Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Did you know what happens in Virar trains?

(Image of a crowded train from this site)

One of my acquaintances told me this amazing mumbai `item'. Suppose you were a tough cookie and managed to get a toehold in a virar local from Churchgate.  Then, if you are a regular Mumbai warrior you even manage to get yourself a seat. Then, mid-way, usually at Borivli, somebody is going to tap you on your self-congratulating shoulder and tell you to stand up. The thing is, if you enjoyed the trip this long, then it is only `courteous' to give up your seat to the other poor sweltering, sweating fellow-commuter. So, whether you like it or not (who likes it!!!) you have to stand up at Borivli and give up seat. Since the virar passengers are travelling in gangs, woe betide any one who has the guts to refuse. 
I remember even as a new-comer to Mumbai, over two decades ago how animalistic and violent the virar women would be. They are another tribe altogether, different from any human being you have met. They will actually maul you if you made the mistake of getting into a Virar local if you were going to Borivli. Their anger those days was that when you have so many Borivli trains why would you get into a virar? Even if you did by mistake, which you are bound too, if you are new to the city, there will be no mercy. They just manhandled you -- pregnant or not, child or not, teenager or not, even if you indicated that you did not understant what that was about, they were just sooooo angry!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Off the railway station, Bandra

You will find this same pic in my yoga blog. But here I want to write about something else ...

My car disgorges me at this spot. It is 5. am.  I tell the driver to park the car, alongside a few feet off. You don't feel strange here, being the lone woman -- the men are busy and incurious. They know I am not a pick-up and understand that I have come for pamphlet distribution. Mumbai is that sort of city. I am directed clinically to the youth handling the pamphlet distribution. He is a Maharashtrian and I am relieved. They are the sweetest men, generally, and very chivalrous... I find that the Maharashtrian men have the best respect for women in the whole world. I had written earlier: when I distributed the pamphlets the first time, I remember the vendor, a Maharashtrian, actually told me to keep ten bucks (that I had to pay him). It was his way of saying, I respect that you, a woman, are doing this on your own... It felt so lovely. I kept that ten bucks for long, because it is that sort of thing about this city that makes you love it... and it comes from the locals. Even my driver, a Maharashtrian, when I give him some small extra cash if some such mission (pamphlet distribution, or early morning workshop) went off well -- he will brush it aside with affectionate brusqueness.. That is also so nice... Tell me where else in India -- I mean in a city --  u will find that attitude?

Well, everybody says this of Mumbai -- that it is the outsiders who make it what it is (I am an `outsider' in that sense too). But actually, it is this Mahashtrian ethos that allows you to be who you are (an enterprising woman) without disturbing that enterprise you bring to your task with useless labels -- woman, alone, rich, poor, jeans-clad, saree-clad, old, young --  whatever else that the rest of India (try this in Delhi, for instance, and you know what I am talking of) assigns to a person and tries to suppress you from there -- that is not there in Mumbai. And that comes from the Maharashtrians. A staunch cleanliness of behavior. Whatever else the debate may be -- on who makes this city and the rest of the blah -- there is no doubt we can  reach where we want -- reach right to the stars -- because the original locals have no quarrel with you doing that..  We must salute that laissez faire ...It is the soul of this city...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Zenzi -- a young place

The Time-out magazine `insight' on the place was a bit out-dated. So we three, the family, (going by the review) -- sat waiting for the tables to clear for the dance to start. But the dance was happening inside and we did hear the music vaguely out. So we must say we overate, just waiting, thanks to the Time-out mag's misleading review:) But the food was sooo delicious -- I loved the calamari best. My kid ate a lot of exotic stuff too -- but she does not like to share so I don't quite know how it all was. But that she licked her plate clean  -- which means it must have been good. She is fussy that way. Then the family shamelessly `washed' the whole thing down with a huge pile of French Fries. So gross, no?

Any case, Zenzi is a very young (This web site has NOT been updated since September!!).  No board outside and while we, non-Bandraites, asked about to locate it:) Meaning of Zenzi and how to pronounce it? Go here

Very few women, wonder why. Fast-moving crowd. Since the lounge bar was sooo cold we wanted to come out to the tables outside and managed to get one pretty fast. People stand about nursing drinks too. That sort of chilled out place. And quite a few pick-ups. A old, white woman with a gigolo beef-cake.  The reality show girls with a fellow with a lot of money, loose chest and belly and even more loose wallet with a white woman wanting a free India ride... Nice short clothes, taut legs, as far as women went. Why is that young Indian boys look so thin and without any body tone? My daughter has been cribbing for long that there are so few boys in her circle  who like to physical activity, be it dance, a good work-out at the gym or even games. Sooo boring. You can see evidence of such sloppy physical fitness at places like Zenzi. Only the young boys from abroad look like they are into any sort of physical activity.  My daughter looked archly at me and said, Mom, whom are you checking out. Hey, I told her, I am into this fitness business. (And I know for one, that our men simply hate working out. So it was my keen marketing eye that was trying to see if there was any potential here. No, there was not,  I concluded:)

Not surprisingly,  our boys don't even seem to have interesting women about them. The proportion man-to-woman was like ten to one here!! Maybe the girls crawl out later in the night. Even the dance floor the proportion was this low. DJ Amol was there. I did a Ranbir Kapoor act on the floor, but the music petered off, so we -- heavy with good food -- decided it was time to leave and go to bed. Yawn!!

Where and when?
12 pm – 3.30 pm (Sat, Sun only), 7 pm – 1 am
183, Waterfield Road,Near National College,
Bandra (W), Mumbai – 400 050price : 1000-2000

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tch! Tch! Toilets in Mumbai stink:(

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First of course, the biggest problem in this city is that there are not enough toilets for its populations. So, the city stinks as a whole.
Then, last year or so I read the amazing news that builders were thinking of dispensing with providing toilets in low middle class homes and the flat-buyer will have to do it up himself. What a stupid suggestion. However, with the recession,that sort of clout the builders weild in the city (where they can say free parking and charge a bomb or say parking for all, and not provide space for cars) has been hit. So even if they wished they cannot carry off the devious plan of making Mumbai more dirty than it is -- because the market has shrunk so much they are giving away free furniture  for the buyer who is not going to be too happy to get a house without a toilet.

Any case, all my years in Mumbai I have never visited a Churchgate or VT station loo just for the dread of it. When I came to city, and though I could see the gold beneath its crap-strewn pavements, I was overwhelmed by just how dirty it was. Spit and crap so much all over that its citizens had simply stopped reacting.

However, all this all of you already know. I am cribbing about the fact that toilets are so bad in established places.
Here is a list I recently visited:
  • Ravindra Natya Mandir -- 
* Absolute horror. We paid Rs 300 per person for the ticket. But paisa vasool only for the artist performance. The rest of what the center provided was pure crap:  The flush was leaking, so water was all over the floor. There was no place / peg where one could hang a bag -- an essential for women who all carry handbags. So should we place it on the floor which is so leaky, wet and soiled over?
*  Even more drastic: no lights in loos. Only central lights burning. The toilet door is high. So, if you shut it you cannot see anything, including where the toilet seat is!!
* No dust bins in loos. Where does a woman drop her sanitary napkin? If in the toilet, then it should flush. Since it was not flushing, then imagine how horrible for women who want to change sanitary pads.. Terrible... in the dark, not seeing a thing, holding on the bag, changing the pad  -- Inhuman.

So, if using the toilet, u must keep the door open and struggle about 

Nehru center: Nice and functional.

Tata Theater: Good, neat and has hooks, lights, and everything

In Orbit theater: Great loos. But the cleaning girls can be a bit aggressive: they will push the brush into where you stand. It is some atavistic anger-release for them I guess. But since the loos are clean, I normally suffer the indignity of such misdirected aggression.

Oberoi Mall: Same as above, including the cleaning girls. Its a tribe thing I guess:)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gourmet City to shut down?

Bad news guys. It seems Mumbai is still not a gourmet city... because the Hypercity's gourmet counter is likely to shut down. It has def me to mourn for its demise. How sad... I used to love the food there, the quiet, the pricing and everything about it that teased my tongue... Now it is going to go and we will have to hunt around in Nature's Basket or Foodland for those yummy things we need that makes us feel like food aesthetes.

