Saturday, 30 January 2010

Murder .... Drunken driving

There's been one more drunken driving accident at Mumbai. It happened last night. Two people dead. More injured. Not the driver though. Two innocent people. Bystanders. The details of this case are not important. Drunken driven as an act is such a shame. Avoidable and condemnable.

Hearing about the two who died really makes you think about the futility of life. Neither one knew when they woke yesterday that it was going to be there last day on earth. The years of joy, trial and tribulations of life cut to an end due to no fault of theirs.

Drunken driving is one of the most lethal things one can do. I am not pontificating from a pedestal. We all take risks with our lives. One does things that the doctors say are harmful. But drunken driving puts others at risk. Kills people. That is just not on.

Is it that difficult to take a cab back home? Worst comes to worst, if you have your car, and not a driver, then you could even leave your car behind and pick it up the next day.

I know that is not the most eloquent of posts. Sometimes the gravity of what happened says it all.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Musty Majestic Mumbai

I love getting lost in old Mumbai.

I was there for a short while today as I had a meeting near Bombay Hospital. Enough to get the heartbeat racing.

The art deco of the refurbished Metro cinema. The majestic crumbling facade of Crawford market. Parsi reading rooms. Irani Cafes ... Sassanian Boulangerie and Keyani. Punjab Hotel, Kashmir Hotel and New Bengal Lodge from a time when the Indian federation was being formed. Shops with quaint names and calligraphy from another age. All sitting like Miss Havisham waiting for her Prince Charming.

There is a sense of romance in the old city which the ruins, disrepair, dust and grime cannot hide. A beauty which makes you proud of belonging to this city.

Long standing plans to come on a Sunday with a camera are remembered. Fresh plans to come to Sassanian Boulangerie for kheema pao are made.

And then the cab ride back to spreadsheets, numbers, team motivation and client satisfaction.

I hope that the old city doesn't become the foundation for skyscrapers if and when India becomes a superpower. I hope that someone has the love and patience to nurture, restore and give life to the grand dame that we all so love.

We don't need to look far for inspiration. Look at how beautifully Istanbul has married the old and the new. And how they have restored Taksim Square to a harmony of modernity and heritage.

You mean to say that we can't do the same and better?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Last Christmas ...dumped on New Year

Gosh, it was just July when I wrote about our driver woes. I had put a comment about a chubby, affable driver who had just joined us. He turned out to be a good find. Drove properly. Often bunked but not to the point of desperation. Polite. Round. We used to refer to him as 'The Great Salami'. Simon Majumdar's moniker for his brother.

Cut to the first morning of this year. We woke up bleary eyed when the bell rang at ten. It seemed as if we had just gone to bed after bringing in the new year. My hair looked like a balding porcupine's as I dragged myself to the door.

I opened it and saw that there was a thin, lanky guy waiting outside. His words finally registered through the haze of the previous night's good cheer. The Great Salami, who took his salary a day in advance, had apparently quit! The thin, lanky guy worked for a neighbour and came to apply for the job. TGS had apparently sent him.

I couldn't think of a worse morning after scenario. I slowly realised that we had been dumped on the first day of the year. The first day of the decade. And what hurt was that he didn't even say goodbye. That I had to hear it from someone else. Hungover. Jilted. Baulking at the prospect of meeting the family to make merry in a few hours.I closed the door on the thin guy's face.

A nice lunch at Kamling with the in laws. A cab ride back to Bandra in the sweltering heat. An afternoon nap late in the evening and better sense prevailed. I called the thin guy and took a test drive.

Me: What cars have you driven before?
Thin guy: Sir I drove for your neighbours (sister and bro in law of a Bollywood starlet who owns the house). Before that I drove for Sameera Reddy (a smaller starlet, in terms of career credits)
Me: What routes have you driven in?
Thin guy: "I drove for Sameera Reddy. Before that I drove Kaizad Gustad (a controversial Bollywood director who went Boom)"

Well I did recently ask a female lead in a recent avant garde film whether the seats beside her were taken in Gloria Jean's. I don't know if that redeemed us enough in the eyes of our filmi driver. Thankfully the thin guy joined us despite our lack of any obvious tinsel town affiliations.

So there you are. New year. New driver.

Would you call this a clean break up? I don't know. I still wish that The Great Salami has at least given me some sign when he took his salary in advance. Or had at least returned my calls.

Let's see how long the rebound works.