Friday, June 4, 2010

Mumbai Savaari- an ode to Traffic Jams....

Thursday, June 03, 2010
By Bonsy Desai

My friend Mithila and I were to undertake the most tedious adventure of our lives on a humid, sweaty Monday evening in the month of May…a journey that would take us from Dadar to Ghatkopar to (what else could it be?) attend a friend’s brother’s wedding.

No really this is not a joke. Miths(as I like to call Mithila) and I were all dressed up to attend the wedding, both tired after a long day at work, and since evening hours are a peak time for local trains, we decided to hit the road. Big mistake!

Now I totally understand why people are okay with being glued to different body parts of each other, smelling sweaty armpits, hearing non-stop chattering and even hanging out of the local compartment holding onto a pole for their dear lives each day. Because anything is better than being stuck in a taxi in a Mumbai jam, your whole body sweating in some of your best clothes and your eyes glued to the taxi meter in the hope that this one journey will not leave you bankrupt.

Anyway coming back to our adventure, we started out smoothly at about 7 pm till at one point in our journey we got stuck in a by-lane of Chunnabhatti. After about a quarter- of-an-hour of crawling towards our destination, we decided to ditch our cab, and find a rickshaw because we did not want to reach the wedding venue to find everyone gone. Luckily we found a rickshaw, but unluckily our driver decided that he was Schumacher and the traffic-infested road his race track. Swaying madly from left to right, we both kept praying that we wouldn’t fall into the next dirty nullah, screaming to be heard over the crazy traffic chaos.

“But really, why don’t we use gutters and big, open nullahs and convert it into a transport system?” my friend asked me, as she held onto the side of the rickshaw, laughing at our plight. (Yes we were still at the laughing stage then.) “We could be the next Venice,” she said with delight, looking excited at her intelligent idea. This is what a traffic jam in Mumbai does to people I tell you! Miths had started picturing a gondola, a singing rower and a romantic ride…I could see a crazy man rowing a Mumbai gondola, screaming “Chala, chala puddhe chala,” as boats banged into each other, honking annoyingly and an occasional boat rower, with red goggles and all, singing, ‘ek pal ka jeena’ with the strange stench of Mumbai all around us. Eeks! Not a good plan I say.

Anyway our crazy ride was far from over. Our rickshaw sputtered to a stop in the middle of a bridge on the highway, exactly in the centre. We were then made to sit through ten minutes of a crazy, stimulation ride, the kind you experience when you see a 4D movie. Front, back, left, right. Left right, front, back we went on and on as our driver pulled on the lever with more and more aggression. Finally one of us finally had the good sense to suggest we find another rickshaw, and so we got out (don’t know how we thought we’d find an empty rickshaw in the middle of a highway bridge anyway.) After another ten minutes of cursing and waiting, we heard a loud engine noise, and Miths and I looked at each other and almost dived back into our old rickshaw (it had started working!)
Off we went again, and yet we were nowhere around Ghatkopar. Finally we reached Ghatkopar after some more tossing around in our little space, and decided to find another rickshaw driver who knew where our wedding hall was. After about twenty minutes of more chaos and confusion we were there! Starting time: 7 p.m. and arrival time: 9.30 p.m.

And you will probably die laughing when you hear that we had never met the bride or groom before their wedding day! (I swear it was almost as bad as emotional blackmail or else we would not have done this.) But as of now I have already warned my friend that if he decides to get married anywhere outside Dadar, an air-conditioned, chauffer driven car will be my most minimum requirement to attend. I’m not getting over this trauma anytime soon I tell you.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

paper bachao.....SoBO style

Decided to go all out and splurge on some great wine and dinner at a SoBo restobar and of my fav food places for whenever (that is probably once a year) I feel rich! (just to confirm that this realization generally occurs before the glass of wine is consumed :) ).
But a notice in the washroom of the place had me in splits. This restrobar sure knows how to lessen paper usage with its innovative bathroom rules....

Bathroom Rules (now at this stage you'de probably expect the waste paper basket or toilet seat lid to be the words that appear next. But surprise surprise!!)

Rule 1- Napkins (tissues they meant) are to be used by guests only.

