July 31, 2008

60 years of Togetherness

Now this is a post which I am scared to write about. Actually I am terrified. I was back in Calcutta for a whirlwind weekend because my grandparents completed 60 years of togetherness. Well, that’s what my sis calls the event. Their grandchildren travelled across continents for this occasion. My mom, uncle and aunt started behaving like adolescents and my grandparents looked the perfect cast for a Fevicol advertisement. 60 saal ka majbut zod hain, tutega nahin. Well, you get the point. It was their 60th marriage anniversary.

Whenever I have an issue in my life, I turn to one or the other of them. In fact, often their contradicting viewpoints on most matters help me sort my way out in my life but it amazes me to a great extent. Both pairs of my grandparents have been the perfect complement for each other. While the men fumed and ranted and brought bread to the table, the women ensured that the family stuck together through thick and thin.

They came from similar families, but with very different upbringings. And yet they managed to stay together, they managed to grow old together and from the side I see it, they have been happy together. And I often wonder, how on God’s Good Earth did they manage it? I know it sounds scary to me.

The second reason for being terrified was my relatives. Now if you are a Bong and have kissed 25 (not women, but years of existence on Planet Earth) the relatives you have always ensure that they emerge as your greatest well wishers. They might as well push me down in a well. Na rahega Baans, na bajegi bansuri. When I used to come home from Pilani, I was subjected to the standard phrase, “How big you have grown!” While I maintained that they were referring to my age, my cousins were of the opinion that it had more to do with my ever expanding waistline. I should not have left playing Basketball. Anyway, can’t help it now.

But when you are 25 and happily single and not yet ready to mingle, the relatives consider that there can be only one reason behind the same – the existence of an unknown girlfriend. Interestingly they do not even consider the possibility of this hypothetical lady being a Bong. The ‘logic’ goes like this, “our network can’t fail. We would have known if there was a Bong girl involved.” (And yeah, they DO NOT consider the existence of a boyfriend. Stop sniggering) There are shrewd moves to uncover hidden facts. Ms.Marple must have been a Bong in her earlier life. They ask probing questions, they offer suggestions; they wait for that slip of tongue. They wait to nod their heads in unison and say,

“See I told you so. I always knew there was someone. Otherwise why will he refuse to even listen about my second cousin’s aunt-in-law’s neighbour’s colleague’s daughter’s friend? She’s such a darling I tell you.”

“Well why don’t you think about chunnu and munnu his other cousins?”

Aar bolo na. They are even smarter. They say before our elder brother gets settled, we are not even considering anything. I am sure they are seeing someone at their college. Mrs. Chatterjee’s driver saw Munnu and Chunnu at Forum the other day with some girls.”

“Well, you know what Munni should be getting married. But when I told that to her dad, he actually broke off the sickle from CPM Placard nearby and started chasing me. I am sure, she’s also seeing someone. If not, they should start looking for her. I know a nice boy… ”

Now when such discussions go on, my cousins have their field day. They think it’s extremely funny while I find ways to search out which relative of mine has recently found a match for “the really nice girl she knows in her neighbourhood.”

This time with mom and dad busy handling the logistics, sis and bro in law worried about the 2 year old British Kid who asked my one year old niece to dance with him and my grandparents obviously busy greeting all those who came to meet to the ‘small’ family get together, there was no wall in front of me to save me from the savage onslaught.

“Well you see he’s still a kid. Completely immature. We are not yet thinking about anything.”

“Well, we asked him. And he said, if there’s someone, he’ll tell us.”

“Marriage? Whose? Oh my son’s!!! To whom? Oh you mean he should get married!!! Why?”

“I know my brother. Why would I want to put a nice girl’s life in jeopardy?”

My mom, dad and Sis (yeah she too I guess) - I love them. If only they were there on that day with these stock answers.

In my family, small ‘get togethers’ typically involve a few hundred people. And anyway it was the 60th Marriage Anniversary. So imagine the geometric progression of the list of invitees. Alone and pushed into a corner, I found that offence perhaps was the best defence. I just kept nodding to everything any aunt had to say to me. Well, I was going strong till my sister overheard a conversation and pulled me away by my ear. But the job was done; half of them are convinced of the existence of someone. The only fact is that they have been given a Pan Indian, rather a Pan Universe view of a possible suspect. I am sure I have covered all southern states, the 6 metros, Rajasthan, Gujarat and even Turkey. It will take time to compare notes and come to some conclusion but I would have fled Calcutta by then leaving mom to handle the phone calls. I just hope she doesn’t get a shock about the wide array of choices thrown at her for her future daughter-in-law.

