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.




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.

Eye & the door !

That every city has a character is like stating every walking being on Earth has a life.  Sometimes the character is hidden. Many other times, there are several aspects of the city that stands out that nuances and shades of what a city possesses go unnoticed. 

Say ‘Mumbai’ to a non-Mumbai chap and check out what comes to their mind, for instance. It usually is ‘trains’, ‘commercial capital’, ‘busy city’ and the like with a tinge of ‘how-do-you-manage-top-live-there’ expression. A small tinge. Occasionally that tinge is also laced with envy! 

Of course, asking a Mumbaikar would get very different answers. But somehow such views and opinions grow on to create an impression of a reality. 

In a place where ‘utility’ outruns ‘aesthetics’ by many pot hole ridden kilometers, well represented by ugly high rises that zoom into polluted air with nonchalance and flyovers that seem to come up with such and distasteful ease, causing every sane person walking to wonder what on Earth were Mumbai’s urban planners chewing on.  They could well chewing on ‘data’ on the burgeoning population and the exacting firmness of land available. They could well have a point there. 

But all of that is besides the point for today’s post. The story is this.  The other day, we were having a filter coffee in Matunga when a friend nudged my attention to the closed door of a mattress store. It was a Sunday. And the store was yet to open.   

The colour pattern on the door was arresting.  The colour contrasted rectangles within rectangles and the paddled locks on the door redeemed the apology of a filter coffee that was served by the chap next door. 

We clicked a few pictures and moved on. 

Many days later as I scanned all the images clicked that morning, this snap remained a personal favourite of sorts. 

The fact that the existence of the doorway had to be pointed out to me while I was sitting right there,  was not lost on me.  The fact that this was a simple mattress store and that this the store would soon open concealing the yellow & blue rectangles came alive as well was not either. 

To not have a keen eye is a different story. But to have had it and suddenly discover that its been missing for a while now, brings to bear the question: “where the hell did it go?”

Whats with the dabba business ?!?

At a business conference, the other day,  a question was posed. ‘What is the most difficult aspect of a dabbawallah’s job?’

The simplest of human desires can translate into the tallest of a business propositions.  Isnt it true to every single discipline of life?

The desire for travel from point A to point B has spewed horses, horse carriages, cars, bigger cars and these days has even sent Curiosity across to Mars!  From the desire to cloth oneself to having a roof overhead, to showing love to the cat on the corner right upto inventing robots with a soul, new industries have sprung with a frequency of a 3rd grade scam exposed by a fourth grade TV channel ! 

Each industry providing for suits, boots, countless strategies, long meetings arranged in an amiable ambiance with appropriate snacks, and consultants adding ‘value!  Being part of the circus doesn’t mean the clown cant have a good laugh at the circus ! And regular readers know me too well! 

Well, well, well,  such stuff makes the world go around. Doesn’t it. 

The Dabbawallahs of Mumbai have been written about no end.   There is enough material about them like this and this , that you can use to fill a full MBA course, heaping hapless students with hoary details and hoards of questions. 

Their offering is simple. They get you YOUR home cooked food. On time. And port your lunch box home, while you can walk with a free hand. For a small fee..  That’s the business model.  Its done to scale though. 

[Wikipedia says : In 2002, Forbes Magazine found its reliability to be that of a six sigma standard. More than 175,000 to 200,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, they make less than one mistake in every 6 million deliveries, despite most of the delivery staff being illiterate]

How simpler can it get? To think that ‘eating a hot, fresh, home cooked meal everyday at work’ can generate a unique business opportunity and stand for the ingenuity of a city is remarkable isn’t it ! 

Not to mention the methods that they have deployed and the fame has followed. Consider the acclaim!  6 Sigma ratings. Invitation by royalty. Mentions by management gurus. Film makers and the rest. Thankfully, the Dabbwallahs themselves haven’t let any of this affect them. To this day, home cooked lunch gets to Mumbai’s office goer on time. Every day.

Much has been packed into boxes about their unique methodology that they deploy to do this. With a simple system of marking and a assortment of handcarts, bicycles, innovative hand / head carts  and a legion of men can be spotted on any active day, walking the streets with a colourful range of lunch boxes. 

