Saturday, 13 February 2010

My name is immaterial

Pali Hill is considered to be one of the poshest addresses in Mumbai. This is in Bandra. Considered to be the poshest and most expensive suburb in Mumbai. You have all the Khans and Kapoors living here. I suspect that the tax collections from this suburb is amongst the highest in Mumbai.

Yet it took me close to twenty five minutes to drive down from the base of Pali Hill to Bandra P O which is less than a kilometre away on Saturday morning.

Chaotic traffic. Cars tottering like battered prize fighters. Autos whizzing past like mosquitoes. Pedestrians crawling all over except on the footpath. And people dragging handcarts oblivious to all. Not a policeman in sight. What really livened up the madness was the fact that roads had been dug up. There was no advance notice. So you reached your turning and realised that you could no go further as the road was dug up. You had to turn back into the snaking traffic. You would be really lucky if the person opposite you had the sense, patience and manners to wait and give way. In most cases you would be faced by people refusing to give you a square inch. The fact this made everyone go deeper and deeper into a black hole of traffic induced inertia be damned.

Did I say there were no cops? There was a posse outside Globus cinema guarding SRKs film from Goebell's Sena.

All that the rest of us could hope for is to get drunk on the' spirit of Mumbai' and sleep off our Saturday

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Bombay to Goa ... Lost in translation

This happened on the drive down North Goa yesterday. We were heading to the airport to catch our flight back to Mumbai. A nice air conditioned Wagon R (Rs 50 more for AC) and a very sweet, young Goan driver. A local Hindu, nicknamed Sam.

I slowly woke up midway and began to stretch after the coconut tree induced snooze. Suddenly Sam spoke out of the blue.

Sam: Sir, where are you from?

Me: Bombay (I normally use the M word on the blog)

Sam: Oh. Er what is happening to the new Shah Rukh Khan film? Will it get released?

(I am used to this. Years back on hearing I am from Mumbai, folks in Bangladesh had asked me when the then new SRK film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain was going to release!)

Me: Well from the news it seems so.

Sam: The Sena is opposing, no? What is the problem?

Me: Well from what I know they are protesting because he wanted Pakistani players in his IPL team

Sam: So the Pakistanis won't play now

Me: No, I don't think so. Plus they can't hire more players now

Sam: This Shiv Sena makes life in Bombay difficult no?

Me: (wan smile)

Sam: I heard that they are like terrorists. They break everything all the time

Me: Well not 'all the time'. I wouldn't call them terrorists

Sam: But what is their problem?

Me: They have a central belief. They protest when things go against them. Actually there are two parties. One is Shev Sena. The other is... (I actually forgot the name of MNS at that point)...er the Sena

Sam: Oh, life in Bombay is tough

(My face became even sadder at the thought of the short holiday coming to an end)

But, what happened there? Did I just bat for the Shiv Sena. I guess being largely off booze and red meat at Goa made me delirious.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Mumbai Road Rage

It took me close to two hours to drive the twelve odd kilometres from Chinchpokli to Bandra after work at Mumbai this evening. I took to the wheels of my new car for the first time after I returned from a weekend in KL and its regulated traffic and empty roads. I am without a driver again.

My spanking new expensive car with ergonomic seats and super suspension couldn't prevent my back from giving in today after the drive. I was so disoriented when I returned from my drive from hell that I almost put my socks in the garbage bin instead of in the laundry basket. So why am I writing instead of resting my back? I am writing because I am angry. Very angry. And the pain doesn't let me forget my anger.

Angry at the fact that I live in a city where I have to pay the highest road taxes, the highest for fuel, highest for rent and then have to go through this. Roads broken everywhere. Multiple constructions going on in every road of this cursed city. Metro, Monorail, flyovers, concreting, sky walks ... more projects at the same time than the number of women Tiger Woods had at one go. Some of them such as the walkways are a joke meant for construction guys and netas to beat the recession.

And then there are jaywalkers. That's the first thing which struck me after my weekend in KL. How pedestrians just take over the road and jauntily wave a finger at you asking you to stop. You spend huge sums of money to buy more bhp, cubic centimetres, more power, space and then move at the speed which would make a bullock cart driver seem like a F1 racer. And before you get all socialistic on me...there is enough space on our pavements. And traffic lights are there for a reason.

Then I came back, switched on the telly and what do I see? The principle opposition party taking on a film star who wants to hire Pakistanis for his cricket team. And the crown prince of the ruling party reminding all that commandos in 2611 had come from North India. I don't know what Major Unnikrishan's father would say about it. But the crown prince seemed to have forgotten that the commandos could have come earlier if his then Home Minister didn't want to hitch a ride on the flight for a photo op. And the 'Cousin'? I have it on good authority that there were both people who speak the local language and those who don't who were stuck in this evening's traffic. And then there was the gem that the police at Pune are going to come down on PDA during V Day. Splendid. Now all we need to hope is that Kasab's classmates come in holding hands. We will be safe then.

And don't give me the argument that the middle class doesn't vote and don't deserve to complain. I voted for the last two elections once I got my name on the lists here.

Don't give the argument, "shut up or ship out you outsider". I have lived in this city for ten years. Folks need to understand that every global city grows because of their mix of native talent AND immigrant talent. Often from across borders. Would Mumbai be as big in the corporate world, films, advertising, fashion, electronic media, if it wasn't for people who had come from outside and made it its home? Neither is exclusive. The locals build the base. And fresh blood helps the city grow. We can accept this fact of life. Or we can be like the cities across India which everyone pooh poohs.

From traffic to the outsider issue.... I know that it's a hyper leap but the point I am trying to make is that there are enough real issues here - traffic, water, pollution, housing, drunken driving, rats, terrorism. It's surprising that our polity have the time to dream up the sort of ridiculous issues which they live by. But I guess that is our lot. They will fiddle. And we will burn..

Drunken driving? It's driving here which will lead you to drink