Posted in uncategorized

My equation with Bappa


If there is a festival I long it is Ganesh Chaturthi for there is a special bonding with Bappa. Ganpati is not just my favourite God but my friend, guide and philosopher. I am not a religious person and it wouldn’t be wrong to call myself an agnostic but Bappa is a spiritual energy which exudes powerful vibes. Such is the equation and I sense the powerful force visiting during the 11 days festival.

We all have this cool friend with whom we bare the heart out and speaking to Bappa is an elixir of sort. I choose to do the festival for the 11 days at home, lighting the diyas and performing the arati daily without fail and putting the bhajans. It is mostly Hindi film songs and celebrating the might of the elephant God. Ganpati for me is reliving the college days in India where I stayed in Pune and Mumbai.

It’s all about celebrating the power exuded by Ganpati spreading seamless joy. My first tryst with the God was in Pune where music was played by loud and unabated when I first came to the city many moons back with people gyrating to the tune of songs till the wee hours in the morning.

Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi takes me back to the carefree, student days in Pune with the smearing of colours with localites dancing on the road during the visarjan. Many ask me this question why I choose to celebrate when I am a self proclaimed agnostic? Honestly, I have no answer and it’s just my equation with the Lord, pretty much in the same way we would do with friends. Bappa never judge me when I share my deepest worries with him the time he visits for 11 days. I speak to him about what I am going through, the happy moments, personal issues, irritations and anxiety, asking him to show me the way.

We are living in such tough times where travel is almost impossible with the virus and this time I told Bappa to guide me because I am longing to break free. Our friend lets me to be myself and he never disappoints. Bappa is my secret diary with whom I vent out, without caring a hoot for the world.

The only difference is I don’t write but speak to him. I am sure he listens to my heart and the song, hymn inside the heart capturing dreams and emotions. There is immense beauty for I can cry my heart out inner frustration and anger to my favourite friend. I can tell you honestly that Bappa listens to me and he sprinkles blessing.

The year I shifted to Mumbai in 2006 where we all went to the Visarjan with hostel friends at Girgaum Chowpatthy which made it an enthralling experience to cherish for years. We followed the mammoth crowd and felt like we were moving with the invisible flow, at some point moving towards the sea, reaffirming my belief in the Lord. A part of me believes that we got to trust the lord, gently taking us in his midst and to just go with the flow without protest.

I was moving left and right in a jamboree of sort towards the road one moment and the next without realizing the feet just touched the sea water. It’s an experience that I cannot describe in words. I captured the whole experience on my phone but sadly the gadget was stolen. But, there is no hard feeling since the moments are captured in the memoru.

Far away from home in India, I try to relive the moments and make it a point to get the favourite sweets, modak, Karanji which in North India we call Gujiya, mouth watering Gulab Jamun and motichur ladoo for the Lord to bless. We don’t buy the Ganpati Idol to be immersed but in the prayer room, we celebrate his visit in our own and simple way to humbly making the offering which we share with neighbours and friends. I still have my Ganesh idols which I got from India and in this way, I relive the blissful years.

This year has been special to me despite the COVID-19 pandemic where the Lord has blessed me in more than ways and has surprised me with positive vibes.

A reminder to not nurture expectations in life and, a work in progress that I am and to remain humble as we pray to the Lord for blessings. Of course, every Ganpati, the Lord takes me to those days I was visiting Siddhi Vinayak and whispering to his muse, the mouse which feels like yesterday only.

We share a happy space and the guardian angel Siddhi Vinayak has surprised me with my projects landing on my lap in the least expected way, helping me to sail through financially. I am grateful in the way the Lord works when a prayer was made during the years to help me while struggling or for that matter, living on the edge money wise.

Ganpati Bappa Morya.

A free writing prompt on every Sunday and linking to Esha’s blog. I promise to hop on the listed blogs where the aim is to encourage writing and removing the mind’s clutter every week.