And coming back to the meeting where my rambling started.  It was one of these conferences where  the natty suits amble about with a sense of importance.  The gentleman paused and asked with a certain sense of certainty that only accompanied me when I knew what question will be asked the next day in the Physics exam : ‘What is the most difficult aspect of a dabbawallah’s job?’

Timeliness. A tenacity of surviving Mumbai traffic everyday. The ability to memorise so many addresses. Dedication. Passion. Customer service.  And all other stuff that would exemplify a consultant’s vocabulary was spoken with charm, elegance and an equanimity. As though they were squeezed out of the same toothpaste!  

By then I was already operating on the fringes of my mental capabilities to process pedantic stuff. 

Come on, I thought. To carry an array of lunch boxes knowing fully well that a mouth watering spectrum that could arouse every conceivable taste bud was within arms reach, yet to go and deliver it to people in opaque buildings and omnipresent business houses !?! 

Now that if that is not tough, what is !?! 

Marathon Post !

So he asks, did you do the ‘foool marathon’. I nod in agreement. “You actually did the foool marathon” he asks three quarters in disbelief.

Savagely moving a large lump of paan from one cheek to the other making visible a coloured tongue with a resplendent red, as he sucks in air, producing a hissing sound. For a moment, the sound reverberates across the the space in the lift we both share.

After 42 kilometers of running, I am finally in my apartment and taking the lift home. This is a man that I know.

We meet in the lift often. He hisses for a while longer. I fear he may suck all the oxygen out of the lift. He runs his hands over his pronounced paunch. “Will I ever be able to’, he asks. I have just about energy to tell him, that that’s exactly where I started two years back.

Regular readers here, know about my running and the pompous spin that I give to a rather pedestrian pastime. Okay, strictly not ‘pedestrian’. This after all is about running.

‘Demented bluster’, lead me to think that I indeed could run the full marathon and register for the 42 KM. Announcing with fanfare and chickening out before implementation is what the government is teaching by example. I announced it too. Not out of great admiration for the government, but it was frankly a very convenient option! I could always quietly slink away.

The blokes at Striders had a different plan though. Challenging, pushing in an ever so non obtrusive manner, ‘slow & easy’ manner that it would fit in the category of non-invasive surgery. Of the mind.

The kind that the missus would call ‘magic’ because, her pretty much invasive attempts to get me to other things like stack up read newspapers in a manner that could be called ‘mildly orderly’ has only resulted in massive inaction that could befit a lump of limestone. Or something of that ilk. You get the idea, right ?

Practice happened over the last several months. Regular travel made me regularly irregular. But running is an activity for which all that you would ever require is a pair of shoes. So I ran alone wherever I went. Often inviting the attention of curious onlookers sipping in coffee from roadside stalls in remote corners of India.

More often than not, inviting the attention and unrequited anger of stray dogs. I presume they were mad at me. Perhaps my speed was incongruent with my heavy breathing. They would wake up and holler as though they spotted Veerappan or someone. Upon seeing me, some would whimper and growl. Mostly in pity I presume. Most others would just not bother to do that either!

The group at Powai I train with is an awesome bunch. Sticking together. Often chatting, laughing and infusing an excitable energy. A special mention must be a made of all friends. Hitesh in particular, who runs barefeet : my running partner! He is a much faster and far more experienced bloke that ran alongside for most of practice and the race too.

On D day, I did run. 42.2 KM. Surprising myself with a time of 5.07 hours. But that’s not the story. Or rather is just one part of the story.

The story of how Mumbai turned out to cheer us is, is the big story !

Expecting beautiful women ( and handsome men), evidently just out of bed , take notice of balding, paunch carrying projectile, would come close to ‘a wonder of the modern day world’! But to see them cheer for me ( yes, I looked all around in surprise, I was the only character in 50 meters), was, mildly put, very exciting.

Or for that matter. Slum kids who lined up the roads of Mahim, who erupted into such dizzying shouts of joy when a runner give all of them a high five, as they held out outstretched hands.

