood, featuring Prabhuji, not sent for The Oscars?

Yeah I know… It’s just that there’s so much to say and so little capability to put them in words. I’m suffering from intellectual dementia. I’m not a TV actor, so Joey is out. I’m not even funny so there goes Chandler. And I’ve never been divorced so I’m not Ross. I’m not even one of the top three urban stereotypes of our generation.

What can I say?

October 16, 2008

Of Forgotten Portuguese Settlements and Secluded Beaches

The Alibagh trip was sudden and without any proper planning and therefore beset with confusions. When I landed up at India Gate dreamy eyed and still thinking it’s only a dream, A tells me “arre you are coming with us?” Well, I was supposed to. Wasn’t I? “Et tu Brute!!!”

Anyway to cut a long confused story short and completely ignoring the treasury and i-banker ditchers, 2 consultants, a project financer and a soap seller got up on top of a very shady looking boat. When the boat was in mid sea, it transpired that yours truly was the most proficient swimmer of them all. Under such circumstances, lives flash before your eyes, people turn philosophical and so the consults began to crib about the black holes in their lives, the financer wanted some financial aid herself and me, the perennially stripped of cash individual, wondered whether to eat the Bourbon first or whether to eat the cake.

See when your whole life is like a lost boat in a deep sea (imagine a long sigh) seas in real life do not make you unnerved. What matters is that who amongst the four is carrying the food.

The boat ride was spectacular. You could see the helicopters flying out to Bombay High. You could also pray when a HUGE ship decided that it had the right of the way. Somehow because of so many ships and smaller boats I could not see the light play on the waves. That always makes me feel happy.

When we landed at Alibagh and had unbelievably bad South Indian food in a Maharashtrian hotel, we decided to hit the beach. The consults had come equipped with a well defined plan of action. But like most consulting projects, the on ground realities were slightly different. Take for example, the first beach that we visited. Instead of being the golden sands we saw a stone pathway giving you the feel of Marine Drive.

But then what differentiates a good consult from a bad one is improvisation. So plans were soon made and we took a speed boat to Kolaba Fort. Though we did not find any Royal Bathrooms (I love seeing Royal Bathrooms. “Please see Sir on your right. This is where Shah Jahan came first thing in the morning”) we did find a potential source of Hepatitis A for Shivaji’s soldiers. And then we moved to the walls that surrounded the fort and we could see the entire expanse of sea beneath us. We stood on the same spot as soldiers of yesteryear stood and kept a look out at the vast sea. I could sense them look at the mast of a ship coming up the horizon and alerting the sentinels at the ground. The shells on the rocks were the best I have ever seen. Untouched by human interference, the sea gulls nested amongst the rocks as the sea brought them gifts from her depth.

We moved on to a lovely secluded beach and the sea was calm. The sun shone heavily but the waters cooled my feet. It was as if I had come all the way to the world’s best swimming pool. After a good dip, we decided we had only a few options. After all, we were hard pressed for time. In a matter of moments, we decided to search for the Portuguese ruins of which no one seemed to know. As we went along, it felt as if we were on a wild goose chase and then suddenly there was a huge broken down wall and on it was written the words – Jesuit Monastery.

As we walked around the wooden fence suddenly things started happening like it’s shown is Zee Horror Show. There was a strange gentleman who stopped on the way and asked if we were looking for something. He took us off the beaten track and led us to a tunnel beneath those walls. The tunnel was as deep as the caves beneath Gotham City and as fearsome as the caves of the forge that made the One Ring.

I went a step in and something flapped its wings. Maybe it was the effect of reading Brisingr late into the night but at that point of time, I lost my senses. The darkness gripped my conscious and I struggled out. Everything looked out of this world, unreal to say the least.

The man left as abruptly as he had come; giving us directions to the watchtower. We walked for a few minutes and then came out into an opening with a once majestic Watchtower, broken down palaces and a look out point for any signs of the British attacking. These were the ruins of the losers in the race for colonial supremacy and history and the locals had forgotten them

The travel back was uneventful except that when Gateway stared at me it seemed more regal than ever before. It seemed like the mark of the victor on the visage of India.

