Sunday, September 18, 2011

Of People and Places! – Part 2

My previous attempt of assault received more flak than cheer and mostly it was from my close aides complaining of my non-adherence to what the Wren and Vodka had to say.  If you didn’t found it last time, chances are you wouldn’t found it even today!

So this Wren and Whiskey, oh wait, I think I got their names wrong, it was Wren and Martini ,or some allied drink name, have taken their revenge and added me to their latest list of victims. You ask me revenge for what? So the story goes that these two, who were children of British officers residing in India, were deeply in love with each other. Since India did not have any law supporting such marriages, the society cruelly separated these two lovers. Then they decided to take revenge on every offspring produced by any Indian marriage by making this book a part of curriculum and today, almost 85 years after, I too have been victimized. (Yeah I know that was made up. And I also know that was not funny.)

So, coming back to the point, I was given this book 'Elements of Style' to improvise and when I skimmed through the book, I read something in the preface that made this self-help grammar-cum-write-sensible-stuff book completely useless to me. It read 'Omit needless words'. I mean what will remain on this blog if I were to follow that... I have just filled in three whole paragraphs without making a single valuable point.

But nevertheless, trust me on one thing; I will never fail on the assault -

Scene 2-
Most of my city explorations were always through public transport, mainly local trains and in some instances, city buses. But then one thing led to another - I started working, the companies pretended to pay me and I upgraded to rickshaw. That’s where the woes started.

Mumbai –
I am late as usual so I am speeding on a rainy day, holding my cell phone in one hand, umbrella in another, coordinating with her on phone and scanning for a rickshaw. I cross the road to get to the stand and hurriedly get in the nearest one I see.
Driver – “Madam, I can’t come with you. There are others in the line ahead of me”
I am amazed! I get down and start speeding again to the front of the line jumping over potholes.

When I reach, - “Since this is a crowded route, let’s take the parallel road to avoid traffic. I am in hurry and I need to go to …….…”
He cuts me sharply - “Madam, if you don’t want to come, it’s perfectly fine. Don’t use swear words!”
I am shocked. What did I say I wonder? Then it dawns upon me. Grave Mistake!!!

Mid-scene Learning – Finally after 27 years, I have proved my mother wrong. She always tells me – You need to know the local language in any city.

Me- (I translate it into best possible Mumbaiya Hindi that I know of) “Oh no. I was just saying that lets take the alternate road”. He is not fully convinced so I shut up and say “Bhaiyya, Talaopali jaana hai”

Phew! He nods. I keep my mouth shut for the rest of the time. He drives through potholed roads with utmost precision taking shortcuts I am unaware of. When I reach, he takes out the tariff card “11 ruppess 75 paise”. I pay and escape from there as soon as possible.

Learning (For all my folks from other cities who have never seen an auto meter working) - A whole lot of distance can actually be covered in 11 rupees J
Learning (For me) – I am still grinning over my mid-scene learning…

Pune –
It’s a hot Pune summer and I am relieved by the fact that the rickshaw stand is at a stone’s throw away from my house. Yet I wrap a scarf all around my face almost suffocating me to death just to look one amongst the other terrorist lookalikes hovering in the city.  After my Mumbai learning, I walk straight to the first rickshaw in line but am surprised to see a long line of deserted rickshaws so I walk all the way back to see a highly interactive card game in progress. I interrupt –
(The conversation will obviously be in Marathi)

Me – “I need to go to Sadashiv Peth”
One of the drivers disgusted due to my interruption – “SO?”
I go blank at that expression. When I recover my consciousness - “So will you come?”
Driver – “No it’s too far”
I realize the futility of any further arguments but since I see no other autos passing by, I call up a friend to pick me from a nearby area. He agrees.
Me- “Ok. Just drop me till Deccan Gymkhana”
Driver – “No, it’s very near”
This time around, I lose my patience so I scream – “So how many kilometers is an appropriate distance to travel at a time”
Driver – “Ok. Let’s make it clear. I am a specialized driver.”
Me – I try to be sarcastic. “Specialized in not going anywhere it seems”
Driver – “You can be only so ignorant if you are from Mumbai. I am specialized in Teen Patti. The only other rickshaw stand that promotes this game is that Dange Chowk one. All other stands play kiddish games, below my level. Therefore I can commute only to that place.”
(I don’t remember much after that because I fainted. Apparently my roommate saw me fainting from the balcony and took me home. She tells me that she had to apologize in writing on my behalf to the drivers for my inconsiderate behavior)

Learning - Rickshaw stand is a place where an auto rickshaw (only) stands (for the rest of the day).

