The roads of Mumbai offer strange sights. Sights, that sometimes are difficult to swallow. And others that take a permanent long term lease in your heart.

The seamless merger of the world can be confounding yet be a thing of amusement. Wonderment. Inspiration. Or even, activism. And a countless other things, depending on what pervades the mind at that time.

Here is one such seamless existence. On the road. Wearing seat belts in a car is mandatory here. Cops get mentioned as ‘zealots’ or ‘duty conscious’ depending on who you talked to and how much they have had to pay for not wearing seat belts.

All this for travelling without seat belts. In a car which has crash bars. Side bars. Air bags. And of course, which has been crash tested. Built to X sigma quality. Marketed by God. Or Shah Rukh Khan. ( Now that the film celebs think of themselves as God, God can well be having a befuddling identity crisis)

Here are the other passengers. Without seat belts. Taking on life daily. With smiles as cushions. Daily living as crash tests. Built over many years to exacting requirements that life throws that can beat the best simulation game, hands down !

Battling an inflation. In prices. In population. In difficulty of life. And of course, in aspirations and dreams ! Life needs to be met. And lived. Happily so. Too.

This was clicked on JJ flyover. Sunday morning. Vegetable retailers. After picking up their stuff. All set to sell it to different markets. Perhaps in the suburbs. Holding on to carefully dangled ropes. Perhaps, with life and living as the carrot !

This on the Western Express Highway. Early in the morning. Young men, who perhaps have been up since the middle of the night, catching a quick wink. Atop, vegetables that they perhaps helped load. And will unload in sometime.

A milk van and its attenders. The crates that held milk packets support their backs, as they catch a quick wink. They sure have been up and awake. Supplying milk. And running about.

Fish vendors. Driving back from the wholesale market. Boys. Women. Men. Chatting. Smiling. Sleeping. Holding on. And of course, there is a mezzanine floor over there. The floor beneath has, yes, fish !

An empty minivan. With ropes hanging all over. The gent putting some pink on a circus gymnasts face, by just adroitly holding on. As the tyres find new potholes and the non-existent shock absorbers get tested !

Wonder if you notice the human element here. two legs popping out of the window ! Here is a man ( i think ) who is lying down on the hard surface of this van, his legs atop the open window.

Piped natural gas. Emergency Van ! hmm.

So, people buckle up. Its law. And if you would care, look around. At life and people. There is an amorphous beauty in life and living. In getting by. And getting ahead.

Oh yes, buckling down, is not an option.

Collateral Damage

You have been reading the papers too. In the hurry of the morning minute. Somethings register. Many things dont. But today you are in the market. The missus has brought you here. By force. It doesnt take long for you to realise whats been lurking in the dark corridors of the mind.

That you are far removed from the reality of the real world.

You wonder if you are part of the burgeoning numbers of escapists. Not for long. For you know. Educated. Desk worker. Working out of cubicles cleaned by contracted organisations to the sound of noiseless air conditioners.

Lost in a mirage filled canopy of busy ness. In perpetual quest of aggrandisement of self-importance. All under the garb of work !! Attending meetings, making presentations, sending mail, seeking approvals and giving feedback ! ofcourse, all over many cups of tea.

Today, you hear the missus bargain with the vegetable vendor. In marathi. For obvious reasons, you feel safe in her company. You hold the bag. She bargains. Brinjal. Cauliflower. Onions. You hear the prices. And baulk.

You remember reading in the papers about inflation and such else. But arent quite prepared for this.

You remember going to the market as a young boy. Shopping for the family. At these prices, you think you could have bought out every chap out there. You are still reeling from the surprise. Of the prices.

And, you realise, what irks you more is how distant you are from the masses.You follow the missus. Shop after shop. Carrying that bag. Wondering, how people make a living at these prices.

The security gaurd who perhaps would make as much as your monthly grocery bill. The chap who cleans the car who perhaps would make half of that. The maid who mops the floor. The shop boy who fetches the product. You wonder.

The weight of the bag of vegetables isnt as heavy as the thoughts that run past you. You wince.

