A worthy delivery!

There are many jobs that don’t get the attention they deserve. Or maybe a disproportionately minute attention. Often dismissive.  While several may come to your mind, sometimes starting with your own job, may I please request a temporary focus on the job of a newspaper delivery chap!

Watching him at work on the road is an exercise in joy!   And if you are half as clumsy and absent minded a bloke as me, the seamless efficiency that is a default expectation on this job can cause you to want the world to cave in and take you along with all that goes inside.  That’s the degree of shame that is distinctly possible. 

The permutations on the job are insane.  

First of all, there are a heap of brands of newspapers. And ofcourse two tonnes of supplements to each one of them. If you thought that’s the end of it all, well, then comes the language question. Especially so, if you stay in a big city like Mumbai which plays home to every conceivable inhabitant on planet earth. And his mother tongue. And his newspaper in his mother tongue too.  Ok. That may be a slight exaggeration. But only slight!

Well just as you are applying work up some math around the multitude of brands and the plentiful languages that are there, add neighbourhoods and neighbours. Neighbourhoods can be confusing. Should we say, ‘daunting’ to a rookie newspaper vendor.  Numbers, crosses, streets and of course sometimes complete with idiots residing in them.  

Plus of course neighbourhoods come packed with their assortment of watchmen, auto and taxi drivers half asleep in their places of work. In the wee hours of the morning. Waking up with a start. Rattled. Irritated and ready to pull out a AK-47. For a moment.  Thank God for the gun laws. For whatever they are worth. 

In a minute the old familiar visage of the newspaper vendor, and the rattle of the mudguard that’s hanging loose from the time Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister, makes them get to wave weak smile and an assortment of curses loosely translating to ‘useless fellow’, before dozing off. Perhaps to relive dreams where they are romancing a beauty queen laced with riches!  

If the chaps outside the neighbourhoods weren’t enough trouble, the folks inside can sure finish you off. For instance, there is a good friend who buys a different assortment of newspapers on different days of the week.  Either business must be real bad or customers delight taken too seriously for such crazy demands getting met.  A grand plan to save some ‘60 odd rupees’, he had said. Like it was an amount to pull India out of financial trouble! 

Now, now, hear me out. Imagine you are a newspaper vendor. You have to have the ability to sort out what newspapers people have asked for(and if you include that friend like mine, you also have to remember which day of the week the morning leads you to), slot it accordingly and carry it with you on the bicycle. 

You pedal around like a champ, pull out the most relevant sets of newspapers and toss it with an arch to ensure it lands at the right doorstep at the right time. If you are a few minutes late the very real prospect of facing a customer with disheveled hair and dried drool from yesterday night plentifully populating his cheek, awaits you!  Worse, he could casually ask why you couldn’t do a better job. Which is when you would want to throw the bicycle and all the newspapers in there, at him. 

Ofcourse, we haven’t broached on aspects that could become seminal topics by themselves. Like the pet dogs in homes that would want to scare the wings out every passing fly. Leave alone a small chap in a bicycle with some paper that in the later course of the day are used to parcel dog poop to the dustbin! 

To pedal that distance is enough of an ask for three quarters of people of the world to opt out.  And finally if ever you would sit back and read the crap that gets into newspapers these days, wont you wonder whatever your multi tasking was worth! 

The next time you see the newspaper chap whizzing, say something. A hello. A good morning. Whatever. He may yet not deliver better news for you. It may not even prompt him fix the rattle of his broken mud guard.  

Perhaps, just perhaps, it would help him get by with a smile!   

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.  

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 !

Maths. Gymnastics. Art.

If you walk by a traditional South Indian street early in the morning chances are high that you would spot a lady dotting the front yard with fine white flour, are high !

If you hang around there for a while and look with an ordinary eye, you will see dots emerge in sequence. Dots in proportion. Dots in synchrony and symmetry.

Of course, you can immediately sense that is maths in action. Yes. Math ! 8 dots. 16 dots. right angles. symmetry. Etc etc !

All while the lady, stands up and bends down ! Mega city lifestyles and modern day junk food and leisure lifestyles ensure that such postures befit a great cosmic yogi (at best) or a Russian Gymnast (at the least ). That another story for another time.

In some time, the fine white flour that went into making of the dot slips through the fingers to form simple, straight lines. Straight lines that would look like those drawn with a scale !

In a jiffy the lines become curves. The curves become U turns, with the dot in he middle ! Sharp curves that would get a F1 champ’s adrenalin going.

The lines and curves form a seamless symmetry of art on the floor. A dash here. A dash there. A curve now and then. Suddenly there is a piece of visual delight on the front yard !! Coming to think of it all, to get out of bed at 5.00 AM is something. To get to the courtyard is something else. And then, to alternate between gymnastics and mathematics with ease, is stuff that is beyond me. To do it everyday is super human.