So Dadu and Didima, though I had to pass through a most traumatic phase of my life thanks to you, I love you both and really really wish that you celebrate 100 years of togetherness. I’m ready to face it again for your sake.

July 28, 2008

Evil

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” – Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, Act III Scene ii

Things have not been going well for my country. India’s IT capital Bangalore and Ahmedabad the capital of it’s most prosperous and entrepreneurial state were hit by a series of terrorist attacks. Thankfully my friends are safe and sound, but not everyone has been as lucky as I have been. The pictures on television were disconcerting to say the least. Families have been torn apart, once again, for no fault of their own. They do not understand the ideologies of hate that took away their beloved; they do not understand the apathy of their own leaders who perhaps seldom have lost anyone near and dear to them. In a country where prime ministers have been targeted successfully, where can the common man find safety?

Evil. That’s the first word that came to my mind when a friend was trying frantically to reach her dad in Bangalore. Evil, the word kept ringing in my mind all through the gloomy weekend in Mumbai. I do not know how many of you have watched The Dark Knight. If you haven’t I suggest you go and see it.

When I was in college, I was exposed to evil for the first time in the form of a movie and a book called The Clockwork Orange. A year later, I saw someone jumping down from the World Trade Centre as the planes crashed into them and a few days back I met The Joker. If there has been one character in the history of movies that has been evil from its core, it has to be The Joker played by Heath Ledger. It’s the evil that wants to corrupt the world, it’s the evil that goes about its task not because it seeks vengeance or recognition but because it’s entire DNA is structured to cause misery and destruction and bring an end to all that’s good and that’s beautiful.

Often in Left extremist literature you will come across the concept of Injustice. The ideology broadly says when justice turns a blind eye to reality of oppression; injustice is the beginning of justice. Sometimes, one country’s struggle for freedom is an act of anti-establishment in the eyes of the occupier. But the evil of terrorism is all pervasive. It knows no boundaries; it knows no definition of good and evil. It can not be stopped because it can be anywhere. It can be sitting in the mind of the person in the cubicle beside you as you read this post, it might be in the minds of the person smiling at you from across the room. But yes, it can be fought. It can be fought by showing we are not afraid, it can be fought not by politicians who claim every time to handle terrorists with an iron hand but by you and me by showing that at the end of the day the human spirit is indomitable. We can fight it just like Mumbai did when it bounced back the very next day after the blasts in its lifeline – the local trains, it can be fought just like Gotham City did when it decided not to press the detonators.

As I was writing this, I was reminded of another movie, Aamir. At the end of the day, the choice lies with each one of us. The choice of deciding what’s right and wrong, what’s the definition of good and evil, every single choice lies with us. Sometimes, we are afraid to make that choice. Sometimes, we want others to choose for us, the police, the government, someone, anyone – but not us.

As evil grows around us, the world can not wait for a white knight to appear and lead us to safety. We have to look deep within us to find the dragon warrior – the saviour – the messiah. As Po the Kung fu loving Panda put it beautifully, the secret ingredient is that there is no secret ingredient. We just need to believe.

And today, I believe. I believe in the power of a billion dreams. I believe in the indestructible human spirit which no Joker can corrupt. One day when it asks us, “Why so serious?” I believe that we will be able to look evil in the eye one day and say, “Why can’t you be happy?” I believe in my country and her people.

The optimism, the power of sensibility is what will win on the day of judgement. And till that day comes, we fight like there’s no tomorrow.

July 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Bangalore has been a favourite city of mine for a long time now. I have lived in that city for a considerable period of time and have wonderful memories of the same. This time however I went back, I felt sad and nostalgic and irritated at the state of a city that I love so much and that actually is the Brand that everyone in the West associates India with after Snake Charmers, The Taj Mahal and Fakirs. The Bangalore Story is the Story of India, the Story of our Silicon Valley in the once sleepy city.

This time I went back to a city that has perhaps worsened in the past year. There is not yet any visible solution to the traffic menace. The autos are as rash as ever with no one with enough political will to control them. My favourite area in the city CMH Road now wears a completely deserted and desolate look. Indiscriminate shops have mushroomed in Indiranagar destroying one of the most beautiful residential areas I have seen in India. On the Ring Road, malls after malls are coming up without any proper approach roads being built. Perhaps I am too harsh but then I have always felt that one should be the biggest critic of the person one loves most.

