Life

The Pink Pony

Days turn into nights. And nights lead to day. The repetitive patterns that lead to the next day, the next week, the next month and the next year form a beautiful facade that keeps in obscurity the years that speed by.

Then the years reveal themselves. Sometimes the mirror tells the story.  As a stray strand of grey morphs into a lock of plentiful grey. When a parent passes away, the realisation is stark. When a friend passes away, it is pronounced.  The parting of the beautiful facade, often comes in a reality check, happening in sorrowful environs.

Sometimes they do in moments of pure joy. Especially, if you have a little daughter like mine.

So the little miss has been going to school. She enjoys it and has had a great deal of fun thus far. One day in the last week, after a long and tiring day, I creep into bed.  Long after the little miss’s bed time. As the silence beckons me further into slumber, she wakes up. Realising that I have crept in and wakes me up too, demanding that the lights come on.

She is all excited and she wants to show me her ‘Pink Pony’. She opens her palm to reveal a small piece of plastic. I see the effect of her clutching it hard are showing on the palm too. The Pink Pony spread some pink to her palm as well.  She obviously has been waiting to show me. ‘Aryan gave it to me papa’ she said. In sleep soaked excitement. I gave her a bear hug ad asked ‘was it his birthday today?”

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“No Appa”. She says. A tad disappointed and perhaps surprised at an antiquated line of thought.

“He gave it only to me”. She says with emphasis on the ‘only’.

“Ah”. I say.

With curiosity dripping out of every word I ask , ‘That sounds like fun. Tell tell me, tell me more’

“Because I like pink colour Appa”.  And that was that.

With those words she slips back into sleep. Clutching the pink pony and happy that her little secret was no longer just hers. I stare at her for a while and switched off the lights.  Her innocence and joy override my tired mind.

The next morning comes with the precision that is customary.  The missus catches me shooting darts into the clouds. “Thinking of the Pink Pony?”, she asks. “It is some toy that they give out in a Fast Food chain”, she says. I smile. I am thinking of something else.

She knows me well by now. She jumps tracks and joins my train of thought.

“She is no longer the tiny toddler that you carried on the sling” she says. I smile. “She is not the toddler who would purr like a cat to get some milk”.

I nod my head in silence. Even as I soak up the Pink Pony moment, I realise, it was riding away into the inner whorls of memory.  The simplicity of childhood, the sincerity of affection and the joys of watching kids growing up, can be the best way to age gracefully. Even as day turns to night and night to day, children add a rich melodrama to a vague momentum.  And that is precious.

Rain

When it rains, it pours. I sit and watch the rain rail against the window sill. Many years ago, when Facebook was nascent (and seems like the world was a better place) – a different profile picture greeted you on my Facebook timeline. It was this picture.

 

Rain

 

I recall the clicking of this picture. The beauty of the moment stood tall in solemn elegance. That which had just jumped off the cloud, had flirted with the railing for a brief trickle of a second, was poised to leap and flow into another moment. It got me to smile.  That it was going to jump off was sure to happen. Yet there was a small swirl of energy to the moment. The moment when imminent change that was expected just about arrives, there is a certain magic in the dramatic poise. If you care to notice it, that is.

To me, this droplet of rain, held an entire monsoon together.

My dad lived in an era where there were no special days called ‘Fathers Day’.  He wouldn’t give a damn and urge us to think of ‘meaning’. Thinking of him today seems natural, when rain strikes. For several years he had a giant poster in the dining room. It said, “A single rose can be my garden”.

That was many seasons ago. Much rain has kissed the Earth since then. Facebook has since grown. Many new people came into it suddenly adding relevance to several lives. Many left. Because of the very reason that many ‘new’ others were in. The rains, though,  have been keeping their seasonal regularity with this part of the country. I have looked forward to their arrival like a child for the customary goodie from a visiting uncle. The rains have helped keep stock of the passing years, like nothing else. The most physical of the changes to seasons in this part of the world.

I write this, sipping freshly made filter coffee and staring into the Sunday evening that is fast giving way to the night before Monday morning. Monsoon clouds have enveloped the Sun and make the intense rays of summer a distant memory, and bringing smiles to a parched population. This monsoon will be intense. I think so. I hope so.