‘Bhagho Uncle Bhaaaaaaago’ ( run uncle run), they screamed. From the stress on the ‘bhaaaaggoooooo’ their estimation of how fast I was running was apparent.

I ran, holding out my hand to the kids. What caused them excitement to have a stranger running and giving them a high five is something that is beyond my brain, but boy, it sure did energise me like no other sports drink or energy drink can. Taxi drivers cheered. Old men shouted slogans for me. Some men stared in disbelief. Even cops clapped and gave us a thumbs up sign.

These as you can see, are beyond the realms of everyday life.

Running is an exercise as much for the mind, as it is for the body. Especially long distance running ! And sometimes when you run with a complete stranger, even for a few fleeting moments as he passes you or you pass him ( or her), a strange bond is shared. Acknowledged a few times with a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘keep going’ or a ‘well done’.

At other times, the silence is broken by an exchange of heavy breaths or the sound of feet pounding the pavement. Not a word is spoken. Not a gesture exchanged. Yet, conveying much.

Ofcourse, there are exceptions like the ‘elite runners’. Those Kenyans, Ethiopians and others. Who by the time I finished the race would have fathered two kids and sent them to college. But the point is not about speed. The 42 KM is one heck of a distance. The body knows that. The point, is about the mind. That opaque thing called ‘mind’ has travelled a longer distance.

Heres a world of thanks to all friends who called, texted, wrote on the FB wall, clicked on the ‘like button’, sent messages on the BBM and for the few who actually travelled all the way to South Bombay to cheer… I have nothing but a gaping sea of gratitude. You made it possible.

This is a world where the following are common : Running for office. Running away from problems. Running away with the neighbour. Running from the media etc !

But the real running, the running on the road holds untold charm, an almost surreally unbelievable sense of freedom and wins some amazing friends.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it !

Duplicate cops ?

The real thing about duplicates is that the duplicates are for real. Oh what a profound statement spouting out of the keyboard on to the monitor. Talk of an inflated chest, right now !!

Duplicates get by because they are so close to the real. In the seamless merging of the real and the duplicate, the gullible fall victim and duplicates live on. Or rather thrive.

‘Duplicate’ has very many names and forms. Counterfeit. Fake. Forged. Decoy. The internet has done its bit, by spawning : ‘copy-paste’ in students lingo firmly. A spot that was held by ‘xeroxing’ a while ago.

lets move on. Enough said that there have been cases of ‘versions’ of sweets, stamps, money, certificates, colas, paints, books and every thing that you could think of. Save the Sun, the Moon and such other imponderables.

Let me leave this here : If you are able to point to a few segments where duplicates are not present, well, I will personally write a letter to the prime minister, urging him to make use of such unmatched cerebral prowess. Original letter that is. Please don’t expect to hear from him though. But ofcourse.

If you find yourself cheated, God forbid, if at all that happens, what do you do ? Being preyed on for wearing your vulnerability on your sleeve as though it was an Armani suit, well, sometimes can have other consequences. As someone who sat through those civics lessons in school, you approach the cops. With a complaint. That’s when action starts.

In Powai, Mumbai there is something interesting happening.

Even before you could rush to the cops to complain, the cops are all over street corners letting you know to beware of duplicates. Beware of duplicate versions of cops themselves! Eh!

The first, time this ad met the eye, it was but natural to dismiss this as a work of a piqued smart alec. It didn’t take long, actually not beyond the next street corner, to realise that smart alec was in no way connected to this. For the next street corner had a similar board. A copy of the first one that is.

What does it take to be a cop ? A whole lot I am sure.

But that’s a wrong question. What does it take to LOOK like a cop? Not too much, perhaps. A crew cut and a burly look will perhaps get you close.

If some ingenuous chap with a crew cut, burly look and accompanying personality accosts you and catches you pants down, speaking to your surreptitious girlfriend, pause my friend and ask for ID. Or whatever. Establish he indeed is a real cop.

A few questions that come to the pea sized brain that nestles in a balding head are these mind are these :

Like who is the home minister? Which station do you come from?

Who is the inspector? Who is the commissioner of police?

Quite obviously, many of you would think of this as a rather juvenile list. Well, thats about what you can get for free.

