Saturday, May 30, 2009

Some things I spotted in town....

  • There is an old man who lives off the Carter Road promenade --nothing strange about that, but while we were doing our yoga, I remember that he would sit there for the entire hour washing a piece of clothing. He was very very busy the entire time. There would be puddles of water there, and he would wash, do his ablutions, soap himself (or did he use soap) and have a bath -- that sort of thing... I used to see that man every day we did your yoga there, over weekends, for those few crazy months when I decided to teach along the promenade:) He will be there, if you go there tomorrow, around seven am...
  • While going towards Mira Road, heading to Gorai, at noon, I saw an youngish woman standing on top of a high rise, off the highway, looking through her binoculors. What was she looking? How did she go up (usually sensible complexes do lock the terrace)...That too when a summer sun was directly overhead!
  • There is a bag shop that calls itself Gold coins bag. I really thought there was something there, intrigued, thinking the bags were for storing gold coins.. But it was selling prosaic old bags for us aunties:(
  • Have u seen that Kulfi wallah? A little dhabba unit, mounted on a tricycle, selling "Maharashtra's Mashoor Kulfi"...
More, as I get further lost in this maze of a city:)

Friday, May 29, 2009

I am in love with this peanut wallah:)

I am in love with this guy who sells peanuts on the highway. I really am. He is nice, clean-looking. He is there walking amidst the crush of highway jam, honking cars and trucks and autos and motorbikes and not so affected by all that, almost a yogi, cool! His hands hold those paper cones with just a handful of peanuts, each cone costing Rs 2. On days I manage to catch him (he is always running off towards other cars, just like in the movies:) I feel a great sense of achievement and love the feel of warm peanuts all the more (Oh, there are other guys too selling it, but there is something about this fellow, so earnest, so hardworking). Btw. how they manage to keep the nuts so warm? I have tried to click him several times and always failed. One time he was there, with our windows rolled down (on all sides) and my husband managed to buy a set of five cones from him, but as I lifted my mobile camera (with my five thumbs, all with no cognitive ability) he shied off from the frame, standing just so behind so that I could not click him (for this blog)..And I felt very bad, at having offended his sense of privacy and decided against attempting such shots later... We Indians, so rude!!

But I love him because he embodies what this city stands for...hard, clean work... Oh, there are also the beggars here. But more than them, we cannot fail to see those clean, hardworking folks, walking sometimes in the hot sun (selling ice-chilled bisleri bottles) or these peanuts. I remember this right from when I came to Mumbai over 20 years ago. and still they are here, these hardworking souls from around the country, making a tough living, in the cleanest way they know how... My soul feels touched and I love this city, its muck nothwithstanding. The `timepass peanuts' they were called those days. I remember also how as soon as my train from Chennai pulled in, the urchins will leap into the train to collect the newspapers (so they can earn their money by selling it at the raddiwallah:) .. That too, that stunt of running into the monster of the train, would amaze me. I also loved the enterprise which the city represented. The coolies in Mumbai would not cheat or argue or irritate you as they did, definitely in Chennai (the worst of the lot those days)... I used to love that also about the city.
I still love those boys who sell those books in the heat of the city -- most of them are pirated books, but I don't love them for that reason. But that they are choosing to work over begging or stealing. I love that, I really do! And the magazines off the city's signals... them too. And those strawberry wallahs, those flowerwallahs, and those mangowallahs off the signals. They are not encroaching but doing something in the best way they can... Clean, hard work....
If ever all that changes too much, I will leave this city. As will most others. And those of you looting it, you would have lost your golden goose... and there will be no more golden eggs, lo!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tezz: an alternative to Falafel

