Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Go 92.5FM - hear these voices

My dissent on Go 92.5FM's decision to go Hindi has already been posted. Now, there's also an online petition on the issue.

If you find Jaggu and Tarana in Hindi a tad forced/unnatural, if you're sick of Hee-mess-bhai's songs and if you want more of James Blunt, Pussycat Dolls, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, U2 (and more), then do click on the link given below. It's time for them to hear our voice.

"Don't GO Hindi" Petition

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Addicted to Bombay

As part of a lively debate on his Bombay v/s Delhi series, Dhoomk2 asked me to put in a post on Bombay. This is my attempt.

is a drug. Prolonged use is lethal. Highs include money, wealth and success. That's what draws the droves into the city everyday. From the uneducated exile arriving at VT with Rs10 in his pocket dreaming of becoming a film star, to the IIT-IIM grad arriving at the airport dreaming of heading Citigroup India.

For this, they are willing to endure a painfully low “quality of life”. As is oft said – “People in Bombay don’t live, they exist”. Commuting in jam-packed trains or stuck in traffic jams. Walking over perennially dug-up streets, choking from the dust in the air and nearly drowning in the rains. Living under a polythene sheet supported by two poles, with a gutter flowing below you, and sharing that space with three others. Or staying in matchbox-sized flats paying rents that could feed an entire village. And dreaming of buying an apartment at a price that could feed a hundred others. It's all part of the dream.

So, then what is it? What is that keeps everyone going? X factors, sex factors, Y factors and why factors. Here’s my take.

Welcome to the jungle. Bombay throbs with activity. Enterprise runs in its blood. From the fish markets of Sassoon Dock to Lion Gate, to the Stock Market to kapda bazaar, Dawa bazaar, Chor bazaar, Null bazaar..to the tanneries in Dharavi, the tabelas of Jogeshwari, Film City in Goregaon...and on and on. Each place an industry on its own. Each place with thousands of people chasing their dream.Too many places, too many people, too little time..too many dreams. All in one city.

For all its crowds, Bombay also gives you privacy. Even if you share it with a million others, your space is still yours. With the sea as your constant companion. For each harried commuter that pushes you to get ahead at Churchgate station, there will be many others who won’t care as you ponder life’s vagaries over a sunset at Marine Drive. Or Chowpatty. Or Worli Sea Face. Or Carter Road, Band Stand, Chowpatty and Juhu. You will come here again when you fall in love. And probably when it’s raining.

Bombay doesn’t believe much in sleep. Its lifelines – the local trains – sleep only for three hours. Buses, I’ve heard even less. You can find a taxi almost anywhere at any hour. The driver won’t fleece you, unless you’ve taken him from the airport.

When the trains do wake up at around 4am, life’s already gathering pace. On the first trains out, you’ll find a man with a large basket of gendas (marigolds) sitting next to you. He’s headed to Dadar’s flower market, where there are already hundred others lined up on the roads. Once he’s gone, you’ll be joined by the newspaper-wala grappling with a bundle of papers under his armpit, defying various laws of physics. There’s even a good chance now, that you could be joined by dance bar girls. Perhaps you won’t recognise them. Away from the dance floors they rule, and devoid of their make-up, Roshni, Chandni, Huma, Rupa and Mona look like the girls-next-door. They are.

Dance bars. That quintessential part of Bombay nightlife. No, dance bars aren’t about sex. There isn’t any. Dance bars are about the yearning. And the money. It’s about the garlands of Rs10/100/500 notes (depending on which one you visit). After showering garlands of marigolds on his God, the same man now showers garlands of currency on his girl. And oh, how he yearns for a smile from her. It’s the only time he realises the true meaning of “Salaam-e-ishq meri jaan zarra kubool kar lo, tum humse pyaar karne ki zaraa si bhool kar lo”. The mohabbat ka maara to his maseeha.

And then the people. Bombay belongs to its masses. Bombay belongs to Sailu, the nariyalpaani-waala, who personifies the typical quiet do-gooder in our city. Bombay belongs to the street kid who peddles a whole array of books at traffic signals. And then asks you for a lift from Mahalakshmi temple to Worli Naka. He’s not worried if you refuse. This is Bombay and he’ll get his lift. His day is over. It’s time to study. Under the streetlights on the road next to the Doordarshan TV Tower. And there are many others like him at the steps of Asiatic Library. They will make it in life. In their own way, all of them will. If they will, so will you. This is Bombay.

