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Showing posts from October, 2009

Where one city ends and another begins

I am in Kolkata right now.The 'Coffee House' part of this blog is from Kolkata and its famed addas (chats) of the India Coffee House. The blog was supposed to reflect my part Kolkata part Mumbai identity.Yet I realised that I have begin to view the city from a tourist or travel writer's eye. Right from the attempted scams at the airport (tips to load your suitcase by pulling it from your hand or proposing to locate a cab which is in front of you) to rude, disinterested, non change returning, men manning the prepaid counter, the airport loo which was out of a Ramsey horror film and the four men who sat in the front seat of the cab I hired to the cabbie who will charge twenty Rupees extra to take you home and the joy of the Metro Station just opened outside our house and the bewildered attempts to place stations called Mahanayak Uttam Kumar (Tollygunge), Netaji, Masterda Surya Sen (my Bansdroni) and Kobi Nazrul Islam).So when does a city start becoming a stranger? I have bee…

Reporting live from Kargil

0020 hours and heavy bombing begins.
This gives way to intermittent gunfire.
The machine guns are called on and there is not respite.
0200 ackack begins and goes on for an unprecedented ten minutes.


No conscription hasn't begun in India and I am still at Bandra. But I am either getting old or it was my loudest Diwali at Mumbai last night. As I wright this there was another short round of crackers which went off. 1.30 AM, the day after Diwali.

One explanation could be that our earlier house was at a junction at Bandra and people followed the police rules in the open. We are in a quiet alley here (an unfortunate use of words given the context) and people just took off.

Now I am no Uncle Scrooge. I am all for festivities. Whether I follow them or not is a separate issue. Festive cheer is important in the pressure cooker lives that we lead. But does it have to be at another person's cost. Does Diwali become any less fun if you finish bursting your crackers by dinner time? Is it, as Brya…

Climate change anyone?

The skies were gloomy and overcast at Mumbai today. Wet. Damp. The odd drizzle. The problem is it's Diwali. And I don't remember Diwali ever being wet.

The audacity of vote

The Maharashtra elections were held yesterday. We got a holiday in Mumbai so that we could vote. Some TV reports said that about 52% of people in Mumbai voted which was up from 45 % from the parliamentary elections here (don't hold me to the numbers, but these are roughly what I remember). My home constituency, Bandra W had the lowest turnout at 42 %. Though the Bollywood Khans and Munnabhais who live here voted. If you dissect these numbers more than actually less than 52 % of those eligible voted. 52 % of those on the voters list voted. But there are many who are eligible who aren't on the list. So as a market researcher would say, one has to apply a correction figure and down weight the numbers.In English this would mean that actually less than 52% voted.I voted yesterday. As I did in the recent parliamentary elections. But then I am a migrant from a city where politics is religion and voting is a fact of life.I learnt from a recent panel discussion on news that you are off…

Voting days are here again

Just picked up our voter's slips from our earlier place. So come Tuesday we will be voting again. The Government holiday on voting day won't see us just goofing off then.I think I have a hang of who the candidates of the two larger parties here are. I have no idea what their single line promise is. Not because I am not interested. Perhaps because my demog is not important enough for them to reach out too.Still I would like to know what their stand is on:why the tiny lane in front of our house had to be fixed just before the election? And why has it taken a week and still looks more like Baghdad than Bandra?stopping a repeat of the great floods and the terrorist attackpublic loosan airport befitting the commercial capital of a BRIC countrytraffic jams which get worse by the daythe various metros...underground and aboveShivaji's statue, riots over Mumbai vs Bombay and things which people really care An interesting observation on marketing vehicles. I now live in a Catholic d…

Breaking news

Upcoming awards for the most powerful man in the world:

Oscars for best lifetime achievement, best actor in a motion picture, best director, best character in an animated filmGrammy best lead vocals, best upcoming artisteOlympics 100 m dash... and MarathonMiss Universe 2010Asian Paints SharodShomman ... naah that's reserved for Chairman Mao

City of dreams

I almost did cartwheels when I read the papers this morning.

'Almost' because I have never done a cartwheel in my life.

But I almost did when I read about the proposed elevated air conditioned corridor from Virar to Churchgate at Mumbai's Western line. I had visions of the wonderful train networks at Bangkok and Dubai. And emptier roads.

'Almost' also because I then read that the project would start in three years. And finish in ten!

The Dubai metro got over in two years. But the Calcutta one took three decades. So why complain?

Reminded me of a discussion which I had with some foreigners about India. We are quite a quirky country. On the one hand we have certain private sector enterprises like five star hotels or airlines where we match up to the best in the world. Or achievements in the ethereal world such as mobile networks and the quantum leaps there. But when it comes to brick and mortar stuff .... infrastructure, roads, public toilets, airports, traffic management…

Country roads

We just returned from a twenty day trip across two countries, nine cities, three airports, innumerable train stations connecting most of the cities in one of the countries.

Seems daunting? Not really. We breezed along quite easily with the one strolley and one rucksack that we each carried.

We didn’t have to fill any forms at the airports. Immigration was a breeze. There were trolleys at every stage. And moving tracks and escalators. Very important given that I, like most others of our generation, have a bad back.

We could walk through the airport straight to the train station to take us to the city.. The intra country train rides weren’t a problem as there were frequent trains, running with clockwork precision connecting cities. Escalators or elevators within the stations to carry your luggage. Steps to push your bags easily from the platform to the train. And there were places to keep your bags in the train while you sat somewhere else and yodelled as the train passed lovely country si…

'No reservations'

I attended a prayer ceremony for Mamma on Sunday morning.

Nothing wrong with that except that the official norms of her religion didn’t allow for folks from other religions, like me, to attend their prayers. I had the good fortune to be a part of it thanks to a lot of love and affection of the family… and a priest who was willing to fulfil the wishes of those who didn’t wanted to be constrained by the shibboleths of their religion. In fact I was not the only outsider there. There were two close family friends too.

Not that Mamma would agree to a prayer ceremony for her which excluded those she loved.

But that set me thinking of the various religious dogmas that one has heard of.

There are certain Hindu temples which do not allow non Hindus. It was before my time but I think Mrs Gandhi wasn’t allowed into the Jagannath temple when she was the Prime Minister as she had married a Parsi. Other temples don’t allow Hindus of certain castes or to women. There are limits to who can be priests too…