The Jealous BMW !

There is a clamour around the decision to send taxis that have worked their wheels over 25 years, to the scrap yard !

The last word on the resilient Mumbai taxi is yet to be written. Perhaps it never will be. For all of Mumbai, Taxi means a black and yellow old world Premier Padmini. And thats not going to change in a jiffy !

Much has been said and read about the London cabbie. And some about the New York cabbie too. However, in my opinion, to have been a cabbie in Mumbai is indeed high in the pecking order of cabbies of the world ! It is not easy to have the forces arraigned against you. Always ! Thats one reason !

The old world engine that should long been buried, still turns the wheel and rubs off the road ! That should get Henry Ford twist in pride !

The door still locks, with a distinct metallic flourish. The radiator still needs physical water filling. The gear lever is on the steering shaft. There are two benches with backrests, that go by the name of seats.

A small pulley works on the window glass and closest that you could get to a seat belt are ropes that would bind your luggage to the boot or the roof grill! Read this. And air-conditioning..well, there is the ‘Mumbai air’ in a ‘certain condition’ that you are sure to get ! And that’s http://healthsavy.com/product/zithromax/ pretty much it !

But here is the bottom line. They get you from point A to point B. Sometimes they fleece. Other times they are ok. ( But the fleece tribe is part of the mainstream nowadays, arent they ?). You will get basic courtesy and experience the odd petulance. In the world of perennial ‘hurry dom’ it is but rare for people to expect more !

In the times of push button technologies, engines with horse powers that discredit horses and their powers and other material comforts that make cars almost a dwelling place, it indeed is nice to see the old taxi share the same road !

After all this romanticising, when the beads appear on the forehead when you travel in a ubiquitous taxi and the rough road says ‘hello’ more often than you would want to reciprocate, you understand that this car was a ‘luxury’ some years back !

On Dussera. Eastern Express Highway. Mumbai

And at Dussera, the taxiwallah adds his dash of pink to the number plate and the string of leaves across a dented radiator grill, and adds paper baubles from the bonnet to the roof, with a fervour and a passion that has to be seen to be believed.

I only wonder if the BMW with a million hoofs inside the bonnet, and zillion gadgets to keep you happy……feels a trifle Jealous !

Durga Puja at Powai !

The week has been busy. For some reason the body disobeys the mind, and seeks rest and time for itself. The mind has been jumping. From one perch to another like a primate in the middle of day ! In the middle of all hectic activity, recollections of the Durga Puja Pandal at Powai dominate.

The last year, i happened to be in Kolkatta. There was a unique spirit in the air back then. You wouldn’t have much to dispute, if the whole town stops to give Ma Durga a deko ! In Mumbai, the essence of the Kolkatta air was ensconced at the Powai Padal. ( Earlier post is here).

You had all the ingredients. Bright lights ( i am told, brought all the way from Chandapur), a majestic Godess Durga in all splendour, numerous commercial establishments selling anything and everything from Mahindra Scorpios to Godrej washing machines to sarees to fruit juices to lottery tickets !!

Alka Yagnik performing

To cap it all, there is the annexure auditorium where ‘cultural events’ take place ! This to me, seems to be the heart of the whole Pandal engine. Many a night, i am told there were different cultural programs that happened here. On one evening, Alka Yagnik performed. I know because i was present ! ( Atleast a couple of other famous people performed. I am a neophyte in the entertainment space. So)

The immersion procession

My wife stood in the queue ( of one hour plus ) to have Bhog! The food was quite something, i am told . And oh, the immersion procession, was quite a sight ! Spontaneous dancing and having clean fun and exhibiting pride in being Bengali came to the forefront, not radically, but more socially !

A ‘Bong’ gentleman & his kurta !