Btw. I suppose we really don't have food sensitivity in the city. The fact that most restaurants are not stocking the desserts u want (tiramisu, cheesecake) but keep safe options (ice cream- yeow!) shows that we are very mundane when it comes to food. A Japanese food specialist we met at Kelva told us that the Sushi stuff u get, or the wasabi ready-made stuff u get, made from China have been spiked a lot with spices which is not the way they are meant to be. They have a subtle flavoring that only the Japanese get right. However, subtlety and Mumbaikars?? Never the twain shall meet:( 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shubha Mudgal and sponsorship and RJ gone berserk

We went to Nehru Center for a powerful performance by Shubha Mudgal. I know I am no music critic, but as a student who struggles with musical notes daily I have some right to talk of enjoying her performance..Rushnai, meaning illumination.. A sufi word?

The RJ Rohini got booed for talking too much, with constant reference to herself and reciting Hindi poems... But RJs who try to become comperes are born with Duck's back I guess (Remember Sajjid Khan who did not like being criticised by Ashutosh for being cheap and demeaning and rationalised even... some people do things for fun, some for a living. ). This Rohini even wound up the show by saying  'I am Rohini' or some such nonsense!! Heavens..

The worst thing I saw was when the sponsors got shawls from the artiste. I have never seen such gross and cheap behavior from any sponsors till now. I wonder which sponsor's bright idea it was. As it is, what with the RJ's motormouth and these sponsors' lackey's wanting to be on the stage with the artiste and talking and strutting before the mike with a shaky, foolish voice (nobody had ANYTHING illumining to say) it was extremely irritating to the audience which got thoroughly restless at such lapse of grace. The sponsors also practically got booed with loud claps. But possibly, they also were born with duck's back (otherwise would they dare to make such social gaffe) and patted themselves on their duck's backs, thinking they were being honored.

Union bank, Reader's Digest were amongst the five sponsors I recall.. Terrible. I can imagine the plight of the artiste reduced to pampering clerical egos (actually these  Johnnies are just signing cheques for their managements. The real aesthete or patron will never do that!!) . Apparently they love music, somebody said. I wonder at that really! If they did, they will never treat an artiste like that...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lotus eating at Kelwa beach

We decided to travel out once more, now that the kid is not at home. Lately, as a Mumbai kid she was beginning to have shudders at quiet spots that pleased us village types. So we had sort of stopped going out -- the sacrifices of parenthood. Now that she is not there to fuss any more, we decided to revive our enthusiasm for gadding about. Even though I otherwise lead an enviably lazy life (do I?), I find that I am unable to relax at home simply because I have so many things to do. Apart from the chores, all those things from my deprived childhood (beadmaking, jewellery making, fabric painting, etc). So, a holiday out helps me shut that clamour in my head.

At Kelva we mananged to finally wind down the Mumbaikar clockwork mechanism. Hammocks, beer, cooked food at the right time, unobstrusive staff, sprawling banyan tree, lovely and aesthetic touches by somebody who loves the place and loves beautiful things and loves Buddha:)Log huts, clean toilets, continuous water supply, and power supply, kid's play pen, a pleasant manager, a tiny swimming pool with clear water, a beach just across (and since the beach alongside this stretch is messy and the crowd thereabout rowdy, we just ate lotus at the resort:) Am giving you the link which gives u the general, high-end rates. Tents (Rs 1000 odd, a large dorm like hut, with equally cheaper rates, smaller log huts, concrete huts with different rates and more).

So, if you wish to chill and not have to drive to far off to do that, here is where you want to go. Beautiful.

Also, Kelva Beach Resort is available for the dates :http://kelwabeachresort.com/

Non Ac Eco Log Hut : Rs.7000/- for 2 persons for 2 nights.

Extra Child (5-12) : Rs.2500/- per child for 2 nights.

Extra person (above 12) : Rs.3500/- per person for 2 nights.

And if the page does not display (they are reviewing their rates, plus remember rates are different for different seasons, holidays) write to them /or contact them at

91.022.6631 0581
91.022.3292 2038

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lemon Grass restaurant

I am partial to people from the north-east because of Biki, my Muay Thai instructor. Very smiley, sweet people, child-like. This restaurant is full of them, to serve you, so already I am biased.

Jahnavi, my daughter, whose taste  is simple -- she likes Thai food, pizzas, French Fries, Mughlai and not always in this order -- and whose appetite is huge -- loved the food here. The starters we ordered were just so lovely -- and I must confess to something terrible, I cannot remember the names!! It was a few weeks back and I was confident that standing on my head as well as my pampered taste-buds will combine to help me recall the list of stuff we ordered. But there it is, I cannot remember anything except that  I enjoyed my food and we were giggling a lot and felt a bit sad that the place was so empty and the bamboos waving about added to the sense of isolation. . My kid licked her fingers. And we lliked the serving size. Plus they did not have the dessert I wanted (always happens only to me).  But the ambience was good (so quiet in that area), and of course, my smiley waiters. If you are partial to Thai and Chinese food then this is the place... Rates are reasonable. I liked the low mid section: but difficult to snuggle into that if you are wearing skirt or shorts:)

Lemon Grass Cafe

106, First Floor, Palm Spring Mall, Link Road, Malad West, Mumbai
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

28817444, 28817888
(Above Croma). 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Watching Malavika Sarukkai, revisiting NCPA

My husband and I were revisiting NCPA's Tata theater after a long, long while. I remember going there for a play with my kid, Othello, a few years back.
It remains unchanged. The chandeliars. The uniformed boys (at the food counters), looking a bit harried at the thought of having to serve  celebs -- possibly because they recognise them.  I love that crowd, having interviewed a few during my journalistic days. It is a closed, tightly guarded celeb I-scratch-your-back-your-scratch-mine sort of set, but I like it because they are so non-pretentious despite that halo they have given each other.... U could dial-a-quote with them and they made my feature-writing that way a cake-walk, though I recall Alyque Padamsee made me wait for an hour for a long column he should have written but only had time to dictate to a rookie and after the garrulous man spoke I had reams (on my recorder) and I had to give it some structure... This was immediately after Sunday Times was launched:)

Any case Dolly Thakore hopped in, while we were nervously waiting at the ticket counter (the laptop from where the tickets were being issued, had first shut down, then was slow and there did not seem to be a system of Q and the fellow was feeling too hassled to remember to be polite:) and told that harried fellow  the seats she wanted for herself.. Sigh.  The 300-rupee seats were all sold out, we managed to get some seats off the aisle in the Rs 200-range, and were thankful that we could see the full beauty of the dancer perfectly from that perch.

The cold coffee is quite a filler. And I munched on a cheese sandwich before the dance drama (Kashi Yatra). What a stupendous performance. The reason I am back to doing these things in the city is because my kid is now training at the classy Kalakshetra and I don't want to be a mom who does not know of Malavika Sarukkai's  style when she discusses it with me. So despite this silly reason for returning to my `culture vulture' days, I was glad I was doing it. The dancer glowed, every movement of her perfect. Her expressions lucid. And for the first time I felt I could follow the story in the dance. Such poesy... One day perhaps my kid too will do that?? And I will be in NCPA, watching her... after a sip of cold coffee to settle my nerves:)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Prithvi Irish coffee, a tradition

I went to Manoj Joshi's superb play Chanakya this Sunday. It was playing in south Mumbai and just when I was bemoaning the fact that things don't seem to move up north, to our forsaken suburbs (though we have recliner seats in cinema near home:)the play was announced in Prithvi. We booked online, such a smooth operation. And after years nearly, we went to Prithvi. Got the tickets also immediately, though I wondered how the delivery will happen. The last time I went, was a few years ago, to attend an experimental play and having foolishly ordered pasta and waiting eternally for it as the Q to enter the theater grew (No seat numbers in Prithvi, so this ancient, out-of-sync with modern times practice).
Any case, we managed to float in eventlessly, and were amused to see funny incidents of Mumbaikarbrazenness -- squeezing one extra person into somebody's lap, trooping in late and squeezing out the rest of early comers; and during loo break try to take over somebody's else seats (if that is possible, since there are no numbers). Sitting on the steps, though the usherers keep pleading to leave it for the actor's passage. And then, of course, the brazenness of letting your mobile ring loudly in this tiny theater, so poor Joshi had to restart the act.  But Mumbaikars are very game and such brazenness  is attempted because they don't mind that squeeze, that elbow, that jostling sense of being in a crowd, even to watch a classy play.

