Thursday, September 06, 2007

Aamchi Mumbai!

Yup! Being born and brought up in “Saddi Dilli”, I was always a die-hard fan of Delhi and was convinced no city could ever match up to it. Until I packed my bags and settled down in Mumbai. “Aamchi Mumbai”. Yes, this is one endearing thing about this city – there are scores of people who step into the city everyday in hopes of fulfilling their many dreams, and whether they make it a part of themselves or not, Mumbai makes very single one of her inhabitants her own.

The lush greenery of the Western Ghats. The feeble sunshine. The balmy sea breeze which makes the face and skin salty in a matter of seconds. The relentless rainfall, sometimes a harmless drizzle, sometimes a dangerous storm. The black water filled clouds forever enveloping the vast skies. The high-rise buildings right next to the sprawling slums. The fast paced lives and slow moving queues. The sheer volumes of people squeezed into a local. The vada pav/pani puri stalls at every nukkad. The huge movie hoardings all over the city. Couples making out at the Band Stand rocks. The charm of the antique buses, buildings and horse carriages in Town, the street shops and cafés full of foreigners in Colaba. The throngs of people and flights of pigeons at Gateway of India. The tetra hedrons at Nariman Point. The Maalish-walas at Chowpatty beach. HUGE malls and hyper marts, bigger and fancier than anything you could find abroad. People selling all and sundry in locals. No balcony space in matchbox-sized houses. Weird and funny names of crossings and roads, like Hornyman Chowk! Freedom to travel even late nights without fear. Strangers going out of their way to help you. Creamy waves splashing around your feet at Juhu beach. Long queues and huge crowds waiting for hours outside celebrity houses at weekends for just one glance. Brightly lit streets filled with people even in the dead of the night. The narrow gullis. The underworld undercurrents: people still reeling form the aftermath of the blasts and riots. Breathing polluted air while traveling by road. Traffic signals every few feet with hours of waiting time. Moral police like Shiv Sena. The fun and fervor during Gokulashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi. Old ladies chatting with buddies, people sharing foods and doing bhajans on their way back home in the local. ‘Malad’, ‘Bhayandar’, ‘Panvel’, ‘Bandra’, ‘Navi Mumbai’ written at the back of EVERY taxi. The hilly topography of Powai. The din of Bhendi Bazaar. People hanging out from the doors of the locals, enjoying the breeze on their face. Unimaginable levels of honesty in people everywhere around. Respect for women. No matter how close the destination, no travel times less than an hour. Fancy lights and music systems in autos. Fisherwomen and Bai’s dressed in traditional sarees and jewellery. The Page 3 parties and events, frequented by the Who’s who of the social circuit. The Dabbawalas with Six Sigma operational efficiency. The bindaas attitude and awesome slangs of Marathi. More Gujju bhais, Parsis and Sindhis found than their own hometowns. City flooded every time it rains a little too much! The beautiful roads of Aarey colony. Heights of professionalism and bureaucracy at the same time. Lost faces in the crowds of those who come from across the country to become stars. The everyday struggle for one square meal. The unending opportunities to earn money. The unbreakable spirit of the Mumbaikars…

I could just go on and on and on. There is so much to discover and experience in this amazing city. It has been 3 months since I stepped on the SantaCruz Airport, and there has been no looking back ever since. I feel so at home already that I almost don’t miss Delhi! It’s been a few months since I first called this city home, and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life here! Everyday I learn something new about the city, its lifestyle, and its people. Though I will always be a Delhite at heart, Mumbai is my life! Three Cheers to Aamchi Mumbai… It’s Rocking!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dono Ore Prem Palta Hai...

A few days ago, out of the blue I remembered an old Hindi poem I studied long time back as part of my course. Its called "Dono Ore Prem Palta Hai" by Maithili Sharan Gupt. And then I had this strange feeling of Deja Vu... That I understood what it is all about. In fact I relate to it in my own way, I'll tell you how, step by step!

