Normally !

The ceiling fan has been going around far too many times than normal. And at greater speeds than normal.

‘The electricity bill will shoot through the roof’ says the missus, in a tone that has a higher decibel than normal.

Cans of juice disappear like discarded cricketers fading from the front page of the normal newspaper. Sweaty shirts and double handkerchiefs are more common than normal.

Public tolerance levels are above normal and yet it is quite normal to see normal folks losing their cool.

Normal festivals have normal water in colourful glasses. The business of selling packaged water is doing business that is above normal ! Water packets with exotic sounding brands like ‘Cancai‘.

Its the last stretch‘, said the normally quiet neighbour to his normally loud wife the other day in a normally dull lift. Received with a grunt of approval that brought back memories of a certain Monica Seles in a normal French Open.

Normally, these conversations are beyond my ears. Today, the sun has beaten me down solid and beads of sweat in every inch of visible and invisible skin was sample evidence. Today, there is my imagination runs riot. Which ‘last stretch’ could he be talking about ?

The half of the hindi movie that remains to be watched together ?

Perhaps its about some interesting yoga postures they are learning together.

Perhaps some therapy sessions. Perhaps some bet that they lost because of which they had to wear funny clothes for seven days or something !

Imagination brings about a wry smile ! At that precise moment, he looks at me and our eyes lock. He seems to read my mind. He rushes to state :

‘Its the last stretch Of summer you see’. 45 degrees in Nagpur. Phew”

Pausing before asking in a profound tone. “The rains arrive in June, don’t they ?!?”

Now, he is the bloke who has been living here for far too longer than i. I want to engage him in a conversation about his three air-conditioners that could be reported for noise pollution and he perhaps could get to be their brand ambassador for he never switched them off !

Let alone ask if has gone any centimeter in the direction of Nagpur. Even on a map ! I wonder if he thinks i have some secret hotline to the met department. [ The met department of the ‘it may rain or may not rain’ fame ].

I am still in my trance. And as his wife turns to give me a stare, with a ‘how dare you keep mum after my man has asked you a normal question’ i mumble..

“..well, normally !”

Of Water !

The arrival of the sun is announced everyday by a cans of water washing down the previous day’s dust and soot from the city’s vehicles.

Now, that is under threat !

The cars themselves could be dented so much that you could think it to be pop art ! The auto rickshaws and taxis could well make more noise than a NASA space shuttle. The bikes may wear their riders’ kick ass attitude visibly, with torn seats !


Yet, everyday morning, vehicles get a wash down. Washed. Scrubbed. Turned upside down. Well, almost. But then, cleaned.

It is part of the city’s DNA ! To rise and wander with the bucketful of water and scrub away grime !

Now, that’s under threat ! Well, the rain gods have heaped scorn on a parched population. Which any which way let three quarters of the rain water into the Arabian sea ! The weatherman’s prediction of rain was a joke that you could only bear with a stiff upper lip.

To cut a long pipeline short, well, we don’t have much water in reserve. And the summer is yet to show up !!

In apartment complexes, meetings have been organised, and eloquence has been well waxed. With blame being apportioned between Obama and the Ozone layer. The BMC and Brazilian rain forests

Of course, the water conservation was the only buzz ( until google usurped ‘buzz’). A multitude of steps have been announced ! And done very well too. And yes. The morning car wash routines have come under the scanner.

There isn’t much option is there ? If the option was between cleaning a behind and cleaning a boot…. well..Is there much choice ?

Of course, there is haggling that’s on. About the taxes that we pay and the action the government should take ! of how neighbours use much water. Of how we should all get into conservation, until the next monsoon ( after which we all live happily ever after )

Of course, We will have to cope with all of this ! Of course we will ! Of course we will. Blaming the politician. Blogging about the weather and the BMC. Tweeting for help and twiddling thumbs !

Wondering whatever they did in conferences like Copenhagen ! Drinking mineral water and bathing in triple refined swimming pools.

Copenhagen is for the wealthy.

Perhaps, the rest of us can be content with cope-n-haggle !

Pump buzz !

The fingers punching the keyboard punctuates the still early morning air. In a distance the the ‘plonk’ of newspapers being thrown a.k.a delivered at the doorstep is just about the only sound.

In some time there are the others. Like the auto driver revving his engine. And the bus driver seeming to practice to race in Formula 1. All of them contribute to doing their two bit to the Mumbai air. The odd dog barks.

And some birds chirp. Half heartedly. Half in fear, perhaps. Of some wisecrack setting off a Diwali cracker. At 5.30 in the morning, he has to be a wisecrack. Maybe something worse.

