(S)wags the word…This is a world where anyone can put in a word (more would be welcome, funny would be appreciated).

Posts tagged ‘Mumbai’

Spring is here, spring is here….

Finally the cold weather front is moving away, though it still gets chilly at night… Spring is here…In everyone’s steps, in the air. Finally¬†a daffodil blooms, and the sun shines strong.

Foggy today but 17 degrees C. Reminded me of Lonavala, where Bish and I had walked into the fog holding hands and dreams in our hearts. ūüôā


We took a bus from Malad, Mumbai and although the bus operator said the bus went to Lonavala¬†it was actually a bus to Pune. So when our stop came, the bus instead of entering Khandala via expressway exit¬†dropped us on the expressway. ūüôā

It was raining.¬†With a suitcase in hand, we went walking down the exit (I know don’t¬†gasp). And to our great delight saw a butta¬†wala¬†(roasted corn seller). The taste of garam¬†butta on that rainy day is etched so deeply into¬†my mind that I can¬†taste it in my mouth right now. Aah the pleasures of simple life!

Mumbai-Pune sector is blessed. It is a very scenic drive. There are hundreds of small hamlets and each breathtaking. People are simple enough to open their doors if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Really had the opportunity to travel this road countless times.

During my internship, I used to travel to Bombay Dyeing manufacturing plant in Patalganga. Patalganga is mid-point between Mumbai and Lonavala. It used to be a 2 hour ride from Bandra but loved every moment of it. It was only while entering back into Mumbai via Chembur-Sion, that the ugliness of metro life would force itself onto my existence. TIll then I was in bliss.

Once I remember I had gone trekking with my brother and his friends to Malshej ghat. I walked through a mini-waterfall, and my friend climbed a straight rock without any climbing gear. At top of the mountain, rain and fog heavy on us.

We reached some small hamlet bus stand at 3 am and were advised by the bus conductor to not go roaming in the hills for the fear of Bhils. We spent the whole night at the bus stand. At 7 am, a food stall owner opened shop. And we were onto the tastiest Usal Pav I have ever had.

Saw a bit of interior Maharashtra while on Ashta Vinayak tour with a friend. Ate at small dhabas or stalls but the food was always fantastic. And never did I have any stomach problem. Saw how people actually lived in our villages. No electricity, no tap water. But mast! Bindaas! It was my desire to travel the konkan sector. I have read about its beauty but that place has so far been elusive.

Can I ever go there? Dont know! Would love to though..I do know some of my friends have been making the dream list of places we want to visit sans family. As girls! I pray this comes true! That it doesn’t merely remain a desire in the heart.

Luckily God has always given me the opportunity to be close to Nature and therefore Him. And I find myself more and more attracted towards The Simple Life. A bungalow in the middle of a self-sufficient farm. Hmmmmm!!!!


There’s something about US…

Its India’s Republic Day! Right time to reflect on what is and what can be…

Staying abroad always makes me love my country that much more! I miss talking in Hindi. I miss feeling the sense of belonging. No wonder I end up watching everything (well almost) Bollywood has to offer..I have watched yuck movies¬†as Kajol’s¬†Kuch¬†Khatti¬†kuch¬†Mithi¬†to TMK, all in the hopes of connecting to something familiar. A culture that I totally understand and relate to…And love!

And whenever I return back, ooh la la, I face a huge culture shock. Every single time! The first time I traveled in Mumbai local after returning back in 2002, I was shocked and disappointed at the appalling behaviour of aam janta. A college going girl refused to let me get off at Andheri simply because I was sitting till Goregaon. She said you should have gotten up earlier. Go figure!

In Pune, the rickshaw driver started¬†threatening like a goon because he wanted Rs 25 instead of the minimum fare Rs 9 for a 2 min ride. In Chennai, while I was 5 months pregnant, the watchman refused to help me bring a suitcase down from the 3rd floor, simply because I was “North Indian“.

In Kolkatta, when we took a prepaid taxi from the airport to home, a man (driver’s supposed friend) forcibly entered the taxi to take a short ride and only got off because I raised an alarm.

In Bangalore, I stood in a queue 1 mile long for 4 hours to secure admission in a school in nursery class for my child. I still didn’t get it. And I was told to keep a minimum Rs 1 lac ready if I wanted admission to any school (decent or not) at all.