The Amitabh Bachan KBC baritone is hesitatingly not recommended, for it could provoke thoughts of ‘crores’ at the end of it all, with no mention of lifelines.

The bottomline : Keeping a list of probable questions ( and answers) to test out the veracity of a cop is downright important. If nothing else works, then, asking ‘do you know who I am’ could perhaps be tried.

All these would work, as long as the chap who has accosted you is indeed a ‘duplicate’. If he does happens to be ‘real’ / ‘original’ and you end up asking all these questions with a tanker load of impunity, well, that could get you face to face with a discommoding peril of your life !

Whatever you do, people in Powai and elsewhere, do make sure you device your own means of separating the wheat from the chaff. The real from the duplicate.

Good luck. May the force be with you. The real one, that is.

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 !

Of wins and losses !

It meant a year of practice. In the thick of Mumbai’s summer time. In the middle of monsoon shower time. Waking up at hours that invite the best of slumber and watching food intake like a hawk hunting for prey. . . Running. In groups. Alone. Sunday. Monday. Wednesday. Friday. Week on week. Month on month.

Striders armed with a group of dedicated coaches, and a ‘crazy bunch’ of fellow runners that inspires this commitment with a commitment that makes my commitment seem like a piece of cake. Speaking of cakes, that was avoided too. Sigh.

With all of the above, and last years 2 hours and 14 minutes finish, plus some 30 + KM runs that were done this year, the 21 KM was all and truly under the belt. Or so was the thought.

No story goes without a twist.

The day before D-day, the body quivered to a strange ‘shivering’ that blossomed into a full fledged fever. If you had to talk about Murphy and timing at any forum, this will fit the bill. Purrfect !! There was no choice but to rest the fever through.

The D-day arrived. The first five kilometers were a breeze. On time ! And then, the fever just returned with a vengeance that befits an untamed stallion running amok. Only now, embellished with cramps on the shin and calf.

Every step a pain, a searing headache to compliment the body pain and a soaring temperature within that seemed to keep pace with global warming, this marathon was well on course to become an unmentionable washout!

A new goal emerged. To finish. Medical help. Walking. Limping. Running. Meandering along. With fleeting thoughts of how ever distant the finish line seemed and if I would finish at all. Truly well meaning friends had suggested, ‘dropping out is better than dropping down’. Somehow, both options weren’t alluring.

That’s the sordid part of the story. Perhaps sounding like a ‘heroic’ spin to a rather pedestrian timing. Which today was 2 hours and 45 minutes or so, by which time, the body was fairly disoriented and feeble. But satisfied that finish line had indeed been crossed. Yes. I finished.

Yes. That’s the sordid part of the tale.

If that seemed like a huge solo effort, well, there cant be a falsehood further from the truth. The crowds that cheered on. The children that distributed bananas and sweets. The men and women that kept waving with some variation of a ‘you can do it’ chant. Not to forget the Striders teams of coaches that were ever present. While running buddies kept pushing.

Speaking of them, a certain lady who is part of our crazy bunch deserves more credit than what this paragraph gives. Running alongside for the last 8 KMs or so, sacrificing her pace and timing with words that will resonate for a long time and serve as proof for ‘true spirit of sport and friendship’….“ Am not letting you run alone in this shape”!

Several friends finished well and truly ahead. There is a true delight to see their timings. Its such a fulfilling feeling to see that all of us finished. Many on their own. Others as groups and yet others like me with SOME help !

Thank you everybody for all the support and cheer right through the preparation. The family was festive and supportive! Several bloggers texted. Others called. Friends cheered on, many times using ISD calls ! Sending supplements and such else, woven with wishes and prayers !

If wishes were horses, things could have been different with the body today. But then, wishes are never horses and the running has to be done by every person who chooses to. The low feeling that clouds me will go away. Eventually.

And I know of only one way that this feeling can slowly evaporate : Practice starts Monday next.


There we are. Us and our kind friends. Eating at this roadside joint in Matunga one Sunday morning. Idlis, Dosas and such else, elbowing for space with quite a diverse population. Gujaratis. Tamils. Malayalees. Sikhs. Marathis. A smattering of a mix of languages, heard amidst the universal food chomping. So very Mumbai.

