Friday, August 24, 2007

Some clarifications

Somewhere on this blog, if I've given the impression that "I love Bombay" or its "never-say-die" attitude or that I praise the "spirit of the city", I think its a good time to clarify. It says "Bombay Addict" not "Bombay Lover" or "Bombay Deewaana".

"Love"? There are things I really love about the city and things I don't. But, whole-hearted, undying, to-die-for, unconditional kinda love? I'm not sure about that. Can I stay somewhere else? If I have to. In fact, I'd prefer some place where I can afford a house. Will I miss Bombay? Sure I will. I'll miss its places and its people.

"Never say die" attitude? Um. See, Bombay is about money. Nothing else. Its not World War 1 or 2 or 3 happening on a daily basis. Out here, time is money. You want yours. Everyone else wants theirs. The colour of money that a cabbie makes is the same as that of what an industrialist makes. Does that make them "heroes" or "survivors"? I'm not sure. They found their ways. We have to find ours.

"Spirit of the city"? Bumper sticker and nothing more. Humanity on any other day, that over the years got romanticised, got garbled and took the shape of a tag-line, a by-word to be used on every show and in every column when things go wrong.

See, here's the deal. I like all the cities I've visited. I blogged about Delhi. I've wanted to but never have blogged about Chennai and Bangalore. Both wonderful cities in their own ways. I've only been abroad all of four times. Twice to Hong Kong and once each to Colombo and Dubai. Never to Shanghai, New York, Tokyo, London, Singapore, etc. When, or if, I can, I'd love to do scenes from all these cities.

I'm sure there are enough people who came flat broke to the shores of each of those cities, and made it in life. They will tell you a tale if you wish to hear it. I'm sure they all like whats good in the city and hate whats bad.

I don't know what makes Bombay "better" or "worse" than these cities. Its all going to boil down to who you are and what you want. Out here in Bombay, we are all people on the same train/bus/car/rick/taxi going to the same stop/station/destination. Earning a living and living our lives. I don't know how that makes us better - or worse - than other travelers in other cities in India and the world.

PS - If you lived in or visited any of the cities above - or any city anywhere - I'd love to hear your views. Thanks in advance.

PPS - I just have to recap these words. They say more about this city than anyone else I've heard in recent times.
Utar Jaaye Ragon Mein Jo Toh Yeh Nasha Hai
Iski Aadat Jo Pad Gayi Toh Yeh Saza Hai
Aise Bhar De Ke Khaali Kar De

Shifting to own domain

After much hair-pulling, cringing, griping, cribbing, etc. I've finally succeeded in moving both my blogs to my own domain. Yay.

Thanks a ton to Rajesh who, with immense patience, took me through the whole process (which was like toying with that cutting the red-or-blue-or-green wire in the nuke) very calmly. Kind man.

Yes ledij and gaants, welcome to the new home of Bombay Diaries. Or at least the URL. What were you expecting?

I'm given to understand that you have to do nothing. Everything remains the same, feeds, links, etc. and I'm hoping it does. See you on the other side.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More scenes from a city

Another trip back home, more sights, more thoughts. The city's the same.

For once, I leave when the sun's almost melting into the sea. Not after.

And a sunset at Marine Drive? Yes. That's what gets them there, doesn't it? Nothing like the sun and the clouds in frenzied colours. Grey, black, hint of white here, blue there. Oh and Marine Drive is being done up nowadays. Looking all swanky. Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore. Everything but. Bombay is only Bombay. Forever.

So there's the sheng-chana wala. There's the kids from Jaihind, Sydenham, KC, HR. Man, I used to come here on weekends with my friends all the way from Bandra. You know - lets go to town for a drive. Check out the babes, the townie crowd. Sheesh. I still come here. Everyday now. For work this time.

So, there's the kids. Then there's the posh variety. Young, old. Walking their dogs, brisk walking in their track pants, furiously, staring and glaring at anyone in their way. Evening walks and all. Man..where do they get all that time?

And then the couples. Endless pairs of couples. Arms around each other, intertwined. Sweet nothings all over. Coming back from work, going back home. Meeting up at Churchgate, going to Marine Drive. Catch the sunset. Spend time together till we get married. Or don't. So why'd you come home late? You know, work, it piles up.