Edit: In Para 1 you might get confused as the soul of alec smart did. It's Gateway. I'm always confused between the two. Has been happening since they shifted the capital from Cal to Delhi. So let it remain as it is. But Thanks :)

October 10, 2008

The Heart of Calcutta

It was the peak of Ganapati Festival in Mumbai. And I had heard it was as big as Durga Puja in Calcutta. At least Bollywood movies had proved to us so much. And I eagerly anticipated it. And like most hyped up anticipations of my life, I was disappointed. Ganpati Festival was big in Mumbai but it lacked the warmth that I had expected it to exuberate. It had become a festival of the people way below the social order, or as someone put it, way up the higher one. Mumbai was too busy to grant its patron God more than a day of holiday and even though the festivities were supposed to last for more than a week, there were no great traffic congestion on any night (well, in Mumbai it can’t get worse, can it?)

Lalbagh cha Raja was perhaps the most famous of all the Elephant Gods adorning the city pandals and three of decided we should hit it. As luck would have it, instead of the 5 hour wait that we had braced ourselves for, we were able to glimpse his calm and serene face for around six and a half seconds before security guards pushed us aside. All in the course of two and a half hours. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that Ganpati did not bring Mumbai to a standstill as I had seen Durga do to Calcutta. “After all,” I thought, “she is more powerful than her son. That’s the best explanation.”

About a week back I realized that once again I will not be home for Durga Puja. I’ll not be able to visit Jodhpur Park and have Puchkas there, nor could I go and show off my shooting skills at Belgachia Sadharan or look in wonder at the legacy that was Baghbazar Sarbojonin. But I was excited. Durga Puja in a new city should be fun.

On Sasthi (the sixth day. For Bengalis, the real deal starts on Sashthi) A called. He was a veteran at going to Durga Puja in Mumbai. It was a Sunday and we headed to Shivaji Park. For some reason, the setting took me back to a Puja in Pilani and not to one I had spent my childhood years in. Somehow Puja at Pilani meant something else to me. But let’s not reminisce.

We had horrible Egg Rolls and Fish Fries imagining ourselves to be somewhere in Calcutta. Surprisingly it worked. The next three days I worked away at my office, earning my living, stopping on the way back to visit the Puja at Shivaji Park. It was not the best of times. And I got through it only thanks to my oldest ‘best friend’ who kept on sending me links of live Pujo and Mahalaya Strotas from his base in Germany. Sometimes that’s what best friends are for. To remind you, that you will never be alone again. And then on Nabami, something happened.

We had gone to watch Hell Boy and as much as the women hate the men for making them sit through the movie, I thought the movie was passable as a one time watch. Anyway, as we walked out a friend suddenly asked me if I had been to any Puja yet and at 2:00 in the morning he had this hugely crazy idea. We decided to visit Shivaji Park again. I remembered Mumbai’s response to Ganpati and so while speeding towards the Pandal I said, “Stan, there’s no way on earth that we’ll be able to see any crowd at the Puja. If there’s any decent crowd, from a believer I will turn into a fanatical believer.”

And I did that night.

The place was teeming with people at 3:00 in the night. Later I got to know that it was the same everywhere. Be it, Dadar or Lokhandwala, Santa Cruz or Vashi, Bongs had made the night their own. And the heartening part was to have a glimpse of ‘Bong Mata’ the non bongs too thronged the Pandals. And of course as usual Bong women were dressed to the hilt. I was transferred back to Calcutta, feeling its heart throbbing through the hearts of Mumbai. They beat in unison.

And then I began to see things in a different perspective.

I saw slum dwellers in Wadala twirling their Dandiya sticks to the tunes of a Himesh number. I saw up market societies set up Dandiya dance sessions where everyone irrespective of region was trying to dance the Dandiya. The Garba was everywhere, only if I cared to look.

