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 !”

Reeking of history !

Aurangabad is like any other bustling Indian city. Crowded roads replete with rushing motorists and fearless pedestrians. Cops bulging in the middle and signals that work on their whims. Occasionally.

Hoardings that occupy all available air space. Large and small format stores existing side by side like India and Pakistan. Uneasy yet accepting. Of course, this is Maharashtra and Shivaji on a horseback is present too.

Yet, the streets of Aurangabad are paved with many thousands of years of history. The caves and the forts stand mute testimony to that. Situated bang in the middle of the country, it was as our guide told us, the gateway to the south. Or North ! Depending on where you came from.

But have you seen a stone base structure on a road divider like this ? Well, i haven’t ! Quite a structure isn’t it ? Wonder what purpose it serves. But its made of solid stone. (A walk in the morning was undertaken to ‘feel up’ this structure ! )

Carved out stone as part of a road divider is something that begets attention easily.

Have you seen something like this ? Perhaps you have. I havent.

My own demented hypothesis is that…this is about making a point. About every corner and bend in the road reeking of history !?!


Madurai musings !

The sights and sounds of home always ring in your ear. But when you are away for a while and get back, the sights and sounds are indeed pronounced.

For when you hear them, you know that you have missed them ! My travels took me home. To Madurai. Of course, it held some sounds and of course, some sights !

For instance, Auto-rickshaws still have this ‘blow horn’ !

Pressed with a certain stylish movement of the hand, there emerges a carefree hoot that could get a deaf year to perk. Ordinary auto rickshaw drivers will of course, think of themselves to share a gene pool with a music maestro and hoot their way through traffic! The mind rushes back to physics lessons, where the distinct between ‘sound’ and ‘noise’ were taught !

Regulars at this blog would have read many a post about the Meenakshi Amman temple at Madurai, which is a regular fixture during each visit. This time was no different.

There are tourists. Foreign tourists. Speaking Italian. Perhaps it was French. Well, it wasn’t English, for sure. And then Marathi speaking rural folk. All walking about in awe. Interspersed with endless chatter and click of mega pixel laden cameras.

The spirit of travel, wonder, discovery and joy awes. Always. Aware that native places have tourists as well. And the natives who call some other place as ‘home’ always come back. And some of them look in awe and wonder. Tourists at their own home.

The roads around the temple are silent of traffic. Paved and cleared. Quite different from earlier times that were punctuated with traffic. Today, there are electric vehicles that run and boards that announce the fare. While the mind rushes to spot spelling errors on this notice board….. Go ahead and spot them too…

And just as you spot them, say a prayer of thanks. The vehicles not being allowed here means that the Gods have been spared of soot from mega horse powered cars and the mini orchestra horns they sport !

Women carrying a basket load on their heads is as common as a paan-spit stain in a government building.

Pushcarts and door delivery boys reigns common here in Mumbai. But these women, with their gait and ease of movement, are an inseparable part of small town living.

Lifting ten odd kilos on the head and walking about 20 odd kilometers a day, is no small feat. Think of doing it day in and day out. Now, think of that feeding the family. Well, if you didn’t swallow hard… perhaps you should try lifting a basket and walking. And try doing five meters

The waistlines of Madurai folks are built in the street corners. Street corners lined with roadside stores that churn out the best tasting vadas !

Deep fried, hot and piping. Served with some coconut chutney on a banyan leaf, they are a riot of a delight to parched taste buds. Of course, they get straight to the hip !

So what ! Home grown hips can indeed be the next rage in town !

The 24 ways !

Flowers fascinate. The whorls. The colour. The splendour of the bloom. The fragrance for the bee. The soothing for the eye. The subject for poets. As symbols of love. Sorrow. Happiness. And so on.

For my part, i have always loved flowers. And plants as well. As earlier stated, the Madurai Malli has been a personal favourite.

Many a picture has been clicked from my camera. Many an incomplete poem resides : half in paper, half in my mind. A few posts have also found their way on to this blog !
Today, i was in an institution where i spotted this.

And of course, wondered, if i can ever continue to do all what i do. Read that carefully. There are twenty-four items that the reader is asked not to do. This left me staring in open mouthed awe.

If you really wanted to do something bad to a flower or a plant, you could. Couldn’t you ! But, in 24 different ways ! Phew !

I wonder if all of this was thought through and made at one go. Or one statement over a period of time, has expanded to become as all-encompassing as possible !

And that includes ‘borrow, break, pinch..’ etc. The essence however resides in the last line. Which states ‘touch’ ! But wait a minute. How can you borrow, break, pinch, endanger, mutilate etc…without touching ?


Did they get to see my snaps ? Or worse, did they read my poems ? Did someone complain ? Or are there many like me ?