There's also the singles. The men. Some staring vacantly into the sea. Unemployed, employed, lost-my-job-today, came-here-to-look-for-a-job. You know, nowadays they want someone who can talk English well, these private companies.

"I don't know if I can make it here. But hey, I'm enjoying myself before I leave tomorrow. I've seen Marine Drive in so many movies. When I go back and tell them I was here, they'll be impressed. They won't care if I didn't get a job. Wish I could take a photo. But tell me, uncle, how come they're no photographers here? there's so many of them at the Gateway of India."

Man, I feel so old sometimes.

Babulnath is really jammed these days. What is it with this Shravan fasting and the daily crowd at the temple? Hah. I remember what this Gujju friend told me about his brethren. Saale. Dikhaane ke liye vegetarian, Jain, no kaanda, no meat, no chicken. Saale. Then check 'em out in the night - having tangdi at Bade Miyaa and heading out to Topaz. Sab saale aisi-ich hai. I never met anyone who fit that profile. Yet I don't know why I keep remembering that story once in a while when I pass Babulnath. Funny.

Cadbury. Mahalakshmi. Traffic cops. That one looks new. Smart guy. Young. Crisp shirt, topi ekdum straight. Takes his job seriously. Maybe he'll stop that guy in that Skoda talking on his cell, while driving. Maybe he wont.

And the street kids. I think Bombay belongs to the street kids. I remember going to the Kala Ghoda Festival coupla years back to see a Terence Lewis dance show. So, once its over, they're packing up. There's still some chairs and tables lying around. You know, for the VIPs and all.

So, everyone's clearing the table, but somewhere some music is still playing. And there's this raggedy girl. Torn and dirty frock, frayed hair. Her family's begging somewhere around. But she slowly climbs on top of this white plastic table. No one's around her and the music's still playing. And she's swaying to the music. Unaware, unconcerned, blissful in that moment of nothingness and joy to some song. Her ma finally lands up from somewhere, drags her back with her. Oh thats ok with this kid. She goes off all smiles. That moment was hers.

Worli. Bus stops. Lots of them. And the people waiting for the buses. I don't know what it is about the journey home after a long day at work (are there any other types these days?). Its just special. Leaving for home to the people you love? Nothing like it. Makes the day worthwhile. Makes that boss a bit bearable. Even if he's the only thing on your mind at that time.

I see the people waiting there. You know, leaning against the bus stop. Looking out for the 83, or if you're lucky you might get an empty 84. If only they had more AC buses. The people at the bus stop. Some of them plugged into the radio on their phones. Some talking. That hurried smile. Two words on the phone, "attaach neeghaali", before the bus thunders in. Or a hurried one-word text - "left". Or a quickly wiped tear there, wonder what she was feeling sad about. She looked cute. What kinda guy....

Then Mahim. But you've been there. You've seen them, hunched up and bunched up. Waiting..hoping?...for food. They don't go away. They don't. This is Bombay.

And before I know it, I'm finally somewhere home. That familiar Bandra junction. That chaos at China Gate restaurant which is now an entire building. The traffic jam. Valet parking. Narrow, two-way lane. Chaos. All for food. Everyone lining up to get in. Minimum half an hour waiting. And they line up. Not hunched up but a bit bunched up. They don't go away. They don't. This is Bombay.

It gets tiring once in a while. This 20km trip I'm doing everyday. But its a journey home. Nothing like it.

Or the city. And its places and its people. Nothing like them. The city. If it won't kill you, it will probably make you harder. And run faster. And fall here and there.

This city I tell you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Searing lava or choking ash

[Incoming from Kitabkhana]

The 2007 Bulwer Lytton awards are out. Here's the winning entry from Jim Gleeson
Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee.

This reminds yet again of the Bad English Contest held here. At that time I had no idea that there was a formal contest like the BW. Yet, the BEC was huge fun. I still think that mangling the English language with hyperbole, exaggeration, mixed metaphors and such like requires some effort and can be fun.

Loads of fun. Check out the complete list of BW winners here.