The Cafe: Like I said, the last time, a few years I was there, I had ordered a pasta plate for my ever-hungry, cribbing daughter and was still waiting as the Q grew. So that was an annoying experience.
This time we had a slightly more irritating experience, when the waiter boy (Nandu something, since I was irritated enough to ask his name) took the Rs 500 we gave, took down the order and said he will give change and items to our table... but when another waiter went to enquire, this boy was standing in front the guy at the counter who was saying no such order had been placed and he did not know anything about it (or some such nonsense which happens when we do these silly trusting things that should not be done at such public spots). Any case, my body language was aggressive as I wagged my hand at the boy who I recognised (and my husband, that trusting fellow who never takes receipts and always then sends me out to salvage the situation, did not remember his face)... (If anybody at Prithvi is reading it and wants to contact me, u may email me at sama_yama@yahoo.co.in and next time I come I will point the boy out to you)... Any case, he readily handed over the change, despite having acted as if he knew nothing of the altercation happening.. Irritating...

Any case, the irish coffee at Prithvi is a Mumbai tradition by now! I have always had it.  This time I pigged on a blueberry cheesecake (which just last week I attempted at potpourrie too). The latter is more grainy, and I always vote for that texture. The Prithvi one is smoother.. and quite delicious in its own right. Lovely.

The heavy-duty stuff was not available -- pasta, eggs  and such items because the menu is apparently going through an overhaul. But otherwise, despite the old chairs that have not been changed since I saw them years ago, despite the sense of something patchy and tatty at Prithvi, it still rocks. And is a nice place to hang out with friends, if you get a seat:)

The play was superb. And is running housefull:) Thank god the city has it culture spots still...

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sea Link, dreamy though delayed

The sea link that connects us humble Suburbanites to South Mumbai looks rather dreamy. Yes. But it took a looooooong while to materialise. I remember as a rookie journalist being asked by Darryl D'Monte, one of my fav editors, to do a story on why it took so long, for the Times of India, no less. That was over 15/16 years ago!! Imagine... It has materialised only now -- which only shows that though Mumbai has the mostest money, its city fathers have the leastest intention and love in working for its good. Every time we go over the sea link (it cuts down on traffic mela and saves a lot of time) my husband, also a journo then and sadly even now:), gets apoplectic about how Mumbai is slow on its projects while back home, Chennai, despite its overtly goonda politics, is so fast with such projects which display the city positively.

Another sore point with him, where the Sea Link winds off in Worli, we have to take long U-turn to swing into the city. It, according to him, is a clear case of different departments not thinking together to give a common solution to the city. And throwing up problems that ruins a grand gesture like the sea link ... Apparently in the mornings there is a huge traffic pile-up here... After so many years, this is how we wind up a project? Messily?? I see journos don't write about such stuff any more. I had one journo student who was so thrilled about being given a pack of Arundhuti Roy books by her agent while releasing her latest book This journo called it a `miracle gift'. Is she naive? So you know the cadre of journalism nowadays:(

Link is named after Rajiv Gandhi. Oh, btw. while swinging on the Bandra flyover I was amused to see Mt Mary Church described as Mt Merry Church!! Such a typo in a city announcement... Cannot be rectified?

Sea Link Cost:
One way, Rs 50
Return, Rs 75.

I think there is some pass facility also.
Btw. Bullock carts, two-wheelers not allowed on the link:) Though the way Mumbai is progressing, we should all give up our cars and go back to carts... best way to travel in this city...

The day Meru let me down

The Meru cabs have a proud slogan: Rely on Us. However, last month while going to Chennai and boarding an early morning Kingfisher flight for it, the cab company let me down. At 5.30 am (the sort of time when such things can make you nail-bitingly, intensely nervous), the cab did not come as scheduled, though I got an ack the night before and an sms around 5 am that very morning. My husband called up the helpline and was told the driver, a Dubey, was not taking the call, so they will despatch another cab soon... Again, the sort of time when the clock ticks and with the way the lines overflow at the airport these days, this can only make the would-be passenger intensely nervous. My part of town it is tough getting an auto ordinarily and to hunt one down at that unearthly hour!! Heavens, I was so nervous because I was keen to get to Chennai, to bring back my daughter, coming home for the first time since her hostel life began this year.

Then, we waited, yet after five mins. no call, no cab. I told my husband we must ditch Meru and find my own auto, or he must drive me to airport. We did not know what to do? What if the cab came when I went down ? That is the sort of confusion such letdowns can inflict, which can make the situation even worse due to lack of communication. Then, luckily I spotted an auto just pulling and managed it to the airport... No call from Meru till date, let alone 30 seconds after complaint.

My ref numbber is AE1A26273 -- in case anyone from Meru is reading this and wants to mop up failed reputation:(

Monday, September 21, 2009

Machaan, why I like this restaurant

First time we went to Machan, we were ordering a la carte. But the waiter insisted on giving us lots of stuff from the buffet table as well: pakodas, finger foods. It felt royal:)

Next time again, we went we had a great time. The place is dimly lit, has a jungle motif and a softly rustling waterfall. But that is not why we go there. The food is truly excellent. The price reasonable.

This time we ordered some non-veg and vegetarian stuff. The food is non-greasy. Done just right. Tastes yummy. Options for regular and large are offered. I loved the Pattewali roti, with leaf pressed into rotis, while the malpua (with sugar syrup and crispy) and rabdi to pour over it/dip into as dessert was truly sinful. The appetizers are really non-greasy -- and that, in my opinion, is truly artful. The green vegetable patties (sorry, I forget the name) was cooked on tawa and was filled with nuts yet retained its shape and texture. For me, food is so much about texture. And while I must say the recession means some restaurants cut out the stylistic stuff like tasty mukhwas, here we got some amazing sweet mouth freshener that I kept popping in my mouth. Tandoori Table in Kandilvi east used to have a mint-flavored til-ka mukhwa that has now disappeared. But I loved that Machan is not cutting out such stuff.

Actually if you want to go budget you should try their Buffet: About Rs 399/ taxes. It is a gourmet spread man!


Palm Spring Bldg
Unit No 812, 8th Floor, Kanchpadha
Malad (W), Mumbai

28818844, 32687147, 28806668

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The animals in my backyard

The little bird has gone now. I was lucky enough to spot him and then click him before he flew away. For two days for a few minutes he would leave his nest to hang about in the sun. He actually entered the tiny netting in my computer room to sit and watch me type. Then he flew out and sat on the grill in the garden, sunning himself and allowing generously to be clicked despite my nervous fingers trying to zoom before he decided to disappear. I saw him early the next morning, his alert parents fluttering about. He was always alone in the nest and I am glad his parents thought he was safe in our balcony. But now that he is independent he can be at risk -- flying about adventurously into some larger bird's mouth -- a nice morsel or a dessert!! So now his parents have taken him to where they normally roost and I have his empty nest hanging in the balcony. The ravens have been curiously visiting it, hanging at my grill like some dark creatures... I like ravens -- they reek of intelligence and seem to be rather useful about this city. Where would we be without scavengers?

A large monarch butterfly has been fluttering about my lemon bush. It is not just the white flowers that seem to lure it but even the leaves. Perhaps it will also lay its eggs here? Who knows.. If you have seen monarch pupae, they are very exotic and colourful and then when the butterfly emerges, its wings still wet and sits under a soft morning sun to dry its wings, it can be a beautiful moment...So I will wait:)

Other bird visitors are the bulbul, examining my flowers and sparrows. The one you see has been worrying my foot mat in the garden, tearing some fluff from it for lining its nest.

We had decided, my husband and I, that once the birds leave the nest, we will put the pigeon netting -- to keep off the marauding pigeons which squat fatly on my plants, or shred them. And not mention the tonnes of crap I daily have to clean. So I wonder if the netting will keep off the other visitors or maybe the holes will be big enough to let them through. But will they trust and come in?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This fat little chick!

This plump little chick is now out of the nest. It fluttered through the grill to my computer room, through a hole one-inch in height... then while I worried about it rushing into my fan, as I shut the windows, he fluttered out through the one-inch hole happily...

Now he comes out of his dirt-bag nest occasionally and sits on my balcony grill, as his parents flutter about him. Does he not look so divine...
He cheeps loudly, is quite active and seems to be eating the whole time, if you watch his anxious parents carry food for him non-stop. Parenting can be so tough!