Money, wealth, opportunity, lust, agony, ecstasy, crowds, loneliness, privacy, space, fun, people, food, Gods, demons, poverty, affluence, effluence, greed, power, movies.

Life. Bombay.

Suketu Mehta took 584 pages to narrate his Bombay stories. And his publisher is now thinking of a companion volume with the stories that didn't make it.

Me? I think Bombay can’t be defined and is beyond description. Just like the high you get from a drug. Bombay is a drug. And I’m an addict.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bandra Fort, Band Stand - a photo tour

The good thing about a public holiday is fewer crowds outside. Last week had two bank holidays, so I headed over to Band Stand to take a few photos of Bandra Fort and Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Point. Here's a photo tour.

The area is under a project called "Restoration and afforestation of [Bandra's] Land End." As this sign-post informs us, the area is protected, preserved and maintained by the Bandra Bandstand Residents Trust (BBRT).

Welcome to Bandra Fort. [Not surprisingly, the BBRT's littering rule is not being strictly adhered to.]

Here's a brief history of Bandra Fort - a fascinating read. Click on the photo to enlarge and read the text of this plaque.

This is the arch forming the entrance to the Fort. Note vandalism at its worst. I hope the BBRT can remove all that writing around the arch.

The plaque on the arch reads something like this - "ES? BALVAR TE SEFE??? LOVOR DONO ME DEIEOVS EM Ib" (Help - can anyone translate?!)

After walking in, there's another arch inside Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Point.

Here's what the plaque on the arch reads "Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Point. The land form in this point and the path leading to it was presented to the public by Byramjee Jeejeebhoy (ESQ RE) CSI who also contributed a large portion of the expenses of constructing the sea side road and it is therefore also called after him Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Road".

This Point offers an amazing view of the sea to your right. And on your left and front you have the the Bandra Worli Sea Link. [For photos of the BWSL, you can check my post here.]

At almost all times, this area is a favourite for couples. In deference to the privacy of the two couples present when I was there, I left after taking this snap of waves lashing the point.

Coming out of the point I noticed this sign that warns us of snakes in the hills. Luckily, I didn't encounter any.

My picture of the day - This is a view of the Byram J. Point taken from above the hill. There's one of the couples I spoke about above. Also note the aloof gentleman plonked next to them - contemplating the open sea. Ah Bombay - privacy in the open. You can have your space as long as I can have mine. Also note the litter - again Bombay-style.

Here's what the Garden looks like from above. On your right hand side is Sea Rock Hotel (shut since the Bombay Bomb blasts).

And finally, before leaving, I noticed this shop that's in the area, but separated from the garden by a rope. I don't know how the BBRT expects the garden to be clean if you have an eating place inside serving "Chinese Cuisine".

On quiet mornings like this, Band Stand seems far away from the hustle and bustle of crowded Bombay. The litter all around the area depresses me. The vandalim on the arches frustrates and angers me. The BWSL construction bemuses me - a sign of progress that aims to ease daily traffic problems...or an eyesore over a beautiful view.

But then, this is Bombay. Maximum City. A city that at times makes me love to hate it....perhaps because I've dared to love it in the first place.

Links to my other photo posts -
The Bandra Worli Sealink, the view from Band Stand
Thaipusam festival in Bombay
Great gig in the sky
Small gig in the sky

Thursday, April 13, 2006

IIPM - spread the word

First - please visit this post on Desipundit. Check out this site, whose title says its all "IIPM2Hell". Yes, it does seem genuine.

Second - spread the word.

IIPM is probably among the most-blogged issues in the Indian blogosphere.

Sometime back I was tempted to put out a post when I saw this hilarious, full-page ad carried in the Times of India and Hindustan Times. But I refrained, figuring that any publicity for these jokers is good publicity.

But after reading Desipundit today, I thought I'd at least show this ad. (Click for enlargement).

This full page ad gives us "two powerful articles" that promises to "shake our concept of justice in India". I won't even waste time reading them. Utter bakwaas. But hang on - I caught the first line of letter 2. Shayan Munshi is Mr. Chaudhuri's student ? Shabbash !

Then note the claims on Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri - "Noted economist, Management Guru, & Author of all time best sellers "Count your chickens before they hatch" & "The Great Indian Dream"". Ya rite ! And Austin Powers won the Nobel (Literature) for "Shaggadelic baby".