None of these and various other experiences would make me feel a proud Indian today! Sometimes I cringe at the appalling behaviour I see exhibited by my country people in India or abroad. Our love of showing off our wealth has led to killings of young men and women. Our love of ignoring rules led to a recent accident here killing 8 people including a month old baby. Our love of chaati-thok self-righteousness, even if wrong, has made us one of the hated communities abroad.

Not all of it is our fault. Though, somehow we are losing touch with our culture. The very thing that makes us. Made us. Age old wisdom in Yoga, Naturopathy, Daan¬†– dharam, Prathistha, Izzat¬†are buzz words abroad. In India, they are shrugged off. The best line I have ever heard¬†was¬†from a boy who refused to pick up his litter say, “Yeh Mera kaam¬†nahi¬†hai. Main to aisa¬†hi¬†hoon”.

Isn’t that also a Movie song? A reflection of popular culture.

A neighbourhood school was recently closed down here and parents protested against it. Everybody knew it was an underperforming school and was shut to save council money. But they protested as: some would lose jobs, and it would affect the community by lowering house prices. Here the concern was the impact on the community of teachers, helpers and neighbours. Not their children, for parents knew children would be taken care of adequately.

It’s been – 30 degrees Celsius¬†here and have seen 7 storms in 5 weeks. Even after the worst blizzard, a small army of dedicated council workers came out to clean up the streets. The residents clean up the sidewalk surrounding their house for pedestrians. Life was completely normal. Nothing got paralysed. Unlike what one single rainy day can do in Mumbai!

Or take victims like Aarushi, Nitish Katara, or Satyendra Dubey.  They are forgotten people. Some of us self righteous people protested, held morchas, lit candles and went back home to sleep. These cases are swept under the carpet by us. Many among our aam junta may not be aware of who these people are. Kya kare bhaiyya, zamana hi kharab hai. Inka dekhu ya zindagi ki gaadi dhakelu? Why do we forget our government is of the people, by the people and for the people. Our netas are elected by us!!!!!!

Are we that thick-skinned, that our hearts don’t break on seeing a child mopping the floor? A poor woman being beaten to death by her in-laws? A man killed for simply doing his job honestly?

What exactly should I be proud of as an Indian? We say India has suffered from brain drain, notably to US. Here in US, the kind of¬†Indians I have met, makes me regret being born as one. Either¬†they are trying to take advantage of¬†each other¬†or are busy making others’ life miserable. Proud at earning¬†in dollars and bad mouthing the very hand that feeds them. Bringing in aged parents to simply baby-sit their kids and do house-keeping while they go about their lives. Sad!

Ofcourse India is not just these people. Happily there are those of us who are trying to keep the Indian flag¬†flying high. Those of us who have tried to remain true to our culture while embracing modern values. A few of us make me feel there’s hope. They know the true value of tehzeeb¬†(manners), laaj¬†(honour), satya¬†vachan (truth). They struggle amongst the crowd but are still flying high. Still the voice of reason, empathy, and patience.

Today on our republic day, I pray that these good men and women get strength to fight the moral corruption in our country and vanquish it. Maybe then we will conquer all else.  Amen! Jai Ho!

No snow..

It’s been bitterly cold here and winter hasn’t even officially started yet! (It starts tomorrow). The mercury was married to Zero-O degrees celsius for most of November this year. And yet my town has seen only a dusting¬†of snow flurries. No major snow yet! Which is a mercy for all car owners and a bit of a let down for all romantics.

Guess which category I belong to?

Surprisingly, some of my friends from Mumbai have been talking about buying a sweater and Hyderabad has had a 9 degree C day. I have in my 22 years of stay in Mumbai never needed more than a thin cotton bedsheet through winter. I have never worn a sweater during my childhood. And now when I swaddle myself with jacket, sweaters, scarf, gloves and hat, I smile at the delicious irony of life.

Born in warm to very hot climates, I now live in icy cold temperatures. A complete turnaround. I used to look at pictures of Manali, Dehradun and fight the desire in my heart to go make snow angels. ūüôā Now I go out at -2 degrees, and pray that there is no wind blowing.

Last year, we had suffered (yes after the first few snows it is suffering) several snow storms. So this time round, We are thanking our stars we¬†haven’t yet needed to dig the car out of a white mound.

But and here’s how I justify myself as a romantic, I am hoping for a white Christmas. Somehow, Christmas is incomplete without the grounds covered with ethereal white fluff.