Usually, there is a crowd. Today, is no different. Infact, far more pronounced. The pavement is blocked. Nobody cared. Everybody standing and chomping away at varieties of dosas and idlis. “Chilli Cheese Palak masala dosa”. ( That is one dosa). And such else.

Everybody standing in his or her bathroom tile space and chomping away, with the ferocity of a marine commando and focus of a nuclear scientist on the verge of something big. “It is better left to conjecture”, would be the truthful answer, if you , the ever intelligent reader posed a question like : “Are you sure that you ate only from your plate ?”

It gloriously reaffirms a curious hypotheses that’s been playing on the mind : national integration is best achieved through the alimentary canal. Yeah.

It is at that time, we hear a sound that pierces through the din of incessant order taking and chomp chomps.


Whiplash. Theres this small kid. Barechested. With bones and a scatter of bones to show for an upper torso and a colourful flowing skirt kind of clothing beneath. Today, he has an accompanying well built lady, who works on a drum to beat up some music, as this chap beats himself up. After whipping himself up,walks up to the well rounded uncle, and asks for money.

Now, obviously, people who are midway through the delicious cheese palak dosa could have a consternation of sorts just as the dosa is nestled between the tongue and the right cheek.

For, here is a drumstick contoured body, whipping himself up, and asking for money from a pumpkin contoured body slurping on cheese palak dosa. That is sure to serve you a platter of guilt and even as the dosa descends.

The man standing next to me emits noises that go like “chomp chomp ‘standard’ chomp chomp ‘guilt’ chomp chomp chomp…” and other such incoherent sounds. It wont be far from the truth to assume that he didn’t think of this as anything beyond a standard ploy to cause guilt and therefore make some money.

His wife makes similar noises amidst what seemed to be an effort to swallow one lump of a potato I Or whatever it was. And proceeds to let whoever who cared to listen know, that this happens EVERYDAY, letting go of a burp. Ofcourse, one isn’t sure, if the lady is speaking of the burp or the whiplash.

Another gent while plunging what appeared to be a truckload of ghee dripping Kesari down his throat, makes similar noises. The sum and substance of which translated to : “This is a standard ploy. The whip doesn’t touch their body. It’s the noise of the whip as it hits the road.” By now, the sheera had sunk in. Silence follows..

My friends, kind as they are, immediately buy the kid a plate of idli-vada. Much to the consternation of others there. There are hush hush whispers. However much the ears perk, nothing much can be clearly heard. Between the chomp chomp and the hissing whispering all that come to the ear were, “spoiling”. “No other work”. “Big time drama”. And such else.

General public sentiment is palpably evident.

The kid, on his part, picks the idli-vada plate and vanished.

In a short while, we hear the ‘Phataaak’ again. (That ‘short while’ is a large expression for a fleetingly transient moment).

The kid is with the whip lash vengeance. God knows where the idly vada plate went. Theories abound that such items are quickly stored in a vessel that is kept nearby, of which there is no corroboration. Yet.

Inbetween the dosas, there is now a glowing arc of evidence and vindication in the conversation.

“See see, Eating couldn’t come in the way of business. These jokers who feed them are the real idiots. Lets focus on the dosas. Aren’t they delicious ?” Now, they didn’t say all that. But surely, you get the drift of the arrow piercing comments, just as the dosas disappear from the plate and perhaps find a good homely place in the inner recesses of the fat on the hip.

Our friends, by now, a tad guilt free, concentrate on their dosas.

Amidst all this din, is an old man, who uses a cane and his wife to prop himself up on either side. He is a clearly old and retired uncle. (The normal practice here : every man or woman who sees you as older to him or her, has the prerogative to call you ‘UNCLE’).

This uncle, with a certain level of work to his ageing vocal chords spoke, like a Mark Antony presiding over Caesar’s body.

“This kid here whips himself up publicly”.

“I wonder how many people whip themselves up privately and work on a job that they don’t quite like, but do so to make a living and pay off the loans and EMI !?! “

Half a dozen throats that splutter and a cough. Dosas getting stuck in the esophagus like a traffic snarl due to a traffic signal malfunction.

