Archive for the ‘Neighborhoods’ Category

History

Friday* evening is when the city comes alive with a vengeance. As if it were sleeping the rest of the time. But Fridays are a frenzy of partying and drinking and laughing too loud. In a frantic attempt to drown out the panic of life running out faster than we can make sense of it.

One such Friday, I stayed in late at work. Of course the work never ends. I suppose I could have left earlier. Met a friend for coffee. Or another for drinks. Or walked down the seaface. Or photographed flamingoes in flight. Or watched Aamir Khan’s debut performance as a director. Instead I took a walk.

Behind my office is an old building that used to be a factory. Now one half of it has been converted into a glossy glass-and-steel office complex. The other half is used as a parking lot. On a late Friday evening, there weren’t too many cars around. I strolled around in the semi-darkness. Not even a breeze…unusually warm, even for a Mumbai December.

In between the buildings is a long stretch of concrete road. No vehicles at that hour. No employees walking out of the building. Just the stars above on an unusually clear night, visible between asbestos sheets on one side and curved steel girders on the other.

I stepped into one of the open doorways. I wondered if this is what it felt to walk around in an old castle.

Broken mill window

Heavy cylindrical pipes overhead, solid pillars and rusted metal staircases at the corners. Hundreds of busy feet must have walked this floor thousands of times over the years. Machines being oiled, a worker showing another one how to pull a lever, a foreman looking at a sheaf of papers, sparks in another corner. Things were made here, lives were built here, dreams were dreamt and realised…or shattered here. Hundreds and thousands of them. Don’t they say ‘put your heart into your work’? Those milling masses must have put their very souls into their work. I still feel them.

Mumbai was built on industry, on factories, on the hard labour of workers. They made this the city of dreams, the commercial capital of the country. The grit and hard-headedness that is taught to us as a way of life now were the lessons that they handed down from lives of unrelenting labour. They were my true ancestors. I haven’t forgotten.

Incidently this post was written almost a year ago. The building in the photograph does not look that way anymore, since it has been converted into yet another gleaming office complex. The mills shut down long ago and now with their buildings being revamped, it feels like the tombs of Mumbai’s ancestry are being razed away.

* From a Friday long, long ago.

Stylebhai

Oh my stars! Help me someone, I’m still recovering from the split sides I have from excessive suppressed laughter. Who is the cause of my cheery mood, you ask?

Meet the man himself – Mr.Mannequin!

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He doesn’t believe in needles or anything permanant scarring his peaches n’ cream complexion. But the gods of fashion dictate that tattoos are in a la Jolie (or considering the neighborhood, Rakhi Sawant). So Mr.Mannequin sports a tatoo painted on a …what do you call it? A body-suit with only the sleeve? Tattoo on, tattoo off…now you see it, now you don’t. Actually you see it all. Including where the sleeve ends and his not-so-pink white arm starts.

Oh but wait! It gets better. Blonde we are, as blonde as the Hilton girl, as gold as Goldilocks. Let’s add a tie to the tee-shirt. And oh, snorkelling might be fun, you think?

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And just in case you lovestruck ladies are wondering where you can get to meet this delectable creature, trot over to Lokhandwala market. He’s the style icon for that peculiar breed we call Lok-hunk-wala.

Curiouser and curiouser. ;-)

Mumbai Limps Back To Life

I traveled into town today, in the aftermath of the terror that Mumbai has lived in the past week. The reason was a Tweet-up/Peace walk/gathering at Colaba Causeway. Honestly? I stand in deep respect of the police force, the fire-fighters and the NSG who delivered us from the terror. And I’m going to wear white tomorrow to symbolize our mourning as well as a plea for peace. Yes, I will also light a candle and thank every police-person I see for the bravery of their comrades. But mostly I went out today for myself. To reassure myself that I still could. I needed to. If as a Mumbaiker, this city’s spirit resides in me, then I speak for the city when I say I’m battered, I’m crawling, I am gasping for breath.

Traffic was light as it has been since Wednesday night, even for a Sunday afternoon/evening. Even so, the journey took us a half and hour either way. We passed shops that were open, people out for a stroll with their families, cars driving down…but there was an air of barely concealed tension. I had my camera out for the better part of the journey and I know I drew some curious (and not necessarily friendly) glances from the other cars. In case you’re wondering what an atmosphere of terror looks like, come to Mumbai right now.

The photos I took today of Mumbai in post-terror trauma….

Here’s the media jumping onto the sympathy-brand visibility bandwagon, over the Western Express flyover. DNA asks…

Spirit of Mumbai
FOR HOW LONG?

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A Tree Grows In Mumbai

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That patch of yellow in the corner isn’t an indication of autumn (Do we get that in Mumbai?).