दोनों ओर प्रेम पलता है

सखि पतंग भी जलता है
हा दीपक भी जलता है

Both are crazy in love with each other.

Both burn with desire...

He, the flame, me the moth attracted to the fatal glow.

सीस हिलाकर दीपक कहता

बन्धु वृथा ही तू क्यों दहता

पर पतंग पडकर ही रहता
कितनी विह्वलता है

दोनों ओर प्रेम पलता है

He wonders, why am I so crazy about him, why am I so obsessed with him, how come my life starts and ends with him... but I cannot say anything, I am helpless... it is like that only, there is nothing I can do about it!

बचकर हाय पतंग मरे क्या

प्रणय छोडकर प्राण धरे क्या

जले नही तो मरा करें क्या क्या यह असफलता है

दोनों ओर प्रेम पलता है

I tell him... If I do not devote myself to you, if I do not completely immerse myself in you, what else do I have to do? Where else will I go? What will I do with a life without you? There is nothing else in my fate... I am destined to be like this with him, if it means I destroy myself in his love, so be it! Burning in his love is not a failure; rather not being able to burn in his love is a failure!

कहता है पतंग मन मारे

तुम महान मैं लघु पर प्यारे

क्या न मरण भी हाथ हमारे
शरण किसे छलता है

दोनों ओर प्रेम पलता है

I tell him, for me, you are great: so is the stature and importance I have given you in my life, even if you have not done likewise. Funny, how intensely my fate is tied to yours, that my life or death is also decided by yours!

दीपक के जलनें में आली

फिर भी है जीवन की लाली

किन्तु पतंग भाग्य लिपि काली
किसका वश चलता है

दोनों ओर प्रेम पलता है

He burns but spreads light in the world; some good comes out of his doings. But me, my fate is black... there is self immersion and destruction written and so it will be. Happy or sad, this is what I am and what I'll be for the rest of my life.

जगती वणिग्वृत्ति है रखती

उसे चाहती जिससे चखती

काम नही परिणाम निरखती
मुझको ही खलता है

दोनों ओर प्रेम पलता है

The world is selfish, it keeps relations with those who gave it some benefit and ignores the rest. Its the end result which matters, not the words or deeds or the intentions behind them!

Though the last stanza is kind of general, I think it sums up what happens to some of the best of relationships... where the intentions get lost in misunderstandings and miscommunications, and relationships without strong pillars of respect, trust and love... end in a breakup.

It is only after being in love that I realized that it is possible to completely destroy oneself in it, for it. When intensity of feelings cross limits, it can either strengthen the relationship in a way that it can never break again, or destroy the people in it forever!

So all you people out there in love... take care! ;)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Yes, that is the first word that came to my mind when I thought of a term to describe what happened recently.

There is a very dear friend of mine, who I knew when I was in primary school. She left Delhi at the end of class 5 and we managed to keep in touch by writing letters. Believe me, no technology can ever match the great feeling of writing letters, posting them, and waiting eagerly for the reply! Such was our friendship, that through the years we kept in touch. Her father was posted in Delhi, and she had some relatives here, so whenever she came to Delhi, we met up. I also remember I took a few trips to Chandigarh, just so I could meet her. In fact, my first time travelling alone was when I went to meet her! We were just not about to let distance come between us friends, we always found a way to meet, talk and write!

And then school finished and she came to Delhi for her Engineering. Strange as it was, but we couldnt meet as often as we would have liked to, given that we lived far apart, even our colleges were far away. Our schedule was hectic, and we hardly ever met. But we still stayed in touch. Then college got over, we started to work. Again ife was very busy. And then, in 2005, I came to IIMA. I dont think I got to meet her in these 2 years that I spent here. But I knew where she was and what she was upto in life.

Soon, about a year back, I came to know she is going back to Chandigarh, with her family, and is teaching in a local college. And soon after that, I got another sms from her: She was getting married in October!

