Archive for the ‘Neighborhoods’ Category

Mumbai Ka King Kaun? Deewar Pe Dekho!

A very quick update on yesterday’s street festival. It would have been nice if it had been a day-long fest and each of the events staggered a bit.

I started out with a detailed itinerary, knowing even then the futility of trying to cover all the events. Kya karen, they were all so appealing! I started with the Wall Project, because it was the first event and yes, also because it enjoys a special place in my heart. :-)

AmZ met me in Bandra and we spent a pleasant (if not fruitless) half-hour driving up and down Tulsi Pipe Road trying to find the others. The event details had only said that the project was open for painting on the blank walls left over from the earlier events. But maybe because of the heat and also since it was a less monitored event, the crowd clustered around a tree-shaded patch close to Mahim.

I daresay some people may have painted over earlier paintings. But I’m just going to take a note from a friend’s diary and say that street art is about layers over layers.

I had a run in with the shopkeeper of the only hardware shop open on that stretch.  I know it was hot but that wasn’t my fault and besides no one should be crabby about doing extra business.  Grrrrr, horrible man!


So I found myself dressed to paint in denim overalls and bright pink rubber gloves but with no paints, no brushes and no wall. Mercifully for me, Manan and his friends invited me to join them in their part of colour splashing. Here are the results.

Since they’d already started their panel, I didn’t join them but I was graciously given both the border panels to splash about with. On the right, I created a warli painting. After all these years of sketching and fabric-painting, this is the first time I’ve actually created this wall art on a real wall. Much fun it was.

E Vestigio was there all along, heckling us and snapping pics. (I do hope she’ll put up a post with them soon!) In retaliation, I incorporated her into the warli painting along with the others who were painting the wall. Can you guess which one she is? The fun bit about an event like this is the camaraderie and silliness that goes hand-in-hand with actually executing the project.

The panel on the left actually had a few pictures of gods and the pavement-dwellers asked us to not touch those. In cognizance of this, a group had left the top half empty and was in the process of creating a Pink Floyd album cover on the bottom. But the top looked rather stark. So I tempered the parts around the pictures with blue paint and created a kolam, which is fairly appropriate next to a picture of the Gods, I think. :-)

Friends and familiar faces I spotted were Neil Dantas, Shadez and Leztah. The mad (o’ wot?) Sapna Bhavnani screamed out “IDEEEEEEEAAAAAAAA!” as she flew past in an Elvis Presley wig, as a part of the Superheroes on bicycles event. A few panels down, Ranjeet, Neeraj and their gang put up their green and peaceful messages to the world.

The Superheroes on bicycles briefly sailed past us and stopped to ogle our walls and let themselves be ogled at. Much funness. Mumbaikers need to be taught to stare. :-)

By the time we packed up it was close to 8. So we made our way to Carter Road to catch the Mad Fake Tea Party. It was too dark by then and the party that had presumably been on for a few hours, was winding down. Still we got a few glimpses of funkily dressed people and the remaining postcards on the table.

All in all, we really only did one event completely but as Manan puts it,

What a wonderful, satisfying way to spend a Sunday!

From Ashes

This is for Dee, the editor I’d like to have, who quite literally showed me the way.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Where do stories come from? she wondered. Her editor had told her that her writing had a quality of finesse in it. But, he said, the spark was missing. She wanted to protest, it had been such an effort to get to here after all. But anticipating just that, he had moved his hand in a wiping gesture, as if trying to clear away a fog around her.

“It’s that madness, that raw energy that used to make one want to read. Bring that back. It’s you. Unleash it in your writing.”

She brooded over it for a long time, all through the book-browsing date and the high tea that followed. Then she decided to take a walk. Taking long walks and watching people and noting down what one saw seemed to be the right things for a writer to do. The sea had always held appeal. But somehow, the effort of crossing the road, dodging bratty rich kids in their oversized cars only to scrounge a garbage pile of people on the other side, for seating space…wasn’t an appealing thought at all.