Last July, I was in Goa driving in the rain along with some wonderful folks.  When a sudden shower got the wipers on the windshield of a new car, work hard.  This picture resulted.

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For a long while I stared at this picture and realised that this picture held me tight. The new me. Whatever happened to the single drop, I ask myself? Nothing. Actually nothing. The beauty and poise of the single drop will always remain and stay close to me. The energy of a dash of drops moves me beyond the past.

As the coffee runs dry on the tumbler, I reach out to my camera. Wondering what new images my camera will capture.  Sometimes the pictures within you come alive in the words that sprout off the keyboard or the images that the camera captures.

And rain, oh rain. I have a song playing in the background. It goes like this.

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you

Rose 2

A fresh sprouting of a rose catches my eye as much as it catches a bit of rain. The rain dances on the petal. The soul feels refreshed and there seems to be a colourful renewal. The rain does that to you. New hopes sprout. In a while, I peer at the images on my desktop screen wondering if I did justice to the rain. Or to the rose for that matter. A moment later I think about the new hopes and renewal.  The rain has that effect. Always.

Crowing about the breeze

The expansive inviting air that the sea and sand bring is frequently marred by interruptions of commerce of the ‘wants and desires’ fame. Commerce that comes in the form of the ice cream seller who peddles the rosy syrupy ladles of crushed ice and the photographer chap who has the charming nerve to tell me that my camera is no good and that his camera is best suited for Juhu! We walk. Actually, we run. Me and the missus. Chasing the daughter. It must have been very funny to look at from a distance.

Imagine this. An ice cream seller, and a couple of professional photographers on a beach are chasing a couple, trying to sell them wares and skills. The couple themselves look completely haggled and freshly hassled, as they run to keep pace with their daughter. Leading them is their daughter. Running in myriad random directions that could give new meaning to what random is. With tender legs landing on shifting beach sand, a cackle for no reason and a cry at the drop of a hat. She is chasing crows today.

Ahead of the daughter are a bunch of crows. A murder of crows, if you will. The crows are in a playful mood today. They have wings that could take them to the end of the beach. But they make inept use of them today, as they respond to the daughters chase by hoping a few feet and then, a few more feet.

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It must have been quite a sight. The ice cream seller chasing two overgrown couple, who are chasing a daughter at her playful best, who is chasing crows!

Today I sit by the table lamp and recall all of this happening as I read the story of the crow to the daughter. The crows were at their most playful bit.

The ice-cream seller and the photographer were the first bogeys in that silly Sunday beach train to disengage. Fairer weather beckoned the ice-cream seller in the form of a couple behind an umbrella, who certainly were talking about the policies of the International Monetary Fund & the antecedents of global warming. In some time, the photographers and their pleas for a picture in return for an exorbitant sum of money, vanished perhaps realising the futility of the chase.

It fills me with warmth and oodles of delight to recall that day.

The daughter’s relentless energy kept the crows on their toes. Or maybe it was the other way round. After what seemed like three hundred and thirty nine years, the crows had enough of this nonsense and just took off on a whim. The daughter clapped and cheered. She after all had driven the crows off the beach. Mommy-daddy slopped on to the sand. Like a marathoner who used the last ounce of his energy to cross the finish line and collapse.

And that was that. A morning at the beach. That fills us to the brim with happiness and brings a smile on my face every time we think of that time or just happen to look at snaps from there.

There are other mornings that have seen us take trips to the mall and such other places that thrive with throbbing consumers. Buying labels to super size smaller persona. Indulgences that gladden the senses,  careening past truck sized egos and slick people. These stay remarkably distant in the memory while the soul searches for many such lost morning and the wallet sheds silent tears.

In contrast, the mornings that stay are the ones when we randomly went shooting the breeze and lunging at crows, with commerce making futile attempts to reach our pockets. Or the time when we spent curled up with a book or drawing pencil sketches on the magic slate. I wonder if its just me, or that is the way with the world.

Heres to a happy week people.  Do shoot the breeze and stay friendly to crows. They give you new wings even while they are on their toes.

20-20

These days I open Facebook with a mild trepidation thinking of all the stuff that show up on my social media timelines. Ranging from the inane to the insane. From the incredulous to the ridiculous. Very rarely is there something that is truly incredible. Stuff that people post that make me go back in there. Like this video below. 