That night, long after your trip to the market, you are in bed. A book in hand. Reading lamp on. The book that usually sets some thoughts afire is miles away from a strand of a spark. Restless thoughts still roam the market that you went to.

You realise how fortunate and cocooned you are. You make resolutions about sharing. About awareness. About staying light. You feel better. Slightly.

The missus senses something amiss. You sense she has sensed something too. The air stays quiet. Interrupted by honks and wailing sirens faded by the distance. This city isnt called maximum city for nothing. Making a living despite all odds is what gets you by.

She clears her throat. And says, ‘you know in some time we can apply for a new loan’. You sit up. Half in trepidation. For you dont know where this is headed. ‘I have the collaterals ready’.

Your ears perk up. Like a deer who hears the rustle of dead leaves as the cheetah gallops towards it. “In some time the collateral will have enough value to make the bank chap sit up” …..

In the silence. You sit up. Half a tremor seeps through as you mutter ‘and what is that’

‘Two bags of cauliflowers. At current prices….’. Her voice trails.

You smile. Close the book. Say your prayer to the lord up there. And thank him for his large mercies.

Tea !

Indian tea. Chai. Available at every street corner. Well before the sun shows up. To long after he has disappeared into the Arabian sea !

It doesn’t take much to get this going. Tea powder. Loads of milk. Plenty of sugar. Traces of ginger. And voila, theres this ‘chai’ ! And as the sugar coat courses the alimentary canal, a strange energy pervades. Usually. Placebo or otherwise. That is fact.

Many have romantically described the humble tea as some kind of a ‘least common denominator’.

For everybody has tea. From the stock broker who makes a million as he twiddles his thumb and the slum dweller who makes an inconsequential sum amount after heaving his whole body and lifting inconsequential construction equipment.

Everybody has tea. From the office goer to the street side hawker. The college professor to the cop. Thugs to theologists. The player to the proctor.

The tag of ‘least common denominator’ seems to fit in perfectly.

Of course, the tea is served in the glass tumbler ! So much part of our tea drinking routine. So much so that the flavour of the tea also seems to come from the glasses that hold the tea.

Washed many times over in a day. Refilled as many times. Perhaps more ! The tea glasses are an integral part of ‘chai’ ! Adding their own twang to the tea.

But imagine. Imagine you worked in an office some distance away. Or at some obscene height in a construction site with no lifts ! Ordering tea in a glass is impractical.

Worse ( & more probable) if the vendor knows your overdue amount on the credit card and is doubtful of the return of the tea glasses…

Tea comes in a polythene bag, with plastic cups. Home delivery !

The same tea. With Tea powder. Loads of milk. Traces of ginger. Sugar coated. But in a plastic frame ! It may not have the glassy feel. Its still tea. Offered with happiness.

The next time your taste buds take to the sugar and milk like a first time MP making his first swindled million, take a moment to savour it more !

Popularity and preference sure point to tea power. Tea brings alive any discussion. On any topic. Business and recession. Life and culture. Body and fitness. Anything and anything at all.

Like the other day. An insipid discussion was in progress. About the important part plastic has begun playing in our lives. Insipid. Until the time the tea arrived. Brought from the local corner tea store.

In some time, we sipped tea. Out of a plastic cup. Poured out of a polythene bag ! You bet, there was a different ring to the discussion.

The group ranted and raved about plastic.

My mind was elsewhere though. The flavour of human ingenuity underscored the flavour the tea! Or plastic for that matter.


There has been a new wind that’s been blowing at home. And the wind is about losing flab. In fact, cutting flab dramatically !

Before you say, ‘oh no, not again’, stay with this post. The flab fighting on the body isn’t headed anywhere close to a photo finish. Its a lost cause. A non-starter. Lets move on. The quicker the better.

This post is about the house. The house, you see, has accumulated flab. Over the years. Possessions galore. ‘Possessions galore’ can seem to be a pompous boast of a vain man.

Only here, the possessions that are being talked about are not exactly ones that a wealth manager smile. So.