Love

V

Posted in uncategorized

How Maximum city faring to silence, emptiness?


Silent lanes, streets, and roads coalescing with humans to scythe into the empty labyrinth.  A toad crawling on space and steps, deserted by humans in making Maximum City its new reclaimed home and encroached like nobody ever did. The mad traffic disappearing in the sudden, vehicles swirling, ambling buses and trains which once made the city and the people run on its toes have gone silent. Horns no longer ok.

The city which thrives on shrilled noises and chaos laden with wearing the pride of sleeplessness on its toes has gone on a deep slumber laden with empty roads and buildings lurking like ghosts. Pigeons and birds flocking, dog squatting on the elongated path, longing for the familiar human faces and voices who stormed routinely in the city. Where have you gone, humans? Who will give us the morsels and sharing your secrets or chasing us away? Friends or foes, we can’t thrive without each other? This tiny biscuit, you humans call it, Parle G, we miss it, and are you still feeding it to this invisible foe called corona or what!

When life once looked like a seamless race and humans jostling for space like scrambled eggs in the Mumbai locals and metro making it a jamboree of sort and festival of buses coupled with yellow-and-black caps wading past skyscrapers and slums to make a city in awe laden with aspirations to make the moolah. Everything just went for a toss.  The empty roads, thick polluted air suddenly turning fresh like dew, birds cooing alone and disappearing lovers making out on Marine Drive where space is luxury like intimacy rightish, often paying hafta and lathi charged. Who to chase now, wondered the cops as they cut lone faces and plodding tiredly on their feet?

The city springing on its toes like a mammoth giant has suddenly lost its voice of chaos, shrill, honks, mad rush and screeching vehicles. How much we rued it and now sorely missing the disappearing voice? When it happened we were told to stay cooped inside our homes for it was a matter of days…it turned into an endless wait, weeks, months and a year when this nameless, invisible virus struck and stung, haunting us endlessly, albeit taking lives ruthlessly. Our tears went unheard and lost. The voices we heard have eluded into a distance and lost forever, to be burned into ashes.

Early morning, sight of rush turned into eerie silence, whisper of local trains sunk into oblivion and excruciating heat means no icy Bisleri under the shade of sprawling Gulmohar trees but the house fan. Tiny and invisible virus, a termite of sort nibbling on us as the thick and familiar stench we hate about in Mumbai percolates past the slums and skyscrapers piercing the nostrils are blown into smithereens. It felt too surreal as we hark back about the movies watched and books read about an invisible foe storming the city.

There is an indelible charm in what we call Maximum City, Amchi Mumbai or City that never sleeps, a place growing on us, making us thrive as we made it our home in no time. It grows like an obsession long after we left the city for every whisper pierced into our self and entrenched into the soul forever. Echoes that splinter into our ears, the local trains rattling, iconic black-and-yellow taxi getting wild like a festive season 24 by 7, aggressive crowd and Arabian sea, sipping cutting chai and smoke, black umbrellas sprouting in the monsoon, or water rising make it a vivid tale to remember. Who said forevers never lasted?

How long can a city like Mumbai wear a silent cloak? The amazing people making the city and lending a sense of belonging to carve an identity, waking up every morning to the brouhaha of the berserk crowd and the excruciating heat, slums and towers live in tales, rattling of trains, black and yellow cabs ambling, college going, the migrant child selling flowers or begging on traffic signal makes what we paint of the city. Mumbai and subdued, albeit in complete silence is hard to fathom. Our kohled fisherwomen putting huge baskets filled with the sea creatures on their heads, and saree knotted till the knee and the dabbawala swiftly moving tiffin inside the trains and outside, running stacks of them on a plyboard to deliver inside homes and offices would put MBA grads to shame. Is this what going on the knee means?

When monsoon and the heinous terrorist attacks didn’t calm the ardor of the city that never slept, a tiny and unseen virus brought a reminder that the spirited has its limit.