My happiness knew no bounds: They were a cute couple so much in love! They had anticipated refusal from parents etc. But as luck would have it, parents happily agreed! Nothing could be better than the victory of love, and that too with everyone in the picture happy! I was really looking forward to her wedding.

And then it happened. I got busy with life at IIMA and forgot about teh wedding. Soon October came and I waited for her call. I got none. My parents were not contacted by her. I called her repeatedly on her cellphone, but got no replies. I did not have her home address or phone number. For the first time I wish I had emailed her instead of writing letters, for I did not even have her email ID! I felt so lost, my friend was out there somewhere, and I could not find her! October went, then November, December, January, February...

I wondered what happened... Did they cancel/postpone the marriage? Was everything ok? Maybe she lost her cellphone! To top it all, my parents shifted to a new house, and she had no idea about my new address or phone number at Delhi!

So now that my MBA got over, and I was free, I was thinking about her, and decided it was tiem to do something. Time to locate her, no matter how! Try to find her home address in Chandigarh, and subsequently her phone number... Rohit suggested trying out the internet, as all our names and adresses appear in the Electoral Voting list available online!

And so I began to search for my long-lost friend! And guess what happened? I happened to come across a site of a college which had a CV with her name and birthdate! I immediately opened it up, and there it was: all her information, from her name to qualifications to work experience.... to her email ID and home address at Chandigarh! I was so pleasantly surprised! Imagine, thsi information was sitting on the internet for god knows how long! If only I had thought of using it before, I would have got it long back!

Anyway so last night, I excitedly jotted down her details, and mailed her immediately, hoping that the CV was not very old, and she still checked her email on that ID. And guess what? I got a reply this morning! She told me that she got married in November, and she came to look for my house but was not sure of the address and got lost. Before she could confirm the address, she lost her cellphone in all the travelling while she was distributing her wedding invitation! Poor she, wandering about, trying to remember where I lived! And even if she did make it, My parents would not have been there! Finally she gave up with a heavy heart. She missed me, just as I missed being there for her wedding. Even if she had contacted me, in all probability, I would not have been able to attend the wedding in the middle of my semester, but I would have atleast gotten the invite and a chance to talk to her and congratulate her and wish her luck!

Never mind now, I accidetally discovered her whereabouts and now we are back in touch, mailing each other, having exchanged our new phone numbers and home addresses! Her In-laws live in Delhi, and soon I will be seeing my 'all-married-n-all' friend of mine, after soooo long! Looking forward to that! :D

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nayi Mehman...

Please welcome the new member in our family.... Laila!
Cute, black, naughty, adorable 4 month old dacshund puppy, the new light of our lives!
So far all she has been doing is gobbling down food @ 20 mouthfulsl/second, nibbling on anything available, from furniture to slippers, including human limbs etc, (everything except her chew toys and bones), basking in the winter sun taking long naps; running around the campus when on a walk, driving the local dogs crazy with her charms, and collecting 100 compliments everyday from people ('such a cute puppy, such a sweet puppy") and generally making her presence felt around the house, and being as useless as she could be.
Keep watching this space for further updates! (As I cannot comment much.. i have myself seen her just twice, and she doesnt consider me part of family yet, so until then...)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Calcutta Calling!

Finally I have begun on my new post, the one which I have been thinking of writing for so many months now. This post is dedicated to the city where I have had some of the most beautiful moments of my life, the City of Joy, Calcutta... oops Kolkata!

Since my birth, till the early 90s, my maternal grandparents lived in Kolkata. I did not have paternal grandparents, and thus it was a ritual from the very beginning, for my whole maternal family (which consisted of 3 aunts and 2 uncles) to spend summers at my Nana-Nani's at Calcutta. So, effectively, I have religiously spent 2 months every year for the first 7-8 years of my life in Calcutta. As you can imagine, I was too young to remember much, but lately I have been working on recalling all the little incidents that I can, and build upon the fond memories I have of the city.

