Monday, 30 November 2009

The naughtiest car in the world

I thought that all those of years of automotive market research, listening to folks refer to their cars as wife, lover, girlfriend, mistress (the married ones), would have prepared me for today.

But no, it is not easy to see your first car go.

We had him for more than six years. The time by which most people are onto their third car these days.

He was jumpy and would rattle us in the rear seat. An attention seeker if there ever was one. He had the family appetite and would need a refill much earlier than others. He liked being pampered, car window washes, polishes, scrubs, metrosexual's the term I am looking for. Hot headed at times, he would blow hot air though the AC in the sun. Much to my embarrassment if I was with colleagues.

Tall, gawky. Chubby. Black as the night. He would get scratched up and covered with mud like a frisky poodle.

He would greet me with the biggest smile in car land. Waited patiently while I learnt to drive. And then again when he and I got lost time after time as we tried to navigate the by lanes of Mahim. He watched indulgently as K soon abandoned the driver's seat for the back seat. A series of nannies and he was still unfazed.

I loved the times when I would be driving him alone on weekends. Looked forward to the times when we didn't have drivers. When K and I had him to ourselves. I think he did too.

The last few days were tough on him. He aged quickly. A bit like Marley in Marley and Me. Each day saw a new ailment. A pipe which leaked. The steering wheel which went stiff. AC which gave in. Spark plug which got burnt. Headlights which went dim and needed to be replaced. Shrieking linke a banshee when we started it. Each time we would get a mechanic and fix him. But with each day it was clear that the end was close.

We signed the deal and traded him in. A last drive to South Mumbai yesterday with K and me. Memories of many such trips to Churchill and Martins. And the ones for ice cream and dessert emergencies to Carter Road at night.

Fuelled him for the last time. A goodbye treat of premium petrol. A last sprint up the sea link today. And off he went with a big goofy grin.

I guess the first ones are impossible to forget.

Post Script: Sam the car was there with us to welcome Princess Leia at the dealership the next day

Friday, 27 November 2009

Life after the fifteen minutes

I was walking at Carter Road last evening. Yes, I occasionally do exercise more than my digestive system.

I came across a candle march/ forum with Milind Soman standing there. Every girl I knew in college had a crush on him As do most women I know now. Turned out that the gathering was organised by NDTV. A Celebrate Bandra rock show was going on five feet away. It was close to nine o clock and they stopped the band for a few minutes to observe silence. The band joined Soman for a TV grab. A few teens clicking it all on their mobile were asked to join in by the anchor.

I resisted the urge to jump in, come on TV and wave at my mom. I marched on, instead, in my war against cholesterol. Without a candle.

I have got nothing against candle marches. As Rahul Bose said on CNN IBN yesterday everyone has their own way of coping.

Nor am I belittling the attacks because they happened in the 'First World' of South Mumbai.

The point that I am trying to make is that there is a lot that needs to be done. Jawans guarding the Gateway sleeping on the pavements? NSG Mumbai base formed at Pune because of land problems here? Force One Guards borrowing AK 47s from the CRPF to practice as guns haven't been procured for them?

No Prime Minister, not happening.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Candle in the wind

Coldly put, Mumbai and Sobo five stars would be the media planner's equivalent of a Times Of India, front page, full page ad.

Since then Maoists have gone on a rampage. The Chinese have put on boots and are walking all over Arunachal. Terrorists at Guwahati are competing with those at Peshawar for the most number of bomb blasts in a day. And Qasab does biriyani reviews in Mumbai.

Our polity fights over what language to swear in. And over who leaked the report of a seventeen year old study. And for three days news channel programmers don't have to think of new themes to cover.

Well at least candle manufacturers will be better off a year after 2611.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The dreaded B word

I read a very nice link on Facebook today on 2611. The author, someone who has come to Mumbai from Calcutta to work, vented her anguish on the year gone by. Here's the link. It's that time of the year when we have all become cynical again. But why not. Nothing has changed since then has it?

There was an interesting reader comment on the same Facebook post which referred to the 'silly debate on Mumbai versus Bombay'.

