Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mumbai Chronicles II

Mumbai’s street food has me drooling. I am dying to try out all the stuff at various places in the city. The only thing restricting me is my slowly recovering system which is used to the air and water of Delhi and not the spicy food of this place. Even then I can say that the food concept of this city never fails to amaze me.

The sweet, spicy and heavy Dabeli from (as per my friend C) the G-spot of Mumbai - Ghatkopar. When I asked him for a napkin, he gave me a piece of newspaper.

The cheese sandwiches at the Worli seaface….its so much better than the big sandwiches at the well known cafes.

The slab of sitafal ice-cream put in between two wafers from the Parsi ice-cream parlour near Churchgate. I kept wondering how the Delhi folks would react to such take-aways.

My friend barked at me when I asked for wooden spoons from the bhel-wala – “don’t you know how to eat bhel!!” When I looked baffled, he picked up the papri and used it as a spoon.

Delhi uses paper plates, steel plates, wooden or steel spoons…letting people stand and eat at a leisurely pace. Mumbai’s street food is built around its hectic pace….thrives on innovative take-aways. I never saw any people standing and enjoying the food around the stalls. No time.


Delhi spoils its people. Especially people like me. One can travel 35km in an auto for as little as 120 Rupees. One can park one’s car in a complex for the whole day for as less as Rs. 10. It has designated areas and markets for different kind of shopping. You just have to define your need, go to a locality and get everything under the sun. The local market in your area has everything you want at the cheapest price possible.

In this city, travel is like a jigsaw puzzle. You can never reach point a to b in a single mode of transportation without paying through your nose (on taxis). Trains, then auto. Auto, then taxi. Taxi to the bus stop, then bus and then another taxi. And shops are scattered anywhere and everywhere. I am still grappling with this complex method of living.


I wanted to see the sun set and the necklace light up at the Marine Drive. By the time I reached, the sky had become purple grey and the lights of the city were shining strong and bright. I kind of like the city during the night. It seems to come alive with energy after the sun sets…like me. Or maybe because it hides the squalor and harshness of life so well, which is all too obvious during the day certain truths of my life. The glittering light lets you forget….calms your soul and allows you to dream just a bit.


I looked out the window of my building late one night. On one side, the slum dwellers were having a blast practicing the human pyramid – for the Ganpati festival. On the other side, a sky-scraper stood in darkness with all lights switched off. As I stood staring, the lights on a 15th floor balcony came on. It glowed in the dark and looked so warm, loved and lived in. I closed my eyes and saw a view of a full moon on the sea from high above and felt a strong breeze around me. When I opened my eyes, the building was in total darkness again.

Yes. Someday. Yet another dream.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mumbai Chronicles – I:

Its newness had long faded off…perhaps it was only in my mind. My reaction to the city now is more like slowly getting acquainted to a person after the freshness of the first meeting wears off. The subtleties, the pros, getting around the cons, slowly trying to pry its very soul and understanding its reaction to me.

I had perhaps come with an image of a city which had charmed me so much some ten years ago. Little did I realise that like a person even a city changes as events happen over the years. This city seems like a mere shadow of that long gone image….minus its lustre. There’s a nervous energy and not the happy chaos of yesteryears. The streets lack that shine which had once caught my imagination and I have seen better roads in Bihar than what exists now. The city seems to be fraying at the edges…slowly and surely…its strong fabric becoming loose. Remove the people – its soul and it will collapse, dead.

N took me to the Land’s End where we sat down at the sea’s edge looking at the vast grey expanse in front of us and the hazy city-line behind our backs….as pale as a winter evening. As the day faded, the city slowly came into life….like oxygen flowing through its vein. The glittering tall buildings shone through and lights lined up the city’s coast….a scene which I have always loved. Perhaps the dreams are not lost yet. Perhaps I can still find myself in this city’s warm undying soul.


The well known places of Delhi leapt out from the scenes of the movie (Chak de!) It made me smile, warmed my heart and I felt a strange sense of pride – of once being a part of that city. My relationship with the city has always been unstable – like that with a person who you cannot like and hence always resist but when the ties are cut off, you realise his/her importance.

If I go back ever, it will again get that volatile. Its better this way – to retain that sense of warmth and closeness, but from afar.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The morning:

Read in a newspaper today.