I miss the madness, waltzing at attitudinal speed and spotting the crowd, admiring the quirky characters, something not to be missed in the city. It feels to be a part of a 70 mm film, the shady bars in downtown, cutting chai, call women waiting for client-cum-lover in the shady nights and road stall food, the khau gali, where moving at snail pace was once relegated to the impossible. What has changed in a year?

Spotting Mumbai sitting atop of the plane in the thickened and smoky sky watching in delight is what pure magic was and our dock of life, the lifeline of existence meaning our local trains. Many hymns and songs composed on my city and gazing at the sun dripped in half circle and jutted across to my room facing the sea was what pure divine bliss is all about in those times. I remember the days and we would say, stay away from the city and nothing changes when you come back. It sounded romantic to be true. The fast lanes, Queen’s necklace, and plodding on feet in exploring every inch and corner is something many among us rued.

Roads and streets suddenly emptying themselves like deserted nights weren’t imagined even in bewilderment and dreams as we speak about the survival of the fittest in a city marked by off-limits. There won’t be any. Tapoori slang, reading newspaper in cafe or Vada Pav, Pani Puri on streets and at beachside, or sitting in double decker bus admiring chaos, throng of crowd and ambling at pace makes for an exhilarating adventure. One missed the city in lively extravaganza. It can be Not Just Jazz by the Bay, munching into pizza and guzzling King Fisher beer.

Friends shall meet someday but perhaps some company we may miss. This pretty girl you waited by the sea face as she ran behind the BEST bus and you stand with one leg on the staircase and the other on tarred road so that she doesn’t miss the ride could be your DDLJ moment. All you got was a large smile and thank you for slowing the bus for her to storm inside. Not your damsel in distress. I miss all of them. The moments we loved or abhorred, cops chasing us away past midnight, stench or wriggling our way inside the jam packed locals or madness and traffic. A constant reminder about how much those moments matter and still matters to us in Maximum City such that there is no outsider. Silence is deafening and chaos is what we call colorful and vibrant. The street urchin, for we never know, how much they brought a smile to our faces to fill the emptiness or blank spaces, longing for love, not square feet. It can kill or make us languish.

I have left the city a long time back but every moment spent in Amchi Mumbai has stayed with me, being a part of who I am or became, bringing a sense of identity, constantly taught that no struggle is small or overpowering and obstacles overcame at drop of a hat. The whispers still reverberate. Mumbai is always about emotions and Bombay is a city. I missed coming back days before the lockdown was announced last year and often wonder how a city always gaping at chaotic and noisiness can feel under the burden of silence.

PS: The post on what Mumbai must be like in the pandemic times is based on my perception of the city when everything went into silence with the lockdown. I started writing it the past year and forgot about when the second lockdown came to continue the draft. It took a long time and relied on my image experience in the city, lending a visual touch and influenced by a powerful short film link shared above. It touches the heart and is profound.

With Love

V

Posted in uncategorized

Do you miss long walks?


I miss the long walks, sweating out in the sun, and experiencing skin burning sensation. There is something immensely joyful straddling in the city, braving the heat and surrounding by the sea breeze ringing in seamless happiness. By long and elongated walks, I don’t mean running or jogging in the park but exploring places in a big or small city. It brought so much joy to me and left wondering how many among us do still do that.

There is something therapeutic and immensely joyful on walking at length. It brings us close to who we are as individuals and breeding positive thoughts inside the mind, channeling energy or for that matter, baking stories inside the head. I discovered long walks in Pune where often would straddle from Fergusson College towards the end at JM Road, taking turns towards the direction of Karve Road and Prabhat Road. I love the latter because of the shades offered by the trees making it something delightful to do and such places call you regularly. But, looking back, I feel the long steps are such a cakewalk and nothing strenuous about it.