What would this wealth manager say, if he was shown cupboards of books, files, magazines, folders, paper clippings. etc.

Some dating twenty years. From the days of Narasimha Rao and Ronald Reagan. Old magazines. India Today. Time Magazine. Business Today and the like.

Artifacts picked along the way. Like, the odd stationary bill from a store that’s since been gulped down by a mall that intimidates by the sheer size of its parking lot !

A menu card from a fancy hotel. Flicked to rekindle in an unforeseeable future, the memories of a special evening with special people !

Overhead projector sheets from the first corporate presentation made, which seem today to be almost the time when the dinosaurs hatched their 11the egg.

Discussion notes from organisations organisations who helped pay the bills in an earlier time. Copies of mails. Approvals and such else. Heaps of study material. ‘Extra reading’ printouts . Notes from training programs that have long been forgotten.

Wedding invitations of friends who have now progressed to attend Parent-Teacher meetings and now organise dinners based on the tuition teacher’s calendar !

Bus tickets. Train tickets back home. Travel pamphlets from Bangkok to Bombay. Shimla to Sivakasi ! And beyond !

Books & small artifacts. Some picked specifically as memorabilia. Others accumulated in intense lazy stupour. Of course, each pregnant with a story of its time and place. As the hand ran a cloth to drive the dust away, a million memories got dusted too.

Four racks in the cupboard were emptied with the ferocity of Bruce Lee felling opponents in ‘Enter the Dragon’ ! Strange noises et al ! The remnants of the tearing, throwing and mowing remained on the floor for sometime.

Not very later, gunny bags of the ‘old newspaper’ chap held them. With grimace and glee ! Twenty odd years of accumulation. Carefully clipped newspaper cuttings. Innocently flicked menu cards. Carelessly kept old bills. Study material from a different age. Reviews. Publications. Occupying four racks of the cupboard. Moving along the many houses. City to city.

All gone. It required two trips on a bicycle like this. In a four hour span. They were gone.

We live an age were Google is a verb. Space is a perpetual constraint. Dust beats the Gods in omnipresence. And of course, the daily day offers new possibilities for life and living, much unlike any time before. Perhaps, the nimble mind, without baggage will soak it all up well. So is the case with homes ! That logic beat nostalgia’s seductive presence !

Net result : All gone. You would have expected the missus to have jumped with joy. Happy she was. But, she was a tad upset too.

For all of this yielded her a mega sum of Rs. 129/- ! The care with which these were preserved and the 20 year time stamp on some, seems to have had her imagining something like an inheritance from Bill Gates or someone !

‘Rs.129. Huh’. Was all that was heard.

So much for flab !

Diwali is here !

Diwali is here !

Tons of sweets beckon. Unknown taste buds get rekindled. There are lights that glitter in distant balconies. The next door neighbours door sports festive diyas. Roads teem with people. In threes. Fours. Neighbourhoods out to buy. Clothes. Crackers. Food. Gifts. Appliances. And such else that highly paid marketing folks have engineered.

Discount sales are the order of the day. DhanteRas comes up with some serious Gold prices. Prices that would have left the goddess of wealth beaming !

There are lights, lamps, rangoli and ‘traditional’ dress to work. The lines between ‘Fashion Show’ and ‘Fancy Dress’ run thin.

Children crank up the volume on the cracker front. And of course, have a blast of a time, enjoying the get-togethers and gala times. With toy pistols and such else. Imagining themselves to be some action film hero. And fashionable villains. But these are besides the point.

Diwali is here !

Television has ‘Diwali ‘ specials. Same serials in brighter colours. Same film heroes. Same heroines. And those news channels, those same views from the same chaps. Chaps who come on TV to give ‘points of views’ on anything from Terrorism to Ostentation to Culture to anthropology to..yes…Diwali too.

The corporate and government types get ‘gifts’. Of walnuts and fruits. Of sweets. And such else. AND SUCH ELSE.

Perhaps it would be befitting, if the world got whats most required for it ! Perhaps a spirit of giving. A smile. A moment. A kind word. An acknowledgement. And such else. Simple deeds that touch people deeply. Deeds that acknowledge that there is a world of human beings and human thoughts.