The city is no place for an artist, she told herself. How was one supposed to be inspired by this relentless struggle? It didn’t even have the elements of drama like a war or a revolution or an uprising, a famine or a flood. It was just everyday, niggling grievances. Who would want to read about those? Who would want to write about those, she retorted inside her head. Then she shook herself. Arguing with oneself is the first step into insanity and she’d be damned if she was going to live up to that pathetic stereotype of a writer-gone-crazy before she was even published.

The girl hopped off the last bogey, the one that she had just managed to jump into as the train pulled out of the station. In one hand she clutched a little notepad and a magenta pen, her chosen colour for the day. She did have one thought that should be captured before it vanished into that abyss of forgotten inspiration. One hand holding down the page, she expertly popped off its lid with her mouth and twirled it around to cap its end with practiced efficiency.  Rapidly she wove a messy magenta web over the ideas that had caused her to almost miss her train.

Mumbai Metaphors

I stood on the opposite side of the road that runs along the seaface. It was the wrong side, not the one that had the seating parapet along its entire length but the junction of the seaface road and the arterial conduit to the station terminus.

I stood under the tree that has survived attempts to build bigger and more buildings, broader roads and wider pedestrian walks. The same gnarled tree that stands on the side of the road like a senior citizen with memories of a slower, more human-paced city but no energy to brave the pace of today.

The sky was just turning that indefinable shade of evening like the colour of the last dregs of black tea in a chipped white saucer. Sepia, the colour of nostalgia, that one extra element that changes the picture of a dirty, overcrowded metropolis to the magical visage of home.

A rare wind was blowing all around me. February in the city picks you up as gently and playfully as the waves and takes you to the edge of the shore of winter. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a swimming pool, only it was filled with moving, insistent air around me instead of water.

When she looked up, she was standing at the threshold of light, surrounded by darkness. The very edge of a station, flowing slowly into light at the other end. A rusty carriage sat on incomplete tracks, a long discarded project of the metropolitan train network and peered at her through unpainted metal bars. On the other side, across the tracks and the other well-lit platform, high over their roofs rose the skeletal inner beams of discarded mills. Like a will being contested over the rotting body of a dead person, the future of the land they stood on was being dueled over, with no thought to the buildings that still were.

Places have memories, don’t they? Memories of lives that have passed, of habits that were housed under these roofs, hidden behind these walls. The paan-stains, the half-buried cigarette butts, sneaky but woeful reminders of escapes, of stolen glee. And then the finality of ashes that came from burning who knows what? Paper? Cloth? Oil? Human beings? There were stories that led to the ashes but there was no way to trace them back. This place had its endings but not all it was in ashes. Everything else was memories that could be traced by anyone who cared to listen, to pick up those strands and imagine where they led. They were stories to be told.

She looked down at her book again, an abrupt swooshing action. The white pages even with their magenta words glared back at her in defiance. Those words meant nothing and in her mind’s eye, she imagined the magenta whorls and lines slide off the pages. Blood, the only thing that would stick. Hold a pen to a nerve and write, he had said. So she turned a page and begun,

Something was burning.

Vasai Road: Love, Rum & Dancing At The *AlienPhyre Wedding

I’m just home from an amazing weekend. Actually it was only one evening but it packed in so much that it feels like I had an entire weekend.

My friend Reena got married yesterday to her longtime sweetheart Melroy. I met Reena through Adi and bonded with her at The Wall Project. If you visit the Tulsi Pipe Road stretch just to the left of Matunga Road station, you’ll still see our works of art.

Reena’s is the first one after the tree and is very much like her…pretty, graceful and romantic. It says,

You are one big fairytale waiting to happen.

Spitphyre's Fairytale

(more…)

The Wall Project: Boycott Aladin, Canvas, Gair & London Dreams For Boorish Publicity Actions

About two months back, I wrote about the exciting experience of being part of The Wall Project in Mumbai. A BMC initiative, a number of citizens turned out to beautify and place their own mark on the wall running along Tulsi Pipe Road, between Mahim and Matunga Road.