Many metres away, as if on cue, the kid let go of another whiplash.

“Phataaak !”


Urban living and conspicuous consumption, has larger than life effects. With those round figures in the bank and thin plastic in the pocket, power abounds like never before. It didn’t require a Newton to say ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’, but guess what, he said it, and God bless his soul.

Yes, our kind of living with those crazy malls the size of airports and airports the size of cities and citie encroaching mountains, oceans and whatever else, reactions are a natural consequence.

Of the several, the ones that are closest to you, those that you cant miss seeing are these : The pot belly is as standard as standard can get, supermarket require trolleys to cart the goods that are bought and while there is some discussion that can be entertained about possibility of life on Mars, there can be no discussion about the lack of possibility of life without a mobile phone !

Such is modern day urban life. No ?

If you think this is a blogpost on the ever changing social milieu of modern day society, well there cant be a farther distance between fact and fiction. Regular readers know that this blogs draws its boundry along the lines of the inane. For instance, this post is about the Trashcan!

Was that a facepalm !?! Oops. Sorry eh !

Are you still reading ? Ok…well, you were warned.

An oversized yet overflowing Trashcan is a constant remnant in any neighbourhoods in Mumbai. And rightly so. With kind of bubble wraps, packs, cardboards, plastic and God knows what else that every day life is filled with ! Days ago, a kind soul thought it fit to gift a microwave oven all the way from the US. It came with an instruction ‘please remove package and instruction sheet before cooking’.

Upon immediate and hurried cross checking, it was made known that it was a general instruction and not specifically written out based on an assessment of a customer’s perceived intelligence. Which greatly soothed distraughtly ruffled feathers. That instruction sheet, along with the package was promptly disposed to the Trashcan.

To cut a long story short ( as is usually said by a loud mouth after sharing a rather long winded story), the world generates enough and more of waste.

The city itself seems to be just short of announcing a grand festival of litter in the neighbourhood, everyday. Citizens decorating streets with empty packets of chips, short eats, trinkets and such else , adding to the colour and variety is a standard way of proud being.

And therefore, enticing people to submit their trash in cans, surely has become an activity of great creative intelligence. Amongst the many ways to this, here are a few that are commonly sighted and carefully presented.

At the first go, there are Trashcans that resemble cartoon characters. Mickey Mouse. Donald Duck. Goofy. And the variety. They perhaps are targeted at children or someone with a funny bone that protrudes. Or fairly pronounced, at the least.

For instance, what could be the chances of the sophisticated svelte socialite running to drop her used tissue in this trashcan just because it is in the shape of a colourful Mickey Mouse imploring her to do so, with a ‘use me’ scrawled all over… Or perhaps, maybe. With people and their modern day preferences, well, who knows.

The other variety are the ‘animal replica’ trashcans. Big gorillas, monkeys, penguins and such else, with various parts of their body sporting a gaping hole, designed to excite the passerby to desist from aiming the just-now-empty Coke bottle at the middle of the road, by providing a very credible and inviting alternative.

Often times, they get stuffed with a vengeance of sorts and the way things are going, it doesn’t look like its going to be long before the SPCA is going to take notice.

Leading the ‘Heaviest Trash Creator’ chart are items of prayer, once the prayers are on the way to the favourite God, puja paraphernalia stays on earthly realms. To expect such a sacred item to be tossed into Mickey Mouse or a Gorilla sporting a gaping hole in his mouth, imploring ‘use me’..well conjures an ineffable picture in the mind. Lets leave it at that.

So, ladies and gentlemen, right here in Powai, we have an ingenious solution that some noble soul has thought of.

Trashcans that take the shape of a kalash. A Kalash ? (For overseas readers, the Kalash is an object of sacred devotion, often used in prayer, and usually adorns the tall gopurams in temples). So there, if you are the puja & pilgrim type, ofcourse, theres a trashcan for you !

(Well, let not the surprise catch you midway through whatever you are doing, the next time you spot a ‘Parliament building’ shaped urinal to excitedly herd all those who prefer to free up their bladders in open spaces. They could think of that, you know).