These are besides the point.

Diwali is here !

Diwali messages from banks, insurance companies, mobile operators, holiday homes and such else hit the inbox with such recurring ferocity that the ‘delete’ tab feels the weight of the world.

And yet, there are long lost friends. Recent colleagues. Blog world friends. Forgotten relatives, who send in a word. Make a call. Words that perhaps are soaked in possibilities and new beginnings. Hope is permanent fixture here. But these are besides the point.

Diwali is here !

Its supposed to be the festival of “Victory of Good over Evil”. There is conversation at the get-together. Whether the emphasis on ‘Victory of Good over Evil’ has to be on the ‘good’, ‘evil’ or on ‘victory’ ! Thats besides the point. Diwali is here !

Like the elderly uncle who said, “The emphasis has to be on the sweets !”

So here are some wishes that go out to the world. On this blog too.

For happiness. For cheer. For wisdom. For kindness. For health. For giving. For reflection. For time. For life. And for living. For Good.

Happy Diwali people. Diwali is indeed here !

One for the road

The sights are so many. The sounds are ear numbing. The mind tries to absorb all what comes by. The eyes are focused on the road. The heat is omni present.

The car’s air-conditioner is at work. As much as it can. Its some years old now. And it shows. The suns heat has been there forever. That shows too.

Its having an impact. All of this. To compound an already clouded mind. Clouded with work and its facets. Family and its facets. The home and the broken faucets.

The mind sows the seed for a head ache to take shape. The head is fertile ground. For such sowing. Tiredness germinates. Its becoming clear as to where all this would lead to. Beeps go off somewhere within. Auto triggered alarm bells within the confines of the mind.

Adding to the clamour.

That’s precisely when the sugar cane juice vendor is spotted. He pushes sugarcane into heavy machinery. Those wheels by the side, move with precision. Out flows concentrated juice. A slice of lemon. And some ginger. And some ice later, the drink is nursed.

As it sinks into a parched throat, the mind seems to be affected. The noises quieten. He sells more. A Small costs Rs.3/-. A large costs Rs.5/-. He can almost sense that the throat is parched enough for more. And proposes a ‘Jumbo’ for Rs.7/-.

In some time, what was grown in some field somewhere, rests in the glass at hand. The throat is a lot less parched. The mind seems to be a lot less noisy. Was there a connection ? There is wonder. As usual.

In satisfaction, the eyes roam. And spot the large tender coconuts sold. Just some distance away. The parched throat is no longer parched. The mind is still in its quenched trance. Yet, the tender coconuts beckon.

There are memories of having tender coconuts. In fields. Roadsides. Travel. With special people. With strangers. All alone. Lows. Highs. A million thoughts rush back. Its almost as though the tender coconuts beckon for re-living of those memories.

He is doubtful of any sale. For he has seen the Jumbos getting gulped with a ferocity of a ravenous glutton.

For only a fleeting second. ‘”The one with water'”, escapes the throat with almost quaint insult to the Jumbo glasses of Sugarcane juice. He gives a wide grin.

The mind seems to rise in protest. Somewhere, that protest is quelled with one statement : ‘This ones for the road’.

A sigh escapes. A smile uses the same escape route too. The mind is quiet. In some time, so is the air-conditioner in the car.

Its not the drum !

Its a big hefty drum. With a red cloth to cover. Perhaps to cover its might. Perhaps to cover what lies inside. These are distinctly rural men. You can see it in their looks and the ease with which they heave it on to their shoulder, lean on to the other side, and let the beats do the talking!

Beats that you are unfamiliar with. But resonating with what you know so well. From your own land. You wince. As memories of another time flow. In some time, there is music. Here, these three drummers whip up your heart beat.

At the other side, the charcoal embers laced with incense powder fumes! At yet another, amidst the crowd, there is palpable expectation.

In a short while, hips, legs, head and all other parts of the body sway to the beats. In a synchrony that begs to find a new word. A word better than ‘synchrony’ !