Amidst big bindis, elaborately hand worked kurtas, intense discussions ( on something or the other), song and dance the spirit of ‘Bong’dom returned with fervour. This impalpable yet omnipresent spirit seemed to be the essence of Durga Puja ! To a southerner like me, it appeared that the Pandal was as important as the Durga there. Perhaps more. As though the Goddess herself was a ruse for the community to bond and get together !

kids and Alka Yagnik

Alka Yagnik sang song after song in Hindi. And when she moved to sing in Bengali, it was the kids dancing right next to the stage who had a problem with it. We sat there and watched, as the parents requested songs in Bengali and the kids kept asking for Hindi movie songs ! Do i construe it to be a ‘nothing-serious-mainstream-requests’ or is there an ominous sign of a storm, taking root in young minds ! I would tend to lean toward the latter.

For, it is a strange yet powerful spirit that gets woven into the Bengali mind more than the cotton sarees and flamboyant kurtas. And language is intricate & critical thread, that weaves the culture and produce that inescapable egalitarian spirit of the Bengali ! To see the ‘future’, restive about that thread, leaves the prospect of strong fabric in the future, that much more weaker !!

For our collective future, such threads and bonds must grow ! And when they grow soaked up in heritage and culture, the mind pushes its boundaries to accommodate others too. After all, Puja is best spelt with an ‘o’ ! But you know what, the puja this time makes us want more. We look forward to the Powai Puja of 2009 ! Err..sorry. Pujo..we mean !!

The drums beat !

D Company !

The weekend saw us attend two very different events ! The first one being Dandia and the other Durga Puja ! Such occasions come up just to let you know that there seems to be an irrepressible spirit that is indeed far beyond all of qualms that are visible in the surface. Perhaps thats a wish. Best qualified by calling me a Pollyanna of sorts!

But tell me what would you think when a small child, decked up in finery, attempts to play Dandia with a spirit that tugs your heart and an impish charm that makes you wish that you could somehow capture that innocence in the palm of your hand and broadcast it to the world!

Pictures clicked at Dandia Celebrations at the apartment complex we live in

What would you make of a happy family, managing to create magic in an otherwise prosaic neighbourhood, which is much like an ant colony of people going to work and coming back in the evening !

Dancing on this day, the three of them went about creating happiness for themselves, without a bother of who was watching or who wasn’t !


What would you make of the splendour of a Durga Puja pandal. I can spot the rich, the poor, the wannabes, the content lots. All there. Some are there to look. Some others to show. But there are those that dont seem to care. And they are there, it seems to me, to just be present. On this day, at the Durga Puja Pandal in Powai, this ‘absorbed in the moment’ set seems to dominate!

The Pandal itself is rather majestic and impressive to say the least. Add that to the ‘culture loving’ (as my friend calls himself) crowd you have a powerful concoction. The Durga deity is simply aweing to say the least !

Pictures clicked at the Durga Puja Mandal at Powai,
organised by the Powai Bengali Association

I come back with loads of impressions. And thoughts. And those that dominate seem to be ones that there is more to be done. It is possible. And people somewhere have goodness reside in them. We perhaps need to look for it !

Even as i type this, i wonder how i came to that conclusion. A few ‘diabolic’ questions get ready to come at me.

I think of the children & their play with reckless abandon, their laughter still rings in my ear. The visage of people engaged in simple conversation is still vivid, just as the Goddess seemed to smile on them ! And so many such images from the last two days engulf me.

I go no more. Between Dandia and Durga, the divine overruns the diabolic. Divine company, i think. I still can call it ‘D Company’ !

What say ?!?

The Length of Shadows

Id from my balcony. Mumbai. 2nd Oct 08
The morning ushers with it a holiday on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. And Id. And as i part the curtains to draw in the morning air, there is an Islamic preachers cadence which floated through ! Rather noisy. That’s my first reaction for the day.

I stand there, soaking up the morning and all that it has to offer : the birds chirping, the first rays of the sun hitting the opposite building. And more importantly, the relative silence that a ‘holiday’ morning offered. Free from honks, bus engines and an inherent Sisyphean buzz.

In a few minutes, i became aware of young Muslim men, characterised by their caps registering in my eyes. They seem to be returning from prayer. Or wherever. Bright clothes and a sprightly walk characterise their today. Today is Id. After a month of fasting, today, is celebration time.