Rule 2- If you are not a guest please wipe your hands on your pants. (seriously, I am not making this up!!)

So the restaurant policy is simple...if you're not paying the bill, you are not entitled to any amenities, not even the tissue paper... :):) SoBO ki Jai ho....

Monday, February 8, 2010

3,2,1.....0 seconds to takeoff.........

A friend and I were enjoying a nice cup of coffee at kemps corner just a few days ago. Now the wacko that my friend is, she says to me "Do you see that building?" I look and see this typical, concrete structure, the sorts that seem to have become a part of Bombay's landscape since this last decade or so. "I think its a spaceship!" she continues... What?! "Yeah. Everytime I look at it I think it's gonna take of any second now...3,2,1...zooooommmmm!!!"
My friend had me in splits...but honestly when I think about it now , she's right. Some of our so called skyscrapers that are supposed to make the Bombay skyline resemble Shanghai, couldn't look more ridicilous or out of place even if they tried. While spaceship building, what with its suddenly protruding balconies (or whatever they call it these days) is just one such structure, there are several more. Thankfully the low FSI permit in South Bombay doesn't permit too many of this, so yours truly (a SOBO girl) is more than glad. But take this thin, tall, tall, tall structure around Bombay Central, Grant Road looks like one of those ridiculously thin models or the latest victim of the size zero phenomenon!(spare me.)
Now I'm not against tall buildings...but hello, can they not atleast look a little appealing to the eye, instead of resembling ridiculous, modern, but cold looking structures. Attended a conference on tall buildings recently, and got back a brochure with some of the best tall buildings in the world. Let me tell you I couldn't stop gaping at them..
Bombay was (hopefully was) in the last few years going through, I think a tall building craze, just like the one America was going through in the 1930's. The difference...they produced some gems like the beautiful, art deco structure, the Empire State Building in New York City, which stood as America's tallest building till the World Trade Center was constructed in the 70's.
Built in a span of less than 18 months, today the building is going through renovations worth $129 million to make it more eco-friendly.
And as if we haven't already wasted enough, we, a few years down the line will have to invest some more on our very own anorexic or space-ship like structures. Yeah I can already see Bombay looking like Shanghai, albiet a far uglier version, and losing some of its great art deco architecture or gems like our good, old chawls in the process. Long live chrome, glass, make some scary living and working spaces.

Monday, January 11, 2010

whatever is wrong with "me being me?"

I am deviating from the topic of this blog as far as this post goes. But really who can ignore the fact that 2010 has started on a depressing note, with a string of suicide cases among students.
For me being a student was all about learning from my mistakes, and believe me I made them constantly. I was your typical geek student, with an inferiority complex that was more complicated than all of my standard 10 syllabus put together.
As for the horrid, everpresent marksheet of the great Indian education system...well I was a true Indian on that front. Zero as a number gained acceptance world over only after Indian mathematicians recognized it, and I being a true Indian, more than a mathematican made it a point to have a zero in my score, for every math exam. And since it couldn't be a hundred all the time, I took a smart shortcut and stuck to the easier to score, single digit Zero!
Needless to say my parents were quite devastated with my particular talent for maths. While my father wondered how his gujju genes, overloaded with a love for numbers (actually profit and loss figures) had failed so miserably, my mother, till today, continues to believe that I could have been the next Aryabhatta, has she solved some complicated math problems when she was expecting me! But what I did get from my family was my love for reading, (and it was not related to my school syllabus) and this was one habit that my parents encouraged, irrespective of my marks in school.
Years later I got my bachelor's degree in applied art and did a postgraduation in Applied art, and did my postgraduation in journalism. My poor, bewildered parents continued to support me and do so even today, almost a year later. Today I'm the only journalist and while I have yet to achieve a lot before I get somewhere, I already feel proud of the fact that my parents have backed me up all the way, the only journalist in the Desai family tree!
Sounds pompous? It is but not entirely, because the point is just to understand that every time has their own dream, and it may not always coincide with what their parent dreams for them. The children are too young to even think coherently, and suicide is more often than not a hasty decision they make. It is the parents who must understand that not every child wants to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer and it is okay for them not to do so.
Honestly give your child a chance... because irrespective of what they do or do not achieve, not considering what they pay package will or will not be, every human being has the right to make what he or she wants of their life. And while your shadow can save a little tree from being exposed to too much sunlight, sometimes it may just smother it, leaving it in darkness to wither bit by bit.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

chal kalti maar....aur paani baccha.

