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 !”

Pune Residues

Pune. That was where the car nosed to. The reasons were simple and straightforward.

1. There were kind souls who offered to host. Providing us with bed, food and some love. There needn’t be any other reason.

2. Add in an expressway that’s smooth as silk at Rs.140/- one way, some scenic mountains and blue skies as freebies.

3. To that concoction throw in some ‘huge’ curiosity around Pune and it being spoken of as the ‘culture capital of Maharashtra’ and the like.

4. To that solution, sprinkle some details about the awesome weather.

5. If all that were not enough, look at the long weekend and spending time between fixing a broken computer and a run down body frame !

Of we went. To Pune. And loved every minute of it. And here is the first residue. Residual feelings ! More will follow.

At first look, Pune seems to be kneaded with the fingers of history and baked in the kiln of culture.

The Aga Khan palace stands in majestic stately grandeur, that almost obscures the pieces of history that it holds. Facts of it being a quasi prison for Mahatma Gandhi and the place where he lost his wife gives it a different coat.

Goosebumps pop at frequency of popcorn in a microwave oven, to stand in the very room that must have seen all these events unfold and think of those times. Kastur Ba’s samadhi right there.

Shaniwarwada is the other structure. Magnificent opulence from the 17th century. A building of great magnificence has to be imagined, for whats left is just the periphery wall and and a towering gate !

Its not too difficult for the imagination though. If the ‘compound wall’ is this opulent, the building must sure have been something. To look down at the modern day buses and city bustle through traditional arches was something indeed. And yes. Make no mistake. Look down it is !

The sights of the living times are no less awing. This White tiger at the zoo. Majestic in the stride and magnificent in elegance. Emerging from the undergrowth and just standing there, as the pictures clicked. Imposing in the posing. Moving away with an air that will get a bollywood star give her entire nose for. Plastic surgery and all included.

The essence of our love, seems to course in the city’s living. A city that is soothing yet burgeoning. Where, the divide between the yesteryears and the present day visible by the starkness of the difference. Yet, invisible by their seamless merger.

Its a city where tradition doesnt rub shoulders with modernity, but is infact the other shoulder ! Oh yes. Its a city where people are kind and the kinds that are ‘people’, well, very frequent !

We fell in love with the city. Chomping on what ‘German Bakery’ had to offer. Contrasting it only with Maharashtrian thali. Rounding it off with brun-maska, chai and Shrewsbery biscuits.

But there sure is more. Thats the feeling that permeates. Thats the flavour of the residue.

There definitely is more. A certain indescribable portion of the city that is seen, yet hidden. That seems easily describable yet remains elusive. Perhaps it is do with the understatedness in its existence. Perhaps it is do with a way of life that is free of hurried frenzy. Perhaps it is do with its people : gentle and mannered.

Or perhaps it is because of a certain beauty in its midst. The city that is ! The women are covered.

Perhaps protecting the perfect complection and their texture of their tresses, the missus avers. The helmets seem missing though.

More will be figured. Hopefully. For the car will be headed in that direction. There is much to discover. Pune is plain awesome, you see.

Its that time

Yes..its that time…

Airlines, credit cards, banks, ice-cream stores all recall my existence. Sending in a note of wishes, cheer, Christmas greeting and New Year Greeting all rolled into one e-mail :” Seasons Greetings”, they scream. The cynical side of skeptical folks wonder if this is just a 3-in-1 opportunity thats getting well exploited.

But hey.. ! Its that time when ‘i am on leave’ is as normal as the Monday morning ‘its Monday’ groan.

‘Clients are closed’ is an oft heard response. These are indeed modern times where ‘customer service’ is the most parroted mantra that beats all mantras and vedic hymns ever chanted. And of course, clients are indeed God.

If ‘clients’ are closed, ofcourse, God is not looking. You see, its time to take off. Therefore, God bless clients.

Auto-reply mails are shooting off every mail box. ‘I am on holiday…’ as the standard response. Sometimes, these mails are treasured, for they are the only replies that come any way !

Long lost colleagues and every half person that has exchanged business cards is keen on doing his or her bit to email traffic, with a ‘seasons greetings’ message !

But hey…there is a genuine festive cheer in the air. Festoons adorn office walls. From the corner office to the commode with an equanimity that would make a communist beam .

