Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Spirit of Mumbai – Part II (The Sea)

The sea
(Photos coming soon....)
Hari still remembers distinctly, that day imbibed so strongly in his memories, rather, that evening though he would go to any extent to jettison these sweet recollections. Not because he was afraid or because the nostalgia inflicted pain; he had buried it long back and had moved on, but…but that very evening was something else, it was an oddity in his erstwhile colourless life.

Hari gets high very easily and every time we are on Marine Drive after a session with the bottle bundled with head banging at the ‘Jazz By the Bay’, it requires very less prodding, provoking and nagging to get that detailed technicolor story out of Hari; the story that still gives him that tingling feeling, still brings forth the sweat of nervousness though today he stands to be the
Best Regards,
Manager, Marketing…
of one of the most competitive firms.

Almost after a decade, 10 years post that evening, down with a couple of pegs of ‘Royal Stag’ and elevated by the flashback I had managed to provoked, I hear the same experience yet all over again – alcohol can work wonders
‘Kaun kambakht gum bhoolane ke liye peeta hai,
hum to peete hain ke nashe me kahin unka deedar hi ho jaaye'

I know all of it much before he starts but his recollections are fun!! He blurts "Saala sab badal gaya hai, every f**king thing has changed. You remember what paploos, pyjama chhaps we were during college days – Shakal ke bhooke, akkal ke bhooke, har cheez ke bhooke (This was a dialogue from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, one of our favorite movies)".

I act pissed off and say "Lukkhe, tereko chhad gayi, you are drunk; what I am asking and what you are saying. If you can’t take it, why do you drink?"

"Lukkha tera baap!", he retorts, hicks "Yes, I am coming to your point you jerk, you get enjoyment out of it, isn’t it? No she’s not in touch, why should she be? Why should she call? Rachu and I parted almost 9 years back, how time passes". Her name was Rachna. "Arre, you toh know, we were together only for about a year. Saala, I know what you want to hear, you dumb fucker! I really don’t know how I managed it or how Sandy managed it, but thanks to you guys yaar for all you did for me". Sandy had fixed up the dreaded romantic date between the two. These two, Hari and Rachna were no match, Violet and Red, the two extremes of the rainbow who needed all the yellows and oranges and indigo to bring them together.

Rachna, a pakka tomboy, verily insouciant, wore shorts, wore bathroom slippers to college, smoked filter less Charminaars – don’t get them here, in the US of white skinned Arses, she wrote to us; she’s settled there now with her husband (I feel like a lesbian with this jerk yaar, she wrote after she got there) and is the mother of 2 brown kids (my kids friends ogle at them as if they were 2 brown chicks in a storks nest, the jerks, she wrote).
Hari was the boring intellectual, not your regular kitaabi keeda, but born with that irritating intelligence, that know all ability, who knew why gravity existed, why India should go nuclear, why water had 2 molecules of hydrogen and 1 of oxygen and why and how the molecules mated. However, matters didn’t rest there; the guy had a heart too!! And it palpitated for Rachna!! Well, that’s enough of a descriptive, let’s not get into the pre-event and cut to the scene…

"We were sitting there, arre where is Marine Plaza, there it is, we were sitting there", he pointed. "The Queens face was lost somewhere in the darkness of the sea, Rachu and I became a part of her body, two small negligible moles on her neck. All that shone in the darkness of the night and in the brightness of the moonlight was the Queens necklace, a pride that the she, Mumbai adorned every single night. Rachu was wearing light blue jeans, torn at the knee on one leg, the cloth in shreds at her heels, she was wearing one of those green and white Action sports shoes. She had on her a plain white linen T-shirt with a little ship sailing across her stomach. Like the wind-cock, her unkempt hair swayed and showed the direction of the wind. She looked pretty yaar, very pretty!!"
I could see it in his eyes that he was already there; sailing on Rachu’s little ship, far away on the waves of that evening of his erstwhile boring life. His gaze was transfixed at the horizon, at the twinkling ships in the distance but he wasn’t looking.
He resumed with a contorted face, "Saala sa badal gaya hai. This marketing job has changed me. Today I use and abuse my clients, my team, my wife, my kids; but that day….that day I was nearly shitting in my pants out of fear and nervousness. I felt like disappearing somehow and relieving myself somewhere hidden between the tetra pads."
"Ya, and plunge into the sea to wash your arse, right", I interrupted.
"Chhup be ch**ye", he jabbed and then "Saayng" his shouted breaking the reverie, startling me. "Ka ho, kaisan ba", he mocked the young bhaiya "Do paach ka de". The chap made two small long conical jokers hats and filled them with handful of groundnuts baked in the sand. "Saala sab badal gaya hai! Earlier, we used to get this quantity in 1 Re, now the bugger charges 5", he said. Not satisfied with the groundnuts, he made that disrespectful longish sound which is the trademark of every Mumbaikar, "Pooonch", as if calling a dog. "Want some coffee??" he asked as I removed my pack of cigarettes offering him one. It was 2 in the night and the place was swarming with activity as if this was the last living day on earth. Another bhaiyaji had responded to his call and as he brought his cycle closer to us, Hari said "Chotte do coffee bana, tabiyat se banana". This chotte happened to be a fully grown man (WARNING: Alcohol gives you an impaired vision) who had at the least put 40 years behind him, wearing a lungi and a baniyan and an unshaven chin. The bhaiyaji didn’t react, put his cycle on it’s stand, poured milk from the small steel container balanced and tied down to his carrier into two tiny plastic cups without handles, coffee powder already being present in the cups.