What’s been making Christmas special the past 3 years, is the ability of the people here to give. There is a smile on everyone’s face, a genuine cheer, and hope. Times have been very tough for the average Americans, but the holiday season brings out their best. It does of course bring out all the burglars too. But hey every silver cloud has a dark lining.

I have been genuinely impressed at how much effort people put in to make the season special for the less privileged. Some time ago, several hundreds of volunteers built homes for Hurricane Katrina victims. Some of the top designers were there too, lending¬†their skills. They weren’t building dwellings, they were building homes. Attention was paid to the decor, art work even the paint colour. That’s giving!! That’s powerful.

¬†Apart from Oprah Winfrey’s usual fireworks (she usually makes history while giving away gifts during the holidays), several other shows give away fabulous gifts to a carefully chosen audience. Even if they are doing it just for publicity (as some¬†cynics would say), at least they are giving to the right people. Not fat bonuses to fat bankers, or fat grub to fat bureaucrat.

Nor is it given with the knowledge of giving. During the several emergency situations in my life, I have found 3 types of helpers:

1. Pure helpers – People who help because you need it and they are there to give it. They never mention the act again nor do they go around talking about their benevolence. In fact some of them help and then disappear. It’s been my privilege to know these highest form of humanity several times.

2. Help to get – Epitomised by the greedy money-lender in Bollywood and these days by credit card companies in real life, these people help you in need because they see an opportunity to get something even bigger back from you.

3. Help to gloat – Some people help you as barely as they possibly can, sometimes even when you don’t want it. So that they can go out and tell the world they are great. ūüôā It’s been my misfortune to meet quite a few of this type.

Getting back to the spirit of giving, here I saw the glow in the faces of volunteers. This glow is that of a genuine helper. It cannot be faked. That glow warms me up this winter. ūüôā I love being human! I love the holidays! Happy holidays everyone.


Mumbai— meri jaan!!!!

india_mumbai-011Actually Bombay meri jaan sounds so much better!!! But I rather conform to the T family’s diktat. Or else…
You see anyone who doesn’t, is forced to apologise after being beaten up publicly or forced to leave the state. Sad isn’t it? Considering that Mumbai got to where it is because it always welcomed enterprising people from all over India and the world.
Ofcourse now you better have a birth certificate to prove you were born there before you think of setting up house or shop in Mumbai..I am not Marathi but I am a Mumbaiite…I haven’t been to Mumbai in about 9 years except for a 10 days trip in 2007. I saw little change but what change I did see made me happy.
Small changes like concretised roads, cement tiles at crossroads most prone to potholes, better buses and fast service. Efficient if you dole out the money.
I have now stayed in 3 continents, 3 countries and 8 cities. I wish I can add to this statistics, but then that’s another blog. I feel Mumbai beats any other city in India hands down in terms of efficiency, infrastructure and more importantly human resource. People are generally more helpful, more resourceful, more knowledgeable, and more receptive to new ideas than any other city I have been to.
Even the IT city Bangalore lags dismally in terms of roads, transport, water and even garbage disposal. Mumbai despite bursting at the seams is managing to provide its inhabitants a decent living (I talk ofcourse of the burgeoning middle-class).
But what do I read in the papers?? That the average Mumbaikar dies younger than any other Indian…Why? Because poor Mumbaiikar gets up in the morning, runs to catch the train, works, run to catch the train back home, eats and sleeps. The only holiday Sunday is then spent in socialising, family time, domestic chores, and other work. When does he get to just relax? Nope not even when he is retired. Because he is expected to look after the grand children. He is expected to be productive to the last dying breath else he is a big burden. Like an Amritsari had once told me, Mumbai me sab hamesha bhaagte hi rehte hai.
The poor Mumbaikar scrambles to save money to buy a match box flat, the flat TV, perhaps a semi auto washing machine and hopefully the nanoest of the cars. If not a bike will do very well. He motivates himself with his small dreams and small achievements.
He tries not to fall foul of the authorities (thats everyone in the government from the chaprasi to the chief minister), tries to avoid any road bumps and to drag his life over all potholes till a bomb explodes in the train or a car rams into him. Ofcourse he doesn’t even dream of a fast & efficient medical aid. He knows he will die on the road or on the way to the hospital. And probably the ambulance driver will haggle with his harried family for bakshis to get his body back home.
Why should he not die sooner than the others? What incentive does he really have to live till 90 and live well at that? What support will he have? Everyone else will be keen to see him dead anyways.
Answers anyone????

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