Yesterday, we commenced on Phase II of the drive, this time taking the street art concept to Lower Parel, opposite Phoenix Mills and simultaneously pulling off the cause of education-through-art with The Alphabet Project at the Mahim end of the same road. I was waiting to collate all the photographs that are still appearing across the net, to write the post about it.

Then earlier this evening, we discovered that a different sort of vandalism had happened. Movie posters of Aladin, Canvas and Gair have turned up, pasted over the paintings, less than 24 hours later. I’m rusty on the legalities of these movie advertisements that appear all over the city. All I can say is that Wall Project was a BMC initiative and certainly not meant to be a backdrop for the marketing of Bollywood.

Posters

As outrage spreads across Twitter, even as I write, Ritesh Deshmukh and Sujoy Ghosh have been notified and have both issued apologies. But an apology I say, is not enough. It is enough of effort getting past the apathy of citizens to drive forward something like The Wall Project. Asking people to come out of their houses on a Sunday and spend a searingly hot day painting a rough wall for free is not an easy task. So much for the so-called indifference of this city, the numbers of people that turned out are testimony to the fact that Mumbaikers do indeed care. But after such an episode, would a citizen want to take the initiative?

My guess is that this will boil down to #wallproject becoming a popular Twitter topic for a few days; there will be a few media mentions about the outrage of social media users after a citizen drive and a clean-up PR effort with apologies by the people in the limelight. At some level, I expect some poor poster-paster will get yelled at or even lose his job. Is the onus of this to be laid on him? No, I say, the onus of this must be borne by the people who well understand the power of advertising and publicity, the people with the moolah, the people who have the most to gain from publicity, of any sort. Blaming the poster company or the person who put up the posters is not enough; the responsibility lies with the people who gain from the effort of the publicity. I say turn that idea around and make sure that the negative publicity hurts right where it should. Every person who stands to gain from the movies’ good collections holds responsibility for the end result and hence must bear the consequences of such an action.

See the before and after pictures courtesy @wanderblah

Aladin

ALADIN

Canvas

CANVAS

Gair

GAIR

London Dreams

LONDON DREAMS

If this is our city and its state is our concern, we have the right to stay outraged. I say, boycott the movies Aladin, Canvas, Gair and London Dreams, whose posters vandalize a community drive. Commissioning those posters not only hurts the sentiments of those whose painted walls have been covered, it cocks-a-snook at the Mumbaiker while saying,

To hell with your sensibilities. Advertising my movie is more important. I don’t care if a citizen effort that managed to raise such civic consciousness so successfully, is scuttled.

If you participated in The Wall Project or know someone who did, add value to that effort by passing this message on. If you are a blogger or a Twitter user, re-tweet this, blog about it, link to other posts about this. If you are reading this at all, you probably have access to the internet and a mobile phone. Use them to pass on the message. Spread the outrage, it needs to be felt.

The Wall Project – Tulsi Pipe Road

Pop culture meets city pride. What better way to get citizens invested in beautification than to get them involved in it too? Here’s presenting THE WALL PROJECT that invites Mumbaikers to express themselves in colour on the city’s walls. The Project has been undertaken at several other locations before. This Independence day (15th and 16th of August, actually), the project asks people to paint the wall running along Tulsi Pipe Road from Mahim to Dadar.

This sounds like a damn fine idea to me. Thus far, street art in Mumbai has been restricted to badly painted promotions for local businesses or gruesome posters of B- and C-grade flicks. There is the occasional defacing with a local gang or two hoping to steal some glory for themselves by spray-painting obscene words on school walls and building compounds. But I have full faith in Mumbai. We are after all, the commercial capital, the center of the world’s largest film industry and home to the story of the Slumdog Millionaire. We are nothing else if not dreamers and productive ones at that. What else does one need for art?

Photographers – this is should also be a good opportunity for some fantastic cityscapes.