When the bhaiyaji was gone, he continued "I didn’t know what to say, twitching and being tormented by myself, by her, by the whole world; I didn’t have the courage to glance at her, I was sweating like hell. The only thing that held me in place was the calmness of the sea, it's waves waving and ensuring that this feeling, this absurd feeling was just normal!! Rachu was as indifferent as always, in fact she was the one who broke the ice, she said "Bol" and I quivered "Kya bolu" and she said "Mind if I smoke" and I wanted to say "Please don’t" but ended up saying "Yes" and she said "So mind!!" and coolly brought out her pack of Charminars….saali adiyal!!". "Yaar, why do you drink Royal Stag, bloody chaprasi, you should drink single malt, it’s….."

Where did Royal Stag and single malt come from?? Well, what happened later, I know and you don’t need to; but Hari says when he finally managed to pop the question, it started to RAIN!!

But then, this isn’t just the story of Hari and Rachna, the sea reverberates similar tales of the thousands of love hungry, high on testosterone couples, the righteous rebels of the city, the keepers of faith in that word called ‘LOVE’. The euphoric dance of the sea, the symphonic orchestration of the waves lends them an outlet to emote, to sing their songs without fear, gives them that inexplicable strength in the heart, coaxing them, cajoling them to keep the romance alive at least at that tender, confusing and insouciant age of helplessness. The quite and secretive exchange of the waves and the stars at the horizon, the gentle breeze, the glancing into nothingness infuses that tingling happy feeling deep in the pit of the stomach. The sea has witnessed the swaying of lovingly held hands, many a promises made, many vows broken, many a tear drop being shed on its wet face.

Be it the open stage of the Marine Drive or the Worli sea face, or the hideous rocks of Bandstand, Mumbai’s sea has cuddled and sang lullabies to the city’s love birds, lust birds. It has seen them kissing and hugging even on the hottest summer afternoon and it has seen them deceitfully compromising under one umbrella, soaked and shivering in the silvery wet torrents of the skies. Mumbai’s sea has gleamed at the row of couples sitting only a few feet apart, oblivious to and unperturbed by worldly worries. It has felt shame when the unending game of the eyes and heart, the reverie being broken unceremoniously by the frightening chorus of “Eh Raju, dus rupya de re, teri shaadi ho, bache ho…..” from the chakkas or the disturbing “ Saheb bhookh lagi hai, paanch rupya do babu, wada paav khaana hai” from the numerous beggars or the bullying “Chala chala nighaa, ghari jaa…eh kya karta hai idhar, andar daalu kya, baap ko bolu kya” from the mamas.

And the sea, the Arabian Sea isn’t a relief only for the couples; Mumbai belongs to the sea and the sea belongs to Mumbai; and why not?? It is the sea that brought the city to existence. The present day city was built on what was originally an archipelago of seven islands of Bombay Island, Parel, Mazagaon, Mahim, Colaba, Worli, and Old Woman's Island (also known as Little Colaba). The islands were coalesced into a single landmass by the Hornby Vellard engineering project in 1784. By 1000 BCE, the region was heavily involved in seaborne commerce with Egypt and Persia (Source: Wikipedia). The Gateway of India, erected to commemorate the landing on the Apollo Bunder of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary when they visited India in 1911 and overlooking the sea, the Taj Hotel are the city’s biggest tourist attractions. The city boasts of a mosque and durgah in the middle of its sea, Haji Ali, off the coast of Worli. A ferry ride on the sea from Gateway takes you to a getaway, Mandwa, Alibaug, made famous by Amitabh Bachan as Vijay Dinnanath Chauhanpura naam, haaain – in the movie Agneepath