And what’s wrong with the city planners? Why on earth can’t they keep both the airports running? The new Airport is almost in Chennai. It takes two and a half hours minimum to reach anywhere in the city and if they do not expand the capacity of the airport soon, the old ailment of long queues will continue to haunt all the early morning travellers who wake up at 3 in the morning to reach Delhi or Mumbai at a humanly acceptable hour. Did the authorities forget that if you want an airport to be considered amongst the best, you should try to make it hassle free? To come, work in the Bangalore market and travel out the same night is next to impossible if you decide to be rigourous in your execution and true to your job.

High points of the visit – Three jokers of yesteryear decided to sport a French beard at the same time. A friend happily settled and content with the lemonade life has given him. Another friend making me bear the brunt of his indigestible but utterly lovable PJs. A bro asking another bro why didn’t they have anything to say to each other anymore?

Hyderabad has been an enigma since 2001. In fact, when I was going through my Star Wars phase, I would look into the broken mirrors of the infamous Pilani Hostel Bathrooms and nod and say to myself, “The gult-ism is strong in this one.” Telugu was a language I fell in love with and after Bengali and Maithili I consider it the sweetest language in India. Hyderabadi too had its own special significance. As much as I loved Allahabadi or Lucknowi Hindi, Hyderabadi had its own charm. It was so very earthy compared to the natural Tehzeeb of UP.

This was my first trip to Hyd after the whirlwind trip a long time back for a friend’s marriage. I still love Prasad’s and Hussain Sagar Lake. It would be a nice place to go for a morning walk with Rover, my Golden retriever. But then, that might just be a figment of my imagination as Rover is. What’s the harm in dreaming anyway? My work took me to different parts of the city and I loved to be finally be in the city that I consider the birthplace of Modern Trade in India. If ever, we have a Sam Walton story being scripted in India, the seeds of that story would have been planted in Hyd. You find a Modern Trade outlet in almost every nook and corner of the city, but none of them seem to be able to differentiate themselves.

I journeyed a dark road alone at night feeling the darkness close in on me with only the lights of the sole headlight of my auto guiding me. I found myself lost in the by-lanes of Begumpet and in the crowd at Banjara Hills.

Hyd impressed me but I also realized why it will not be a Bangalore unless it changes itself. Just like Calcutta, Hyd is a laid back city. Things take their own sweet time. I have seen the grit and determination and diligence of the Telugu Race and yet, that zeal was missing from Hyd. Maybe, it’s becoming cosmopolitan and imbibing all that makes a cosmopolitan city fail to live up to the expectations it has created. Maybe, it’s just the Mumbaikar talking from within me. I think Hyd is a city that is finding it difficult to come to terms with the rapid pace of modernization. While Delhi has defined it, Mumbai has embraced it and Calcutta has accepted it, Hyd is still trying to grapple with the issue.

The flyovers are great, the pedestrian amenities are not. There is a clear disregard to traffic rules and simple road etiquette. The autos do not bother to take turns anywhere, even the cars follow their example at times. Speaking of etiquette, all through my life I considered Delhi to be the ‘horniest’ city in India. Hyd can give Delhi a run for its money. Everyone just honks. A 15 minute drive near the City Centre at Banjara Hills can give you the worst headache of your life. The airport thankfully is at an acceptable distance and has good approach roads. And the airport is beautiful. It’s undoubtedly one of the best I have seen and I really admire the work that has gone behind the planning and execution.

High Points of the Visit – It works only 97% of the times. Would you feel afraid to go back alone? I thought you would have at least been dressed differently. It was always written on your face, Banjo.

Read this sometime back, don’t remember where - No Snowflake in an avalanche feels responsible.......

It’s Late in the Night…

… and I am unable to sleep. The sheep has been counted and put in the pen. Country, Tagore and Lounge music has failed to make any difference to this uncharacteristic insomniac night. I do not know why I am awake. I just know that sleep is a distant dream tonight.

Have you ever felt sad without ever realizing the rationale behind feeling sad? Have you ever stayed awake late into the night wondering what’s in store for you? Have you ever wondered if a life exists beyond careers and deadlines? And all this thoughts coming in when you should actually be singing drunken love songs for no one and every one? Why does peace come in only when facing the calm sea on a dark and lonely night on Marine Drive? Why does a shrub called hibiscus sound like a refuge?

