Thursday, 29 January 2009

Mumbai uncooperative housing society

I remember reading about the cooperative societies of Mumbai as a kid in social studies. The concept was evolved, apparently, to help middle class folks get affordable housing.

I did not really encounter this epidemic called cooperative housing societies in my initial years at Mumbai. I first stayed as a paying guest with this aunty at Nutan Nagar, Bandra. Her matronly digs were just right for me - home food (even if veg), clothes washed, ironed and put tidily into the cupboard.

I then rented a place at Khar just before we got married. We were there for two years. Again no housing society woes.

We first encountered the mafia when we decided to buy a tiny place at Pali Naka, Bandra. We came across an evil and unhelpful cretin while buying the house. He and his cronies really hassled the gentleman who was selling the house to us. The transaction got delayed. Our first bank loan application fell through and the bank kept back the ten thousand Rupees we had paid as application fees. Money we could ill afford to lose. And I can't begin to describe our trauma at the possibility of losing the place.

Five years later we decided to take a larger rented place. Our plan was to rent our existing place to narrow the gap.

Well the trauma is back and how. The evil secretary has been replaced by another old clown. I checked with him about renting our house and he said there would be no problem. Now that I have gone ahead and taken the place he says that we can't rent out house. When pushed he said that there is some resolution passed years back by the evil secretary saying people can't rent out their houses. I asked him to show it to me and he said he can't show it. Why? Even the government shows stuff under RTI.

Reasoning with them is a lost cause. I have swallowed my pride and tried to sweet talk them. But the old clown goes on and on like a freaking stuck record. He seems to be quite keen to drag this on and on.

What is really ridiculous is that it is our house and we are willing to go ahead with the legal requirements - registered agreement, police NOC - but no, that won't work for this guy. In other words I cannot decide what to do with my house in this supposedly free country.

I don't know what people get from causing harm to others. We are losing out money here as we have to pay our loan EMIs and the rent. But does he care? No. So why call it a 'cooperative' society?

This is the most ridiculous system I have come across. How can a group of unrelated people interfere in other people's property? They take money from the buyer and seller when a purchase happens. They take a higher maintenance if one rents out a house. And what does one get in return? Pure harassment.

I just can't figure out the reason from their existence. The claim of 'affordable housing' is a joke. Bombay has the most expensive housing in India after all.

Plus this leads to unconstitutional policies where people are not allowed to rent out/ sell to Muslims, single people or even non vegetarians at times.

Hitler would have approved of this fascist system.

Any practical suggestions on a way out?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Reality Check: Danny Boyle style

There's been a lot of chest beating over Slumdog Millionaire.

"Oh they have shown slums and not our malls", "oh they have shown shit and not our granite five star loos", "oh they have shown begging as a profession and not our software coders", "oh they have shown riots", "of they have shown hookers", "oh they chose a has been and not our super stars", "oh the West loves to mock us".

My question is, is there anything shown which is not true? And who will remind us of this reality? We will even forget that the streets of India exist left to the Karan Johars and Yah Raj's of the world. Forget the reality of Indian streets.

Someone had to wake us up. Sadly enough it had to be an Irish man.

We can exult saying that we are the next super power. By saying China beware.

But somewhere we need to get real. Our politicians, our roads, our public transport, our concern for others, our concern for the environment... the list of areas where we trail the developed nations is huge.

Somewhere we need to realise that a lot has to be done back home and something seems to tell me that others won't do it for us.

We can exult in an Obama and revel in him. But the reality is that he is not our President. We are still stuck with amazing set of politicians ever. Most of whom should be in old age homes. The other should be in jails.

Guess I need a stiff drink.

When I last heard Indian culture is fine with men who drink.

Daddy got it wrong

My father passed away when I was nine. There were a few things which I learnt from him in that short time.

These included:
  • never hit/ hurt a woman
  • don't identify people by their religion (this when we were dropping a classmate home and i told my father that my friend was Muslim)
  • respect education and teachers (my mother was a teacher, plus Saraswati puja was the one puja which used to happen in my father's family in a big way. She is the Goddess of learning. And education is the sole force which enabled people like my parents and grandparents, non Brahmins, to move up in life)
  • not to taunt people basis their identity - I think I was once imitating my friends and calling some street kids Biharis or something like that when my Dad called me in and gave me an earful

These learning have remained in my sub conscious over the last 25 years or so even though he isn't around. I thought that this was part of our heritage, our culture.

Recent events suggest that I might have been wrong. We have 40 people beating up 5 women with the excuse of protecting our culture. When I last hear I though the Ramayan was the story of a man who went to protect and free his wife. Sriram Sena seems to be at the other end of the spectrum.

Respect for women zero. Indian Cultural dark knights 1

Then we have some other folks breaking and damaging a university the next day.

Respect for learning zero. Indian Cultural dark knights 2

A few days back another set of cultural protectors ransacked a hotel and beat up the hotel staff because the hotel had sacked people from their community.

Respect for other communities zero. Indian Cultural dark knights 3

And don't get me started on what goues under the guise of religion. The public posturing which goes under the name of religion has led to riots, deaths, terrorist attacks, traffic jams (In Mumbai - Wednesday Mass, Ganpathi visarjans and road blocks, the December fair). God knows what God would think of the pain caused in His name. The prevailing thinking seems to be "he who shouts louder gets His ear faster."

Respect for religion zero. Indian Cultural dark knights 4

I guess the score says it all.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Side effects

Surprise surprise but I do occasionally think of things beyond food.

And at times it is difficult to fit these into my food and travel blogs.

So I thought I will start a new blog where I plan to hold forth on anything under the sun. After all that’s what we Bengalis do. Did I say ‘do’? Well we do talk! That’s one thing people can’t take away from us. And we are not known to be modest. So an anonymous blog won’t work for us!

Our addas (chats) over endless cups of tea and tele bhaaja (vegetable fritters) are what we lived on. Till Blogs were invented at least.

I named this Coffee House after the famed Coffee House of College Street. This was the hot spot of endless debates and discussions involving students, unemployed youths, politicians, film makers, writers, poets and philosophers. The scene had shifted to our college canteen by the time I joined Presidency College in 1992. Still Coffee House was the stuff legends were made off.

And why Mumbai? Mumbai’s been my home for the last ten year. I am madly in love with it. Frankly to me Mumbai will always be Bombay. But I thought I will call it Mumbai in deference to my hosts. That’s hardly a price to pay for the wonderful hospitality that I have enjoyed here.

So here’s hoping to many more posts on life and its side effects

Not a perfect ten...but who's complaining

I completed ten years in Mumbai today. I still can’t believe it. Not the easiest of cities to live in. But like a good marriage – is maddening, but heady.

I do feel a bit proud of this ‘achievement’ (?). There were quite a few of us who had shifted in to Mumbai at that time. I can think of just about one other person who has stayed back. The rest moved back to their home towns or to foreign shores.

What do I have to show after ten years? About 15 kilos more than before, an amazing wife, three job changes, a lot of interesting experiences, met some wonderful human beings, my blogs, a sought after Bandra address - passport photo sized and very recently, the ultimate Mumbai dream, a spare room!

I spent about twenty years at Calcutta before shifting to Mumbai. It’s quite obvious to me that my years in Calcutta have had a strong influence on my thinking, to my world view, to my interests.

But Mumbai is very clearly the city where I crossed the rites of passage to adult hood. I came to Mumbai seeking new experiences, freedom and got them in every sense.

I don’t think I will ever be able to get out Mumbai out of my system. I hope I never will have to.