The minute the street-lamp is turned on in the early evening, and just for the short while that there’s evening light, the tree looks like it’s blushing yellow. Is that too poetic for a deserted side-road in a crowded Mumbai suburb? We make do with what we get. And inspiration lives on.

Auto-wheelie

Did anyone get stuck in a gargantuan traffic jam in Vile Parle/ Andheri/ Jogeshwari/ Malad earlier this week? Yes, yes, I know that’s roz ka jhamela in aamchi Mumbai. But this was like the baap of all traffic snarls. Your vella bloggy-reporter takes you straight to the scene of the crime…errr, traffic jam.

In that dirty, dingy gulli called Andheri subway, an autowalla seemed to have been trying some stunts. Okay, not auto but what do you call those auto-looking things that carry goods instead of passengers? Going by the way the autowallas drive, I don’t think they know the difference but anyway…

This vehicle was stuck in the most extraordinary position of all – nose up in the air and forehead (!) caught in the roof of the subway. A couple of workers were perched up there hammering away in a bid to get it unstuck. Wheels up in the air, my first thought was,

Was that an auto-wheelie gone wrong??

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Waltz In Matunga

Time out of office on a weekday is always fun. Even if you do have to get back to work eventually. It would be funner if the rest of the day was an unscheduled holiday, of course, but one makes do with what one gets.

So I find myself sauntering down a road that was probably desiged to be a nice, quiet side-street with colony gates opening into it but has metamorphosed instead. The road has grown up and now sees hourly traffic snarls, cars and cabs zooming and vrooming up and down and a bright neon multiplex thrusting itself in between the faded painted hoardings that came up about fifteen years ago (when the road was oh, about in its teens).

It’s scorching hot after a week of grey skies and incessant rain. Great, I left my sunglasses behind and carried my extra-heavy-duty rain protection gear instead, that’s making my otherwise ubercool bag bulge like a pillow. No matter I tell myself, in Matunga, nobody will mind.

No taxiwalla is willing to ferry me to the station and my stomach is starting to make itself (or its emptiness) felt so I pause, mid-traffic to think. If I were in Dadar, I’d pop in to sample some no-frills delicious Mahrashtrian cuisine. I spend a peaceful few seconds thinking about kokum sharbat, patra, shrikhand-puri and masale bath. The honking behind me jolts me out of my reverie so I rush on. Bandra and I would have stepped into any of the cafes, restaurants and hangouts I know so well. Town has its own delights. Even if Tea Center has ceased to function, there’s always Samrat where I’ve enjoyed many a solo lunch with the waiters dancing attendance. Yes, I know, I know that Gujjus don’t consider Samrat fare as ‘good food’ but like I said, one makes do with what one has.

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A Leaf Out Of Someone Else’s Book

I stopped by this pavement stall last evening. It has been…oh, so very long..since I visited this place. Getting to be a real book-snob, are we, patronizing only the big bookstores? Yet, the bookseller recognized me in trice and his eyes bore no rebuke.

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There’s one at every corner, if you know where to look and I’ve given away a few of my secrets before. This is (or used to be) one of my favorite haunts before convenience and credit cards took over.

From the evergreen Sidney Sheldons, John Grishams and Jeffrey Archers to the ubiquitous management books, this place still holds its charm. It’s hard to supress that innate sense of superiority in pulling out a book and placing it in the ‘right’ stack along with others in the genre. So pop fiction to the sides, classics in the middle, bestsellers on top. Then realisation strikes that the dynamics of cataloguing work differently in a street-stall.
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Pipes

Unless I’m greatly mistaken, these are the pipes that one uses to smoke ganja? I remember seeing these in little shops on my way home from school as well, and wondering what they were. Back then, I figured they were some special attachment to be used on taps. My curiosity continues unabated and I’m still wondering whether these aren’t illegal. If I’m right, they are…sort of.

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I could be wrong, however. Does anybody know what these things are used for? I didn’t have the nerve to walk up to the shopkeeper and ask him. He didn’t seem perturbed by my taking photographs though.

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A bibliophile’s guide to Mumbai

It’s January and time for all of Mumbai’s iconic events. After the Mumbai Marathon and the Mumbai Festival comes the Strand Book sale. Book-lovers across the city have looked forward to this annual event far before the gleaming interiors of the other bookstores came into being.

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While on this, here’s something that was written sometime back but will still be of interest to anyone who’s kicked about the Strand Book sale.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

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Toto, I don’t think we are in Mumbai anymore!

As all my friends move into matrimony and kid-bearing and generally ‘settling down’, they acquire the other trappings of yuppies – investments! One of my friends thinks that real estate is the best option. So I accompanied her on a ‘window-shopping’ spree, scouting the city for the perfect place of land that she could call her own.

We ended up at Vasai Road. Yes, it has a station of its own on the Western line. What’s more, with the number of overhead bridges with twists and turns and forks, I thought we might have landed up in some future version of Mumbai without the crowds.

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