I met someone the other day after three years. The last time he and I had been together, we had spoken about Camus and Kafka. After three years all we could do was exchange the latest gossip and talk about how work was. When did we change so much? When did the so called ‘unimportant’ things really become unimportant to us? When did we start speaking about the future with a life partner and not about the rocking time we had with friends? A few days back a friend asked me why we were running out of things to say to each other?

Anyone who knows me knows a little bit about my idiosyncrasies. They also know about my egotistical disregard for the mundane. I have always felt that to conform is to reject change. To conform is to give up living. Keep walking but not with the crowd - that’s what I have told everyone who cared to listen. Today evening I did something crazy. I wanted to test myself. I was waiting for a friend at the Churchgate Station. Mumbai was going back home and was hurrying towards the trains which were eagerly waiting to gobble the city up. I walked. I walked against the crowd. Towards the exit of Churchgate forcing my way through a never ending stream of humanity, determined to get back to their respective homes. I fought, I got pushed, I ducked, I dragged myself and with every moment I just wanted to turn back and follow the crowd. When I reached the end of the station, I didn’t know any longer what to do. I had not conformed and yet I was standing there all alone, no one to share my crazy victory with. Slowly I turned and became one with the crowd. There were no longer men and women around me. We were all rats running towards a tunnel and to be a better rat I just needed to prance a little bit more, be a little smarter than others and I would be the best rat that got the window seat on the train through the tunnel.

I conformed. Strangely when I walked back, I felt nice, no that’s not the word. I felt safe and the narcissist me didn’t like it’s reflection on the ticket window anymore. The fire in the belly dies down, someone had warned me a long time back. Rekindle, reignite, relive.

The radio suddenly has started playing Aa bhi ja. I want to sing along too, but I don’t know who I would be calling. Would anyone even understand? The world I know is in deep slumber waiting to wake up early one last time for this week. It’s Friday already.

Good night and may the sleep fairy kiss me asleep. Sometimes my dear friend, it’s good to not answer questions that trouble you.

July 18, 2008

Aati Kya Khandala

Ever since Aamir Khan and Rani Mukherjee immortalized Khandala, I have had this strange urge to go there. The sad part is I had no idea where it was. Khandala is not a place which you search and go to. You just pack your bags and reach there. At least that’s what I thought. One weekend, after getting bugged with Life, Universe and Everything in between I decided that it was time I moved out of Mumbai. It had been a long time since I had trekked or generally back packed. So in comes the 2nd greatest travel planner I have known in my life and he decides that we should hit Lonavla. Now for all those who doesn’t know the claim to fame of Lonavla, it’s all about fudges and chikis. But more about that later.

After waking up on a lazy Saturday morning, we reached Dadar and picked the first bus that was available. It dropped us off at a highway and the helper said, “Lonavla bas saamne hi hain.” We decided to walk it down and to our great surprise found that we had got off at Khandala. Imagine; you have been living so close to a dream travel destination and you had no idea about it. While this got us all excited we also realized that Lonavla was still some 4 kms away. To make a long story short, we reached Lonavla and after dumping our bags we set off on exploring the mountains. The beauty of the Ghats and also of Konkan perhaps is best seen in the monsoons. It was raining all throughout yet no one bothered much about it. I guess we all realized that the greenery we saw all around us was a result of the rains that kissed the mountain slopes and gave rise to its numerous waterfalls. Also you should not miss the numerous lakes of Lonavla like the Tunagrli Lake, The Valvan Dam and The Lonavla Lake.

We all have some point of time in our lives have realized that it’s beautiful to just stand on top of a cliff, look down and believe that one day you too can fly, as you slowly soak in the white streams cutting through the lush green mountain slopes. Lonavla has its own share of Shooting Points, Duke’s Nose, Tiger’s Leap and other places where you stand with your girlfriend or your entire extended family and pose for photographs to show back home. And yes, it also has its fair share of spots where you can look philosophical and click your next orkut snap. Interestingly, this is one Hilly region where I did not find a suicide point. I guess it’s just too beautiful to go ahead and do something as dumb as killing yourself.