this post's going to be short and....short. This bindass bumbaiya has a killer headache so today the yaking is going to be "cutting." Now this cutting is soon going to be applicable to our water supply, what with Mumbai's water problems increasing each day.
Heard from somewhere that Mumbai has lost 700 million litres of water so far! And by lost I mean lost through wastage, leakage, the prevalnace of illegal water supply because of the water mafia and all. The irony of the situation....we are an island city. Talk about water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Maybe not a drop to drink but the way we are messing with the environment we may be heading towards angering our seas and oceans enough to drown in all the water surrounding our city!
And I can just imagine the "breaking news" that will make in the world media.
Thirsty Island finally gets Water and enough to drown! Ha.....
Leaving you with some serious food for thought. Make a diffrence and start with atleast stopping water wastage.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

its a hatrick!!!....n some gyan time...

Hellooo all my readers...(yes i choose to make the assumption that I have a few, or atleast those friends and acquaintances whose arms I've twisted!) day 3 and I'm still pretty determined to keep going :)
Kinda get envious when I read some of these other blogs....I mean such a wide variety of topics, so many witty lines, anecdotes and all. But then if you really do want to hear some witty gyan, our black and yellow cab drivers are the ones you should turn to. Actually even if you don't turn to them, sit in a cab, utter a word to them and most of them are more than happy to keep talking away till you reach your destination, slighlty bemused and full of different, although mostly unnessecary information., namely the biopic of the taxi driver, his village, the neighbouring three villages and possibly even his home state! Another option is a random comment...
hear this witty man: My friend and I were travelling home by cab and obviously had a lot of gossip to catch up on. Very unluckily for us the cabbie had other ideas and our brains were half fried with a disgusting, remix version of a sad, bordering on vulgarish item number. We politely asked the cabbie to shut it up. A dirty look through the rareview mirror and then...silence...bliss! Lots of laughing, talking and giggling later my freind gets off and the cabbie gets his chance. "Kya maydam...humko bolti hein radio band karo shor nahi chahiye. Par aap ki dost kitna zor zor se hass rahi thi, hum to daar gaye!"
Honestly I had no option but to laugh at his honesty. "Kya karu bhaiya woh radio nahi na. Uska volume control mere paas nahi hai," I laughed, thinking I'd outsmarted him. That was before he drowned out my voice with his favourite, remix version of a sad, bordering on vulgarish item number. So much for being the smarter one!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

zara hat ke, zara bach ke...yeh hai bumbai meri jaan

Saw Raj Kapoor's Shree 420 for my research paper on mumbai and migrants about a year ago, and in the film all poor people, including beggars were sweet, endearing souls who sang, danced and smiled even if they didn't have much to be happy about...ramaiya vasa vaiya, ramaiya vasa vaiya...while the rich gluttons fleeced them off even their little shanty spaces.
Cut to present day reality, and poor Raj Kapoor would turn in his grave if he met the beggars in Mumbai today. I mean I've heard of plenty of instances where you toss a rupee at a beggar and he'll toss it right back at you! Met this cute little bugger today...he made pitieous litle faces at me from outside the cafe window, and almost made me weep into my cup of coffee. When that didn't quite work, he actually patiently camped outside the door of the cafe. Then when I walked out almost half an hour later this time he doubled the attack...pitieous expression coupled with painful voice...."subeh se kuch nahi khaaya didi..ek vada pav to khila do." And I was taken in, hook, line and sinker.
Went with the sweet little beggar boy, brought him a vada pav and gave it to him with a huge smile and a generous "yeh lo." Sweet little boy, snatched the vada pav and ran away without so much as a smile! And to top it off he set little army of friends after me in about five seconds and I had to run...vada pav didi, vada pav...all of them were squealing, surrounding me as I fled to the nearest cab.
And what do I see when I'm running as everyone on the road stares at me? The little bugger happily munching away on his vada pav, not looking half as pitiful , endearing or innocent as he did just five minutes ago!