We did not put a pigeon protecting wire netting just so he won't be disturbed. Once he is gone, we will have to put up the wiring since the pigeons otherwise trash my flowering shrubs... Then such birds won't come. The other day, a bulbul was there, examining my pink flowers curiously... Even he won't come. Nor the rascally Mynah who plucks my palm leaves with a vicious venegeance...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Political posters: big farce

Yesterday I was very happy to see the BMC van go along the highway and even in Samta Nagar, nearby where I live, plucking off the political posters off from the roadside. I felt good that the ruling that all such posters defacing the city may be pulled down. But I realised that the whole attempt was rather farcical. It was on the tenth day of Ganpati immersion -- which meant the posters were allowed to stay on the entire course. The whole tamasha yesterday, with police vans, etc was just hogwash then!!

Oh btw. a blog visitor later came along and sent me this email which explains why the whole farce was carried out:
Actually, they were being removed that day because the Maharashtra elections had just been announced earlier in the day and the model code of conduct, under which hoardings etc are banned, came into force. Not being pulled down because they were defacing the skyline or any such thing…

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lottery racket on the roads:)

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Did you know the lottery sellers are now trying to get u to buy at traffic signals? Apart from selling strawberries (while in season), or umbrellas, little masks, plastic helicopters, car screens and car cushions, they are now also selling lottery tickets.

The Maharashtra state lottery ticket, one fellow told me. Some fantastic amount, that seemed to be too fantastic to be part of my karma:) So I shooed him away. He deliberately dropped a ticket inside my auto. While I tried to wave him back to pick it right back (he had danced a few steps away, this urchin) he came back, acting bemused. "Memsaheb," he looked at me, as if I had already won the lotto, "you must now buy it for sure. It is your luck which has made this ticket drop off my hand. It means your fate is now written on it." !!!!

I wonder who coaches them in such alluring language:) It must be our Bollywood films...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More on the sunbirds roosting in my home:)

I will let these delightful pictures speak for themselves. Sunbirds, roosting in my balcony. See that little fellow inside. One is always seated in, so I assume the eggs are there now. The nesting bird looks always in a daze... some hormone that must be stunning it that way (vasopression, for late-comers) since otherwise they are, by nature, extremely restless.
One day when my Muay Thai instructor walked looking lovingly at them, the seated bird screamed in a violated and scared fashion and flung away... I could imagine its tiny heart beating madly:(
So, now we try not to disturb them too much.... And though Biki suggested we could feed them something I fear the big birds will be more interested in such grains and disturb these little fellows. Best way to keep them around is to be non-interfering...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rhythm House: a tradition that really rocks:)

This is the new release (I think) called Nagore Sessions -- a compilation of Sufi type of songs from the famous dargah of Nagore, in Tamil Nadu. I read an interview with the singers and wanted to desperately to get my hands on it... being from the south and exploring Sufism also. I tried Landmark ... but u know, it is difficult to deal with the sales staff there -- some know their stuff, some don't. But at Rhythm House I know I will always find it. I ran into Rhythm House and looked out for that boy I always ask for such stuff (last time I wanted the Siddhar Cave music -- a Tantric, exotic compilation) and he knew where I will find it. I also found Vyas' fabulous Sattwa that way... another superb Satsangy music compilation... And this time asked him (his label reads AJAY:) and he asked another one, who seemed to know more... This one is Athik -- and he knew exactly which shelf I will find the Nagore Sessions in.. Wow, na?
I love Rhythm House. It rocks, man:)!!!

For details, go here...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Karma T-shirts: I lov m

I got a T-shirt with this mind-blowing image. It is a Karma T-shirt. I just lovvv it... It sort of sums up a lot of things about this country... The Karma T-shirt slogan says," Crazy about India." That too... sort of T-shirt that gets a lot of eye-balls (Tantra Tees can also be that way, though some of their PJs I find OTT... The sex ones particularly, and I am not even the moral police....

Where did I get it?
At Colaba Causeway... It is nearabouts the Bank of Baroda, a female clothes shop (called LOTUS, near Mc Donalds) that has been there for over a decade(I had got an expensive lengha for my daughter when she was just a toddler) It is manned (can u say that of a woman? ) by a lady who seems more keen on counting her stocks of embroidered clothes than selling this T-shirt. I had to practically wrench it from her (Poloma, are u reading this?:) before I could get the shop girls to hunt out the size of this T-shirt... they like the Tees soo much they don't want to sell it? They would not look up at all, from their precious stock. I had to keep pointing to this great sadhu hanging outside, on the glass, to get them to dig out a small sized for me. Already people are asking me for it. I intend to trek over to Colaba next week and buy a few more of these Karma Tees. Provided the lady obliges... What an idea, Sirji:) U can check out more on the Karma Tees on net, created by Madan Chhabria I think.

I will put up the photos of some more I just could resist picking up later on.
Contact number: 9320425272

Masks and more

My nephew clicked this picture for me, since I tried to click so many times and only caught the tip of my foot or big toe in the frame..Off Churchgate this man, stands selling mask. I picked up one, just for the heck of it (Some pompous TV journalist will come along and call me a sickness touris or some such thing?) It smelt of some vinyl -e thing, u know, that I could not imagine every wearing it. It cost me Rs 20. When half-hour later I walked past this guy, he was surrounded by a hoard of commuters who were all trying to make him rich:) by buying what all he had to offer. He had another mask for Rs 40.

Any case, the thougth that occured to me was that if we were health conscious as a nation (which we are not at all, despite Swami Ramdev) then we would not be in such a flutter about this flu. Our kids hardly get once a week PT (sports class). What sort of sick (I hate to say that cliche, pun intended) education system that excludes health-building activity. Once they come to tenth, this nonsense gets even more virulent, because the kids hardly get to think of doing any of the kiddie things -- even dancing, when u are a teen, they cannot.. We are terribly flaccid as a nation, where health is concerned. And we should feel guilty that the kids succumb when such virulent epidemics unleash, because we have, collectively, wrong priorities when we send them to school.
Lecture over. Feel strongly about such things. Or they will remain just the way they are. Drag us all down...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Temple jewellery

My daughter has the habit of asking for something very important (like some costume for an important performance, or a notebook for a particular test) in the last minute. Now that she is into boarding this trait is becoming more pronounced. This time she suddenly tells me she needs temple jewellery for her internal exams in her dance college. So I sort of panic and scout about and find a fake gold-plated costume jewellery shop near my complex. I splurge on some necklace, bangles, ear drops and then, since I cannot resist it, buy some myself. After which, commonsense dawns on me and I decide to go the south Indian and staid and reasonably priced Giri's for some temple jewellery. I remember the Goregaon Giri's proprietor Sharada telling me about her stocking such stuff. I decide to go to Matunga's Giri, but some thing makes me change my mind and I go to the Goregoan one and pick up a pile of beautiful, gold-tinted, jewellery that looks so much like the original stuff and made in the typical south Indian style -- of deep reds, round curves (like their women), and starkly set against pearls and clustered about in simple, unassuming way -- each one looking like the other. You won't find this simplicity in Gujarati jewellery which revels in extravagance. It is amazing the styles of jewellery in this country. I like all the styles and each has their own mood and I def think suggests the temperament of the people. A certain uniformity runs through most things south indian, which makes them more conservative than most.
It can grate that, if you don't belong. Otherwise, it can be a haven. It is matter of orientation I guess. I myself, I prefer, to be out of all that and observe and be neither this or that. Even in the matter of choice of jewellery...
But if you want to use fake gold jewellery for performances or even for your outings, south Indian temple jewellery are nice rich choices:)

At the gold-plated costume jewellery shop I picked four pieces for Rs 2200. At Giri's I got 12 pieces (bangles, necklace, neckpiece, head pins, nose pins and rings, waist band, arm bands, etc) for Rs 2650.

Giri Trading Agency Private Lts.
At Bangur nagar, Goragaon West, 28767298
They also have units at Dombivli, Matunga (Big one, in two sections -- book and Cd and one of temple and pooja items near the Matunga post office) , Nerul. They also have centers in other cities like Secunderabad, Coimbatore, Kanchipuram and Chennai.
For further details check out their website www.giritrading.com

It is also a great place to scout for spiritual/religious books:)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sun birds, actually, in my balcony

(The small pile of dirty looking leaves and twigs, a perfectly camflouged nest of the sunbirds, handing from a dried money plant vine in my balcony:)

My student Sabrina pointed out that the birds nesting in my tiny balcony are not tailor birds after all. They are sun birds. Possibly called that for the dash of pale yellow on their breasts. These ones are technically called Purple rumped sunbirds. The female, as with the animal species, is duller, greyish where the male has a dark, blackish attractive overcoat. The nest, over which the two birds have been fussing, has taken over a week now. And they are still at it. My husband made a video of their effort. It was done with his mobile, which explains the quality.(Click on the line, to watch it).