The hands. Oh yes, the hands hold those pots fuming embers !

Your heart skips a beat. As the drummers and the dancer get into a jig now and then. Un-rehearsed. But flawless, for all of it is in the flow of the moment. You wonder, how he heaves such a big drum on on his shoulder, creates music, does a jig in response to the dancers steps. Smiling all the way.

You wonder how those dancers hold those hot embers yet stay connected to each step of the drum beat. So graceful. And so complete. Smiling all the way.

You get goose bumps. Dancer after dancer. Some are artistic. Others mesmerise. Yet others hold the eye. All in seamless flow.

You notice that the pictures that you attempt to click are getting blurred. The angles are missing. There is a lot of shake. You wonder whats wrong with the camera. And realise that the cameras just fine. Its just you moving to the beats from those big drums.

To you, it appears that the real dance is the one that’s on in each persons heart. As people smile. Clap. Cry. Go moist in the eye. Laugh. Cheer. Click. Record. And of course, dance.

Right there. As the drummers whip up the music. And the dancers catch it from thin air. And throw it right back at the drummer.

Perhaps everyone is connected to a different time. Perhaps a different place. Perhaps a longing to recreate that time and place, now. In a different distant city. Perhaps its a nested joy in being one with similar minds and very similar longing.

You realise that you are in a trance. Soaking in the unfamiliar drum beat, the dance and the fragrance. And something more.

There are you are. Aware. Unsure. At peace. Strangely happy. As those rural drums get the city dwellers dance in joyous abandon !

Later on, you lie in bed, thinking of the evening. The drums, the dance and the beautiful women and handsome men. You realise, that you can describe all of that.

And you are aware, of something else that was there about the air. An undescribable part. You know that its there. Yet, it eludes description. You try thinking about it.

You are tired. And you choose to leave it at that. Half asleep, you mumble to yourself, ” perhaps it is Durga. Perhaps its just the dance”.

You realise that sleep envelopes you. You know you will sleep like a log today. After a very long time.

And as you slip into sleep…you mumble…”Perhaps, perhaps… its just the drums.”

(Written after attending the Powai Durgotsav ’09. Danuchi Dance. Friday. 25th Sept ’09. All snaps from the event)


Paying Guest. In my humble opinion, that’s an oxymoron. For guests don’t pay. Are not expected to. Never. At least that’s my belief. And generally spoken word too.

What gets passed off as ‘PG’ accommodation these days can be best called a hostel in most cases. Perhaps ‘Paying Guest’ perhaps gives a ring of graduation to the professional world. Hostels are for college goers. (I havent seen any PG accommodation here in Mumbai so i have no idea of it here)

And perhaps also delivers another punch. With ‘Payment’ inherent in ‘Paying guest’ what it also perhaps signifies, is a degree of ‘self respect’ to the individual in question. That the stay is paid for !

Whatever be the logical reasoning around this, ‘Paying Guest’ continues to be an oxymoron, to me that is !

The world however moves on. Irrespective of what i think of as an oxymoron or otherwise. And PGs are advertised. Or… are they. Sample this.

These advertisements make the brain cells work. Wondering what is being communicated.

The ad on top. It talks about ‘Males in Powai’. As though the males in Powai are a special species, looking for such accommodation. Perhaps Powai breeds such males. hmm. But look at what follows.

No Brokerage.
No Deposit
No Restrictions

So, for for males in Powai, i guess these are the three principal woes. Brokerage. Deposits. And restrictions.

Move on to the ad below.

Which introduces us to a new form of human life called ‘Rentals’. What else would ‘ Boys & Girls & Rentals’ mean ?

Hmm…they could some thing else as well, but hey, i am not going there at all.

But here again : ‘No Brokerage No Deposit. No Restriction’. The brokerage and the deposit i can understand. But this ‘No Restriction’ business i find difficult. What kind of restrictions will boys and girls ( & rentals of course) usually suffer from, that would make them seek out such accommodation ?

Males in Powai, Boys, girls, rentals will be paying up. And staying as guests. With no deposits. And restrictions. Hmm.