And i thought, the only thing that you could do with a flower was to let it be ! Ssshhh..! Dont say that aloud. Twenty five ways’ has a nice ring to it.

Twenty four ways are scary enough !

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’

Swept clean

This one was spotted in Daman. Right inside the fort. At first, it looked like an Extra Terrestrial vehicle, with tentacles and such else. And a red siren on its head, a striking yellow made it look the part completely. Then the eye rested on ISO 9001 certified.

Now, the ETs wouldnt go for something like an ISO certification. Or so i thought. I always thought of them to work out of strange tentacles and purple coloured brains. So.

And then the other sticker : Daman Municipal Corporation. Hmm. A vehicle to sweep the streets free of dust.

A couple of months ago, a similar vehicle in Bangalore. But that was pristine white, with strange pipes and seeming tentacles all over.

Some swank equipment these. They sure must have been tested. And tried. And perhaps used too. And the some municipal corporations budget must have been swept clean !

I wonder to what end. Especially…

When a swank Toyota’s driver lowers the powered window and spits his much chewed gutka, right in the middle of a highway.

When much overseas educated, sophisticated people toss a chocolate wrapper across their window sill, much in the view of their children that are munching on the chocolate.

When the poor man without water or drainage in home, washes his utensils in the middle of the road. And when the drainage pipes of an educated community gets clogged, with sanitary pads, old shoes and diapers.

So, lets buy more such machines. And i can think of these additional uses too to gain additional revenue.

a. Lets parade them on Republic day parades.
b. Show them to visiting dignitaries.
c. Lend to hindi movies ( esp the Sci-Fi ones)
d. let children take joy rides
e. Charge premium at rich weddings and station them as a status symbol

And perhaps out of these options make some money and spread some awareness, on cleanliness. And sensitivity to the other man. Sharing the road. The apartment. The city. And its drainage pipes.

With respect and sensitivity to the other, the world would be a much better place. Now, thats whats called a sweeping statement.

Exempt !

I clicked this on the highway. A huge hoarding. Listing out all dignitaries that are exempted from paying toll on the highway.

Starting from the President of India ! Vice President of India. Ministers (only if they were in vehicles)….hmm ! The list was long. The hoarding was huge. But the cars on the lane closest to hoarding moved slowly, and i couldn’t see it fully.

This exemption from payment, amounts to a grand sum of Rs.38/- only. I am sure the President of India, the Vice-President of India, and those ministers in their vehicles will be pleased as sugar syrup, to get that exemption of Rs.38/- only.

And then, i think…Of course, its not about the money. Its the iconic status that such ‘positions’ mean to the national highway authority. Now, that sounds logical indeed.

If that’s the case, this list is incomplete without names of certain ‘global icons’ of the film industry. A film star is a global icon indeed. And if you are a Tamil film star, you are well on your way to becoming chief minister.

There is a fit case for the National Highways authority to put up another hoarding extending the exemption of the Rs.38/- toll, to other icons too.

No stoppage. No questioning. Not even a toll fee. That’s the least we can do. To global icons & other VIPs.

We then, will have a proud model to display to the rest of the world. As proof of how iconic our stars really are. Even on the highway. To the last Rs.38/-

I wonder how toll roads in distant places like Newark, Chicago, Toronto etc work. Any ideas ?

Now…Newark and other cities are just other cities that came to my mind. Just like that. This post, obviously has nothing to do with this ‘major news’ (thats been the only vaccine for the media against Swine Flu).

Or whatever else you are thinking.


There are some covers that stay. Many others are coming off. And yet others are coming on.

The rains usually bring in fantastic innovations from Mumbaikars. As we rankle the informativeness quotient ( if one such exists ) of our brains and cover up our bikes. Our cars and such else. Of course, there are many types of covers.

Thick leather ones. Thin transparent plastic ones. Run down ones etc. The idea is to keep the rain from doing damage to the bike.

And in summer time, there are other less common covers. Like this one. Seemed to be made of a fur like material. But one cant care about the fur.

Its about the looks that this fur will furnish. From ‘gaaawd’ to ‘yeaaaah’ !
And there are those that take care special care of these covers. Designing them meticulously and wearing them neatly.

For instance, this taxi.

And of course, this goes beyond pure functionality of protection. That would lead us to people and their dispositions. But we will not go there today.

But of course, people are wearing this funny green masks these days.

Swine Flu cover. Scenes of passengers in a air-conditioned car wearing such masks with their drivers not wearing any, shows more than what the mask can cover.

Messages and jokes on swine flu hit your phone with an alarming regularity, that beats the virus itself.

One such states, ‘ You wish some people kept their masks on even after the virus is gone’. And almost as a rejoinder came a comment from a colleague. In jest, i presume.