So here, at the risk of getting stoned and tarred, are my two bits on the subject.

Mumbai will always be Bombay in my heart. That's because I grew up in an era when Mumbai was Bombay, Chennai was Madras, CST was VT, and Myanmar was Burma. And, in case you are wondering, Kolkata is Calcutta to me.

The truth is that Bombay doesn't officially exist anymore. Like it or not, it is Mumbai. And it has been renamed by those who belong to the city. So one can cry for Bombay. Ridicule the change. But Bombay will remain Mumbai. Till it changes again.

Frankly I doubt if the essence of the city has changed with the renaming. It is still a city on the move. A city which doesn't just talk. A city of doers. A city where everyone wants to come to. A city which people hate. Yet love. As the Eagles would say a city you can check out of but can't leave. To the world Mumbai is India. We suffered that when the terrorists attacked us last year. They knew that nothing can give the sort of mileage that Mumbai would.

It is a bit like a woman changing her surname after marriage. The person remains the same. But the documents need to be changed.

Mumbai is the new name of Bombay. And there is no point in using any other name in an official forum. Offical forums would be forms and applications, reports and organised mass media. The Blog space remains personal still and I am not sure if rules apply here.

My argument therefore is that one should refer to Bombay as Mumbai in official forums. There's nothing ideological about it. It is a fact.

One's personal relation with Mumbai is a completely different though. What the Mumbai brigade should understand that most who refer to Mumbai as Bombay do it more out of habit than as an intentional slight on the city or its culture. Politicians who insist on taking their oath in Hindi might have hidden agendas. Not the average Jaikishen who is trying to scrounge his rent for the most expensive hundred square feet in the world while hanging precariously from a local train.

I would compare it with a term of endearment which you might have for your lover which might not be her formal name. Or like calling an old college classmate 'fatty' like in the old days though he is now a trim and fit Mr Arora, MBA Harvard. It is not an insult. It is how you relate to the city. if characters in films and books say Bombay that's because people still do.

And, emotions, can't be doctored or tailored. Nor can art and literature. Ask Goebbels.

So what I am trying to say is that if you want call Mumbai Bombay, remember it is Mumbai now. Get real and don't end up being a lover from the past.

And for those who swear by Mumbai, the city needs a lot more from you than your bashing up those who have used the B word.

There is a hell of a lot that needs to fixed in this city. So let's not get sidetracked and then marvel at the Shanghais and Singapores and Dubais of the world.

Post Script ... I read a nice article by Bhavin Jhankaria of Mumbai Mirror a few weeks back. He made a similar argument. This is the link

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Time heals all? A city in denial

I came upon a very well packaged feature on last year's 2611 terror attacks in Times Now today. It's called 'Those who fought for us'. I got hooked onto Times Now during those horrible days when we were all shaken up.The earnest and passionate coverage of Arnab Goswami and his team struck a chord.

Watching the programme set me thinking.

  • Qasab's still alive. The Arthur Road Jail road block to keep him safe means that he is till a thorn in the flesh of Mumbaikars. As if reading about his giddiness and pleas for biriyani were not enough to make our blood boil
  • The ministers who were sacked after the attacks are back. One in the same post
  • The government has been re-elected at the Centre and the State
  • While the opposition goes about whacking people for calling Mumbai, Bombay. Pity they didn't try beating up the terrorists who were immigrants to Mumbai too
  • Retired cops are probably trying to get book deals by raking up controversy
  • While the SRPF Jawans who are protecting the Gateway to Mumbai have to sleep on the footpath
  • For many the effects of the attacks are traffic jams in Tulsi Pipe Road thanks to naka bandis. Or the irritation of having to get your cell phone checked at Malls
  • While a few have had their lives scarred for ever
  • Mumbai's own Bollywood is addressing the issue of terrorist attacks. In New York City.
  • And marketing teams have ad campaigns ready to ride the memories of the carnage

Bomb Blasts, Train Blasts, 2611 ... I guess there is still some of the famous 'Spirit of Mumbai' left to wash clean our next wound