And as they walk towards in the direction of the Sun, i see their shadows lengthening. They segue from slow to a brisk walk. I wonder whats the hurry. Perhaps breakfast. I think.

I wonder how they feel, to be identified & labelled as a Muslim. Victims themselves. Either of terrorism, propaganda or bias. A lump sits in my throat. The birds continue to chirp.

The religion surely must be rich. And i am sure there must be dimensions of which the rest of us don’t understand fully. Maybe someone needs to demystify and help the world understand the Koran, i think.

We need to accept ‘them’ as one of ‘us’ i think. And then, a smile escapes my lips. ‘Us’ & ‘them’, my mind thought 10 seconds ago.

I ask myself, ” aren’t ‘they’, ‘US’ ?!?”

The lump gets bigger within. I wonder if the biases, that i think rests with the rest of the world, rests in me as well. Unconscious sleeper cells? I wonder.

And even as i wonder, i hope thats not the case ! A full minute later, the ‘sleeper cells’ are still introuvable. Thankfully. I hope they never existed.

Far below, the boys themselves, don’t seem to be bothered. With animated chatter, they are now sauntering on. And as the Sun’s rays get brighter, their shadows get lengthier.

In an hour, i am at my breakfast table. Muesli and honey. I wonder what the boys who walked by would be having for breakfast. A few images appear. My mouth waters. Many years back my dad told my mom, half in jest, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through the alimentary canal’.

Out of nowhere that comment makes a propitious appearance. And stays too. Silly. I think. But, it continuous to stay. I wonder why.

I saunter to the window. A new set of boys with the same caps walk by, on the same path. The Sun is up in the sky.

The shadows, however, are shorter. Much shorter.

Happy Id !

Ganpati Says Good Bye !

‘Visarjan’ was a familiar term, i thought. I had heard that somewhere. But just couldn’t place that term correctly ! Nevertheless, that is a term Mumbaiites are very familiar with. Thats when the Ganapati festival comes to an end. Thats when the ‘elephant God’ is ‘immersed’ !

The fervour of the festivity is best experienced and not seen on TV. The TV may come to your living room, but its not quite there ! Thats a profound affirmation thats gotten reconfirmed after seeing Visarjan at the Powai lake !

There is colour. Noise. Music. Dancing. Synchronised bands. Festivity. Pious devotees. Vada Paavs. Policemen. Balloon sellers. Trinket sellers. All dot the landscape. Along with sundries like us.

Endless streams of lorries transport Ganpatis from their respective locations to water bodies and Powai being one of them, we go to experience Ganpati in all forms. The lorries and tempos have Ganpatis & some ‘prasad’ being distributed from the vehicle itself ! It was quite a sight ! There was a huge crane, presumably to lift the heavier Ganpatis and we saw a few of them too ! Each http://healthsavy.com/product/clomid/ lorry was preceeded with music and dancing ! This sure was an experience to remember !

And when Ganpati turned his back and faced the lake and the water, all set to be immersed, i am sure he must have wondered what i was looking in awe for ! And in that moment, those majestic eyes on the idol seemed to come alive and convey to me the inheritance of a culture. A way of life. Of sharing joy, food and perhaps a renewal of hope to face the days ahead.

And then, they hoisted him on the crane ! And he was gone ! Just then i remembered that Visarjan used to be a term used to say ‘Parade Dismiss’ ( & go home ) during my National Cadet Corps days. A few pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall in place !

And as the Powai lake seemed to take him in, he blobbed up one more time. Wet, yet regal in all finery and decoration. I wonder if it was to check if i got the message right!

A match with a sixer !

An early morning of April saw us at a wedding. The reception was scheduled in the evening. Somehow, receptions seem to be tacky affairs with plastic smiles, extra make up and heaps of calories. We chose the ‘early morning’ wedding.