The other day I saw a sparrow, which looked large compared to these tiny fellows, peck harshly on the male seated on my tiny neem tree. The male sun bird was holding a fluffy feather in his curved beak, to line the nest. The sparrow kept pecking till the poor fellow had to drop it. Only then would the sparrow fly off. What wickedness, meaningless too:) Amazing how this world goes... And I remember singing as a child "It is Love, it is love, it is love that makes the world go around.." So innocent, so foolish, then. And now!

The dried Money plant vine is what the sunbirds had chosen, deliberately flimsy and frail so that other wicked ones of the animal kingdom, more keen on things other than the pecking order, could not climb over it. I can imagine snakes, crows loving to gobble up either those eggs or the nestlings. Let's see how it goes. As of now, the female makes foolish forays against my French windows, either imaging another rival female flapping into her, or seeing foliage where none is. So much like humans:)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

So funny, so silly: what some people say...

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Yesterday I read a compilation in HT Cafe about beads. And read this amazingly silly statement: "Research says people who wear beads have more fun."

(My take and why I find it silly-funny? Do u need a research to say THAT!! Only people who have fun in their mind and body also have the guts to wear beads... Rest just dream about it(the bead-wearer admirers) or sniff at it (the sour grapes) ... It is a right brain orientation!)

Friday, July 31, 2009

HIV test a must now for operations

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I had to get a minor op op done recently. And interestingly, for the first time in my experience with hospitals, I was asked to do an HIV test. First I thought something about my demeanour had prodded the doctor into suggesting it!! She had also marked blood test for Hepatitis A, which is a common and a highly infectious liver infection. The sonographer-cum-lab owner, however, assured me that this was now a standard procedure since in any such eventuality the entire operation theater and all the stuff used will have to be intensely fumigated. I was relieved. But the new, young assistants at the lab were curious. Why are you doing all these tests, they worriedly asked me. My husband and I always have a good laugh about how I look guilty as a a matter of rule and when such pointed questions are asked I look even more guilty!! That way, the situation was funny in an ironic way.
I must have imagined that, but the grins by the lab assistants and sonographer were wide and accepting after the results came out. It seemed they were relieved to see that I had got the all-clear! Even I felt that: because it is something to do with such tests that you dread their outcome!! But I am glad to know that clinics and hospitals are taking studied and scientific precautions....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Make-up artists in Mumbai

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Fortunately I am not famous. But occasionally I have to don some make-up for a shoot. It happens with New Woman magazine and had to, simply had to, do it for the TV series on Body and Soul. Ah, I remember the time, when I had to do that with for Harmony. Of the lot, the last had the most pro make-up artiste, possibly because the Ambani name kept the make-up artist well-behaved. No, actually, I think because Harmony also must have used an artist from other than the common pool.Whatever it was, it was not the intimidating, or nerve-wracking encounter that can happen commonly.

I remember the first sour experience happened during a shoot for Body and Soul. The make-up artist, first not so impressed that I was not famous (they get the same amount whether person is famous or not:) started looking at his watch pointedly several times after lunch. Though he was booked for the full shift (they work on shifts) he was keen on doing another one for which he wished to leave. Unprofessional. And trying to cover up by turning nasty and mean with the general body language and going on cribbing about the time, about everything in general. Sicko.

Then there was an interesting, quirky character who, the minute he landed at my doorstep, asked pointedly at me," Where is the model?" (This was for a New Woman shoot) I told him, there was no model, only poor I. Looking arch, he told me (he really really did), "You look like a boot (monster!)". To be kind to him (and myself) I think he meant my wild tresses, because next I knew my hair was bound with a big hair band he was carrying. (The journalist looked shocked and cringed; and later, when she came for another assignment remembered this incidence with great embarrassment. She told me that she was amazed that I did not react with anger to his jibe:) He did a great job and being a yoga teacher and understanding where that was coming from (a gay not allowed to be open his sexuality; from a lower middle class background dealing with snooty, cranky star types; being excellent in his job and yet being treated on par with the other mediocrities). Then, he kept a monologue about how awful some of the superstars, whom he had (all make-up artists will boast that they do superstars:) to salvage drastically. That petite dark-skinned star, such dark circles. And that beauty? Make-up artists hands quake when they are assigned to her, they have to do so much damage control. It will be great to write some features, based on interviews with these guys...Such colourful gossip!
But when he left, he kindly promised to get me a similar hair band to tie up my curls:)

Last time, I had a sweet fellow. But his make-up kit and brushes looked so unkempt that the minute the shoot got over, I ran and washed off my face since I was scared I will get some infection! And even he, despite his sweetness, when told not to use such a loud pink shade on my lips, cribbed: "She has two skin shades on her lips." God, you could be a mutant, the way these guys bitch!

Oh,my visitors are tailorbirds

I thought they were humming birds. But realised they don't display the `helicopter' like ability to hang, quivering, before a flower. The mistake I made was due to the long, curved beak. However, these beaks are still are not long as humming bird beaks, which need to be really long, to reach right into a flower's breast:)
So, yes, the tailor birds are still regularly visiting my balcony. They quiver, though not as intensely as humming birds, over some of my creepers. That may be, I wonder, if they want to build a nest here...
Let me see... Have brought more flowering plants now. That could attract even humming birds. Did you know, real gardeners plant gardens to attract butterflies or humming birds:) ? So nice.
In Mumbai there are always some mad gardeners. And equal number of people who are mad at them, for ruining the building facade with drippy, muddy water. There has been intense lobbying here, in our complex, to ban plants from balconies. That is also the norm in certain European cities. However, we have managed to fight it off... I think there could be insistence on ensuring that your plants don't drip over the wall, or your neighbours balcony. Fine those who mess up, do not keep plates under pots, or water them so much that they drip over your balcony and fall over somebody else's.
But come on, a bit of green could save this urban mess... If people can feed pigeons so they become pests, and resist street dog culling so that the city has several hundred dog bites daily, what harm can a few plants cause?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A restaurant shuts down?

I hope this blog is wrong -- but I passed Kutty's on the Link Road and saw that the shutter is down. No message either as to what is wrong. I had blogged on how great the food was, the ambience too, despite the squalid location -- but then, most of Mumbai is squalid and we eat our pavs over which flies have shat and which have, in their turn, sat on some shit...
But to leave those fulminations aside, am just saddened to see the shutter down on Kutty's -- great food at great prices. And nice shiny-faced Keralite receptionist. Felt was almost in Kerala.
Sigh Sigh...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Botox, I, and a big bad city:)

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Yesterday, having nothing else in life to do now that the daughter is away at boarding, I wandered into a cosmetic clinic for a facial (see the recent Kailash Kher song, exclusive on V channel and u know why I empathize with the bandit queen). The consultation with the dermatologist was free: recession and festive season contributing to this sort of bonanza. (Some shops are enticing with this line: Buy one, get seven free!!)..
Any case, I was asking about products, and the lady told me to give her a frown. Though my normal frown is rather intimidating (ask my quaking husband:) she said it won't do, and I must frown harder. Then she said to smile. While I smiled, my usual wide-mouthed grin (that embarrasses my kid, being so open, wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve sort of smile) she said I must smile harder -- the sort of Mr Bean mimic-the-clown-trying-to-get-out-of-dour-you grin. It made me foolish. I told myself I deserved this and more for having ventured here. Then she made me crinkle my face. Then she told me something -- and thank god it was a free consultation or I would have told her to give my money back -- she said that these gestures created deep lines. Helloww!! I know that already. If I frown and did not get a line on my forehead how the heck will the fellow whom I am intimidating know I am frowning? Or if I grin and people did not think I was smiling? The sheer effort, to make up for all that failed communication, would kill me!! But she sort of waved the proverbial syringe at me: I mouthed that dreaded word for her: Botox? I asked her astonished. I was asking for a facial and this lady says botox! Does she not know I do yoga, for heaven's sake!
She nods wisely and say, "Yes, it will make you look younger". Dead, was more like it. Have you seen those illiterate sad sacks in the entertainment industry who do botox and forget to smile and frown? Me, there? I, who thinks freedom means to frown and smile at will??