Okay and I also have to say this. I haven’t visited this location recently but I’m guessing this is the wall running along the station since it is the only continuous stretch of wall along that road. From what I remember, the sidewalk isn’t exactly clean and neither is the wall, having been used as it has, as a public toilet for far too long. But I’m not going to let that deter me and I hope you won’t either. Come dressed in old clothes and sensible shoes and nose-clips if necessary. Beautification isn’t always pretty work. And art is often messy. But it should be fun!

So here’s a call to everyone who’s in the city – pick up a brush and a pot of paint or two and meet me at Tulsi Pipe road on 15th August. Let’s paint this town red (and blue and yellow and green and magenta and lilac and black and…you get the picture :-D ).

And here are the details as I received them:

ABOUT
The Wall Project, a humble project that started out with a few enthusiastic people, is growing to be a bigger, better project. It was an initiative to add visual elements of colour, form and texture to a space, to make the area more alive and generate a feeling among people who pass by it daily.

This process allows one to be more observant about the spaces we use and move within and how we can use various art forms in the public sphere to generate an interest in the minds of our daily human lives. The Wall Project in its own way tries to start a conversation, with no political or religious attachments.

THE GREAT WALL OF MUMBAI

The Wall Project along with the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai is initiating painting sessions on the Tulsi Pipe Road, stretching from Mahim to Dadar running along the Western Railway line in Mumbai. The first phase starts on the 15th -16th August 2009, 0800 HRS onwards.

CANVAS
– look for an arrow indicating the start point on the Walls of Tulsi Pipe Road, (closer to Mahim(West) Railway station) And we could begin painting in that direction.
– it would be nice to come prepared with a thought about what you would like to paint and how much wall space you will require.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE
– its open to all. show up on 15th/16th August, 08:00am – 08:00pm and paint your style.
– if you are apprehensive about painting all by yourself then you could assist people who are painting.
– you could come as a group (friends, family etc) with hopefully a constructive idea and paint it.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND
* no adverts, no religious writings on the wall, hopefully no political slogans, no foul language.

* there is a limited amount of paint supplies on location, so early birds…

* being a weekend/national holiday some paint/hardware shops may be shut or close shop early, so you would want to check on what you require in advance.

** clean up around you once your wall is complete

All further updates will be on THE WALL PROJECT group on FACEBOOK.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to write in at – info@thewallproject.com

Hope to c u there.

The Wall Project Team
www.thewallproject.com

The Bandra-Worli Sealink Opening

The much awaited Bandra-Worli sealink opened yesterday. In the unlikely case that you don’t know what I’m talking about (in which case, what are you doing reading this post?), this is a bridge built across one of the bays between the islands that comprise Mumbai. It connects Bandra reclamation to Worli seaface and has been predicted as the solution to easing up the daily traffic snarls from the western suburbs to town.

The view from the Bandra Reclamation road

The sealink has been a long time in the making, having faced some setbacks and delays as well. It has been a part of the grand plan for Mumbai for so long that it has almost made a mark in local lingo by now (Yeah, I’ll get a promotion by the time that damn sealink gets made, maybe then I’ll be able to afford a car too!).

01

Most Mumbaikers have seen its grow, inch by agonizing inch on the horizon, from each direction. Just last year, I looked out at the impressive seaview from the window of a friend whose Mahim flat faces the then under-construction sealink and said,

Whatever is taking them that long??!! There’s just another inch to go!

After much fanfare, the sealink was inaugurated by Sonia Gandhi last morning and thrown open to the general public at 7 a.m. There will be a Rs.50 toll to traverse the sealink but that becomes functional only as of next Monday. So for the next few days, you can expect most Mumbaikers to derive full paisa vasool rides, riding Mumbai’s first ever sealink.

Quite fortunately (for me) I had an appointment in town that same morning. Fortunate I say because I (like many suburbanites) detest the painful commute into town, even less by road. What a stroke of luck to have a reason to go into town on the very day the sealink was inaugurated!

03

So I nagged dad into turning off into Bandra reclamation, shushing his incessant doomsday prophesies that the sealink would only add to commute time and what was so great about that damn bridge anyway, it’s taken long enough to come up and blocked Mumbai’s strained resources as it is.