A fascinating piece that the Films Division has released in 1967. A montage of people that were born on 15th Aug 1947. Something like a 20-20. They turned twenty when free India turned twenty. The visual collage weaves their hopes for the future and gives a snapshot of what it was to have lived in 1967! 

I have watched the video a few times over now and hope you would snatch 18 minutes of your time to do so, once!
Lodged firmly in it are the reckless confidence of youth. The seemingly unsurmountable challenges of then and how they continue to haunt us now. And in the twinkle in the eye you can almost see the promise that ‘the tomorrow’ held for them.  In the assertive confidence, pale quiver in the lips or in the obscure dream of making it in the future, I see the present day sitting and smiling too. 

Only now it is all in a HDMI supported colour with more jazz. How much has life changed for the ordinary man on the street? Tom Brokaw, in a commencement speech put it eloquently : “It will do us little good to wire the world if we short circuit our souls”
What will the tomorrow hold? How different will that be?  I wonder if we have let a promise slip by. More importantly I wonder what it will take to keep the promises we made to ourselves when we were younger! What will it take for the twenty somethings of today turnaround and say, we have moved on? 
Do give the video a dekho. The wheel of time spins with remarkable alacrity. As much as things change, the scale of stuff that remains the same is just incredible. A truly remarkable piece, I must say. 

Wheels within wheels

Of the several inflection points in the evolution of man, the invention of the wheel has occupied a place of prominence that is unrivaled   Wheels have powered mankind’s evolution. Wheels within wheels have taken it to a different level. For now, we’ll stick to wheels!  

 
The wheel, once upon a time it was plain functional. It lent itself well for the making of pots and utensils or for a slightly more glamorous utilitarian attachment to carts, wagons et al for transport. 
 
Wikipedia will lead you to the information that it wasn’t until 1839 that someone thought of ‘balance’ and invented the bicycle. God bless his soul.  Man obviously didn’t stop with bicycle and two wheels. While four wheels have become de rigueur in most urban homes, the ordinary man on the street has to be content with a couple of wheels less. Or atleast one less! 
 
This post celebrates the ‘cycle’ in India! 
 
There can be no instrument that is as grossly under rated as this humble piece of engineering! We could put a man on the moon, but to an average Indian, we would have truly arrived on any planet only when a bicycle ride is possible. 
 
Around the world, the bicycle is synonymous with calorie burning or as contraption to save the planet. For many in India and other nations though, it is a basic means to livelihood. Here are a few examples.  



 

Ask the laundry guy. The clothes of an entire neighbourhood (which can get as big as a small country), gets rolled into bigger bed sheets, and carefully bundled on to become big lumps that helped balance. Taken for a wash and a press.  An entire industry survives. A neighbourhood walks fresh and sprightly! 

 




The rickshaw and the tricycle continue to be lynchpins in transporting people in many parts of rural India. The power of bulging human calfs, heaving biceps and ballooning invisible lungs doing the work that infinitely more powerful inanimate engines do around the world.  



While this can seem to be all romantic and such else, the bicycles last mile connect to the business world can be missed only at the cost of being comfortable with the idea that this blog is operating beyond the outer limits of its mental capabilities. 

The refills, the trips for money collections, the market visits to the local corner store, all happen more often than not on a bicycle. Equipped with specially designed carry cases that could teach design studios a thing or two about innovation. 


The list is long. Newspaper delivery. Cooking Gas. Courier services. Groceries. And so on.  The bicycle has often proven that putting all eggs into one carrier is often not a bad idea, but a necessary pre-requisite for business. 

Stories abound about how bicycles have been used for generating electricity to the Mysore palace  and similar stories that would flare your ears and stretch your imagination when you try answering the question : ‘What else?”

 

News when nestled within the columns of a newspaper take a different shape and hue when something similar is spotted in real life. For instance, a bicycle that can transport and help sharpen knives when stationary. A contraption that comes alive by pedaling a stationary bicycle thereby getting a different stone wheel to rotate! Which sharpens knives!  
 
Wheels within wheels and sharpening of knives could well sound like tales of palace intrigue and politics. But if this ingenuity and spirit of making it possible, shapes our lives, our collective futures will take to a different height by a factor that can be too high to compute.