We were a total of 8 cousins: 3 of them, one didi and two bhaiyas were way elder to us, followed by another bhaiya 2 years elder to me, followed by my cousin sister and I, both the same age, followed by my brother and another cousin sister, both younger to me by three years. The older cousins were usually busy amongst themselves, and anyway it was below their dignity to associate with us stupid little kids, so it was usually the five of us, closer in age, who hung out together.

From the very beginning of summer vacations, we all left from Delhi for Cal together, carrying loads of holiday homework to do there. Now we were a lot of people, so we always preferred a train journey, travelling across the country, enjoying ourselves for what took almost 2 days! Our parents used to go crazy trying to control 5 young naughty kids! But we were always so excited about our summers, every year, without fail; such was the charm of the city.

I do not have very many clear memories, but bits and pieces of some days, events and times that have remained in my conscience, and so I apologise in advance, as this post may seem a bit random and without flow to you!

I was very little when I visited Calcutta, and everything there seemed so grand, so huge, so beautiful and also so scary! My grandparents lived in New Alipore, which I understand is a posh residence in South Cal. Our house was on the 4th floor, with lots of children living in our building. There was a long street, where we all gathered in the evening. Making friends with complete strangers for just 2 months was never a hindrance for us. In the beginning, we were enough cousins to have no need for any friends, but soon we had become pally with all the other kids of the building and on the block. We played ball, rode cycles, ran around, and had the fun of our lives. We even made friends with the servants and the watchmen!

There was a small market nearby, where we were not allowed to go alone. Everey evening, one of the uncles or aunts used to take us to the market, and we used to have the most delicious egg rolls I have ever had in my life! Every other evening, the elders used to go for a walk to the Victoria Memorial, or go for a game of Tennis at the nearby club. And every once in a while, we got to accompany them. What an honour it used to be for us!

Apart from these daily events, sometimes we went for a drive around the city in my Grandfather's friend's car, with his children. The best part about the ride was, that it was a convertible! A stylish convertible, in the 80's was something we kids had never seen, even in Delhi! It really felt royal, to be sitting in that car, with the breeze on your face, touring around the city, through the beautiful tree lined roads. Often, mostly around weekends, we stopped at a video library to rent some cartoon videos for us! Again, even this was a fun event for us, as the video library did not have a regular entrance: it was totally surrounded by a hedge, and one had to climb over it, using a two way step ladder. All of us kids insisted on climbing it and going to the shop everytime we visited it! Really, we were so vella and stupid, for every little thing was so exciting for us! FYI that was the place I saw my first cartoon movie that I remember.. Dumbo, the flying elephant!

I remember very vaguely, about the awesome transport system.... I travelled a few times in teh trams, and the metro and loved it! In those times, the traffic was way less, the trams and trains were not as crowded, and it was a magical experience!
One of my aunts worked in the Taj Bengal, and again I remember it as one of my fondest memories, when I was allowed to go in my Nana's car which picked her up after work. I entered the Huuuuuuge hotel, totally awestruck, a little scared of getting lost in the enormity of it all; but was amply rewarded by a scrumtious pastry by the poolside!!
One thing we kids loved to tease our Nanaji about was his car. It was an old styled black ambassador, and from our balcony, it looked like a butterbox! Everytime our Nanaji came back from work, all of us kids started to chant "Nana ki gaadi dabbba!"

Another special memory that remains in my heat is when one day I found a small kitten yelping around on the street. I think that is the time when I discovered my love for animals ... I wuickly oicked it up and got it home. My Nani hated animals, but allowed me to wipe it clean and feed it just a little bread and milk, before she asked the servant to take it away. Sigh! I cried all day, but never saw the kitten again. But soon after, when I turned 8, I got my first pet Tiffany!