In a few minutes, I was ready to jump out of the car and dive for cover as we ran smack-dab into the middle of the kind of traffic that makes road-rage seem like a pardonable offense, not punishable by law. I think every Western suburbanite must have been on that road to Worli today, whether or not they wanted to go to town!!!

02

I actually saw a few cars take U-turns and head back out, presumably to get to their destinations, the old-fashioned Mumbai way.

But as we inched forward and the high beams of the sealink came into view, my spirits surged and even my father ceased his complaining and grudgingly took out his own phone to take a picture.

04

We passed an impressive-looking toll-naka. Oh okay, I know there’s nothing impressive about a toll-naka, I’ve seen the one at Mankhurd and what about that huge one leading out to Mumbai-Pune expressway that I passed, not three days ago?

10

05

It still was a momentous occasion, for we were on the brink of breaking new ground. As we passed, I’m rather afraid to say that the insofar well-laned traffic just sort of melded into itself and became one sea of cars going helter-skelter. The road curves a bit before it touches the sealink and the lanes just sort of get lost in each other. The authorities are just going to have to do something about that if they don’t want to face choke-ups every morning just before the Bandra end of the sealink.

Very near the sea, I saw a flock of crows flying around frantically and wondered aloud,

Why are there so many birds around? What are they so agitated about?

13

Dad said that perhaps there was an colony of nests in that place which had so far been pretty secluded and undisturbed. Displacement was a sobering thought to start the trip on, but well needs must.

Once we actually got closer and closer to the sealink, I could feel the anticipation electric in the air. Cars slowing down, audible gasps, people zooming their camera lenses and phones, excitement was rife.

11

I can’t even begin to describe what the journey was like. I am sure, in a short few days I’ll become as accustomed to it as the regular train and road commute. But today, this first trip was special. It was the realization of the great Mumbai dream. We were riding over water. All my hitherto unvoiced fears that the bridge would give way were blown away in the cool breeze. The bridge is rock-solid (not at all like Lakshman Jhula, ma, you can stop worrying, it won’t sway in the wind) and it would otherwise feel just like riding on a concrete road, except there’s the sea on both sides.

14

15

What an odd feeling to turn to one’s left and see Mumbai, the city, the familiar buildings and roads on the horizon but on the wrong side and from so far away!

I saw a media van pass in the opposite direction on the clear Worli-to-Bandra lane, with a journalist standing out of one of the windows holding a mike, and a cameraman standing out of the opposite side shooting her. It was a funny sight and I’m only sorry I didn’t have a chance to shoot it.

The image below shows the proud and cheering workers who were lined up to watch the first few travellers on the sealink. What a moment of glory it would have been for them!

16

The couple in the Qualis next to mine were carrying balloons and traversed the entire length of the sealink with their balloons held aloft and flying out of the windows. Viva, the spirit of Mumbai!

19

We touched terra firma again at the Worli seaface end. I’m rather afraid this means the end of those long, wonderful soujourns ending in masala milk and sandwich. With the incoming and outbound traffic to the sealink, the seaface is bound to become thoroughfare and lose the charm it has.

We’re losing a few lovely spots and the traffic problem may not really be solved. But the experience of riding over the sea is something every Mumbaiker should have. This link has been far too long in coming. In the larger picture, perhaps easier access will level out some of the differences of Mumbai’s very own caste system?

I can’t tell just yet. My head is still spinning with the adrenalin rush of yesterday morning. I really feel like I’ve been part of a grand day in Mumbai’s history, almost like the fall of the Berlin wall. It is a big thing for this city and as a Mumbaiker, I feel really proud.

Surreality Show

He called me the gatekeeper of the great suburban conscience of Mumbai.

Am I? Each time I write something serious about the city, I’m reminded of a friend bitching about the ultra-intellectual types who eat at McDonalds and come out and talk about the poor people in the country. Am I one of them? Does the city give you a choice, surrounded as you are with surreal constrasts?