Speechless in speed

There he was. Unmindful of the sweltering Sun and the svelte women walking by.  Staring into the sky and doing nothing but that. But doing that significantly well. A picture of poise and presence. 

“What will it take for us to do that ?”, I asked. 

“Retirement” she replied. 

I gasped. “Retirement ?!!?”

She was quiet. I figured she was thinking about it.  She added “perhaps in the middle of a long holiday. In  a place where the phones dont work. Not when the holiday starts. Not when its all set to end. But somewhere in the middle”. 

She sighed.  “But you know, long holidays are a privilege of a few”. 

City lifestyles with the comforts of instant coffee, instant photographs, instant ( & incessant) texting, instant delivery, immediate needs, first impressions, instant makeovers all provided by cash spewed from an ‘Any Time Money’ machine or credit cards that work with a swipe, has held sway over us from second to second. One thing to tend to after another! 

Thoughts piled on. 

The universal shortage of empathy, the short shift that kindness and harmony are getting in the spirit of ‘anything goes’ as long as it is ‘super quick’, ‘super fast’, ‘delivered at the door step’ at a ‘decent price’.  

I cleared my throat. Mildly aware that the topic had me started and I was like a heavy monsoon cloud waiting to pour! I

Which is when she said : “I have been thinking of a quick holiday myself”.  The emphasis on the ‘quick’ couldnt be missed.  

The speech which was all set to march like an army on fire, went straight back into the barracks.  

Pretty quickly. I must say.  

Kerala calling !

Just back from a trip to Kerala. For reasons that fall somewhere in the vicinity of ‘personal work’. For those of you that think of that as a well qualified oxymoron, well, it is very much in use. Just run a random sampling of reasons employees give their managers, when the need to take a few days off! Thats that.

Kerala is a place that one always looks forward to. Green. Clean. And ever so offering something new to be seen.



Wavy mountains, pristine plains, wonderous waterways, and always : awesome people. Cochin was where the aircraft touched down. A proud Kerelite calls it Ernakulam and the moment you say, ‘Cochin’, well, they dont give you a dirty look. But, my friend, life is slightly uphill for you after that!

Ernakulam, the metropolis it is seeking to become seems to seamlessly bridge the gap between the past, the present and the future. Its not as though I am new to this place. Some eight years ago, work used to take me every month to Kerela ! It was almost home.

This time around several things were new. Time had worked its magic. Villas and property advertisements jostled for space amongst the ubiquitous ones for jewellery. Roads were wider. At a couple of places where the mind clearly remembers a ‘dead end’ the road seems to have had a fresh lease of life, dutifully coloured by teeming traffic.

And then, there was this tender coconut vendor I used to frequent. Who was still there, vending his tender coconuts. At the exact spot where I had last seen him several years ago. It was surreal. Almost like a group of children playing ‘Statue’ and freezing a part of town. But I only had to look up, to realise how close I thought I was to ‘Statue’, yet how far I was from the truth.

For right above his head, was a new giant hoarding selling ‘3 BHK, 4BHK villas’ with a picture of a ever so happy family clinging together. Pandering to the great Indian dream of owning a house, even if it meant, paying an arm and a leg as EMI !

All the while the tender coconut vendor had been climbing up those slender coconut trees and bringing down those coconuts for the parched throat, ‘development’ had seem to have gone above his head, and completely missed him. For better or worse ? The jury is out on that one !

In other news..

Inbetween all the work that we had to complete, the greedy traveler and big city dweller that I am, took the time to soak in the clean air, fill up a few GB worth of photographs, take a peep into life in an estate etc etc ! Not to mention, soaking into the hospitality of friends and family. ( Which actually reads ‘eating like a shameless glutton.’ )







Posts and pictures follow.

Watch this space.

Bringing up children..

We were at the Grand Canyon. It was almost end of day. Tired and exhausted. The muscles cried for some rest after hours of battling the sun, the heat and the height. Perhaps for the first time, the camera was whining too, with the batteries draining.

Attempting to take one last shot of the ‘depth’ of the Canyon, I ventured as far as daring would get me to and the missus would allow. It was a sheer drop beyond the point I was attempting to walk upto.