At In Orbit food court ( I prefer this to the PVR one, though finding a place to sit during peak hour can be the very hell for a `gentle' yoga teacher) we discovered happily that there was an alternative to Falafel (the Lebanese food chain in the city). While the staff, new to the chaos and lack of Q-etiquette amongs us Indians and Mumbaikars in particular) were a bit slow, the menu sort of made up for it. It offers non-veg, which though I do not myself eat, is still good for those who believe in Lebanese food being what it is -- the kebab speciality...
The shawarma meat loaf hanging reminded me of Germany where the only Indian type of food could be got at the small Lebanese or Pakistani joints...
The hummus also had a gritty, grainy flavor, different from the one I often pack up from Falafel. I liked the one here too...Here is a list of items available at Tezz: onion rings, veg-chicken shawarma, seafood kebabs, moutabal or hummus, flafel... For some reason there was also a lot of Mexican food available -- nachos of various hues and flavors.
They have not given a phone number on their pamphlet, so I don't think they will deliver on demand. That keeps them one step behind Falafel, which delivers all over the city...
Happy eating:)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why we stink

I was crossing the highway, in the dangerous fashion of Mumbaikars who are too tired to take the walkway if there is one and/or who don't know how to negotiate a way across to the other side when there is no walkway. Btw. my student dropped me off at the airport flyover -- at 8.30 am -- and imagine one fellow in the motorbike kept circling me like I was some you-know-what (I was chastely dressed in white, with full armed sleeve so don't say I was provoking him, as most people do in defence of sad Indian men) and another fellow kept hooting with a war hoop from a long way off. This is the city I love and chose? What is happening to it!! The first fellow was well-heeled and middle aged, the other fellow was a laborer and young. Really odd city, it is turning into..

Anyway if that was stinky I also actually saw piles of shit -- freshly laid, human excreta -- over that stretch of concrete separators that runs in the middle of the highway, where there is a valiant attempt to grow plants. Fresh crap?? Slum dwellers actually are using that entire stretch as a toilet... No I am not taking off against them. They have a tough life and if there are no clean toilets and no sea which will wash it off (have you walked the beaches in the morning and felt something gooey sticking to you -- it is human excreta, fresh and still to be washed away:( I am bothered that we as a city have ignored this for so long and continue to ignore it.
I wonder sometimes ...Why superstar Amitabh Bachchan feels that Slumdog millionaire `showcased' the poor. We like to live in denial that is why. If you have forgotten the toilet scene... that is the way most people live.
I wonder sometimes why SRK often says he feels at home even in the poverty and muck of this city etc .Otherwise who will he sell his dreams to?
I wonder sometimes why they donate crores to gods but don't think of building simple toilets -- more punya here, really.
I wonder sometimes why they want to buy immortality for their family members by renaming BMC roads after them.. A toilet would mean more for everybody -- More good def. there really..

We stink, as a city. Let's feel ashamed about a few things -- Otherwise we feel continue the way we are we will be left with nothing to showcase except our poor...and all that crap...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mumbai maids' chutti, voting and low voter turn-out

Lately, inclined towards self-pampering I decided to have a maid for cleaning the house, one to wash the vessels, and another to make chappatis. Suddenly, all three, as if preplanned, decided to go their village. The driver too. I wondered what was special about this time.

I realised that they had waited for the election to get over and had booked their train tickets accordingly. That is why it seemed as if all had taken off together. I was rather amazed at how much voting meant to them.

On the other, you will see that the upper class (barring a rare Amir Khan who broke journey to be in Mumbai to vote) had happily planned their holidays during that weekend. Even the ones who did not go out of town or abroad, chose that weekend to jet off, since it was a long weekend.