The canteen serves ‘special’ food that is thulped taking some comfort from looking at an obese Santa run around ! In some time though, the obese looking Santa disembarks from all his stuffing while the stuffing that went through the food pipe stays forever !

Its that time where there is festivity in the air. Literally as well. Radio Jockeys… whose world didn’t go beyond the latest Hindi movies suddenly are playing carols from far away lands ! But, Introducing carols like they introduce a Salman Khan song. Panting parlance and halting sing song, an arbid competition and a phone number to call !

Five start hotels are turning on all the decorations with so much lights that could light up neighbourhoods. Next door ofcourse there are entire neighbourhoods with one proud star to show ! Christmas trees adorn houses blessed either with belief or wailing children !

Its Christmas time people. The world is taking it easy. The doubt however stays on my mind. The question that i am supposed to have asked my junior school teacher. “If it is supposed to be Jesus’s birthday, how come we dont sing the ‘happy birthday to you’ ?!? “

On other another note, Just now a mail hit the inbox. ‘Marry Christmas’ screams the subject line. Could have been written in a long weekend hurry ! But, it sure caught the attention. Marry Christmas ! Sure thing. Marry Christmas people. Embrace the spirit. Beget progeny . it sure will help the world.

Merry Christmas people ! May peace prevail. And love resurface. And may you all pray for the for more Christmases to provide for a long weekend !

Stay safe. Embrace the spirit ! Share some love !


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.

Oodles of doodles

The speaker moves his arms. Wavy gestures and air filled lungs pump enough volume to reach the far corners of the room. Examples are cited. The future is invoked. Questions are posed. Frameworks are discussed.

There is a training program that’s on.

The participants are all there. Physically at least. Their bodies too large to disappear into thin air. They are all there. Their thoughts are a different realm though. Nobody can say for sure where thoughts are. Like a cyclone that’s much hyped but didn’t turn up.

Their hands are at work though. Heads almost hemmed to their notepads. Perhaps serving as the biggest of ‘motivators’ to the trainers and lecturers ! Construed as note taking, and such other activity of importance that adds to the self importance of the speaker.

In practice, doodles emerge.

Of cows. Huts. Planes. Ships. Faces. And the like. The cows could look like sheep whose harmone therapy went awry. And hut designs that could make a Pygmy cry. And that could be particularly ironic if the program was on something like ‘Getting it Right the first time” or something to that effect !

Perhaps not as ironic as having arrows and spears doodled all over, in a workshop while the junta is talking ‘Partnership’ !

At other times there are lines & shadings. Precise shading of intersections and empty spaces. Preciseness to the nano millimeter. That hitherto seemed capabilities that rested with American missiles that were launched from ships, traversing two seas and many mountain ranges to hit the hidden commode of secret toilets of Osama Bin Laden and gang.

Such impeccable designs. Sketched with such intensity and effort.

Have you wondered why ? Something seems to be at work here. A natural by product of sitting in a lecture or a training program.

Perhaps its about camouflage. Of pretense. Pretending to be attending, but actually away !

But why would students & participants take all the effort to draw such impeccable cows ( with hormonal treatment going awry ) and arrows & straight lines that could be used to teach geometry to infants.

There must be some research done on this.

Perhaps its all about the mind. Perhaps it helps shade a few shapes. And shape a few shades. Or maybe its to sharpen whats faded. Or fade whats sharpened. Contrasts. Colours. And the like. .

Which perhaps is what one can get out of a training ! Whatsay ?

Doodles seem to be here to stay !


How many times has it happened with you that you get to what seems to be a ‘vacant’ seat, only to sight a handkerchief, or an old newspaper, or a book or some object of similar value there. Standing in for the ‘owner’ !

In some time the ‘owner’ shows up, indicating that he had ‘reserved’ the seat. And lays claim to the seat with such ferocity that would put the Chinese’s claim of Arunachal, to pathetic shame !

I guess this is a uniquely Indian moment. I guess. I am not sure. Please correct me if i am wrong here. My guess is given shape by the fact that we have a chronicled mythological precedent. Of Lord Ram’s footwear standing in for the gent when he went into the jungle! So.

So, in a busy movie hall (or wherever else, esp if there are no allotted seat numbers) you can stroll around, ogle about, wander with a pop corn or a cone of ice cream. All this while the old dirty handkerchief stands in for you !!