Earlier in the day, the bus driver had joked, ‘If you want to get to the bottom of the canyon faster than the bus, I recommend that you keep walking off that ledge. Beyond a point, it would take you all of 6 minutes”. And then he indulged himself into a shoulder-jerking-in-fits–of-laughter !

His words ringing in my ear, I took each step of the descent to the ledge, with great care. When I was about 5 feet away from what seemed like the end of the world, two important occurrences took place. One gradually receding and another getting more and more pronounced.

One, courage was steadily evaporating. Slowly but steadily. Leaving behind traces of the big sized occupant that it once was. For, from where I was, I could see the end of the stretch of land I was standing on, and the beginning of a sheer drop.

Two, from a distance, the missus was howling me to stop right there. Howling to the point of embarrassment. Anyone could have mistaken me for one of those greedy bigamists who was just running away with her jewels! There perhaps were two elements that powered her thought : One, she had heard the driver. Two, she knew me well !

Anyway, the combination of those two factors got me to stop moving, at the speed of light. Perhaps faster. I stopped. Waved back to her. Indicating that I am not moving an inch further, and she stood right there, in a distance, crossing arms.

In that moment, there was transformation. Of the howling scare on her face, transforming into a solid stare, perhaps indicating what would happen if I did. These of course are moments of silence and depth in our marital life!

As a consolation, I pulled out my camera, and started clicking.

Which is when this young mother walked past me with her kid in one hand and the camera in the other. I was aghast. She walked right past me, straight to the ledge. Got her kid to sit down, she sat down too. Two steps to her back or one step to the left would mean she would go down thousands of feet ! A concealed squeal escaped my lips.



She pulled out her camera and started taking pictures ! I stared in awe. I turned to gesture to the missus to see whats happening only to see that she her face was buried in her palms, not wanting to see what was going on.

That is end of the story. Obviously the lady, after clicking few pictures, stood up, looked around and walked away. Impervious to all the hyper pumping that she caused in at least two hearts.

What we didn’t know was that this scene was to take several avatars and play itself out many times over during our trip. The settings were different but the theme was the same. Parents that seemed inclined to expose kids to what could be called, a certain ‘spirit of adventure’.

Which took me back to how kids are brought up in the households of neighbours / friends / relatives and colleagues back home here. For instance, would anybody let their kids go that close to a ledge? Am not so sure. ( You would notice that I am conveniently side stepping the angle of ‘Would anyone go close to a ledge’).

Which is when the mind darted to a comment that an auto rickshaw driver made some time back, while discussing seat belts. The sum and substance of what he said was this : Daily life in itself was such a challenge, adventurous and risk-prone.

He spoke of his kids who were about in their pre-teens years old, who carry the satchels, cross the highway, take a public bus, at peak hour just to reach school. Everyday. For the past several years.

Now, quite obviously, crossing a highway will not be at a zebra crossing but just looking at and dodging traffic and rushing through. The public bus perhaps has all of four inches of feet space available. Of potholes, the less said the better.

With an arid tongue and matter of fact tone, he said, ‘This safety & risk business is for soft people like you who live in high rises. Beyond a point, nothing matters’. The rest of the journey was populated with such conversation laced with moments of silence.

Quite often, I wonder how kids are brought up here. Forget risk. Do kids in modern day metro go out and catch fresh air, throw themselves at nature, run with gay abandon…? Like we used to ? I am not sure.

Ofcourse, I wonder what you think..


Broom time !



This is the broom. Well, for those that think that it is an antiquated instrument that is used only to sweep off the remnant of cow dung or the recalcitrant dead leaf or empty dust, well, you are sadly mistaken. The broom is a mainstream household article. Of considerable eminence.

An article of significance that people cant, don’t and wont do without. Having been used to seeing it used with a casual bend of the body at the hip and an arc of the hand, the ground getting brushed clean in sweeping motions, is part of life !The swish swash sounds back home, herald a new morning. That is if the neighbourhood rooster’s silence leaves you wondering if he is having a throat ache, headache. Or perhaps a hangover !

The broom has more social standing than what its put to use for. An item of reverence. An item to be feared. From ghosts to Gods. If you didn’t already know, brooms form part of the offering paraphernalia for a variety of Gods down in the deep south !

Brooms being the Jaguar equivalent for the nether world is often quoted and kept alive by the likes of Harry Potter. Made famous enough to be left at that !