It took me an effort to locate the camera and shoot ! My mom looked bemused and surprised. Initially at my interest, giving me ‘Ah, whats so great about it’ look !

A while later, the household help came in and added some of her own designs and a dash of colour !

I have stayed a mile away from maths. ( Or rather, maths has stayed a mile away from me). And two miles from gymnastics. I always thought so.

Seems i was pretty close ! My mom orchestrates them to do the ballet on the front yard
everyday !

Malware !

“I want this job”. How many times has that feeling visited your gut ? In recent times.

Ok. Lets keep out Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan emerging out of water with…. hmm hmm… guns. No, thats not part of this brief.

That feeling hit me. Recently.

In the middle of a swank mall, a group moves about. Carrying advertisements on their back. For a brand of chewing gum. The product is inconsequential, for they could have been promoting toilet cleaners or dry cleaners. The important element was a certain rhythm in their motion !

When i saw them move, i thought I would like that job. You may wonder why.

It was simple ! I would get to see SOME sights. Mall sights !

Of uninterested husbands digging into their blackberry as though it were a device that was stopping planet Earth from imploding. The eager boyfriend variety who buy ( & carry ) the basket to the bread.

The wailing kid who rolls on the ground for everything from the sun to the shoe rack, and test the sound proofing of the Bose showroom.

Sights of eager diners. Chomping on a mix of Mexican curry and malai kofta with etiquette sounding like a bad word in a foreign language. The girls with looks that would kill and the boys with hairstyles that tantamount to murder.

How wonderful will it be. To walk around the mall and NOT BUY !!! No guilt at all. A clear bonus with some exercise for the legs ! That would be a clear bonus. Hmm. I want that job. Really !

Perhaps i will befriend a nice store sales girl who could let me in on intricacies of managing a large store and attendant problems. Of discounts and devious customers. Serious fraud committed with a straight face. Am talking of the discounts here ! The schemes and the scheming !

Wouldn’t it be plain wonderful. To just walk around a mall. Floor by floor. In a formation, that’s befits a fighter pilot squadron. A squadron with no intention of bombing territory or even planning very valorous actions, like piloting the President.

Wouldn’t it be fun to gloriously walk around. Aimlessly soaking up the sights. Following the chap ahead. With whole world as the audience ! The world inside the mall that is ! .

Perhaps in a corner, i might even spot a wistful nitwit. Clicking snaps of cauliflowers and the corner store on a mobile phone.

Bemused look, balding head and bulging middle not withstanding, pontificating on garbage and trophies with an air of a Somali pirate, holding a Saudi oil tanker hostage !!

One look at us walking the floor with the ads on our back would perhaps cause him to wonder about state of the human kind. Able men doing an aimless job. A job that was relegated to the realms of steel, vinyl and lighting of the advertising billboard !

Such types cant get a clue of the fun. Or the pocket money that it gets us. Walking the mall. Selling some ware. The sights, sounds and smells of mall-ware !

From Above. From Below.

On Mumbai’s marine drive, theres an exhibition thats on. Awesome. Is the word. Its titled ‘ Earth from Above‘. A series of stunning photographs. A collage from up above.

The setting is perfect too. With the Arabian sea on one side and a bustling army of cars, bikes and people to provide the contrast, on the other.

Perfect time to look at the big picture. The pictures are work of a creative mind at its best.

Talking of creative human minds, there is more to be done. Whatever are those scientist folks doing ? With all those gadgets and goatees that, whatever are they doing ?

Especially, for cases like this one. Read on.

An apartment complex that is home to a myriad set of people. Like…Hmm.. educated from the best of universities the world can offer. The best of designations the corporate world can conjure.

Cars that can swallow the economy and bank accounts that seem perpetually overflowing. Computers that run the household and household helps who pay obeisance to the family dog.

All in all, if this set of people were reduced to a single drop of petrol, they could keep an empty fuel tank power a world trip. Twice. That kind of power. You get the drift… ?

That type of an apartment complex. And this was the announcement on the notice board !

Hope the scientist folks are still listening. They need to come up with several things for this apartment.

But where do they start ? What work can science do, when common sense and basic sensitivity go on exile.

Perhaps these are the signs of our times. A time for extremes. New frontiers get broken as new inventions hit the market at speeds that only the sun tries to compete with.

New markets get created, as existing land disappears. A time when the Internet brings us all closer even as we as people get divided further.

A time, when those that coast in luxury are epitomes of ‘uncivil’ and the actions of the ‘educated’ take us back a few hundred years.

A time where the beauty of the Earth from the sky is only contrasted by our actions on the ground ! Actions, that which we inflict on one another and on ourselves too.

The opportunity to keep our Earth pristine is omnipresent. The choices are ours to make. And in this apartment’s case, the choice starts with the dustbin !