On another note, here is a postulate. “The surroundings of a trashcan invite as much trash. If not more. They invite more trash if the trashcan seems to be of the protected variety.” That’ Axleys postulate from the dummies guide to rule making on trashcans. Ofcourse, that was made up. But here is evidence.

Trashcans with protection, is something indeed. Ofcourse, as far as trash disposal is concerned, the citizenry of this place knows to encroach. ‘In the trashcans or thereabouts’, is good enough for trash disposal !

There is another genre, people. Trashcans with a name. No kidding. There is one that was present until very recently nearby, with ‘OCTAVIUS’ written on its chest. I mean, come on ! Octavius! The chap was an emperor for godsake. A man that Shakespeare wrote about. A chap that straddled between BC and AD ! Adorning a trashcan!?!

Perhaps to excite the Shakespeare / history types ! Perhaps. Ah ! Times !

Mumbai Hottie !

A reader, who goes by the initial of P, requests for posts on ‘the hot things that make Mumbai the star capital of the nation. Give us date of birth, what makes them, who they are with and such details which will not only increase general awareness but also increase the hits on your blog’.

When such well intentioned requests are made, it would a gross dereliction of duty if such requests are ignored. So here is a post. On a hot thing that defines Mumbai in a particular way.

The Vada Pav.

The national food of Mumbai goes by the name of Vada Pav. Just before it sinks into the alimentary canal, this is how it looks.

The picture may not be pixel perfect, but that’s natural. If one hand is to hold a Vada Pav and another is to hold the camera and click and you expect a nice picture at that, well, you are the latest version of a cruel satan!

Its like putting a bone before a dog and asking it to stand on three legs to deserve the bone ! Only behavioural scientists do that. ( And promptly apply the results to man and being correct at that too. Quivering with joy before something as soulfully sinfully filling brings alive taste buds, that they almost jump out of the tongue, is a natural consequence of how an average Mumbai mind works.

A Vada Pav is a concentrated mega dose of mega carbohydrate. The next best alternative to carbohydrates being sold in a vial or something. Atleast that’s the image that comes to the mind. Its filling. Its fattening. Given those two attributes, it naturally follows that it is inviting and tasty as hell.

Its not as though its is a culinary delicacy, which is made by a chef sporting a huge white cap, aprons, gloves and such other paraphernalia. Vada Pav defines quintessential Mumbai : Fast, Quick, On the Go food ! Made by anybody, sold by somebody. Eaten by everybody. Almost everybody !

It’s a forerunner of the burger. Except that the bun is connected. Or perhaps, one bun split into two. Perhaps holding two buns, pav and getting into a train was a balancing act of some repute back in 1971 when the Vada Pav is purported to have been introduced. Or perhaps it was one more stock keeping unit to manage ! So there, one bun, cut into two, with a filling thrown in !

The filling itself is a deep fried mix of mash potatoes and gram flour! Make that DEEP FRIED. A zillion bubbles that surface in that hot oil as a practiced hand juggles all those potato and such else !

A Vada Pav is had, usually on the road. Usually, while waiting for the bus to arrive, with the tongue swirling with the vada while spitting out abuses at the bus driver who is late today ! Or as the train leaves. Or when the regular lunch has been eaten up by an empty conference call and all that remains is dreams of a ‘what could have been’ at lunch today ! In such times, the roadside Vada Pav is the saviour. Or many this is staple diet !

That is a typical roadside stall. The bun separated from the Vada, with old newspaper cuttings, which soon will be used as a wrap cum plate, before it disappears into the inner layers of a sedate body. After which the newspaper doubles up as a tissue. Now run !

In Ahmedabad, there is another version to this. Where they throw in cheese. Giant slabs of cheese are tossed on to hot plate, reminding you of thick slabs of ice in Antartica, that break off and fall into the sea and shown with immense clarity on National Geographic ! The global warming effect comes to the vada pav !

The Vada Pav is not necessarily a culinary challenge that an accomplished chef will warm upto. It is far more than that. It is a mix of culture, commerce, carbohydrates.

Yes. All of that, deep fried.

Dear P, that’s a hot thing that defines Mumbai. Ok ?