I'm tempted to carry on and rant about this guy. But, there are other, more-informed, posts that you can read to update yourself of this fraud.

There is, of course, the entire Gaurav Sabnis epsiode. Blog link - here.

Then there's Rashmi Bansal's blog, linked here. Check the 198 comments she has received till date and look out for a threatening comment from some deranged IIPM fan.

And finally for the IIPM Blog Wars, you can visit Desipundit's huge Oct-05 post, linked here .

Read the posts and spread the word Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Thaipusam in Bombay

Seeing religious processions in Bombay is not unusual. Even if it consists of people with rods pierced through their faces. Today I happened to have my camera with me, so I clicked some photos.

I thought I'd ask this guy perched on top of a truck what exactly was going on. Language was a bit of a problem so after fumbling for words, I just asked "Bhagwan?" (as in which God?), and he gestured with his hands to make an infant and said "Ganesh ka.." - so I assumed "brother of Ganesh". Then I asked him "Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayali?" (yes, yes - make fun of my ignorance) and he answered "Tamil..Wadala".

Googling on "Tamil procession body piercing" seems to indicate that this is the festival of Thaipusam, commemorating the birthday of Lord Murugan. However, other blogs (like this, this and this) say that this has already been celebrated in Feb. Um..could someone please help me here?

Here are six of the thirteen photos I clicked. You'll figure why I didn't upload the others.

Warning - you could find some photos disturbing.

I haven't seen anything like this. These men are hung by a rope - through hooks pierced in their bodies.

And no, these men were not in pain. At least they didn't show it. Here's another snap.

Yes, all those thin rods are pinned to his body. The stool in that white-shirted guy in the background is so that the devouts can sit, if they want. Thank God for tender mercies.

And this my snap of the day. Those women are feeding milk to that child who, as you can see, is pierced through his mouth. No, he wasn't crying.

And if you thought only the men participated, have a look at the women.

Phew..that was something. Religious fervour (or body piercing?) Bombay style. Again - could someone please let me know if this is not Thaipusam, and if not, then what exactly is it?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Going, going go(92.5)ne

I think Go92.5FM has gone full Hindi. Or at least, they've drastically cut back on English music. If you've not heard Go 92.5FM, or in case you don't care much for English music, don't read further.

I've been a big fan of Go 92.5FM right since it's Radio Mid-day days of the mid/late 90s, when private FM stations were first introduced in Bombay. Radio Mid-day was launched sometime then and was an instant hit. The urban, educated (college-going, yuppies, etc) Bombayite formed the core of their audience and does so even now. In those days MTV was still all-English, and there was no channel [V].

Anish Trivedi and Anu Singh hosted "The Sundown Show" then (6pm to 9pm). I loved this show as much for these two RJs as for the fact that they actually listened to their listeners - amply evident in the music they played. Then there were the contests and the free movie tickets, the merchandise, etc. Note that at that time, participating in contests meant dialing the station continously (remember no mobile phones to send SMS?) and waiting to get through. I remember tasting success a couple of times, and believe me there is a kick knowing that the city is listening to you! (or so I thought!)

Somewhere down the line, Anu Singh left and was replaced by a woman called Jak. Not the same, but still good enough. I still remember the way Anish and Jak would end their Friday show "ringing in the weekend" , with some kind of horn or loud instrument - indeed a pleasant reminder. With Anish Trivedi, the thing was, as it is with opiniated people, you either liked him or hated him. And his accent couldn't endear him to the masses anyways. I counted myself among his fans. Tarana came in much later and was a fresh, chirpy new voice.

Other RJs, that I can recall, on this station included, the owner Tariq Ansari (a.k.a. T-Man) and Shernaz Patel (a morning show). This was also the station that had Rahul Bose reading out passages from cult classics like "The Catcher in the Rye" on Sunday morning. Yes, this has happened. Then there was Parag Trivedi with his show de-mystifying Western Classical music. I'm pretty sure that no other radio station at that point of time had such depth of programming, at least on the English music side.

Somewhere around 1998-99, private FM stations vanished and came back a couple of years later in 2001 or 2002. And Radio Mid-day was now called Go 92.5. This time Anish and Tarana hosted the "Good Morning Mumbai" show and Malini and Jaggu did "Horn OK Please" in the evening.