I believe that we were pretty close to Amby Valley where once Sahara had hoped that the rich and the famous would flock to. But unfortunately that was not to be and I feel that’s where the great Dance of Democracy that our country witnesses every five years (or even earlier at times) comes into play. It’s a bit of convoluted logic but I really believe that exclusivity in this country will always have a tough road to cover. The power of a billion dreams is too great to allow someone to closet oneself in one corner of the country. But this power has its downsides too. Classic example in Lonavla would be the Bhushi Dam. It’s a beautiful dam but completely spoilt by drunken men dancing topless under the waterfall, groups from Mumbai and Pune singing loudly and disturbing the peace and all in all making a ruckus in what could have been one of the most pristine places on our dying planet.

I really feel sorry for people who go on trips and sit in hotel rooms all day long to consume alcohol and get drunk. But worse than those are the losers who come out after their drinks and decide that they are superheroes and create a safety hazard for themselves and everyone around them, not to mention that they destroy the silence of the mountains. I am not being a puritan here but it becomes extremely irritating at times. Where have all the quiet philosophical drunkards gone?

Luckily for us our auto driver told us about the existence of another waterfall nearby. Given its tough approach roads along the mountain slopes, this waterfall is not visited by the general crowd. And thank The Heavens for that. We just sat there, oblivious to the world around us, to the world that we had left behind for a couple of days to escape into the heart of nature. I don’t know how the Liril Girl did it, but standing under a waterfall is actually a tough task. If the flow is rapid, the water can actually hurt.

Set had booked an awesome resort for us with a beautiful view of Lonavla from our window. At night we kept on reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ (the usual) and as expected everyone refused to wake up in the early morning. Only VJ and I walked down the roads to the temple nearby to click a few photographs. By the time we were back, it was time to get ready to leave. But we had one plan left. Khandala. So we went off to Khandala in the morning just to tell everyone that we had lived the “Aati Kya Khandala:” dream. Any day I’ll prefer Lonavla over Khandala. The magic is just not there in the slopes of Khandala, at least not without a guide constantly telling tourists nearby, “Wo dekhiye, wo Shahrukh ka Bangla tha.”.

All Bongs would know about the famous Maganlal Meghraj. Maganlal is present in Lonavla too. He’s the name that ninety percent of the chiki shops brandish. Being against a monopoly of any sort, we got chikis from one of the Maganlal franchisees, A1 Chiki and Purohit’s chikis. To my easily satisfied palate all of them tasted brilliant.

It was good to run away and I am glad that I clicked - With a Good camera - After a long long time. I’m happy – that’s all I can say.

July 16, 2008

Her South Bombay

They say it takes a ‘Townie’ to know the Town and I under no circumstances could ever claim to be one. The closest I have come to staying at Town is when I stayed over at The Ritz and when I slept over at a friend’s place at Colaba after falling in love with his cook’s dishes. Even the security guards at my office foiled my plans to stay overnight at the office and refused to believe that at times I too can be over worked.

So anyway, when Random-dom asked me to write something more about Bombay, I was a little lost for ideas. The one place I wanted to write about was South Bombay (not Mumbai in this case!!! :D ) but you see, I’m not exactly qualified. So I did the next best thing. I asked a ‘Townie’ about her town and this is what I got from Namita.

While I typed out the title of this post I wondered if I was projecting a front of being this "divide" person....a person who pronounces the suburb versus town difference!

But I dismissed the thought and went ahead anyway....

Being born and having spent my whole life in south Bombay, it’s a place which is home for me!

From colaba causeway to worli seaface and everything in the middle of the two....fall in super cool south bbay!

Here’s a list of my favourite things to do in town!...after all the townie that i am.....time to exercise my right....

1. Walk and shop along causeway starting at regal, ending at theobroma! My idea of a workout..

2. Grab beer at Cafe Mondegar or Cafe Leopold or Tavern or Ghetto

3. Play games at the kids zone at atria mall....collect tickets and go home with gifts!

4. Eat grilled sandwiches and chic choc icecream at right place, breach candy

5. How can i make a list of favourite hangouts and forget the good old roll places, where we have hung out for hours at a stretch...Bade Miyan and Ayubs....Bombay’s not Bombay without you.

6. Chinese cuisine....five spice...period.

7. My personal favourite, watching the sunset at the cuffe parade promenade....sitting on the flight of steps, which meet the sea...brilliant....aurora borealis(Northern lights).The coloured sky is out of this world.