While the routines of a wedding continue, the sideshows / issues are of interest to me. Leading to the main question that people i am in the know of ask me, when will i ever focus on the ‘main’ issue ?!?! But that is, as they say, ignoratio elenchi. Besides the point !

At 6.40 am we got some hot coffee. The coffee was GREAT ! I guess it was filter coffee. No, not Bru. Filter coffee. The coffee itself was besides the point. It was the cup that mattered.

The handle was made of paper, and neatly folded along the curves of the cup itself. It took me a minute to unfold it and have the hot coffee in style. Which prompted a whole lot of others to follow suit. It felt good to be a pioneer! To catch something by the ear has been a long time. Especially so at someone elses wedding !

Weddings are also occassions to see democratisation of technology. Essentially photography.
Just as the mangalsutra was all set to be tied, out came video cameras, hand helds, mobile phones and every other recording instrument. As people occupied their vantage positions, it almost seemed like Roland Garros or Wimbledon. With all the lenses focussed on two or three people. The cameras went click, click, click.

Not so long ago,(and still prevelant) was the practice of ‘posing’ for the video camera that happens in our weddings. Where you stand still on the stage with the bride and groom, and video camera guy pans the camera. Agreed the video camera was supposed to capture movement. Somewhere, the emphasis of the movement of the subject (sic) got shifted to the emphasis on movement of the video camera!

After seeing everybody who had a somekind of a camera on them ( SLR, Camcorder, camera with a phone, phone with a camera…and the like) jostle for space to get the righ picture, i got up too. Fearing that i might be labelled as somebody who ‘did not care’, i whipped out my phone. And caught this image.

What do you think ?

Well, this is what i think.

Looks to me like the groom is a vanquished bowler just smashed for big hit, by you know who. The wicket keeper, although from the same team, looks a happy man. Perhaps happy with his match-fixing ! And btw, the 3rd umpire has signalled a six ! ( I promise i havent been watching the IPL matches. But this is what i think )!

Welcome to the married mans world Karthik !

Madurai’s Chitrai Festival

The city of Madurai will play host to Lord Azhagar as he leaves his mountain abode and comes to attend the wedding of his sister Goddess Meenakshi. With more than 3 lakh devotees expected, this is no small festival. This has been an age old tradition and this am sure will continue for time to come too. For this festival is part of the cultural milieu of the city.

The Lord Azhagar is taken on his golden horse to attend his sister Goddess Meenakshi’s wedding which, by the way, is already over. So he turns away and goes some place else. This, truly, is a festival with some scale, size and geography !

I am sure every year as he comes to Madurai from his hill abode , he will find a new face to the city. I wonder what he would be asking himself. Where is the meaning behind the pomp? Where are the village folk who use to be present? Why are the brick buildings replaced with glass buildings ? Where is the water in river Vaigai ? Where are my devotees ? Where in the world do they print such giant posters from some K and some J ?

The lord that he is, i am sure he has answers to all the questions. And answers to a few more unasked questions as well. He brings a ray of hope each year. And he brings it again the next. The next and so on. Hope is what we all require. Don’t we !

My recollections of the festival are of pomp and sheer joy. Of some effective marketing by TT Patnam podi and Gopal Tooth powder. It was a treat to see villagers from all around camping in the town for those few moments of catching a glimpse of the lord ! Which brings me to a few more questions. How did these festivals originate ?

During a discussion on these some months back in a closed group, one view point was that this was economics at play. “The kings of yesteryear wanted people to move around. Interact with people. Spend money. They wanted to keep their economies going. Why do you think they spent years to build temples ? Employment generation and economics !”

The government usually releases some water into the river Vaigai to facilitate the festival. After all, legend has it that he entered the river. Not a dry river bed. ! That to me, is a sign of the times.

Seemingly oblivious to all these discussions, the lord Azhagar will enter river Vaigai tomorrow morning. Bringing with him : hope. I couldn’t be physically present. But the mind is already there.

Todays music is Pray for me brother by AR Rehman. He is part of the Millenium campaign against proverty. This song is part of that effort.