MF Hussain when asked what he felt about his exile, said:

"Jab raat ho aisi matwali ,
toh subah ka aalam kya hoga!"

Now that is what i call being romantic.

Yes, it all makes sense now.

Friday, August 10, 2007


My friend C indulged me. I wanted to walk down the Worli Sea face in the evening. We walked and we talked. The sea was grey and angry. The sky even darker. The wind sprayed the salt water across the road. I enjoyed having aloo-sandwich and coffee and watching the city’s skyline through the grey mist. We made a pact to come here often for walks.

I used to love the sea once upon a time. I used to dream of a tiny cottage by the sea from where I could watch the endless waves crashing on the shore. I could sit for hours staring out trying to answer life’s questions. Now the sea deepens my agitation and the salt in the air clings oppressively. I found myself thinking about the sparklingly clean air of the mountains.


It was a chance meeting and then hours of non-stop discussion. In the end he told me I was like the character in the Alchemist…I am following my dreams. The treasure is there at the end of the journey…at home, he was sure. I wondered whether he knew something about me that I didn’t.

And I wondered what kind of a story it would be, when the protagonist follows a dream that’s become a mere shadow and he doesn’t know where home is. Will the treasure at the end of the journey still have any value?

Monday, August 06, 2007


I looked out the plane window and saw a massive grey wall ahead. Even before the pilot could announce the bad weather, I braced for a tumble. The plane hit the first cloud-bank and shuddered and swayed. Looking out, a thought crossed my mind – that I had never told anybody that I want my ashes to be scattered in the snow-peaks of the Himalayas when I die. What if its now and they never knew?

I am not scared of death. Infact I welcome it. It’s just that I don’t want to die and be born again…..not in this world atleast. So I want to live through all my karmas in this life only. Strange situation.

I have never flown in the afternoon before. It felt great to see Delhi so clearly from high above with no smog over it. As the plane moved westward, we passed through huge pillar like clouds, mushrooming clouds as if a residue from a disintegration of the atomic bomb somewhere on earth, sea of white and grey clouds. A thinning ray of the setting sun caught the corners of the clouds turning it golden yellow.

When the plane circled over Bombay for ten minutes trying to break into the cloud cover, the sun setting way into the horizon came into view. Below were only woolly clouds reflecting the sun’s orange light. It felt strange to see the evening sun in reverse….with us above and everything below. It felt peaceful….very calm. This is what a soul sees and feels when it’s finally free….am sure.

The sudden drop, rushing in clouds, the tumbles and jerks brought me back from my thoughts. I looked down to see a grey world below. The sea was brown and the rivers were ribbons of grey. The greens had a strange darkness to it. The wet roads started getting larger, the evening city lights brighter and finally the blue sheets over the chawls appeared into view.

It was a smooth, perfect touchdown.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

An ongoing story:

Once upon a time, there was little girl who loved to stay in her own world, away from everybody. Some years later life introduced her to two ‘best friends’. They were very close and played together, lunched together, stayed near each other and giggled endlessly. The school however had a system of shuffling students when a new year began. One year all the girls were together; while in other years the little girl was with either one of her friends. But never alone.

Finally a year came, when the little girl was thrown into a class-section all alone. Her best friends were given different sections. She didn’t know a soul and she couldn’t make new friends because nobody could really understand her. She grew morose and forlorn. Something had snapped and her studies spiraled down.

Decades passed, the girl was now a woman - sometimes defiant, sometimes unsure of herself. Her ‘best friends’ of school days were long gone - each involved in their own separate lives. She however found two new friends who fast became her lifeline in the crazy adult life. They laughed together, shopped together and giggled endlessly though living very far away from each other. Life in its strangeness, shuffled their jobs in such a way that all three of them were near to each other at one time or one of them was always near to the woman.

Until now. Life has thrown the exact same challenge that she faced all those years ago and failed so miserably. Her lifelines have shifted out to a different city, each leading her own separate life while she’s been thrown into a completely new city way away from them.

It’s said that life repeats situation, episodes, and incidents to teach you some important lesson. Or maybe to remind one of lessons now forgotten. But what is the lesson here??
Life throws relationships at you when you don’t want them and it takes away people when don’t want them to go. It lets you fly high in your dream, letting you think its true only to push you down when you are at the top. So do you not make new friends, do you not fall in love again, do you not keep dreaming?

What really are life’s lessons?