The many later years shifted to Mumbai making Churchgate, most precisely hostel my new home and found bliss in the elongated walks. It became a daily routine. Who needs to shed calories in the gym when you can walk limitlessly without complaining? It makes quite a tale. There is this Facebook Group, Oh! Bombay where unique pictures of Amchi Mumbai are posted and last time I posted a pic on Oval Maidan, the pathway jutting across Rajabhai Tower. I got some interesting comments from people saying how they walked all the way from that point to their workplace at Nariman Point. Of course, the picture was shot many years back but got me thinking about how we walk very little in today’s times.

I remember exploring the city and in particular South Bombay, from Churchgate to Fort, Nariman Point relishing on food in the afternoon, fresh juice and sheera early morning at the array of stalls making it blissful. Not stopping at anything where I could walk from Churchgate to Colaba and VT, viceversa not to forget my favorite Marine Drive towards the end at Nariman Point, trudging on the boulders and watching the city, or to the other end at Chowpatty, crossing the road to Lamington Road and even reached Mumbai Central by foot. Sheer walking madness.

Somehow, I feel that many of us have lost this sheer art of walking which makes us identify with our home or adopted town, Guilty as charged, I have become relatively lazy over time. It’s another tale that I am quite a regular at the park. But, plodding steps aimlessly in a city is quite distinct in an absolutely delectable manner, exploring places that would never probably knew or escaped the mind. It always brought me closer to the vibrant city identity and cultures, be it in Mumbai or Pune.

The many decades have perhaps changed us sitting in the comfort of our homes and in the company of smartphones in lives further complicated by the virus. Perhaps, the time is right to reclaim our space by taking long steps without complaining about tiredness or heat. I never did in those days and there was certain energy drawing me in beating all ailments to death, helping to combat the mental stress or otherwise. We need to reclaim this joy and passion for everything walking to bring not only awareness but a hobby removing the pressure. Just let off everything off our heads and walk the roads, admire the scenery and vehicles. Sadly so, straddling on roads is equal to pressure and a routine blithely ignoring beauty in surroundings. Who knows a novel or stories may manifest on roads in your city or town!

Love

V

Posted in uncategorized

Na bhoolenge, na bhulne denge


Na bhoolenge na bhulne denge,

duniya ke liye shahar hai,

 guroor hai mera,

abhimaan hai,

wajood hai,

jitna jo mujhe diya,

ek hi zindagi mein,

aur kabil bana diya,

yeh hai mera shahar,

tum ussko ghayal karoge,

toh dard mujhe hoga,

khoon se latpat,

woh majboor bachchon ki cheekh,

 parivaar jo toot gayi,

apne desh aur seher ke liye,

nahin sunishayad,

Karma yogis ka balidaan,

woh laashein jo gira,

jaise aam pauda se,

seher lakeerein kheech  ke nahin banate,

hum insaan banate hai,

mehnat aur pyar se,

nahin bhoolenge,

na bhulne denge,

yeh nafrat ki deewar,

jo tune khada kiya,

hum nahin bhoolenge,

aur kissi ko nahin bhulne denge,

khoon jo tune barsaya,

paani ke jaise,

jisne barood  ka sahare liye,

tum insaan nahin kaayar ho,

uss rang ka kya keemat janab,

barson beet gaye,

na woh mera tha,

na tera,

yeh khoon insaan ka,

zindagi kaise patripe aane diya,

khud se pucho,

na bhoolenge,

na bhulne denge,

yeh hamari bhool hai,

kuch log bhool gaye shayad,

nahin bhoolenge,

aaj nahin to kal,

kuch faisle baaki hai,

na bhoolenge,

na bhulne denge,

yeh hai mera Mumbai,

tum kabhi nahin rok sakte.

Mumbai, 26/11.