The mind wanders to the smaller towns and quieter villages. Occasionally yearning. The sounds of small town mornings are getting to be mirror the big cities.

However, the one sound that’s missed,that used to be so much a part of the wonder years, is the buzz around the ‘hand pump’. The pump still survives, and is very much in use. In many parts of the country.

It goes by the name of ‘Adi-pump’ ( loosely translated to convey : ‘The pump that you have to hit’). People gathered around it, taking turns to pump that long straight handle, up and down. Out would flow water.

Well, water was the obvious reason. Yet, the buzz about the pump was unmistakable. For it was the point of convergence. Of men. Women. Children. Worries. Desires. Jealousies. Love.

And all that went within the whorls of the human brain. Everything was on display. Something like the military showing off its ware at a Republic Day parade. The hand pump being a completely unrehearsed natural event !

Exchanged glances, the extra puffed chest, the ‘help’ of pumping an extra pot-full for the girl. The wail of the complaining wife. The empty boast of the loud husband. Family economics. National economics. Politics. Movies.

The shrill cry of laughter. The sharp spank. Drunk men. Loud women. Washing. The quiet ones. The shy ones. The cleanliness freaks. Gossip. Teasing. Preaching. Repartees. Kindness. Despair. Bonding.

Several strands of society converging. All pumping. When their turn came.

It used to be magical. Almost as though, the buzz was in the water that came out. And so, the metal clang used to be the wake up call. An interesting wake up call. The house needed the water. But more importantly, the local news came through the hand pump !

Some years earlier, the hand pump having an artistic arched handle was more common. Like this.

That’s the journey. It seems. First things are straightened out. And then, they are replaced. These days, there is electricity. Motor pumps. And a battalion to keep the arm at the end of the hand, from going beyond making the odd noise at the keyboard.

To all those that talk about the buzz in the community gone. Or cry shrill about our panting news anchors on TV, and the ‘awesome’ editorial content of newspapers. And to those that hit the snooze button of the alarm clock…

Perhaps its time to try the hand pump !

Oh yes. The water. That’s a bonus.

Fire in the well !

There was this professor in college. He taught us Operations Research. A small man who used to correct papers with that big scrawl that i always thought was an attempt to cover his ‘ineptitude’. I am sure he has more charitable words of recognition for me. And of course, i dreaded his class.
One day, just he was distributing the question paper of an internal test, i was girding my loins. I mean, i had prepared. Real hard. And was awaiting the paper. Just as he was all set to distribute the question papers, he tipped a jar of water over the question paper stack. Quickly retrieving the papers with a flourish, he proceeded to distribute a wet set of papers to the class.

“So there, a watered down version !” , he said.

I flunked that exam. And to this day, think, there was something in the water.

Yes. Water. I love water. I treasure water. Every other living summer there has been an impending water scarcity. Or real time scarcity. And then, somehow, the other seasons clamoured to desist from giving the summer a bad name. And it became an all season thing.

We are just far too many people and too less water. And the too many people, haven’t been thinking about the far too less water for a far too long time ! Well, the water scarcity has reached the Mumbai shoreline as well. And boy, you have to pay for water these days !

The numerous water tankers (driven by those ordinary men with delusory thoughts that their wheel drives a Mclaren Mercedes and the Mumbai road is a Formula one race track) are proof enough !

And that they do ‘day and night’ service is double proof. Altough, i must confess that ‘self water supplier’ unnerved me a little. I went around checking what this ‘self water supplier’ meant, just in case. The answers varied, but did not come close to my fears. So.

And these impeccable ordinary men and their ‘self water supplier’ tagline, amongst other things, got me started. I resolved that i would speak to as many people in the neibhourhood and educate them about the need to conserve water. With that firm resolve, i stepped outside.

There. Right there. Was this kid who was emptying his water bottle in the alleyway. My antennae screamed, ‘opportunity’. So, i thought i’d get my practice going. After being nice to him I told him about the need to conserve water, and thought that the ‘fear of hunger’ would get him thinking.

So with a hushed voice i told him, ‘we may not have enough water. Even for food. Your mom cant cook food and you’ve got to go hungry”, i said. And mentally pumped my fist like Boris Becker after executing a neat unplayable backhand cross court volley !

And then, to my dismay i saw the boys eyes brighten. I knew there was something wrong. He just said, “Really?!?. Yay Yay Yay…If Mamma cant cook food then, we can all have Pani Puri. They use only mineral water’

My investigations lead me here.

My Water Conservation agenda has since been bristling. Battered down. But not watered down. Yet.

And by the way, that Pani Puri left me stirred. And shaken too. The agenda survives. For there is a fire in the well !