The Kolis were the first inhabitants of this island. The sea is worshipped during Nariyal Purnima. On this day, an offering of a coconut (naral in Marathi) is made to the sea, as a mark of respect to Lord Varuna, the God of the Sea. Narali Purnima marks the beginning of the fishing season and the fishermen, who depend on the sea for a living, make an offering to Lord Varuna so that they can reap bountiful fish from the sea.
            You should see the sea come alive to the cutest of all Gods, Lord Ganesha during visarjan time - thousands of happy and dancing devotees, raths, taals and dholaks, nasik band, shlokas, mantras and the sweet aartis, the pinkish orangish gulaal floating in the air everywhere, colourful faces, no religion, no differences, the huge huge idols of the Lord -  as we bid farewell to the Lord and the sea carries his home, only to return the next year with more pomp and celebration.


Sipping on hot coffee from the mobile coffee wallahs, slurping on kulfis or faloodas, taking turns to sink your teeth into the charcoal cooked, mirchi laden makka (corn) – “bhaiya thoda aur nimbu lagaana”, eating hot bhajiyas and pakodas, or satiating on chana jor garams or teekha bhels or simply sipping on coconut water by the sea and guffawing with your college pals or having some rubbish thoughtful intellectual life talks or just walking hand in hand, swearing, making jeene marne ki kasme or just taking that boat ride to change your point of view, our sea is our pride, our glory.

We may not religiously pay a visit to the sea everyday, but there would not be a single Mumbaikar who hasn’t had the pleasure of having a rendezvous with the creator of this city.
Well, by the way, Hari swore that he wasn’t aroused when the two of them were soaked, "true love" he said, but Rachna’s version claimed that he couldn’t get his eyes off…...!! That year, the lagaan guys didn’t call the rains, Hari did!!

Places in Mumbai where you get a glimpse of the sea:
  • Gateway of India, Apollo Bunder
  • Marine Drive
  • Worli sea face
  • Bandstand, Bandra
  • Juhu Beach
  • Girgaum Chowpatti
  • Haji Ali
  • Gorai Beach
  • Arnala Beach
  • Aksa Beach
  • Versova
  • Madh Island
  • Manori Beach
  • Marve Beach
  • Sewri Jetty

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Spirit of Mumbai - Part I

It’s raining heavily and these are not the pre-monsoon showers. The monsoons have finally arrived after a long hiatus. Even the growling and deafening thunders are unable to scare the kids as they splash and soil each other. What a contrast, when the sky turns gloomy, its happier time for the earthlings.

Listening to the roar from the murky clouds and watching the canvas gradually changing, I go into that contemplative mood which is enhanced and influenced by a cup of steaming hot coffee and my hands stretched through the grill on my window to feel the drops of rain. Watching the children play in the hastily built up puddles and the amazingly hurried spread of green everywhere, what better could I think of than the long hovering thought of what keeps this city happy, always on its feet through the best and the worst??

Mumbai!! Mumbai (though I still like Bombay better), the city whose belly is increasing by the day, with hordes of arrivals and almost no departures; much sooner than later will this once lean, handsome and glamorous city, now grown into that middle aged pot bellied clerk of a city burst its boundaries.

So why do I love this city and why do the thousands having home here do?? Unfortunately I was not born in this city, but have spent my whole life in its arms since childhood. Do I love it because the city is all I have always seen and felt, or because unknowingly it has been my first preceptor for the lesson of life, maybe because I have seen the city, heard the city change through its thousand faces, the journey of expressions that never ceases to exhaust?

Life In The Fast Lane

If I happen to compare the city with my hometown (parents town), Kolkata, a sarcastic smile appears at the foolishness of the attempt. Buying a cigarette at the local shops in Kolkata would take you at least 5 minutes with repeated reminders to the old shopkeeper in his lungi and baniyan or gamcha as he convincingly ignores you and resolutely carries on with his irritable and useless talk of politics with his few other, ‘nothing to do’ers’. If you hand him a 100 rupee note, he will abuse you, if you hand him a 500 rupee note, maybe he will come after you with a stick.           Drop the curtain and raise it here in Mumbai, where the annas, chachas, bhaiyajis and maharajs juggle with at least 20 odd brands of not only cigarettes but your Goas and patakka biddis and dhana daals and Milan supaaris; efficiently managing the calcuttas and banarasis. They know you by your faces and before you have your hands in your pockets to get the chillar out; your order has been delivered. Even with 10-15 customers at the same time, they patiently go through the ordeal like the most adept of jugglers. Our shopkeepers don’t go for their evening naps, closing their shops the entire afternoon, bringing the city to a standstill. There is no time to waste in Mumbai.