Here’s something I spotted a couple of weeks ago in the wee hours of the morning. Presumably the store is one of the many designer boutiques that dot the fashionable area of Juhu. Do they know that at night, their porch turns into a bedroom? Perhaps they do, considering our man has a pseudo-four-poster bed with a mosquito net tied into corners. And the faithful guard lies in waiting, a few feet away.

rahul-agaste

In the middle of this melancholic week, I don’t find cheer even in my favorite streetside philosophers. Today’s autorickshaw spotting reminds me that this city runs on money, money, money.

maal-hai-to-mohabbat-hainMaal hain to mohabbat hain (If you’ve got money, you’ve got love)

If you’re wondering what the word ‘surreal’ means outside of a Dali painting, you know where to look it up, now. What’s left for me to say?

Juhu Beach

Last evening I was overcome by an urge to eat chana masala, the buttery over-spicy type, all covered with raw mango chunks and unidentified (but delicious) stuff on top. The Juhu beach variety. And while at it, bring on a naariyalpaani as well. Why not I asked myself (and oh forgive me for even having to ask in this day and age of the liberated woman et al but I did anyway).

1

My first thought when I got into the auto was “I don’t think I’ve ever been to the beach by myself…well, not in ages anyway.” Oddly enough I’ve almost perfected the practice of shopping on my own, solitary book-browsing, sipping a glass of wine at a table for one and buying a single movie ticket. I do all of these by myself and even the pride and novelty have worn away and they’ve become routine leisure activities for holidays and weekends. (more…)

Two Signboards

I spotted these on the gates of a villa/bungalow-type of place. I always thought people who lived in such palatial housing in Mumbai had to be nose-up-in-the-air snooty and lacking of a sense of humour. I was wrong. :-)

two-signboards

beware-of-dog

Please beware anybody bitten by our dog shall be given free vaccine. Score: 54

no-parking

No parking. Warning: Children love deflating tires.

Kotachiwadi – A photographers delight

I walk past the congested roads, it’s a new day, a shop owner throws bucket full of water on the entrance and tiny droplets splash on your face. Unapologetically he picks a broom and starts sweeping away the excess water on the steps. A hard cart with loads of stuff is pulled along, it almost runs over my leg. The nukkad ka paanwala is washing his beetle leaves in a stainless steel bucket. People are busy walking past on either direction. As the taxiwala he sees me approaching he gets up assuming me to be a potential customer but the moment I open my mouth asking for directions he is slightly irritated and waves his hand and says ‘seedha jao’ and doesn’t bother to answer my counter question ‘aur?’.

Further down I meet an uncle in black shots and striped t-shirt who was on his daily morning walk helps me to the right direction and even offers to walk with me. Amidst old builds with rotten wooden balconies on which long cotton sarees and faded bed sheets are hung to dry an abrupt turn take me inside a small lane. As I enter the lane I immediately feel as though I have entered a movie set. The entire place is disconnected from the chaos outside. It’s a different world out here. I can’t see many people out in the lanes except for the one paavwaala and the macchwaali. Sunday Eight o’clock is still eagerly for people here. It truly feels like a Sunday. This is Kotachi Wadi

Khotachiwadi is a heritage village in Girgaon, Mumbai, India. Houses built are made from the old-Portuguese style architecture.

It was founded in the late 18th century by Khot,a Pathare prabhu, who sold plots of land to local East Indian families. There used to be 65 of these houses, now reduced to 28 as old buildings are being pulled down to make way for new skyscrapers. –Wiki

Khotachi Wadi

It seems like a spec of Goa has fell right in the middle of Mumbai hustle bustle. I am a bit amazed that there Mumbai has beautiful tiny cottages amidst the concrete jungle. Houses have verandahs (let me see when was the last time I saw a house with a verandah….ding ding ding not in Mumbai until now). Even the space in front of the gate is decorated with bright mango tile chips, tree barks, stones and huge wooden urns. The bright colors on the walls, old-Portuguese style architecture, wooden framed balconies and the bougainvillea fences truly makes this place a photographers delight.

Its sunny yellow for me :)
Wide Open
Signs

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