In smaller cities and towns, this scene is so often repeated in inter city buses. Where the clamour to get a seat is only matched by the ability to reach a handkerchief, newspaper, belt, tiffin box to ‘reserve’ a seat !

If a ‘representative object’ (dirty handkerchief, shredded newspaper or whatever) of the dude in yellow trousers got to the seat before you, well, the seat belonged to the dude in yellow trousers ! So we have seen. And heard.

It was ‘refreshingly different’ to see this gent, and his mode of reservation. Aboard the river cruise on Goa’s Mandovi river.

He clearly had outgrown the handkerchief and belongings of low value. For friends of his, for whom he ‘reserved’ seats, he gave it his one whole leg and one whole hand !

And warded off every body else who came close to the seat with a dismissive disdain that perhaps would befit a Taliban war lord looking at his goats, whom he was going to have for dinner !

This is a new standard that must quickly be made known to the rest of the country. We need more people like this gent.

Wont you be happy with friends like these ? Especially considering that they would give an arm and a leg. Just to get you seated.

Whose name is it anyway ?

Sporting a tattoo that an actor wears. Or growing a goatee like a cricketer. And setting hair like a footballer. They are all easy to do.

Of course, its going to be difficult to sculpt a body like Silvester Stallone or John Abraham. Not forgetting ‘size invisible’ ( or was it ‘Zero’ ?) like those thin lasses. Those are tough asks.

Easiest done is to imitate a ‘star’s outfit. Still easier is to wear a t-shirt bearing the man’s name ! Walk into a store and pick up a T-shirt which says a famous mans name !

Its kind of ironic though. Pay YOUR money, which the credit card company will send to YOUR address in YOUR name. To wear ANOTHER man’s name. On YOU ?!? How interesting !

Of course, this is so common ! The eye brows wont arch one bit if a man with ‘Ronaldo’ written on his T-Shirt is spotted hitching a ride on the streets of Daman.

Or for that matter, if ‘Torres’ is spotted at the Madurai railway station !

The stars themselves, are known to wear those low caps and big sun glasses to hide their identity in public. Perhaps trying hard to melt into the crowd. Becoming more common than common.

And the common man, wears the celebrity name on his sleeve. Actually on his back ! Mankind indeed finds numerous ways to stay busy. But such are the ways of the world.

The eye brows only half arch. That too, in irony. Looking at this ‘Ronaldo’ netting the small fish on a Goan shore !

While the stores rake in the big money, counterfeits rule the pavements. Hollering hawkers, are known to sell such counterfeits to highest bidders.

Just the shirts. With the names, of course ! The stars dont come as part of these deals.

For they have been auctioned long before. To clubs, who were highest bidders too. But that’s a different story. Of a different auction !


Distance in space !

Moving about is an inherent need of most human beings. Lets keep the rest of the folks out. For the present. And lets just consider the folks that indeed desire mobility. Now, who doesn’t want mobility.

Even the Gods do. The modern day self proclaimed Gods have streams of Roll Royces and BMWs perched in their courtyard, that would perhaps use the GDP of Norway on fuel ! Perhaps all of Scandinavia.

And still be left with some surplus change to pick up the islands in the pacific ! But that’s a different story.

Where were we…yes. The Gods. Moving on to the ‘Common Man’, the common man’s urge and need to travel is often times expressed in the most uncommon of ways. This blog has had several posts in the past. Often, showing how informatively local trains and buses have been used.

The urge to travel is universal ! Modern day man has it woven into daily life ! Mankind has been known to use anything that moves. For travel. From donkeys to Camels. And now, we are even talking bacteria led biological warfare !! Phew !

The point is if it moves, it will be used. Presence of a specifically designed seat / place for travel is rather immaterial ! Here is evidence.

That perhaps leaves us with the smaller families. Four member. Three member. Five member.

Well mention of a five member family is not something that will cause a flutter in your eye. But say, all of the five members travel on two wheels at the same time. On a busy highway. Without helmets. Without understanding of road rules. And without a lot else too.

And also. Not as a part of a circus trick. Or a politician’s austerity drive. Or a photo op. Or an advertisement promoting shock absorbers, engine power, fuel efficiency. etc etc. And the like.

The question of how much space is there between two wheels of a bike is yet to be answered.

Indian roads keep presenting a picture of space that can take as many people as required. A space that houses a seat that has no end.

A space which screams ‘no distance is too far’ !