I walked out of the clinic, glad to have gotten out, smile and frown intact. This sort of nonsense, they call aggressive marketting. Watch out...
I even know a yoga student of mine who proudly told me that she has done training with a firm for such injections and she is not even a cosmetologist. Apparently in Mumbai, long before this post was even fretting to happen, socialites where having botox parties, giving each other shots to look younger....
Easy youth:)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Humming birds in my balcony

A pair of humming birds have been regular visitors to that strip of balcony for which we paid some neat amount(according to the civic rules the builder should not charge anything for this, so technically this belongs to the whole world! There is some nonsensical rule about balconies in Mumbai absolutely outdated about which, come to think of it, I will blog sometime this week:)
Earlier, parrots used to land here, gloriously screeching, brilliant and spanking green, a colour so brightly fresh that I always felt that they had just hatched out of eggs (that is dumb, since they were fully grown with gloriously long tails that dangled tantalisingly over my window sill) but they so looked green and fresh, untainted by this dirty, smoggy city.
But that was when we were new to this place which was rather empty, with buildings yet happening, the Dream Park had not dented the Thakur village's image,transforming it into encroachers' den (food stalls, the messiest encroachers). The parrots do not visit us anymore. Other urban dwellers do -- crows which are being fed by a stubborn old man in the opposite flat (though I have not seen him for some time now, is he dead?) and which drop some weird things on my balcony since there is a fish market in the direction they fly:) The fellow who lives below my flat is constantly seeking to fight with me... I wonder if he thinks I drop half-eated, raw chicken legs deliberately on his balcony?!! He does not know I am vegetarian.
I used to think pigeons are villains -- oh, these kabootharkhanas and their trusts mint a lot of money, did you know, in this city?? Which may explain why they keep sprouting about all over the city, messing it up so enormously despite some civic law that warns of a heft fine if you are found feeding such creatures in public places.. Abnd they are the ones who pluck out my flowering plants right out of the pot, nest on my cactus, shit on my drying clothes, and even, amazingly shit through mesh... I tell u, they fly and aim deliberately so the goo lands on my freshly cleaned window pane. Who said they are dumb?
Since pigeons are around, their enemies hawks /eagles also lurk. I have seen some heart-stoppingly large ones preening on the building opposite. But they are a common sight in this urban jungle. I remember while a wide-eyed feature writer with the Sunday Times, I had heralded the arrival of the Lemon yellow butterflies with a feature. I also wrote on these animals in the urban jungle -- cranes preening over their nests along railway tracks... All my articles, filed and bound neatly, got burnt in the fire at my home.. Time to put away some things....
Frank Moraes, the ad guru, once wrote a nice letter with a few lines, complimenting me on my choice of topics... Later when I met him, on some other assignment he, on a alcoholic high, did not remember the compliment at all..Which just goes to prove the transience of all things:)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why watching Harry Potter in Mumbai is so bleh-blahh!

Part of watching a game in the stadium or doing yoga in a group or sitting in a satsang or watching a play at the theater or sitting in a music concert or going to a movie is the contributing factor of the group energy. The group, its collective appreciation, adds something to the whole experience. Comparable to or even better than having popcorn while watching an entertainer or wearing a good swimsuit when the body is toned:) It sort of completes the experience in a subtle but definite and powerful way.

Which is why it is always, for me, extremely disappointing to watch good films in Mumbai. Perhaps it is because of where I live -- Thakur village -- a place where English is really a foreign language. Where even teachers make the gaffe of calling kids, "ChildrenS!". Or perhaps, it is because the collective attention span of the average Mumbaikar is so limited that they cannot watch a film whose main strength may be its lines. Visual films make a bit hit here, I notice. However, if while attending a great visually strong film which also has super lines and you desperately wish for someone else to cackle along with you -- as while watching Shrek or Ice Age -- then you are a wishing for the impossible.

For instance, the latest Ice Age had so many great one-liners, what you may even call `Adult' jokes. However, the only time I caught even the teenagers laughing was at those slapstick moments intended to tickle the toddlers. When the toddlers laugh at those clownish pranks, everybody else is laughing!! But when those great one-liners intended to explode your funny bone roll off the screen, no one is laughing!! I remember the same thing at Shakespeare in Love -- feeling somehow of being in the minority appreciating those marvellous ageless lines as they rolled off the lips of the actors....

During Harry Potter, mid-way, you could hear most people talking loudly amongst themselves. Or making loud calls on their cell-phones.

Even the luxurious scenes of the film could not hold them, because most seemed not to follow or understand or bother to follow the film. The film had lost them. But since it was in the rave, must-see list people are going to say they saw it and how great it was.

Though this blog does sound snobbish about that sort of behavior, that is not the intention. It is just an expression of disappointment, that as a rule, since I have known it in Mumbai, only slapstick, or loud films seem to make an impact. That way, if you long for group enthusiasm in a cinema hall -- forget it. You might as well be the only one munching popcorn and having a great time watching a great film. But you cannot even make-believe that way, to shut out the rest of crowd. Because everybody else is determindedly ruining that for you, by walking about, desperately ordering samosas, or mobile-phoning away as if they were in an open park ....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Borivli National Park, on a wet Sunday

We were at the national park this Sunday. It was drippy green, brilliantly green, wet and looked like an overgrown jungle it was. I remember when we had first visited it we had spotted feeding deer, and were very charmed. In the monsoon too, on the several times we'd been there, we saw exotic mushrooms looking webbed white against dark, mossy trunks. Overgrown bamboos,burdened with their own extravagance, slumping elegantly. Groups from all over the city, all classes, trekking safely along the tarred roads, or eating their packed lunches, and guzzling booze from ill-concealed plastic bottles with deliberately misleading labels like Pepsi (instead of Old Monk:).
Kids, adults, groups of men -- loud, boisterous, drunk but jovial -- keeping within the limits of social good behavior since police vans are patrolling to ensure that there is no drunken mishap...

The monsoon this season has been weak, half-hearted, so the water levels in the otherwise dry rivulets did not surge abundantly as in the previous years. Only ankle level.There were no fishes yet, nibbling at our toes,in those little pools these temporary rivers form. We sat on the gushing water, as crickets chirped over the water's soft sweet rush. We ate our food and felt child-like. The men got drunk, but that is another story...

A visit to the Borivli National Park is a must. Ideally you must take a vehicle. Keep to the tarred roads. Going too deep or off the trails can be risky if you have a boisterous group that cannot contain itself. The rocks can get slippery. The rivulets can turn treacherously fast. The rocks are moving with the water, and walking barefoot in them could mean cut feet.. and when u walk with sandals you cannot quite gauge where to place your feet in that shifting surface.

Also, groups of men can get annoyingly boisterous(Middle-aged Indian men can act like teenagers in such occasions that it can be quite a kill-joy), so keeping to sides where people are, can ensure safety if you have women with you. Not all people immediately rush to your aid if there is a problem, but I remember once, here, when our car tyres got stuck in the mud and the men with us did not know to manoever the vehicle, some boys gamely lifted it out to safety....

All in all, only one of those few ways you can get back to nature in this concrete jungle -- a wet day in the monsoons, at the Borivli National Park...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Handwriting hassles in heartbreak city

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Free MySpace Animations!My handwriting keeps changing. My Lic agent always says that when I sign a chq ... However, I know that a handwriting specialist will be able to decipher that it is the same person signing it. So I am not too bothered about that: I know I can get away with that shaky signature of a person who has not made up her mind what to be.
But this can be a tough one. I remember at my bank locker, the bank staffer looked oddly at me and with concealed irritation and archness asked me if I remember my full signature:) She must have thought, with the increasing prejudice my community draws, that I was just another illiterate in western clothes...
Any case, I am teaching a young boy to read and write English. At 26 and not having attended school as a kid, he is rather vulnerable though full of dreams. He signs his name with capital letters and small ones all jumbled up, but painfully separate. It looks like that of a four-year-old. Before I started him on cursive writing, which has not advanced further than `f', I warned him that he must remember his current signature clearly.Otherwise he will have problems at the bank or with other official stuff he has signed, using that childish scrawl. He grinned. He said he knows that already, how important it is to stick to his signature. One of his friends, also uneducated has had a problem at his bank. His account his now locked since his current signature is not matching his earlier one!!

This city is so full of people who come like that ... from small towns with big dreams...If that ever changes this would not be the Mumbai that is so beloved to all of us...If we could -- all of us who love it -- keep it clean, warm and safe it would be our tribute to this beautiful city ..

