Archive for the ‘Rantings and Ravings’ Category

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.

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.

Global Vipassana Pagoda : Gorai

After all the  TV coverage of the President inaguration of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, Me and Deepthi decided to make a visit there. There are 2 ways to get to the Pagoda (near Esselworld, Gorai) 1. Via Ferry From Gorai Creek 2. Via road  Bhayandar – Uttan – Gorai (details on site ) Good Things About the Pagoda

  • The 325 feet majestic monument really stands out and will surely drive more tourists.
  • Its the world’s largest stone dome built without any supporting pillars
  • Over 8k people can meditate inside the Pagoda.
  • Genuine Buddha relics enshrined in the Pagoda.
  • There are no entry fees or charges of any kind.
  • Free Bus from Car Park to the Pagoda
  • Located in a great location with great view and really breezy place.

Things to remember :

  • You cant meditate or enter the dome unless you have completed the 10 day vipassana course.
  • Visitors can just roam around the Pagoda and see the people meditating inside the dome.
  • Lotsa work is still pending and it resembles a big under construction project, It should be at least a year or two till everything looks like the pictures in the Brochures.

I will definitely wanna  do the 10 day course subject to getting leave from work :) Some snapshots of the Global Pagoda

Global Pagoda

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I Style! – Work Victim

Good morning and welcome to the first Monday of 2009!! Are you disgusted by my over-exuberant cheeriness? If you’re a Mumbaiker, I’m sure as hell that you are. The 5th of January feels like the 2nd and that’s disastrous as far as the workaholic attitude of this city goes. Three whole days later!!! Trains to catch, backlog to clear, traffic to battle and *sigh* all those bloody phone calls and emails to answer!!!!

If all of the above rings true for you, take heart today and resolve if you can to be a little less of a workaholic. Be introduced to the concept of ‘work-life’ balance. And if you’re shaking your head and saying ‘IMPOSSIBLE!’ (which is more likely the case), let’s fall back on the failsafe Mumbai option – service with a smile.

Here’s a snapshot from a conversation I had last year with Pooja.

Me: How’s work?

Pooja: *Gesturing to tee-shirt*

work-victim

In this deadline-crazed city, humour, humour, humour is not just cool, it’s got I Style!

work-victim2

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?

1-bandra-flyover.jpg

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Reality Show: Terror Mumbai

I got home at around 10pm on Wednesday night. The television was blaring its usual cacophony of detergent operas and soppy suds. Then a relative called to tell us that ‘something big was happening’. We flipped through the channels in quick succession, passing a panel discussion on the consistency of chewing gum (or something that seemed to stretch on similarly), an 80s potboiler complete with gyrating Govinda hips and a tear-jerker selling the benefits of pension plans.

Then we landed on the news channel band. And there it stayed and hasn’t moved since.
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The Day After: It’s Not Over As Yet

Mumbai awoke this morning (for those who did manage to sleep) to reports of commandos being dropped from helicopters onto the critical locations under attack. There was also a mention that the Taj Mahal hotel was secure but that’s something we heard around midnight yesterday too and it turned out to be a hasty (and inaccurate) wire, since there was still firing coming out from there. Several hostages from Nariman House were either rescued or managed to escape during the course of the night. The media, while hanging around desperately for soundbytes and real news manages to catch a glimpse at the most of the action and tries to piece some sense of it, often going in the wrong direction.

Later this morning, there was a sudden buzz that (more…)

How to be cool this summer

567810528_ed5a0bc68b.jpg

To many it’s not a big deal. Summer is just another season which will make you sweat a lot and then move on to another season. For me weather really has a direct effect on my lifestyle. So what is the key to a happy summer? A wee bit of change in lifestyle can really ease the heat this summer.
So here are things which can keep you cool this summer
• Cotton is the mantra of this season. Yes its time to take out those cotton kurtas which are the bottom of your trunk. Seriously it really makes a lot of difference even you have a 24/7 air conditioning.
• Go fresh! Eat lots of fresh fruits (melons especially, it is also good to loose those extra kilos) Stuff yourself with fruits. Fruits will keep you cool and fresh. Unlike heavy, spicy food which will trend to make you feel drowsy and heavy.
• Liquids please! Many don’t feel like eating much due to the heat ( I am one of them) and hence skip meals. But a hectic day at work can drain you off all the energy. So substitute your meals (if you’re not in the mood for it) with fresh juices, lime soda and get a bit adventurous with some mocktails.
• Avoid alcohol! It can get you all the more dehydrated (Alcohol dehydrates the body in any weather) and also trigger migraines (if you are prone to migraines)
• Water; No am not talking about Deepa Mehta’s movie here. Drink lots of water. You can lot health problems due to the heat by just increasing your water intake itself.
• Carry an umbrella. Yes umbrellas not only protect you from rains but also from sun.
• Always carry a high SPF sunscreen lotion. Lap it generously whenever you get out.

US Consulate Still Stuck in the Stone Age

Applications will be accepted by carrier pigeons only. All fees to be paid in jowar, bajra, rice, barley, daal or cowdung cakes only.

The above is my own byline. It stems from utter frustration. I will be travelling home to Bombay in a week or so and one of the “compulsory” tasks I need to do this time around is get my H1-B stamped again on my passport.

And even before I venture to the consulate, the frustration at the whole exercise is in the red zone. I know that the US Consulate outsources its whole administrative and logistical process to some company, and many would say that its the company to blame for the processes. But I would put the US Consulate.

Just outsourcing a service does not make ” the end justifies the means” . To make the appointment for my visa application I need to pay a fee. And this fee can only be paid in person at an HDFC bank. Why in heaven’s sake can one not pay this online via a credit card? Who thought up this stupid rule? When the whole world is going plastic online and there are weeks when I never do cash transactions here in the US, I find it baffling. Someone has to think this out.

A person sitting in the US needs to make an appointment. But the fees for that need to be paid in person at a bank in India, prior to even making the appointment. Yes my sister will do it and that’s not a problem. But what of people who cannot get someone to do it for them? And the reason of online fraud cannot be used for not allowing credit card payments.

They take the entire application online including the passport details etc but cannot assure of a simple credit card transaction. Screw that ! Hopefully for all practical reasons this may be my last need to get an H1-B, so I will end it at that. If someone at VFS or the US Consulate reads this, please dont penalize me. I am just voicing my concerns as a citizen :)

MNS and the "outsiders"

On Sunday, violence erupted in Mumbai (not again…). Taxi-drivers, paan-wallas and ‘outsiders’ (read UPites and Biharis) were the target of assault by frenzied MNS supporters. In an is-it-related-or-not incident, Amitabh Bachchan’s house was attacked the next day, spurred by resentment towards his move to set up a girls’ school in Uttar Pradesh rather than Maharashtra.

I was at home on Horror Monday (Can we call it that? – We’d probably have to name at least one day each month for the sundry episodes of communal clashes that errupt so frequently in this so-called cosmopolitan metropolis). The news channels had a field day running and re-running the clips of a taxi-driver being dragged out of his car and beaten to pulp and soundbytes with the public expressing their outrage at this breach of peace.
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