I was hooked on to it all over again. Same old, same old. Great RJs, great music. Good enough for you to ignore the ads. And this was also the ONLY radio station that played English songs - full time. There was also a station called Win 94.6. As my friend reminds me, this channel ran an ad which went "Win - which plays music like this , this .." - followed by clips of some 4 English songs. Over a period of time, this shifted to clips of 2 Hindi and 2 English songs, then 1 English and 3 Hindi clips. The station folded up soon.

Eventually, Go also increased its Hindi content and got in Shruti to do an entire Hindi show from 11am to 1pm. Yet, English songs were still played often. Besides the morning and evening shows, afternoon fare also had a good sprinkling of English music. "College Radio" - an afternoon dial-in and requests show had enough college kids asking for James Blunt's "You're beautiful" dedicated to their crush as they had for Himesh-bhai's "Aashiq banaaya". They even had the husky-voiced Chris doing a 90's-specific music show on Sundays at 9pm. Hootie and the Blowfish, Crowded House, Hanson, Alannis Morrisette - what more could anyone ask for ?

And of course on week days, wind up the day with Glen's Nighshift. 3 hours of old English music, and what an enviable line-up - The Who, Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, U2, Pearl Jam....God damn! he played some good music which packed a great punch to at least one set of people listening in at that time - i.e. 30-40yr old office-goers going back home post-9pm. 30-40yr olds who've rocked to "Laila", "Sultans of Swing". "Hotel California", "Brick in the Wall", etc. when they were young.

You know you've grown old when they start playing "With or without you", "Cats in the cradle" and "Jeremy" on a "Classics show", when you used to hear songs like "Her name is Rio", "Wake me up before you go-go" and "West End Girls" on the same show - not so long ago. Its funny how we relate time with the music we heard in those days.

So Go92.5FM still smoked competition on all counts - quality of music, quality of RJs, everything. You just have to listen to the shrilly, loud, accented RJs of the other stations to appreciate Go. I didn't even waste my time doing that comparison.

Cut to the present. Sometime last week, Tarana started to speak Hindi more than usual and I thought I was hearing a tad too many Hindi songs. And today, Sunday, 9th April, I woke up to "Chura liya hai tumne" instead of T-Man's Old English songs on his Sunday Brunch show. So I'm guessing Go has gone full Hindi.

There's also a conspiracy theory in my mind - have they sold out to Radio Mirchi ("leading" radio station, also full-Hindi), given that the Times of India (owners of Radio Mirchi) also has a stake in Mid-day?

So that's that. Go 92.5FM is now a full Hindi music channel. Why am I making such a big song and dance about this? Simply because, like many others, I'd like to have regular access to English songs - contemporary, classic, whatever. It does matter, right ? Even Star TV relaunched Star World, after pulling the plug on it. Even a Zee has a Zee Cafe. Even MTV has a VH-1 for English music. Both MTV and [V] play English songs once in a while.

In fact, even the state-run AIR (107.1FM) plays English songs. Funny..I didn't think that they'd come to my rescue when I was going back home and wanted to be soothed by Steve Winwood and not Annu Maalik, Bappida or Sonu Nigam.

PS - If only Worldspace had car audio. Yet, I just hope they don't fold up.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Just another day in Sailu's life

Three friends walking down Marine Drive. 8pm. Bright lights, big city.

Me, Jigs and Jayant. Jigs was leaving for America in a few days. He’d just come back from the US Embassy. All his vital papers – bank statements, house records, education degrees, et al carefully stacked in a file. Finally headed for greener pastures. Leaving the city and the country behind.

Jayant was getting to grips with the bull-run on the stock market. A sub-broker, also working for a bigger Parsi broker. His life was all about hot-tips, what to buy, what to sell, how to make money, how to lose our shirts and then some.

So, there we were, sitting at Marine Drive. Staring at the vast expanse of the sea. Fobbing of channa-walaas, beggars, cold-drink sellers, masseuses and the like. And ignoring the lovers, snuggling away in a corner, enjoying their privacy in open space. That’s the beauty of the city. Your own private space among a million others.

One hour of thinking, contemplating, talking and cursing later, we turned around on the parapet to head back home. Jigs knocked off his file and it fell. Fell below into the tetrapods and rocks that form the barrier between the sea and the wall. Tetrapods filled with darkness in the night and infested by crabs, cockroaches and even humans. We had no way of seeing where it fell, leave alone chances of recovery.