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leaking blankets, rain and a weird dampness

I picked up these blankets at D'Mart a few months back. New and wrapped and unused, I finally unravelled them for the monsoon when I need over four-five thick blankets to keep me from the dampness and chill. However, something peculiar about these bed-sheet-cum-blanket. They are oozing moisture. First time, feeling lazy and sluggish, before going to bed, about two hours ahead I spread all the blankets the way I liked them, layered, so that when I felt like hitting the sack, I could just slide in underneath them. It felt damp that night. I did not pay much heed since I thought it was the weather. Feeling quite sick for the next day or so, I shivered through two nights till I realised that the bed also was feeling distinctly wet and not just damp. Amazingly, there were wet patches on the mattresses. Since I am not not (yet) incontinent I wondered at that, and put a yoga mat on top of it, thinking I may have inadvertently left a window open that day when the monsoon descended... But the wet patch kept spreading.And with the other bed sheets feeling damp I was distinctly uncomfortable. I put all of them on my clothes drier, to dry them out. And amazingly found dribbles of a brownish sticky water oozing from the ends of each of these blankets.
Seems something in the blanket was trapping moisture from the atmosphere. Both blankets continued to leak this way while they hung up... and left an unmistakeable trail of water on the floor. Strange. I was glad I had not kept these blankets with expensive clothes, since they could have stained them... I have now dumped both blankets ...
Anybody has any explanation to this strange behavior of my blankets? I am all ears:)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Elpehantine garlands, only from Tamil Nadu

My husband and I got married here Matunga). Apart from the register marriage (where the registrar HAD to be given a box of sweets:) we had several ceremonies, simple, often just the two of us and two stragglers, either family or friends... because we were Muslim and Hindu. I was cooking for the friends and families, so it was not a wedding in the usual fairy tale fashion -- but it felt right:)

Any case, we bought garlands hereabouts I remember, at Matunga's flower stalls. Those were small garlands unlike the usual big, elephantine ones that are on sale here... Tamils, it seems, like their women, and their garlands, big!

I remember in Tamil Nadu, my father, a government official, would often be felicitated at speechifying functions with these enormous garlands. For days the house would reek of mogra,jasmine, roses, and the intoxicating lilies. We little girls used to try to retrieve some of those golden threads, complete flowers ... but that was always an effort. It bothered me that so many flowers could be cut off for a momentary felicitation where the man, burdened by the garland, would keep it aside, not to look at it again. We human beings.
But at least at Matunga the garlands are being made for god. And for marrying couples.
For couples, somehow, that makes sense... some moments to be remembered in a flush of floral bouquet... moments that reek of jasmine, roses and sticky sweet lilies whose fragrance lasts and lasts...
But that day, this year, last month Matunga's flower stalls were smelling of roses. Hey, if there is a floral association to be made that with Tamil Nadu, then it has to be jasmine. That way Matunga has changed -- from mogra to roses:(

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lying back to watch a film: cinema in style!!

Oh we were at the new cinema hall, Kulraj broadway (Kandivli East, Thakur village, off the western expressway). To watch Kambhakt Ishq. And see what we got for Rs 175 per ticket. Recliners. Amazing. At button push you are lying on your back and watching films,with a snack table attached to your chair, and waiters taking orders (heavens, that means I don’t have to stand in Queues where Indians have made it an art to jump) , and popcorn for Rs 55 and Iced tea for Rs 50 ( a tall glass) and samosas (WARMMM!!!) for Rs 30 only.
The recliners are an event clearly. At In Orbit cinema we pay Rs 180, but no recliners. The recliners – called Gold something – is around Rs 400 I think… I am being vague because it was so expensive that after asking once we have not even thought of it, with our middle class wallets and deprived class mentality. At PVR, which my tight-fisted husband cribs is very high, is Rs 200, no recliners etc. A fantastic theater, he concedes while clutching on to that wallet…
I liked the crowd too… something clean, not grabbing as I felt at the Shivam Vishnu hall, also closeby in Thakur village. Interestingly that is the experience all the women acquaintances who have been there and who have not wanted to go back. Not many like the Thakur Cinema too… smelly, now, with rats and the airconditioning sometimes flowing late if the crowd is thin… Suburban theaters each have their own personality. Some have become seedy… and I hope the Kulraj broadway does not go that way…

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ayyappan Tiffin Center: Madras food in Mumbai

Told u, was at Matunga -- generally to get a Chennai-feel, since my kid is there now:)
And at the Ayyappan Tiffin Center, at Telang Road, at Sankara Matam, had quite a feel of it, with all those South-Indian snacks. With some strange Mumbai concoctions: Pizza dosa (yuck!), Pickle dosa (tickles that tongue), and the usual suspects like Paneer dosa. But when you are nostalgic you don't want to experiment and settle for that simple good old food that your mother made and at which you turned your nose.. Can U imagine? Sometimes when I salivate over the stuff which I rejected as a kid, I wonder what perverse twist of fate makes me yearn for it now? My kid does/did the same thing with me. Karmic backlash. I tell her too:)

So yes, Pongal with sambar dripping over it, and some coconut chutney. My husband has his fav vada -- that lentil variation which you do not get anywhere except in a pure South Indian spot (another snacks joint that serves that up is the Dosa counter at the food court of Inorbit). I became greedy,and overordered (the excuses of pining women worldwide) and ordered an unending Ayyappan Special dosa which was filled with all sorts of spicy things and which made me feel very bloated... Avoidable experience -- though the dosa may be shared by four sparse eaters.

Palak dosa too! Though I mercifully resisted the urge for that one.

The center also caters apparently.
  • A cute appeal: To park the vehicles elsewhere before coming over to eat here!
  • The waiters, at this roadside stall, have their own uniform (See image!!).
  • We managed to overeat, two of us, at Rs 60 for both. If you ate wisely (which I did not) you can finish a good meal for half that price!
Roadside food - I missed that at Chennai definitely though they have their stalls all over the place which seem, at the outset, to be male-dominated. Chennai-in-Mumbai is my style really:)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Matunga: eating out Chennai style, Chennai price:)

This weekend, the drown the maternal pining I felt at having left the kid at the boarding, I trekked off to Matunga (which is so like Chennai where the kid is now) to buy her things which she does not need. (After I fondly bought them, I got a very firm, irritated message from her saying that I must not courier her any more stuff:) And to perk up the flagging spirit had chai off the Shree Ayyappan Tiffin Center, at Telang Road, outside Sankara Matam. The tea stall had boards that said, Praise the Lord.

I saw the price first and thought a tea for Rs 51(in Mumbai, off the road, even that seems reasonable because each one has a pricing and we all know these poor fellows have to grease palms to stay put on their encroached territory). So I thought Rs 51 was fine. My husband pointed out that the double-digit that I had mistaken for was actually a stroke, after a single-digit. Meaning Tea for Rs 5!! I had a full tea, I could not finish (I had just then overeaten at the Ayyappan stall (overeating under the guise of sorrow, shameless). And my husband had soemthing special for which he always palpitates: filter coffee!! Original. His thirst and longing was well asssauged. I, feeling bloated, but pleased at having made a reasonable meal at such low rates that was also topped off with a Full Tea, sauntered off. Matunga feels like Chennai. Even the crowds. Not all are Chennaites here. But even in Chennai, that is so, it is pretty pan-Indian that way despite impressions to the contrary...
Here you also get bournvita and boost!! Horlicks, hugely favored in Chennai as a health drink, and for convalescents...
Matunga you get hot food, Chennai style, with Mumbai innovations .... pizza dosa, pickle dosa but will save that up for tomorrow -- when I will go further on that amazing Ayyappan stall...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strange things u notice...

Yesterday, at the entrance of the D'Mart at Kandivli I noticed this strange request: Not to carry a laptop inside the store, for security reasons. I wonder who does that, and what they fear also!
Amazing this city!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Water water everywhere?

(Image actually of an oil truck, but just modified it to show you the sort of trucks that lug water about in Mumbai and its suburbs)

As I said, there has been an acute water problem in the city that has been grossly neglected by the newspapers here!! Amazing journalism... I mean, what the heck...