I love Calcutta and its spirit and the way it can celebrate the homecoming of their beloved daughter, Uma whom India knows as Durga. But Navratri showed me Mumbai too can celebrate. Maybe Ganpati is its favourite God but Navratri is its favourite festival.

Or maybe I just didn’t look at the right places. I’ll reserve my comments till another day. And so even though the Bong in me yearns to be in Calcutta for the Pujas next year, he knows that Mumbai will not disappoint him.

I shifted my house on the last day of the Pujas and as I lie on my bed feeling the moist air on my face that has flirted with the raindrops, I wish the daughter of Bengal a fine farewell wishing her to come back safely again next year.

As we shouted from the top of the truck during the immersion – Asche Bochor Abar Hobe.

October 08, 2008

Bengal’s Last Hero

Today as I was waiting for the clock to strike six so that I could make my getaway, a fellow bong and school mate from Germany pinged me knowing fully well what news could distress me to no end. (Lately people have been developing the habit of giving me distressing news during the course of work. For example, someone pings and says E-Ka is marrying K-Jo.) But then this news was more distressing than any other. Ganguly had finally announced his retirement.

A lot of events flashed in front of my eyes. I remembered how four or five of us had defended Ganguly all through our 2 years at IIMB when everyone worth a penny of salt was fighting against Dada and us. Dada came back again and again, like a phoenix defying every doomsday prediction and getting deified in the eyes of his ardent fans. Lots will be written about him, many better writers will write eulogies for the Prince of Calcutta but here let me just try to say what endeared him to me.

To say I admire Ganguly because he’s a Bong will be akin to questioning my basic levels of intelligence. I have never been regional and I hope I never will be accused of being one. Yet I can sense some logic in Bengalis being blind to any fault of their beloved Dada. The Tamilians had their MGR, the Telugus their NTRs. For a communist and hero starved state, Ganguly came like a ray of hope. From the days when Bengal defined the directions of the Freedom Struggle, to the failed Naxalite Movement that claimed the lives of the best and brightest of Bengal, till the communist reign in a state where hero worship had been replaced by ‘party worship’ Bengalis starved for a hero. The nation was growing tired of flaunting its Tagore, Teresa and Bose. At that moment came a century at Lords. And Ganguly became the symbol of Bengal’s hurt pride slowly raising its head again. They had been told by their leadership that Bengal was lagging behind because the ‘Centre’ i.e. Delhi hated this communist state. The students were leaving the state in droves as the Engineering and Medical Colleges had not grown in number since their Parent’s times. And then came Toronto. Newspapers feasted on the new Hero. Bengal realized that it could still perform on a bigger platform. His Love marriage with his childhood sweetheart made every Bengali mother feel protective about their son. Every detail of his life was gobbled up by The Bengali Bhadrolok with his morning cup of tea and as he went to office in Metro. Finally, Jyoti Basu refused to become the Prime Minister but Dada became the India’s Cricket Captain, a position more important than that of the PM for this cricket crazy nation. And since then Bengal has been there for Ganguly.

I admire Ganguly for quite a few reasons. He made us realize that we could look at the best in the eye and never blink. He made us realize that it’s not wrong to break traditions if your ultimate objective is to be the best. He told us that we a billion strong nation can win the World Cup once again, even if it’s a World of 9 nations. He showed us that brilliance can’t be stopped. Even with 9 fielders guarding the off side, his bat would show the ball the direction to the boundary.

But the only reason why India should remember Dada is because he is the one who destroyed the age old system of selection processes in Indian Cricket. He nurtured talent whenever he found one and backed him to the hilt. He was our first players’ captain. He was Dada - both the Don and the loving Elder Brother. What Team India today is actually a dream that Dada had planted.

He perhaps could have retired with more dignity. There was perhaps truth in the accusations against him. But then he’s not a God. We have a Tendulkar for that slot. And that’s why Ganguly will be remembered - as the human who dared to defy conventions.