Three friends now in a considerable state of disarray, panic and chaos. Jigs was cursing himself furiously - Damn ! how could I be so dumb? Flight tickets booked, visa in place, everything ticked off in that list. And then I lose all my papers. Kick them all myself into the tetrapods at Marine Drive. Oh ya, you’ve not heard that before. All of a sudden, the romance of Marine Drive and the beauty of the Queen’s Necklace were lost.

So Jigs runs across the street to buy a torch and batteries. You can find a Baskin Robbins, a Gaylord, a Pizzeria, a Berrys, a Shiv Sagar and an Indian Summer. But I’ll be damned if you can find a “general store”. Yet, somehow he got them. Ran back to us and three furious heads thinking of a way out. No, it’s not the usual Seinfeld situation. Desperation, yes, humour no. We couldn’t jump down, could we? Nah, we’d simply break our bones and still not find that file.

Then we spot a naariyal-paani waala. Would he ? Could he ? We’d pay him of course. Sure – three dudes at the start of their careers. How much could we have? Hey, we’d chip in Rs100/each. Rs300 is a lot of money, right? For a naariyal-paani wala ? Oh yes, it’s a lot. So, we approached him with our situation.

He asked us where it fell. There was no “X” that marked the spot, so we pointed vaguely below where we sitting. Our potential rescuer. Dressed in a shirt and lungi. Could he save the day and send off Jigs to the US?

Without further ado, he took the torch walked off to a corner we hadn’t seen. There was a hole there through the parapet that everyone sits on at Marine Drive. It led below to the tetrapods and the rocks. Before we knew it, he’d already climbed down, through the wall and into the tetrapods and rocks, infested with c, c and even h. We ran back up on the parapet, guiding him towards where the file had fallen.

He vanished between the rocks for what was definitely eternity for us, but not more than 5 minutes.

And then he surfaced. With the file in his hand. Yes ! V for Victory ! We have lift-off! Jigs was headed to the land of the brave and the home of the free (yikes, I think I mixed that up).

So, up comes our hero, our saviour. We ask him his name – he says, Sailu. He hands us the file and starts walking towards his stall. [No, hang on. No naariyal-paani wala has a stall at Marine Drive. He just lays out the coconuts, breaks the top, puts in a straw and there you have it. Only those who brave the Bombay summer every year now the absolute, sheer joy of naariyal-paani. Pepsi and Coke are for the wusses]

After thanking him profusely, we fish out Rs300 and offer it to him. He refuses to accept it. There’s a small language problem, but then anyone who sells anything on Bombay’s roadsides rarely cites bhaasha as a barrier of entry. He says he won’t take a single rupee. So we have three naariyal paanis. Rs30. That’s it. He doesn’t even talk much. He’s not giving us any speech of honesty, hard-work, tough life, screwed city, etc. He just went on to do what he did for a living. Sell naariyal paani.

Thirst satiated, hunt over and totally relieved, the three of us then figure that hey, we could give him our visiting cards – in case he needs our help. So Jigs is leaving India and he doesn't even have a card. And there’s also no point him giving his phone number and address. Me? I’d run out of my cards. Jayant gave him his card. Telling him to contact us in case he needed any help at any time. And that was that. Completely humbled, and perhaps even guilty, three lukhas walk away to their lives. And Sailu goes back to selling naariyal paani.

That was in 1999. Till date, Sailu hasn’t contacted Jayant.

Sometimes when I go back home, I think I spot Sailu at Marine Drive. Was that him ? No.., it was too dark that night to see him clearly. Where could he be? What would he be doing? We’ll never know.

Even as I blog this, I doubt Sailu would even remember the incident. Why should he? This is Bombay. Everyone’s gotta work for a living, rush to reach work on time for a living, slog for a living, brave traffic jams for a living and endure crowded trains for a living.

Yes, this is Bombay. Where Sailu also sold naariyal paani for a living.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Morning with two views

Facing severe writing block, and being more occupied with my other blog with posts on Peddar Road Flyover (here, here and here), I've decided to put these two snaps which in some random ways depict my state of mind at times.

First pic, titled "Stuck". I still don't know what exactly is happening out here. Probably the big ship got stuck in low tide, and these two smaller ships will, at some point time, drag it out.

Second pic is titled "Black and white".

You can also view my other photos here and here.