Any case, most of suburbs depends on water tankers as a matter of rule.. There is so much potential for racketing and mismanagement here that this itself requires scrutiny.. Investigative journalists, where are u:)

Some interesting aspects about this:
  • If water tankers can provide water, why cannot the civic department.
  • Where is this water coming from? Some sort of licensing has to be in place, otherwise anybody could buy a couple of tankers and fill up water from public water spots?
  • Is this coming from inside the city or outside?
  • Which deparment gives out licences?
  • Does this have anything to do with water cuts? I mean, if I was running a water tanker `company' would I tell someone who matters to cut water so that I could mint money through artificial scarcity? Could that be done? In this country, anything...
  • And if licences are being issued, is there any monitoring of water quality. Some of the water we get from tankers are deep brown in colour and dangerous for anything, including even washing clothes.
  • Often tanker water gets mixed with civic water even in posh complexes due to shortage of water storage spaces. This means even good water is ruined!!
  • Often the water tankers enter complexes at nights -- the ones who keep track of how much water/tanker enters the complex are usually two departments -- security and the plumbing. Imagine the scope of funds mismanagement here: because residents do not know how many tankers come in (more can be shown on paper by either or both deparments ) or if the tankers are fully emptying their load (this could happen if the tanker driver and plumbers collude).
Oh, for your information, in certain parts of Kandivli and Borivli even tanker water (anywhere from Rs 800 to Rs 1200 depending on quality etc) are not available. The tanker water suppliers say that they must first favor their regular customers and after that, nothing remains.

So, while we are all reeling and suffering some people are doing well for themselves.
And nobody who could care, cares:(

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mumbai T-shirts, and how famous are u?

(Gandhi shares space with SRK, Salman and rocking Mumbai)

(Different ways, different colours, to say `I love my city, my Mumbai'.
(The unbranded T-shirt that is becoming quite iconic:)
To know if you are relevant historically or culturally, if you are curious about such things, then you would def walk along Colaba Causeway and see if your face grins back at you from the T-shirts at those pavement shops.

You can see that terror and violence around the world has made Gandhi even more relevant today. He rocks, amongst tourists. He must be the most easily recognisable Indian around the world. And thank god the association with him is something elevating, like peace and non-violence.

The others who matter, typically enough, for Mumbai are from Bollywood: SRK and Salman... equally relevant, in that they seem to share equal status. Though amongst posters you will usually find Salman rules -- those steroidal muscles is a big draw among fron-benchers even today...

The next most rocking `face' you see is that of Mumbai. Since my last visit and this, definitely Mumbai-centric T-shirts have increased. All the beloved places, some touristy that I have not visited for centuries (like Gateway) are all there... and of course that I-Love_Mumbai which seemed to have got an iconic status since the terrorist attack, has the pride of place. These cost Rs 100 each... priceless, though:)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Japan in Mumbai: sushi makes perfect sense to me

It is a nice combo: elegant Japanese food and elegant Gourmet city restaurant. I had been drooling over that for the last one week and finally gathered the family to the spot this Sunday. I starved, refused to allow my kid her addictive trek to Food Court at InOrbit, and gave my husband just two dosas for breakfast so that we were all, from gut onwards, prepared for the visit.

I have, in the manner of the uninitiated, never tried Japanese food and always believed, in the manner of those illiterate in such sophisticated stuff, it to be bland. One tiny, green demonic wasabi at the Gourmet City changed my opinion for ever and ever. It was potent, hit the underside of my nose with a wham that would not be soothed by chilled water and was it hot??!! Not spicy as much as tart, and I later found, it is made with horse radish.. What a kick that little ball of green has!!!
We did some Sushi... the boys tried Crab/ Prawn/ Chicken and there was also cucumber and asparagus cream ones. Neat, within a reasonable price range. Since I am broke these days, and I was footing the bill, we scrimped a bit, and had just sushi and main course -- Japanese curry and rice...
And four of us ate satisfactorily for under Rs 1000 which was great price for a new and perfect experience. The Chef was sweet and even gave us some more sushi -- and my daughter did the unthinkable and remove the cucumber piece before popping hers in the mouth....
The Japanese food festival was held by maidoindia -- who deal with Japanese food products. The chef was telling us about a curry packet, where a cube would yield the half-liter curry... and thick and spicy. They also hold quite a few events, like cooking classes, Sake festival etc. Check out their range and events at their site. Also, if you wish to be kept informed of these food festivals at Gourmet city, you can ask to be on their mailing list: GC_InorbitSM@hypercityindia.com

Happy eating:)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Muddy water, media collapse

The muddy concoction u see is of water from my tap. Yes, BMC water. It is fantastic is this not? The media, most of whose offices are located a breath away from where the crisis seems to be manifesting, are not reporting on this. Look at that water!!! Brown, seemingly full of some defecation, moss and mud particles.
Today I threw out the entire set of chappatis my cook made from this water. I simply could not bring myself to eat it. Have bought a 20-liter Bisleri bottle (more like a tub) for Rs 220, of which a large proportion would be given back once I return the bottle. The way things are looking, I will be living off such bottled water. Reminds me of Chennai, where my sister manages with green or red coloured water when the bottled water supply does not happen.

Some of my students sent me this genuine excuse for not coming: water scarcity...

The most annoying thing is that journalists are not reporting about this: which leads me to following conclusions:
  • they don't take bath
  • they have a direct connection from bmc.
  • they are blind.
  • they are living off five-star freebies and do not cook at home.
  • they are using five-star toilets and are not going back home to dry taps and unflushed toilets.
  • they are not journalists anymore!!
Arrghh!! Not a single report on the front page for the last two days when the entire city seems to be reeling. And nobody knows when the next brown muddy drop is going to come. The tankers, my property manager's office, says are not delivering any more since there is no water to supply.
This is a mega crisis and nobody is bothered!!! The media, the government --no statements. Put your head into the mud: it is called the ostrich syndrome. Pretend there is no problem, and the problem goes away?... the city has been running on that logic for so long...

An epidemic is about to happen --

I will start stocking on Readymade thandai, badam kheer, apple juice etc next. Just like the royalty suggested in France to the starving folk: eat cake!

Muddy water, drink thandai!!

Tamil Superstar Kamalahasan in Colaba?

Unbelievably, I saw this T-shirt/Shirt in an old, still-there, still-rocking clothes shop in Colaba Causeway (where my daughter picked up satisfactorily prices dressy clothes that charmed her little girly heart:). It was hung high up on the wall. The brown and yellow ones are what I am talking of: they each have Kamalahasan in his role as Abhay. My husband, a diehard Kamal fan, (I don't much care for the actor in his recent roles) poked fun at me, saying, "See you may not think much of him, but here he is, clearly relevant to the tourists'. So there he was indeed, glaring down at us, from his perch on the wall. Who picks up those shirts, I wondered!!! Next time, I ask. This time, I just clicked, my mouth agape....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Old world ice-cream parlour: K. Rustomji

(K. Rustomji Ice Cream parlour at Churchgate obviously does not need a board)

My daughter was not impressed with that ice-crea or the smoky, non-a/c parlour. Especially, because those biscuit slivers did not quite hold that creamy slab and dripped over her cute white dress. But then she is a suburban Mumbaikar, born in the suburbs for whom the southern tip is not an aspirational hang-up as it is for her migrant parents:) She looks down on south Mumbai as a rule -- the lack of space, the crush of people and traffic even though most times she has been protectively taken there only on Sundays. She sees only tourists and does not know what makes that part of city throb with a life all its own. You have to be an awed-out-of-Mumbai migrant for that perspective...
Any case, K. Rustomji ice-cream was where my husband, then my fiance, had taken me when he was showing off this city to me a quarter century ago. Like most men, he associates love with good food, so most joints we went to in our courting days where food joints, the must-eat Mumbai joints, iconic though a bit people-worn and down-at-mouth even those days... K. Rustomji also looks a bit sad...
No board, but there is a huge and steady crowd, including of tourists who have been lovingly directed here by some Mumbai-freak...
The ice-cream, big slabs, are so low-priced.
The plastic chairs, the reluctantly given paper napkins, the grimy dust-bin, the not-so-cool fans, the sense of something decrepit... Yet, those some fabulous mixes and flavors. Mint, for instance? I had peaches, my husband had mango, my kid toffee. We paid Rs 120 for three, can u imagine? And juices, for Rs 15 each? In this day and age!

Next time we go to south Mumbai, we must do Rustomji's again, my husband decided. My kid arched her eyebrows... Different strokes:)
. We oldies, we like it that in a world of gelatos and international brands, an old ice-cream parlour is holding its own...

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87 Stadium House, Opp Ambassador Hotel, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai - 400020