Another awesome thing about Calcutta is the rains! I love rains, but we kids were not allowed to experience them, as we were too young. As most Cal people would agree, when it rains in Cal, it pours, and the streets are usually flooded. So whenever it rained, we stood at the windows, looking at people waddling away in knee-length water; making small paper helicopters and throwing them down! I can still remember the beautiful scent of wet earth wafting around after the showers! There was a tree right outside one of the bedroom windows, and on it was situated a small nest. And one of the days, when it was raining, I was sitting near the window when I suddenly saw a mummy bird flying in with food in hear beak, to feed her 3 little chciks, cheeping away hard, with their mouths wide open, eager for food. That is one of my fondest and most touching memories of all!

We had a lot of fun at home. In the morning, after breakfast was homework time. We all sat down in a line and worked away. Whoever did not do his/her share of home work for the day got punished: either no sweets, or no play time. Once I was punished, I dont remember for whta. I was made to sit on top of a 5 foot tall wooden almirah in my Nanaji's room by my uncle. He put me there and went away, locking the door. I sat there for a couple of minutes, all angry and hating everyone. But after some time, when I realised that they are not coming back soon, I started feeling uncomfortable. As it is we always avoided coming into this room as our Nanaji is very strict, and we avoided all contact with him. Sitting in his room, all alone, no fan... It was the most horrible experience of my life. Soon I started crying and much later, (I am sure it was just 10-15 minutes since he put me on teh cupborad but to me it felt like 2-3 hours), my uncle came back, toook all sorts of promises from me that I will behave myself, and then only let me down! I dont think I went in that room for the rest of that summer!

One thing we all looked forward to was our daily mango. Everyone in the family was allowed one mango per day. Now u get it during lunch, and you can do whatever you want with it: consume it all then and there or save it til dinner. Mostly we used to have a slice or 2 and then save the rest for after dinner. God only knows how we used to protect our little mango from the prying eyes of those who had already finished theirs!

After dinner, while my grandparents used to retire for bed, the kids and the aunts used to retire in the second bedrrom. Then started the nocturnal activities.... my mother and her sisters played scrabble, while my older cousins chatted or read comics etc, and we just did some tp or were made to sleep off. These people, on the other hand, would continue gossipping late in the night, making tea at odd hours in the morning, and having a ball!
Another event in the family was every saturday evening, when all the distinguished members of my Nanaji's social circle used to come for a game of Cards at our house. The whole house was full of dim lights and soft music, with clicking glasses and tasty savories being passed around. Th grand old uncles and aunties, smoking a cigarette or chewing a pan, elegantly dressed with shiny jewels and flashy accessories... wow! what a scene it was. But ofcourse, none of this was meant for us, for we were all shoved into our bedroom and made to stay there. Still, with one or the other excuse, we sneaked out and tried to peek in his room, and get a taste of their conversation and style! GEtting caught doing that was never pleasant, usually followed by Nani catching hold of us by our ears and marching us back to teh room.

But by far, the most interesting event to happen in the house was.... when people saw a lizard. Now all my aunts and elder cousins were plain cowards when it came to lizards. All they did was run around and scream and shout, pushing each other to drive the damn thing out of the room. And it was during one such chaotic night, that yours truly, all of 3 feet high 5-6 years, was made to stand on the bed with a big long jhaadoo, to drive the lizard away, while all the aunts and sisters and kids stood behind me, shivering! And the brave girl I was, I took upon me the mammoth task, and was successful in drinving the creature away and saving my family! (Actually I could hardly make heads and tails of the situation... I just waved the jhadoo at the thing and she happily crawled out, only to settle in my Nanaji's room next door!) What a moment it was... my moment of glory, when all sighed with relief and declared me hero! I got an extra mango the next day! :)

It used to be quite a sad, as we realised that the day to leave for Delhi is fast approaching. All our energy died down. We lay there like sacks of potatoes, dreading the day we were to pack up and leave. But all good things come to an end, and so did our time in Cal every year. Soon our grandparents shifted back to Delhi. This was good as we could see them much more often now, but it was sad as I never got to see Cal again. I hope, someday, I can go back to that city, travel in the same tram/metro, eat the egg roll from the same shop, rent a video from the library and roam around on that street, where many years ago, I had the time of my life!