We get up in the morning and hurry to catch probably the same train we take every day. We work; sometimes have a good day, sometimes bad but that doesn’t deter us from worrying about the train back home. Being able to get in the train is an achievement, being able to grab a seat is a blessing, reaching home safely to see your family after precariously balancing and juggling through numerous trains, buses, rickshaws and various other modes of transport signifies a successful day!! The city doesn’t give you time to think. Forget thinking about your life, forget thinking about that blissful state and about Nirvana; if you can eat your dinner, watch a bit of TV, have a quick round of sex and sleep to get up early the next day, you are lucky. Most would say that this is a disgusting way to live life, but Mumbaikars believe in living for the moment, accepting and doing the best of what is available. WE ARE LIKE THIS ONLY!! We go by the Johnie Walker tagline ‘KEEP WALKING’!!

idhar daud hai, udhar daud hai, ye jina yaaro daud hai
koyi aage hai, koyi pichhe hai, bas bhaagam-bhaag hai daud hai
paison ki hai daud kahin, pyaar ke pichhe daud kahin
daud…danaadan daud

duniya hai divaani kaisi hai bechaini
har koyi to kuchh na kuchh chakkar mein hai
jaise chuunti ka dil saara shakkar mein hai
daud…danaadan daud

…..to be continued

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bideshini - A song by Tagore

No this blog isn't about chai, it isn't about Mumbai as well...funny!!
Well, have been thinking and thinking about that precious perfect blog about Mumbai, but the wait has been too long and no breathtaking thought has come my way, so chai?? Baarish ka season hai, kettli pe rakha hai, Parle G kharidke rakha hai...thoda aur intezaar!! and Mumbai?? always in my heart, bas thoda upar dimaag me aana baaki hai!!

Cleaning my shelf, I happened to chance upon the DVD of Charulata, a Bengali classic by Satyajit Ray. I love the movie and the simplicity, sutleness and depth of the charachters in the divine direction of the great stalwart. But this article is about a song in the movie by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore....have been hearing the song almost everyday since then, just fell in love with the melody of the music and innocence of the lyrics.

Ami chini go chini tomare o go bideshini
Tumi thaako shindhu paare o go bideshini

Tomay Dekhechi sharodo-praate
Tomay Dekhechi madhobi-raate
Tomay Dekhechi hride majhare
O go videshini

Ami aakashe patiya kaan
Sunechi sunechi tomare gaan
Ami tomare sopechi praan
O go videshini

Bhubhon bhramiya sheshe
Ami ayeshechi nooton deshe
Ami otithi tomare daare
O go videshini

Ami chini go chini tomare
O go videshini.

Here is a simple translation of this beautiful song!!

I know you, I recognise you, oh foreign lady
You stay far, across the Sindhu (Indus), oh foreign lady

 I have seen you in the autumnal morning,
I have seen you in the sweet, intoxicating night,
I have seen you deep in the bottom of my heart
Oh lady of the foreign land

 With my ears glued to the sky,
I have heard, I have heard only your songs,
I have handed my life in your hands,
Oh foreign lady

 At the end of my journey around the world,
I have come to a completely new country,
I am a guest at your gates,
Oh lady of the foreign land....

 I know you, I recognise you, oh foreign lady
You stay far, across the Sindhu, oh foreign lady

I cannot resist myself giving MY interpretation of this innocent and beautiful lyrical. So this is my take on the song, here it goes...

I feel Tagore has written this as an ode to the Goddess. The 'bideshini' in this song is none other than the beautiful, caring and mighty Goddess. He expresses that he knows this sweet mother in every form and can see Her everywhere. Though She stays far away from us mortals (across the Sindhu), She is omnipresent.

Tagore sees Her, feels Her presence in the cool and serene autumnal mornings, he sees Her in the darkness of the night too, he sees Her presence in the deepest core of his heart (As they say, God resides in every heart).

The poet listens to the sounds of the skies with keen attention, in the sounds he can hear the beautiful poetic composition and songs of the divine. Tagore says that he has devoted, surrendered himself completely to the Supreme Being.

He says that at the end of his journey - the journey of life, being in and experiencing different people and countries, he has now finally arrived at the gates of Heaven, a completely new land, the Mothers country.

Maybe Tagore wants to convey the common folly of us mortals who perceive that God is far away from us whereas he is present everywhere and resides in our heart....we just need to KNOW and REALIZE!!