Love

V

Posted in uncategorized

Fiction: Hostage trail, city’s on edge



Thick air billowed in the Mumbai sky. Burning sensation trickled in the humid air and the usual sweltering afternoon where vehicles ambled slowly in South Bombay. The Jamun trees lingered at one end of the road, juxtaposed towards the gentle, still the Arabian Sea and on the other, sprawling buildings and the luxurious hotel giving an aerial view of the iconic Air India building towards the edge’s end, Nariman Point.

A gunshot was heard from afar provoking chaos, fearing a terrorist attack in the city. Commuters at Churchgate station ran in the opposite and aimless direction for their lives where some jumped off the locals stationed and jettisoning off the platform, jutting across the busy road, sweating blood.

The police vans and beat marshalls screeched at the altar, surveying the road and careful not to raise an alarm to provoke panic in the city. Persistent gunshots splayed and deafened eardrums. Who was doing that! The new Chief Minister held meetings in his plush office at Nariman Point and running against time in his official car, swirling past the crazy traffic towards Matoshree in Dadar and back to South Bombay. OB Vans were stationed and cameras stayed put to relay TRP to TV channels on the move, updating breaking news on the unnamed and invisible foes threatening the country, clamoring about the city assailed by conspiring powers after a decade. After all, who was behind the mayhem? Another enthusiastic TV channel broke the news on a UFO sashaying in the island city and bringing everyone on its toes.

The loudspeakers thronged to occupy space in front of the residential buildings and advised occupants not to step out because of the danger lurking where cops are pulling all strings to protect the people. A loud thunder bulged the sky and cloud menacing the inhabitants, slowly breaking the particle of heat and a sudden outburst of rain wrecked at a frenetic pace. Heat has suddenly subsided, relieving the burning skins to beat the scorching sun and water freckled at the range of arrow shots resembling the Ramayana epic battle.

A giant step moved the sky and taking the form of a thick mound straddling, forming a thick foam encircling the creamy layers percolating the cloud. Dark and grey mist moving in human form and shadow lurking behind, turning into the blue Neelkant sent a tizzy on the ground and blizzard to human eyes, tears percolating on cheeks. Burning sensation felt as a commotion made of human masses ambled chaotically on the streets. The lal batti cars stormed past the vehicles taking a serpentine form on busy road and street, suddenly turned empty seeking refuge inside homes. Gun aim was taken towards the menacing sky.  Don’t shoot recklessly only focus, was the high command’s order.

The terror threat was brushed aside in Maximum City. The TV channels didn’t pay heed and announced a huge terror hijacking the city. The fight between the cops’ eyes darting like a radar against the menace in the sky continued uninterrupted for hours when darkness encapsulated the sky. The city slowly subsided into silence and a far cry from the hustle-bustle of Mumbai. Thunder unleashed at midnight and flood captured every inch and space, rising at sea level, road and buildings washed ashore. Day’s chaos turned into a seastorm at night’s fall.

Siren wailed early morning. Sleep was furtively put at an end during the early 4 a.m. Local trains stationed inside moved and slowly rattled within distance on the railway track signaling the mundane early morning activity.  Red buses and black-and-yellow cabs slowly moved as fritters, Vada Pav, tea sellers lingered on both sides of the road to quench thirst and hunger of early revelers. A body drenched in blood was slowly lifted by the huge crane from inside the Arabian Sea where the lifeless body reeked of alcohol and tobacco stench. Forensic experts, police commissioner and the Chief Minister flocked to the spot and exuded a triumph of victory for saving the city and sinking in the ingenuity of beating TV channels, scribes and news reporters to conceal news of the day.

The man who brought the city to a halt for days, weeks and months after killing mercilessly and blood-soaked letters which were written all over the decrepit wall was finally dead. The Beer Man’s body floated and choked. Later, news splashed all over TV channels with expert panels, raising questions on the fate of beer man and questioning the system for violating human rights, unfolding the veiled of the conspiracy helmed by cops of taking their duties too far.  Who killed Beer Man, they asked? No one knew who killed the murderer. Mumbai police were clueless so were investigative journalists. The city stopped living in fear of the dreaded killer and civilians didn’t give a hoot on his murderer.