I wonder why my mind is working this way. This post was supposed to be about the ‘Paying Guest’ being an oxymoron.

But you know, I am consciously practicing letting my thoughts flow on this blog. Without restrictions. Maybe thats why.

‘No restrictions’ for males in powai seems to be in. ahem.

Ganesh Chatruti !! My word !

I had to publish this today. Now ! I gave my word, just an hour ago. To a policeman. And i am already late !

We are just back from visarjan. The 10 day long Ganesh Chaturti festival is through. Infact, its still happening, as i write this. And Mumbai celebrated it. In style ! The elephant God indeed has some fans !

Any festivity is a mood that i love to soak up . Whichever city. Mingle with the people. And watch life, as people go by. Or perhaps, watch people, as life goes by.

Here at the Powai lake, crowds jostled to take a closer look at the immersions. And seek blessings. I got better access than most others.

With T-shirt, camera, shorts and sandals, i guess, i must have looked like a TV journo indeed ! For, there he was, a friendly cop. Who asks me, “which TV channel are your from!?!”

And seeing my surprise, modifies his question : ‘Ok, which newspaper ? Where will you publish all these pictures ? When will you publish the pictures ?”

I clear my throat. I tell him, Having this blog in mind, “This will be published on the Internet”. He continues to stare into me. And i add, ‘in half an hour’.

He perhaps had visions of ‘Breaking News’ and thought of himself to be a facilitator of such news. And waved me in. I was free to click !

I walked in. Beaming. Only to realise there already was a motley crew. Presumably from newspapers. For they had bigger and far more sophisticated cameras. Some tourists. And some other junta like me.. All clicking away.

So here are images. But they sure are not going to send in the images, like what i am doing now ! At this speed, that is !! That’s for sure.

‘Breaking News : Immersions happen in Powai Lake. As well’.

They have those huge cranes, that lift off the Ganpati idols that are brought in trucks. Taken to a deeper part of the lake and ‘immersed’ ! Its an an awesome sight.

The crowd, the trucks, the electric mood, the food, the noise, the lights, and of course, the policemen. Offer a unique Mosaic which is quite something. Indeed.

Here are some pictures.

Hmm. So, there. Thats Visarjan in Powai for you. I can sleep well. The word given to that policeman, is kept !

Regular posting, ofcourse, will resume shortly !

Gas !

This tricycle has a load of gas. But it doesn’t run on gas though. Its pedalled by a young chap. About whom this post is about.

On another note…

The world runs on gas. Well, i can at least speak for many a corporate work life. Without much substance, but much gas. But then that’s a different story.

The Ambani brothers are at war. Bringing their corporate empires and the government into the ambit. Gas, they say, is the reason.

China and Australia are sparring. Ostensibly over gas.

India, Pakistan and Iran have a tryst with a pipeline. And they say, its about gas.

Russia’s shutting of gas supplies, had Europe shivering. That was about gas too.

Now, now, all that would make it appear that it is gas that’s driving us and our lives around. And now, about the protagonist of this post…

One afternoon, over a post lunch walk, i strike a conversation with this simple young chap. who distributes gas cylinders.

A truth emerges. When he shrugs his shoulders, and says in a matter of fact manner. In the middle of conversation. About work time and kilometers covered ever day, pedaling this gas.

“I try and stop around 6.00 PM. I study part-time and i have a college to go to. Its difficult at times, especially when there are exams, but…” his voice trails off.

And after a 10 second silence, which seems like forever, erupts a sigh and an emphatic ‘…its got to be done’.

And almost as an instant rejoinder to himself says, “How long can life be about gas?’

I smile at his question cum statement. ‘How long can life be about gas ?!’

In a second, a million images go past my mind. I think of the people of India. Pakistan. China. Australia. Iran. Europe. Russia. Alaska. And the rest of the world. And the Ambani brothers too.

And stare into this determined young man with well built calf muscles and sweat, with a ton of gas in front of him.

I smile a weak smile. Shake my head and say,

‘Not for a long time. Not for a long time at all’