October 06, 2008

About Other Things and Poetry

They have been there for me always. And yet, these days when I speak to them I just can’t shake off the feeling of restlessness. I miss calls. Am late in calling back, all the while knowing this is not me. And yet, I just can’t shake it all off and then draw back. The cloud of confusion engulfs me as I sit sipping coffee or making plans for the next movie or the Ghazal concert.

A close friend told me something strange a few days back. He said, “Banjo, as we are getting older, we are becoming much less courageous.” I guess he’s right.

I tried going to plays. In fact, I think I have become the biggest follower of Rage and Rahul Da Cunha. I have not missed a Rage Play since I have been to Mumbai. I went to Chaos Theory and in spite of its brilliant wit and dialogues; I began comparing it to Love Letters. Unfair competition, I agree. I then went to Me, Kash and Cruise and realized that a brilliant style perhaps cannot make up for a weak script ridden with clichés. But Rajit Kapur, you have to applaud him. He came in at moments to define the world outside the three main protagonists and yet had our attention all through.

I tried going back to my childhood with Drona. I would recommend you go and watch it if only for seeing what Indian fantasy genre will become with time. The special effects were great. Priyanka was awesome. If only Abhishek Bachhan realized earlier that he exactly cannot pass off as a superhero. The movie would have been a super hit had Hritik been there I guess. And KK. He continues to amaze me. A few more roles as a villain and he would have arrived. Anyway Drona remained at best a ‘could have been better movie’ and I went home dreaming about having a sword of my own.

These days I do not have easy access to poetry. But going back to poetry has always worked for me. I found this amazingly angry piece a few days back. I think poetry is something that is demanding its due share of my reading time.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,

Starving hysterical naked.

Dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking

For an angry fix,

Angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection

To the starry dynamo

In the machinery of night

Poetry and Amar Chitra Katha. It’s time to get away from snobbishness and get back to innocence. The first authors were poets. Remember Vyas and Homer someone? And before them came the painters in the caves.

Art – Who defines what good art is and what is bad?

October 03, 2008

Mumbai Food Guide Redux

Moshe’s Café – I have eaten at many places in my life where the food has been good but seldom have I fallen in complete love with the food. Moshe’s food is like the ultimate seductress. It is slow in coming but when your dish arrives, it is as fresh as the first dew on the morning grass. And then when you put in your first morsel inside your mouth, your palette thanks you for making this love story begin. I loved the food at Moshe’s. Just a word of caution – be prepared to shell out some decent amount of money and do not be in a hurry.

Jimmy Boy – Near Asiatic, this is the place for authentic Parsi Food. I first went to Jimmy Boy during the Parsi New Year and fell in love with it’s huge ‘dawat’ – it’s special marriage meal. And more importantly, it’s the only place in Mumbai where they still serve Palonji’s Ice Cream Soda. If you are from Calcutta, you might remember the taste of Bijoligrill.

Sundance Bar – It’s worth going for even if for the name and if you love Paul Newman. The food is just ok, but you can always drop in for a quick drink or bite after work and then catch the train from Churchgate. I however am extremely disappointed with their service. Sometimes easy clientele often makes you arrogant.

Indian Summer – If you think you need a nice Indian taste in South Mumbai, I should recommend Indian Summer. The kababs are really good. The Chicken, I have been told is exquisite. The only problem however is that the crowd is mostly elderly or consists of families eating out. I feel like bringing down the average age of the clientele every time I go there.

Pollyesther – After all the eating and merry making if you would want to go ahead and dance your night away go over to Polly’s. The cover charges are high and the music is excellent till about mid way. They play classic rock till around 10 in the night and then the plebeians come in with their request and the same old dance numbers.

Caravan Sarai – From South Mumbai, if we move to Bandra and still would want to have Indian Food, I definitely recommend Caravan Sarai. The price might be a bit on the higher side but it definitely ensures that your taste buds thank you from the bottom of their hearts.