8. Walk along marine drive and worli seaface....ipod and me.perfect.

9. Drive down hanging gardens for that breathtaking view of the city. Can hardly see it because of the greenery...but the little we see...it’s worth it. A million lights. Incredible.

10. The Kala Ghoda art festival. Cannot be missed.

11. Clubbing at insomnia....one place i can never get over. So sad it’s shut. Wish it comes back.

12. Salt water grill...needs a special mention after all its Bombay’s fancy answer to a shack in Goa!

13. Wine tasting at ivy-extremely close to my heart.

14. St.Thomas's Cathedral...for its divinity, peace and positive vibes.

15. Kobes sizzlers the 1st original and most authentic sizzler place in Bombay

Okay I just realised that the list can go on...

coffee, dessert, food and hukkah at mocha, bhurji pav at the station, the lovely vada pav, jehangir art gallerys one show called enduring images, class of 84 at the NCPA, inox for the bestest popcorn, tea centre for its piano, bachelors for choc shake, modern juice centre for its shwarmas, the MTDC bus ride, the Prince of Wales museum and............

So I’m going to stop here.

After all what is life without food and peace within!

Let this be a concise guide to South Bombay...

Happy exploring

To be very frank, I have made it a point to do everything that Namita recommends as soon as possible. Whenever my travels allow me to take a breather in Mumbai; I intend to tick off things from her impressive list. A few more of my own should go here though.

The walk down Marine Drive to Nariman Point and the Tonga Ride to Chowpatty from there. Pizzeria pizzas and music at Not Just Jazz by the Bay. Churchgate Oval. Standing beneath Eros on a weekday morning and experience Mumbai rushing to work, Standing outside VT and watch the Bombay Dreams come alive in the eyes of the thousands that come into this city of dreams. Fort and Fountain if only for their architectural brilliance. And finally my favourite – finding the common man at Worli Sea Face. Solve this riddle and you’ll love it.

So there goes the Non Townie recommendations :D And as she said earlier; Happy Exploring.

Her South Bombay

They say it takes a ‘Townie’ to know the Town and I under no circumstances could ever claim to be one. The closest I have come to staying at Town is when I stayed over at The Ritz and when I slept over at a friend’s place at Colaba after falling in love with his cook’s dishes. Even the security guards at my office foiled my plans to stay overnight at the office and refused to believe that at times I too can be over worked.

So anyway, when Random-dom asked me to write something more about Bombay, I was a little lost for ideas. The one place I wanted to write about was South Bombay (not Mumbai in this case!!! :D ) but you see, I’m not exactly qualified. So I did the next best thing. I asked a ‘Townie’ about her town and this is what I got from Namita.

While I typed out the title of this post I wondered if I was projecting a front of being this "divide" person....a person who pronounces the suburb versus town difference!

But I dismissed the thought and went ahead anyway....

Being born and having spent my whole life in south Bombay, it’s a place which is home for me!

From colaba causeway to worli seaface and everything in the middle of the two....fall in super cool south bbay!

Here’s a list of my favourite things to do in town!...after all the townie that i am.....time to exercise my right....

1. Walk and shop along causeway starting at regal, ending at theobroma! My idea of a workout..

2. Grab beer at Cafe Mondegar or Cafe Leopold or Tavern or Ghetto

3. Play games at the kids zone at atria mall....collect tickets and go home with gifts!

4. Eat grilled sandwiches and chic choc icecream at right place, breach candy

5. How can i make a list of favourite hangouts and forget the good old roll places, where we have hung out for hours at a stretch...Bade Miyan and Ayubs....Bombay’s not Bombay without you.

6. Chinese cuisine....five spice...period.

7. My personal favourite, watching the sunset at the cuffe parade promenade....sitting on the flight of steps, which meet the sea...brilliant....aurora borealis(Northern lights).The coloured sky is out of this world.

8. Walk along marine drive and worli seaface....ipod and me.perfect.

9. Drive down hanging gardens for that breathtaking view of the city. Can hardly see it because of the greenery...but the little we see...it’s worth it. A million lights. Incredible.

10. The Kala Ghoda art festival. Cannot be missed.

11. Clubbing at insomnia....one place i can never get over. So sad it’s shut. Wish it comes back.

12. Salt water grill...needs a special mention after all its Bombay’s fancy answer to a shack in Goa!

13. Wine tasting at ivy-extremely close to my heart.

14. St.Thomas's Cathedral...for its divinity, peace and positive vibes.

15. Kobes sizzlers the 1st original and most authentic sizzler place in Bombay

Okay I just realised that the list can go on...

coffee, dessert, food and hukkah at mocha, bhurji pav at the station, the lovely vada pav, jehangir art gallerys one show called enduring images, class of 84 at the NCPA, inox for the bestest popcorn, tea centre for its piano, bachelors for choc shake, modern juice centre for its shwarmas, the MTDC bus ride, the Prince of Wales museum and............