Speaking to another who was talking about a mask, ‘ You don’t need a mask. You already have one on’ !

This swine flu business is beyond me. I’d much rather admire the cover on the taxi meter. Whatsay ?


There we are returning from Daman. And somewhere close to Daman, we see a sea of safron walking. On a pilgrimage. There are boys. Young men. And some sprinkling of women.

There are autorickshaws. Tempos. Cars. Bikes. Et el. Most sport saffron. We drive fast. And the sea of orange whizzes by. Or rather we whizz by. The orange seems to be an unending sea.

Curiosity gets the better of us. We stop at a bridge. And enquire, part in sign language and part in Hindi. The pilgrims are only too happy to talk. And they talk about the month of Shravan. And a pilgrimage.

And as we speak, many more just walk by. And i wonder, if walking comes naturally to India! My mind races to the pilgrimage of Sabarimala. Palani. Velankanni. Shirdi. All have thousands of people walking many many kilometers. And most times without footwear.

With all that, i wonder if Keep Walking was a slogan that Johny Walker picked up from India and its scriptures. And at that moment, i decide to keep my grand discovery hush hush. i don’t want some lofty custodian of moral values find one more reason to stage a protest or disrupt parliament ! Sigh !

And just a few hours back, we witness a ceremony. By the 400 year old fort. Someone has passed away. And the 14th day rituals are on. At least, that’s what a local tells us. Its a simple, sombre ceremony.

Where a paraphernalia of flowers, coconuts, garlands and such else are immersed into the river. Just as it meets the sea.

And the fort just looks on. Stoically. Perhaps its seen one too many of such ceremonies. After all 400 years is no small time.

Just a while earlier than that, we spot this banner. Narial Purnima is the coconut festival. Where coconuts are offered to the sea God.

But this is the city folk celebrating.

Mehendi is at 10.00 am. And then something called ‘Mass Drawing’ at 11.30 am. And ofcourse, there seems to be an interesting event called ‘mummy’s dance’ ! (with an apostrophe). And because theres nothing else mentioned there, the Mummy’s dance perhaps goes on till 6.00 PM.

Hmm. Seems to be an interesting festival. I am sure there must be something that i am unable to get here. We try talking to the local fishermen. We discover the importance and profoundness of the festival for them. They speak of coconuts, puja and the sea God.

I prod them some more, about ‘Mehendi’, ‘Mass Drawing’ and ‘Mummy’s dance’. All i receive is a stoic silence.

And since then, i have rued the fact,that i didn’t get to see the ‘Mehendi’, ‘Mass Drawing’ and ‘Mummy’s dance’. Yes, the same ones that were sponsored by the tourism department.

Crazy in Daman !

The entrance to the fort

We got to Daman.

Planned as a weekend night away, we drove into Daman. And got to Moti Daman fort. And asked a chap who vends ice cream, what Daman was famous for. We have always stopped to ask such questions to ordinary folk, and the answers are usually very incisive. And far apart from what tourist guides tell you.

And so we ask this gentleman again. He looks up from what he was doing, and says without a flicker of his eye, ‘Booze. What else. The low taxes means booze is dirt cheap. There is NOTHING else here. NOTHING else”. He thunders. With special Spielberg sound effects on on ‘Nothing’ !

I smile. I am genuinely amused.

There we are. Standing within the precincts of the Moti Daman fort. A fort built by the Portugese, some 400 odd years ago. Yes, 400 odd years ago. Almost the time when Columbus was discovering America. And here it was, still standing. In its majestic splendour.

A view of the fort, the river, the sea and the old lighthouse

A gateway that leads to the boat jetty

Lighthouse. Arches. Columns. Doors. Chapels. Pews. Prisons. Municipal office. And the precincts of the fort. Standing, as it seems, almost in fierce defiance of the Arabian sea and whatever that lies beyond. The fort itself houses this church built in 1603 AD ! And its such a fabulous sight. The camera cant quite tell the complete picture.

The Church of Bom Jesus

Imagination wanders on how life would have been here. 400 years ago. What it must have taken to build a fort, with relatively sparse technology in a foreign land. Kissing sea, river and land.

And to do all this, after sailing the high seas from Europe. There sure must have been something that coursed the veins of those people.

I have my hands on my hips and and smile at this chap. Who tells me that there is nothing but booze here. Standing right here in this fort. And silently mutter ‘you must be crazy’ !

Back in Mumbai. I talk to friends. About the the Moti Daman fort. They listen. As my excitement reaches a crescendo, one of them waves me to stop. And says, “you went all the way to Daman. To look at some fort. And not touch the booze”.

And as i look at him. He smiles. And says. “You must be friggin crazy !”

The yesteryear lighthouse atop the fort