It is surprising to note several things about Indian voting patterns:
* That the upper class is pretty indifferent to the process. They know that they get what they want through other means. I believe part of the high corruption in our country is to do with this attitude. It is not the vote that gets them what they want, but that they can pay to get it.. Though at some point, which they possibly don't quite realise it, they have painted themselves into a corner. Because a rich industrialist may get some key things twisted to get his business some benefit. But the overall rot -- bad roads, the terrible traffic, the horrible facilities are a direct result of the fact that you did not vote.
* In developed countries, the pattern of voting is apparently different. The upper class is very conscious of voting. Poll anlysers say that may explain why the rich are pampered there, in terms of what they get from their elected representative. In India, even though this will invite the wrath of `socialists', the poor often manage to get away with a lot of things within the urban set up, whether it is encroachments, or illegal water supply or electricity etc because they vote. Which may explain why in certain parts of this city it is simply impossible to dislodge encroachers -- they are the ones who matter.
* Interestingly, a lot of middle class women simply do not vote. It is rather strange. They seem pretty dead to their rights that way...Why, you wonder? Is it because they are not politically savvy? Then, you cannot wonder women's rights does not figure much in anybody's agenda. Middle class women are not a consituency anywhere.
Voting is where we can change certain things...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Did you know you can donate your cycle?

I got this info from the Life Positive mag where I write.
And felt I may use it myself: just as soon as I locate my rusting-rotting bicycle, bought very lovingly a few years ago but discarded once I realised that the number of dogs around the complex was growing and they are nervous about people on bicycles early mornings -- they don't mind later in the day, but early mornings with the night's adrenaline still growling through them (in the suburbs the dog packs are like some feral creatures and can be very intimidating as night falls because there are constant changes in the number of canines that wander into such spots and this agitates the existing groups, plus shop-keepers who hope to keep of robbers (quite a few break-ins happen apparently on Fridays -- a day before the money gets transported from the shops to banks) encourage the stray population by feeding them. So my husband, who a few weeks ago got dropped off on the road after a night show, said how eerie it was to be walked back home by growling packs, their throat rumbling with a soft growl, their ears down menacingly, lips drawn over sharp teeth, following him. A group will follow him for a short distance in this fashion. Then lope off, just as soon as another group takes over. He said that he had a feeling that any wrong move from him, and he would have been mauled ruthlessly. He thought that he should not look them in the eye, not show fear but maintain a steady and slow walk that did not threaten or intrigue them. It was difficult to act normal, he said, with the growling pack walking in a circle around him...
So u can imagine that I do not take the cycle out? You never know what provokes a dog to jump you...
So, just as soon as I find my cycle I will donate it to this group which collects cycles to give tribal and village kids who walk miles to attend school. It is called the Bicycle project, organised by Sangeeta and Hemant Chabra and they are also into another similar project at Jhadpoli village. For more details on how you can help, contact them at 65701730/9820149022

You can also visit the kids to see how your cycle is helping them. I think this is such a cool thing to do... More power to the Chabra couple:)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Roadblocks or speed breakers

(Circled in red, the white-painted boulders, making do as illegal, temporary speed breakers. )

When we went to Gorai the other day, to visit the Dhamma meditation center there, we passed interesting things that make country so unique. A political party, off Mira Road, had blocked off one full lane, on the left, and so the to-fro lanes were allocated to the right lane. Everybody seemed to know where to go, except us. Which shows that the rest of the world is used to chaos caused by such self-willed parties..
Then, as we were moving into the rustic villages off Mira Road we saw a marriage party happening and at two spots, bang in the middle of the road, this private party had set up huge boulders, to act as speed breakers! Amazing... Such behavior. `Private' speed breakers (earlier di rigeur along the village roads and had been declared illegal) are now being replaced by such temporary boulders.
Any case, if politicians can block roads, why not the public?
Or if the public can block roads like this, why not the politicians?
It is the chicken and egg question. But we deserve what we get...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Playing ball and Gandhigiri