 

Love

V

Posted in uncategorized

Day 32: Attached to love and a city!


Something brewing in my mind! Slap silly mind in jest! Brush the alcohol effect maketh the mind wondering, hitting an emotional high and transported into the world of surreal…love shuv, emotional fire and romance of illusion. Where’s the pretty girl, I wonder!  My heart goes cuckoo. Who makes the mind go topsy turvy! The relations we make and ideas flickering inside the head!

Attachment is a bitch, I tell you! We cling to love, the emotional sucker that we become and flitting to the past…read Bombay the emotions and city bang bang, Mumbai seeping into the soul. I can never live without the city, the rains sputtering and crowd going berserk, wind tracing emotions to be flung at Marine Drive, the local trains or life left behind. I am stuck into the past that chains me to its womb. Days of yore taking a lone walk in the city, longing for the perfume of nonveg food, cutting chai or bun maska at midnight right at Churchgate Station. Hell to the heart that cries and longing for impossible in rewind.

Bade Miyan at Colaba, Baghdadi beef fry with flat and jumbo naan to quench the stomach’s thirst or beer flowing at Leopold or Cafe Monde! Sports Express Bar, I heard it’s closed and confined to relics. I love wading past the hawkers selling fake Gucci and the unbranded, that wristwatch flapping open and close, someone asked me to change the model since her Dad didn’t like the gift Man! I bartered with the dude, maskaoing him to change and he did! It felt like a triumph to woo the lady who almost chucked me outta her life. Mumbai is an obsession for me when I ain’t in the city! The cane juice cooling the heels at every nook-and-city corner! Alcohol doing things to me and making me go berserk right now.

In the name of Maximum City, I said cheerz to Kingfisher beer and now staring at the Bombay Saphire Gin…everything amchi Mumbai and Good ole’ Bombay makes me wild, the past flashing right in front of the nose. The trips at the now-closed Planet M and Groove music shop at Churchgate, making me flaneur incarnate, walking aimlessly for a fag, I crave for alcohol, longing for a fling! Imagination is an ejaculation! The stench wafting through the air in an odorless city that can claim no place in the cramped space and pace, occupied by sweating bees, we call humans.

Stinking men and women! No world big enough to run for peddlers and pimps to make a living in a city called Maximum. Everything comes at a price where migrant workers with tinsel town dreams run the risk of being thrashed for being labeled as Bhaiya by the manoos! The ones who shall not be named! Filmstars spotted in South Bombay! Are they real! Doe-eyed babe coyly hiding her face on a double-decker bus on spotted and clicked by fans, upcoming female star having coffee in the sweltering afternoon with Parsi family, far away from the gaze! The perils of being infamously famous.

 

Love

V

Posted in uncategorized

Celebrating music and glory of Ganesha


Fervor of the past,

sprouted and anchored in the cultural roots,

vivid imagery translated in the present,

the people’s favorite elephant trunk God sashays,

a cute and innocent child to many,

showering blessings,

sashaying with giant stride,

devotees swirling to music and glory,

chchanting his name,

Ganpati Bappa Morya,

days and hours toiled,

crafting earth shaped icons,

the God staying in our hearts,

brimming with excitement,

11 days of madness,

beating drums,

the glittering face of the Lord,

we waited impatiently,

for blessings,

pleading for prosperity, happiness and abundance,

our woes forgotten,

for only the Lord matters,

believers and non-believers,

decked into new clothes and moving enthusiastically,

in reverence to the Lord,

Ganesha is about Modak,

sweets and savories,

we may have moved shores,

our memories become vibrant in cities we reside,

Mumbai and Pune,

celebrating with fanfare and seamless spirit,

street and roads occupied,

pocked with crowd as Ganesha stands tall and majestic,

colors sprinkled,

bowing to the Lord,

garlanded with flowers.