So I’m going to stop here.

After all what is life without food and peace within!

Let this be a concise guide to South Bombay...

Happy exploring

To be very frank, I have made it a point to do everything that Namita recommends as soon as possible. Whenever my travels allow me to take a breather in Mumbai; I intend to tick off things from her impressive list. A few more of my own should go here though.

The walk down Marine Drive to Nariman Point and the Tonga Ride to Chowpatty from there. Pizzeria pizzas and music at Not Just Jazz by the Bay. Churchgate Oval. Standing beneath Eros on a weekday morning and experience Mumbai rushing to work, Standing outside VT and watch the Bombay Dreams come alive in the eyes of the thousands that come into this city of dreams. Fort and Fountain if only for their architectural brilliance. And finally my favourite – finding the common man at Worli Sea Face. Solve this riddle and you’ll love it.

So there goes the Non Townie recommendations :D And as she said earlier; Happy Exploring.

July 09, 2008

Forever

Aaj dil dukha hai, Tum yaad aaye ho

Anjaane log hain, Apne kahan dhoond paaye…

We met at a friend’s party. Sitting at one corner, feeling bored, my eyes were searching for an opportune moment to exit. And then I saw her. Standing all alone, along the parapet, her glass carelessly put on the ledge, she looked like the perfect snob. And she was one, as I later realized. As it usually happens, a common friend introduced us and we realized soon enough we couldn’t stand each other. But we kept on meeting. Prithvi CafĂ© became our favourite hangout point. We would sit on the steps of NCPA watching the lights come up on the Queen’s necklace. We would tell each other every moment how irritating a character the other had, always arguing, always fighting. She was a true blue Bong. Argument was her middle name.

In hindsight, we were good friends. I would like to believe so. So when I had to leave the city, I wanted to meet her for one last time and just talk with her… one last time, without any fights.

We met at the Asiatic Society. She was in a really dark mood. And we fought… as usual. I was irritated. Couldn’t she be nice for a change? I didn’t tell her that I was leaving. “Sometimes, it’s better to just disappear from one’s life,” I thought. Maybe I had hoped that she’d ask me to stay back and I knew that wouldn’t be happening. Suddenly she asked me, “Have you heard this poem?”

“amar mrityur din brishti hobe.....bondho thakbe fuler dokan....gari theke chulli obdi niye jete jete...fulhin deho pabe...probol shraboni dharasnan...”

“The day I die, it’ll rain and all flower shops will be closed. To take me from the car to the electric pyres, my flowerless body will be bathed with torrential rains.”

“Mush!!!” I said. “You are a Dumbo.” She retorted.

Life in another city was the same. The same old pubs, the same old restaurants and the same old type of people you meet at any urban landscape in India today. But at every party, my eyes would inadvertently look at the parapet.

Years passed. Sometimes I would remember her, sometimes I wouldn’t. Till one day I received a letter from her. She was dying. And she wanted to watch a play with me one last time in Mumbai. As I rushed towards the airport, I read the last few lines of her letter.

Na Koi Raah, Na Manzil, Na Roshni Ka Suraakh

Bhatak Rahi Hai Andheron Mein Zindagi Meri

Inhi Andheron Mein Rah Jaoonga Kho Kar

Main Jaanta Hoon Meri Hum Nafaz,

Magar Yun Hi...

PS: Dumbo, don’t you dare fight with me on the fact that the gender is not appropriate. This is the only non-bong poetry I could remember.

July 04, 2008

Jane Tu... Ya Jane Na

We have been friends for a long long time now. Actually we were almost enemies before. So we matured with age, realized we can tolerate each other and do so even to this date. So when Jane Tu... Ya Jane Na was creating a hype all around, I knew I had to watch it and not many would be crazy enough to go with me and watch it on the first day. But C would - just like we had stepped into PVR Europa one fine day in Bangalore because no one else wanted to watch Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi and it was the most expensive tickets we had bought till then. Times change.