At 6.45 am yesterday, I was minding my own business, in my own complex with huge park and running track etc, and dribbling my ball. Earlier, after enthusiastically buying it, I had kept it aside till it automatically deflated (out of disuse). But determined to recapture my youth, I refilled it -- after trying the car tyre fellow (who said he could not) and then the bicycle fellow who charged just Rs 2 (the lady at the sports shop said she would charge me Rs 5:) So feeling pleased with this bargain and my intention, I did two laps around the huge complex and feeling very proud of my disciple and started dribbling. After I completed a few rounds, the security guard from a building opposite the park gently comes and says playing ball is not allowed. I said who says? He says a resident is complaining of the noise I was creating!!
I mean, during Diwali, in my own complex I have myself several times gone down to chide people for bursting crackers post the deadline. These Charlies who are now picking on me (the fat husband and his fatter wife can see me clearly where I am happily playing ball in the complex) and feeling threatened at their own lack of discipline immediately try to puncture mine!!
I called the family and asked what was distressing them so much?
The noise the lady says... I can only play after 10 am, when the summer sun has peaked and her darling children have woken up. I suggested that if she was a good mother she should wake up her kids. In fact, she should send them down to where I was playing so they could join in such sattvic activity. She calmly said she did not need any lessons from me. But that I should go walking instead of playing ball??!!!
Intolerance can have such sad hues.. Humanity is sad. Instead of seeing that this city is rotting primarily because there are no sports activities, no physical discipline which can channelise our children's energies more positively, there are people who will try to subvert any attempt in that direction.
This city will have no hope unless there are more places for our kids to play, where adults do kids' things with comfort and where parents can play with their kids. The only entertainment in this Maximum city is Mall, Movies and Masala food!!
I am going to dribble post-noon. That is my idea of Gandhigiri. And I genuinely feel sorry for those people and their weighty souls...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Voting and voters

We did vote, my husband and I. Some things that stuck me about the event was:
  • Our poor cops, they are standing the whole time while the citizens' voted. It seems a bit unfair. Perhaps they should be seated?
  • That the voting booths were all on the first floor -- which means, effectively anybody who has a problem -- spinal cord-injured, those in wheel chair, those with crutches, those who may be sick, the very elderly who may not be able to negotiate the steps -- are all denied their voting right!
  • Heartening: that the elderly citizens are allowed first right to vote, meaning they don't have to stand in queue. Same of any of the disabled who could make it to the first floor. They were also treated cordially and directed well..I saw the cop on duty at our booth was particularly sweet that way.
  • That though most people had their voter's Id Cards, both my husband and I have not recd ours.
  • And despite having entered name corrections -- for instance, I have retained my maiden name, the list still calls me Shameem Akthar Sheriff Saisuresh -- very complicated. Mercifully I had my passport for identification, which means they at least know that the strange Hindu name -- appended by some concerned lackey who does not like the idea of a woman holding on to her maiden name (belongs to the Sunjay Dutt gang I suppose:) -- was part of the portfolio, even if not accorded official status in my name game... Well, my husband went several times to the school where the Id cards were supposed to be given, but was turned away because of this or that. Mostly that. Any case, interesting aside, the lady who was ticking off our names said that the ID cards have been issued!! Where are they, now??
Despite all, Indian democracy rocks... And we must all vote, to make sure that it continues that way...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Smallest Gita in the world

(Pic from net, from official press release I assume)
While passing Linking road, I spotted the Tanishq shop -- I turn off there towards Organised Chaos dance studio, where I learn B-boying -- and spotted this advert that said the world's smallest Gita on a pendant! Apparently created using nano tech by Pawan Sinha from the U.S. and launched by Tanishq which is a Tata group enterprise...Tatas are sure into small things in a big way...

You know,the first instinct when you see something like that is that you want to own it too -- and wish yourself rich enough to be able to do that:) However, I realised the beauty of the Gita lies in reading it and rereading it and unravelling the layers of its meanings through various interpretations of various gurus/writers you may respect. And that would not be possible if you had to look at the lettering under a microscope!! How do you comfortably read that... So apart from the novelty value and of course, if you are religious in that sort of showy fashion, it would make sense:) Otherwise my Radhakrishnan's modest best-selling Gita, much-thumbed, is far better:)

Now, just to find out how much this costs!