Moral of the story – Do I need to say it!! Though I haven’t been able to defend Mumbai too well, yet …Mumbai Meri Jaan !! :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Of People and places! – Part 1

It’s good to live in multiple cities. And I say this not so much because of getting the pleasure from trivial things in life like adopting diverse lifestyles, assimilating different cultures, trying different cuisines, learning different languages. No. There’s much more to it. I feel, moving to a new city instantly bestows you the right of authoritatively cursing and cribbing on a range of topics.

Now, for example, there is this super cool guy next door who usually comes home late with a roar of an even super cool bike and one sneak peek from the window makes you go weak on knees. After several weeks of attention seeking attempts through expensive parlour appointments and uncomfortable walks in skimpy skirts, you have not even managed to get a glance from him but rather the other day he almost crushed, with his cowboy-like shoes, your little stuffed toy which you had dropped to initiate the ‘baharon phool barsao’ scene or anything even remotely close to it.

Immediately, the local people can be termed as self centered, unwelcoming, closed-minded, myopic people. Then you can go on to narrate stories of how the neighbor in your ‘previous’ city had shared his pasta dinner with you when you were hungry and your gas cylinder went empty, cleverly hiding the fact of how, at that time though, you had labeled him as a ‘despo’ trying his luck on you young beautiful ladies.

I have, due to sheer chance of fate, been literally living out of bags (and some smelly cupboards) and have hopped cities back and forth for past six years. Therefore I do this, all the while, with untainted sincerity so much so that I sincerely feel I definitely deserve a small role in those tourism promotional ads.

Scene 1
I have lost my house key and am desperately searching for that ‘key’ guy. I finally find a small roadside shop but it’s deserted. So this is how events would roll in respective cities –

Mumbai -
I pace around for a few minutes. Scan surrounding areas but see no one who can fit the ‘key-guy’ profile. Seeing this, a Gujju (offcourse!) shopkeeper (of an adjacent grocery shop) comes out, asks me with concern as to what the problem is.
(All this conversation will be in Hindi in fear that people will think I am a regionalist if I engage in Marathi)

Me - “Do you know where he is“?
Shopkeeper – “Must have gone somewhere nearby. He will come soon. You can sit inside till that time”
Me – “Thank you”!
(Another 10 minutes pass. I am still standing outside)
Shopkeeper – Comes out, pulls out his cell, makes few calls, traces that ‘key-man’, informs him of a potential customer, takes my address, informs him, tells me to go home, I thank him, ‘key-man’ reaches my house in next 5 minutes, key made, door opened, and work done!

Learning – Sometimes simply standing over the problems could also solve them !!!

After my Mumbai incident, I proactively approach a lady sitting idly in the adjacent-almost-zero-inventory shop.
Lady shopkeeper - Screams at the top of her voice in the purest form of Marathi I have ever heard (rather, not heard) so much that I strongly believe that conversation could easily be part of Delhi Belly’s Marathi version if ever it were to be dubbed.

Lady (I have filtered it out to preserve my dignity) – “Are you a fool. If I owned that shop, would I be sitting over here? And do you think I am some GPS device to track his current location. Also do you think I am idle to answer such idiotic questions”?
I wanted to point put that there were indeed no customers in her shop but I couldn’t muster enough courage to say so because soon she continued, “If you are in such a hurry why don’t you pick that stone and go break that lock. You ...” and then the dubbed version of Delhi Belly followed.

Learning – You cannot have a worthwhile shopping experience in a zero inventory shop.

Moral of the story – Mumbai Meri Jaan !!  (More assault coming soon ……… )

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes, we know, that you condemn!

Dear Politicians,

A young man stood tall at a crowded bustop
He had cracked it and earned it, his dream job
He felt so proud, this day was great
Just waiting to go home and celebrate

From there at not a faraway place
Walked a pretty girl, full of grace
Swinging happily her wedding shopping
All she wanted now was a diamond ring

A wealthy man sat in a Porsche so fine
Happy about a deal that he had just signed
To leave his mark, to make his name
This he knew was his stairway to fame

Moments later, this street is now a deathbed
The rain water here has turned blood red
I stand here horrified as they die in vain
The big and the small, the once strong men

You will come here soon with your empathy mask
Do you even feel a pinch is what I ask?
And once all your showbiz is over and done
You will wipe their blood with your dirty linen

And say, yes we condemn!

And certainly sometime, not long from now
They will strike back again, someday, somehow
Tear us and kill us and bring us down
From plush gateways to shady downtowns

We aren’t resilient, just lost all hope
Hanging in despair to a broken rope
Not sure if we would live to see tomorrow
Relish our dreams or be buried in sorrow

We will face this all, one more time
Tears would flow for this hideous crime
But all you would say is that you really condemn
And move on as if nothing has changed

But yes, we now know, that you really, really condemn!

A Survivor

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