So like most other times, C made the plans I was supposed to make, made me buy tickets and then sold one of them off to someone when one of her acquaintances did not show up. (I saw the movie sitting beside that unknown guy who bought the ticket by the way.)

About the movie, it's an absolutely brilliant movie. You'll relive your college life just by sitting through the scenes. You'll remember the friends you went to college with, you'll remember the crushes you had and couldn't ever say to them how you felt. You'll feel young again.

The movie is fast, at times predictable, the characters are the ones you will remember from the times you were just touching your twenties (but not stereotypes) but more than anything else it's about a group of friends, which might have been your group when you were in college and about Jai and Aditi.

The support cast is mind blowing. I want to watch it again just for Naseeruddin Shah. I want to watch it for its songs. I want to watch it for Meghna (Sorry, no spoilers for you.) I want to watch it for the Rathods.

I know I am biased. I know the movie made me remember BITS again and again and again. But I also know, I'll watch this movie many times over, not because it's a nice feel good love story with a happy ending, or because I like the Lead Actress but only because it makes me remember my life and times at my college.

PS: If he can remain who he is and not become his uncle's shadow then I can safely say that "Bollywood, beware. The Next Khan is here."

(Thanks C - This post's for you)

July 01, 2008

Mumbai Nagariya tu Dekh Babua

Chor Machaye Shor – Believing in this story or not is completely up to you. But this really happened. At Andheri Station as I was pushing through the crowd to get off the train, I tried to multitask by reading a book which I had to return. Now in the history of my school I have been the guy who has been victimised most by the pickpockets on the local buses of Calcutta. So I seemed to have developed a sort of sixth sense for any kind of unaccounted for activity near my arse. On the train that day, I felt something similar and handicapped by a book in one hand I had no other option but to turn around and put my wallet out of his reach. In doing so however, against the movement of the crowd, I almost made a 180 degree turn and in his utter desperation he made his last ditch attempt. To make a long story short, as I got down on the platform, I was poorer by a pack of gum and I could see a long time companion in the form of my belt, travelling away from me. Yes, my life’s a soap opera and I lost my belt on a train.

Car Maketh a Man – In Mumbai, what you wear and how you look often define who you are. These days with the easy access to quality fakes, people often are able to mirror a lifestyle they can not afford. So it’s often up to other things that make you who you are. Like for example, people you hang out with. But then, entry into the upper echelons of society requires either blue blood or a lot green paper bearing the picture of Mahatma Gandhi in your pocket. But there’s another way out. The place where I live has security guards swarming all over the compound. Now under normal circumstances, they do not even give us a second glance. After all, we are plain and simple “Mumbai Local Trains”. Today however, life changed for us. JK lives in the flat beside me. Today morning, after a long tiresome journey, he was dropped off in front of the building in a Mercedes. As he walked out of the car, wearing three quarters, the security guards were all around the car, trying to convince him that he definitely was living in the other building. In the afternoon as we walked out for lunch, every single security guard in the building gave us the crispest salute I have ever seen. Irritating I must say; but nevertheless proves my point that the Car Maketh a Man.

Search for Tagore – For someone like me, who has grown up reading Tagore, any one claiming to not understand him, puts me in a state of rage where my blood begins to boil just like Sunny Paji’s did when he used to meet Amrish Puri. In Calcutta, defending Tagore was extremely easy. If the accuser could read Bong, I just needed to stretch over, grope around and one or the other of his works would come popping out from somewhere. The number of copies of Tagore’s works sis and I have received over the years and my earlier generations before that, can not be counted. If I needed an English Transalation, I just needed to make a visit to College Street. But Mumbai is not exactly hot on Tagoremania. So there is this someone whose only exposures to Tagore are the National Anthem and Bong acquaintances who swoon as soon as you can say Tag… My Bong Nationalism grew on me. An attack on Tagore was often worse than any other crime you can commit. So I began my search. I thought it would be easy but things turned out to be rather difficult. My standard Oxford didn’t have any good translations of Tagore. Getting it from Calcutta or Delhi wouldn’t make sense as the person was leaving Mumbai. Crossword outlets too were hunted but to no great avail. I went down to the street vendors hoping that Tagore perhaps was a quarter as popular as Chicken Soups for Tom, Dick and Harry. But clearly he wasn’t. So a search ensured and I discovered the forgotten book stores across Mumbai. I perhaps did not get exactly what I was looking for but then sometimes the journey is the destination.