Bassilico – In Bandra again, this place is definitely overpriced and the serving sizes are really small. But the ambience is nice and you wouldn’t mind sitting here with a friend discussing how life is going on.

Da Vincis – If however, Bassilico’s disappoint you, go ahead to Da Vincis. The food is good, the music better and on Wednesday’s there is a person on guitar who is kind enough to not sing if you request him not to. I mean, he sings pretty well but I really felt awkward when someone is singing standing by your table. It’s nice to see it in the movies but not that exciting when it happens to you. I just guess I am not pseud enough.

Garnish – If you are as middle class as I am and often suffer from a liquidity crunch as I do, come down to King’s circle. This is a place that has one of the largest menu cards that I have seen with items at all price points. The crowd is mainly college going. I sometimes wonder though how on earth do college going kids these days have so much money. Or is it just Mumbai?

Hariyali – This is frankly not a place I can recommend going because at the end of the day this is just a bar but even then this has one of the best food at its price points. Situated just below the Wadala Flyover, this place has given me a lot of my late night snacks. The waiters got upset when we kept on ordering food without ordering any liquor but as we became familiar they decided that we were some freaks of nature who come into a bar on a Friday night to just eat.

October 01, 2008

The Many Faces of Mumbai

Grand Designs – The other day I was sitting on the steps of a mall. I was there for a visit but being over zealous about my job had reached about half an hour before the scheduled opening of the shops. But while waiting on the steps I noticed something interesting. The ladies who had come to clean up the mall were huddled together near one of the shop windows. Out of curiosity, I strolled near them and could see them discussing excitedly over the designs of some earrings that were on display. I am sure that they knew that the earrings were well beyond their affordable price range but that did not stop them from appreciating and commenting on the designs. And then I realized what in Marketing we call as Aspiration – the dream, the desire to reach beyond our means. Aspiration – the building block of a consumerist society. And I do not think consumerism is a bad idea in a developing economy.

The one rupee change in taxi – This can happen only in Mumbai. I was getting off from the taxi at Five Gardens, the usual place for my weekend strolls. As I was ready to walk away, I heard a voice calling me back. The Cabbie actually asked me to wait and gave me back 1 Rupee change from the fifty rupee note that I had given him. And this is not an isolated incident. I think Mumbai is the only place in India where this can still happen. Once Mumbai loses its honest cabbies, it’ll lose one of its major points of differentiation with respect to other cities.

When money talks – An interesting insight can be seen when you visit The Mantralaya in Mumbai. The Father of the Nation has the most prominent place in the sprawling lawns but stands under the sun, all alone, directly under the attack of birds. The founding father of one of the Nation’s biggest industry houses however has a seat at one side of the gardens, more visible to the people walking past, enjoying his cool shades and marvelling at the imposing paraphernalia of statues that accompany him. Money talks, and how!!!

Power to the People - If you walk along the Mantralaya, you’ll see the importance of money even more clearly. It’s the seat of power in Mumbai. Also technically it should be the greatest demonstration of people’s power since at the end of the day in a democracy the common man is the king. Unfortunately however, the understanding that the government exists as a servant to the people is lacking. G and I were sitting under a tree one day generally chatting when a police personnel came and asked us to get out of there, mainly because some minister would pass by. Unfortunately, years of servility to the political powers have made both the police and the public forget that the politicians exist because of the votes the public decides to cast or not. The dance of democracy is surprising. It not only makes strange bedfellows as the cliché goes but it also ensures that the press and the public have enough in their hands to chew upon till the next elections. I really believe that R.K.Laxman is one person who captures the pulse of the nation better than anyone else. I was going through the archives of Laxman. Only twice I saw hope in the eyes of the Common Man. First in his undying faith in Nehru and secondly the dreams he had seen with Rajiv.

As I said, the dance of democracy is surprising. I just wish Bapu was here tomorrow to witness it himself.