What perhaps is a must mention is the broom’s standing in language! Case in point : An oft quoted usage in Tamil is a two word combination which when roughly translated reads ‘the broom will tear’ ! Which is short form for ‘i-will-lynch-you-with-the-broom-till-the-blood-that-courses-in-your-dirty-veins-oozes-out-or-till-the-broom-tears-apart’. Or something to that effect.

Used with such swirl of the tongue and pitch of the voice, that any gent with an ounce of self respect and quarter of an ounce of pride, will quiver in his boots.

In modern times, urban homes are dotted with the sophisticated ‘vaccum cleaner’. Electricity powered sucking up or blowing away of dust and dirt is a fancy that many households can ill afford to miss, if a certain standing amongst the neighbours has to be maintained. That sure is a far cry from the broom.



At a sophisticated premises, there is a new instrument in use. Seemingly simple yet efficient. The user just had to hold firm and walk about. No swish. No swash. The gloves are spotless.

Indeed we have moved on in life and the broom is steadily getting confined to a certain class of homes in certain parts of the country ! Perhaps good for everybody, for all you know !

But, come contest me on this. Methinks, that the broom will stay put in peoples memories, if not in their homes. A vaccum cleaner as an offering for a God will am sure be promptly rejected by the Gods themselves, and on old lady flying off on a twin tailed contraption like the one above, sure is not going to be endearing on the eye !

If not for anything else, the swirl of the tongue and the pitch of the voice that will spout ‘the broom will tear’ will remain. Whatsay ?

On tracks !



A number (that could sound improbable) of Mumbaikars travel on these tracks every day. Life revolves around these tracks as they go up and down carrying energy, conversation, laptops, books and such else ! Not to miss the countless hopes of a better life and the unmistakably prodigious body odour.

Bodies pressed against each other, so much so that your nostrils could swirl with smells of hair oil or deodorant depending on your height !

The 8.33 AM local is so much part of the missus’ recollections of her youth. For her and several others like her, life here revolves around the ‘local’. (Are you catching the ‘fast’ was a dialect that I was very slow in catching!)



Perpetual awe descends on the mind at the very thought of the local trains. Legendary as they are, they cart a population that would be equal to the population of Australia in five working days ! To travel in one during ‘peak hours’ requires a certain pugnacious and a drive that escapes simple description.

One look at the beehive bulge of commuters that jut out of a doorway as the tall towers and standard slum whizz by, can considerably shake up a mind that’s foreign to Mumbai.

Occasionally, (which would translate to once-in-a-day), the newspapers carry a story of how a man fell off and died. A normal man, who was getting to work as he had got to in the past several years fell off. Or perhaps was run over . Or how some sedentary lamp post came in contact with one of those that hung out of the doorway, perhaps a tad too far. Many times it happens too often to get reported !



There are other stories that reach the ear. About buddies and support systems that get formed here. Imagine sharing the next seat with someone for 10 years and counting. It could be implausible for a Mumbai-alien mind !

But just play with the thought that for 10 years you travel with the same set of people whose only claim to an equation with you is that they travel with you, days on end. Everyday. In the same compartment ! Friends who will know exactly how you smell at 6.34 PM, amongst the many such things!

There are legendary stories of fellow commuters who have shown up at home, after a train buddy Didn’t travel alongside for 10 days ! That your not turning up at the train station getting someone who is not your boss or a recovery agent from a credit card company announcing a search for you, is SOME thought in itself !

It is fascinating. To say the least.



The other day, the missus and me took a local train. Not that it’s a first experience for me. Yet..! A combination of off-peak time and direction, gave some space to wield the camera a bit ! Of course, having me do what most other foreign minds would do. Shake their heads in disbelief and awe.

You can call it overcrowded. Unbelievable. Cruel. Energetic. Passionate. Lifeline. Whatever ! One thing you cant do, is miss the trains in any conversation with a Mumbaikar ! Put two Mumbaikars in a room, and the chances that the conversation will veer around to the ‘local train’ is as good as turning on the TV during this world cup season and seeing Kapil Dev still getting interviewed about the 1983 world cup win !

Yeah. For sure.. ! Perhaps rightly so, in the case of the Mumbai locals! About the 25 year old win, well, lets change track !