 

Ganesh Chaturchiya Hardik Subhecha

 

Love

V

 

 

Posted in uncategorized

Maximum City: Where dreams are bred!


Stillness at night’s crepuscule! Loneliness is beauty. Companionship and peace fulfilled in a sleepless city where hope stands unshaken, Dotted stars and chasing flies sitting on the parapet. The divine and majestic beauty surrounding the Queen’s Necklace engulfed my soul.  Romanticism of couplet manifesting in an influx mind, pretty much like the populace. Dreams are bred in Maximum City.

Tinsel hope. I strode at slow pace. Gentle breeze simpered and traversing oceans. Throwing tiny pebbles into the water. Embracing the wind and thrusting arms wide open, holding the city tight. Love is the only constant. Unquenched thirst is liberating and completes the lost individual. Flawless moon, a flick of charm for the battered, victorious, unsung heroes and newbies. The city takes everyone in its womb. Mumbra Devi, Mumbai City!

A fascinating and routine night tale. A vagabond caught in its own world and a reverie unshattered by love interest, heartbreaks and unquenched thirst of romance yet I flirted every night with the city when chaos reigned supreme. An ever-moving tale knotted and what it took was a simple leap of faith crossing seas, intermingling with beads and sweat in the madness, constantly on the edge and cherishing self companionship.

Madness of falling in love, tasting the forbidden fruit where some call it need! Love was ultimately going to happen and perhaps the subconscious mind prayed to the tiny stars, the speckle ensconced in the sea, flowing and conjuring surprises. Ultimate break up and sob stories of unrequited love adorn the Mumbai days, stripping love of the necklace at night.

Tonga ride and horse trotted at snail pace. Lovers’ stealing a moment inside the nest. My eyes darted and roved at the impossibilities on Marine Drive where not a single reason exists for maximum happiness. A child’s somersault and regaling the audience to quench hunger! How many empty stomachs! Perhaps, no damn is given. Night roaming. I have the skies, stars and vastness of the sea for company. My senses are excited and belonging to the towering city offering mirage and realism in unequal…the undisputed crowned Queen surrounded by the horde of admirers, the bevy of people residing in the city. I lit a cigarette and crossed the road hastily, walking back to sleep. The train whistles and honking still enraptures the mind.

 

V

Posted in uncategorized

Remembering VG Siddhartha: A lot happened…at CCD


Sweltering Pune summer of 2003. Youngish 20 something explored the first days in the city, student life ever ready to unravel, traveling in rickshaw to and fro, from the PG at Aundh to Fergusson College (FC) Road that cost a bomb. Zigzagging in the city which embraced me with open arms and disoriented, unsettled a bit, lost as I may seem. Variegated thoughts verging between excitement and anticipation, a chick showed me around the city and we met at the coffee shop. First visit was a taste of glamor.

The tag line read: A lot can happen over coffee. Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) over the years became a well-nurtured dream for the young generation of Indians, uber-cool and college-going crowd stealing a kiss and admiring female beauties thronging as cool music played in exchange for cold coffee.

Arab Iced Eskimo was the first coffee sipped at Barista! The state of art and deco was the real winner, easy-going and chilled college crowd yelling and breaking into laughter, without damn care for the world. That was my first tryst with Pune and CCD represented the aspirations of a young India, that was in flux post the aspirations of consumerism of the 90s economic liberalization. The man who sold a niche coffee dream to Indian, thousands and millions, VG Siddhartha who allegedly committed suicide this week and broke the hearts of many. There is not one moment of joy he gave to us but so many as we spent times with friends at CCD.

Wanna spot a crush or ask a girl out! CCD was the place and easily accessible as a Fergussonian for it was just down the road. Perhaps, a post won’t be enough to pay tribute to the dreams that we may not have thought about but a creative concept he created over the years and sense of identity among college crowd spanning across generations. We all have our CCD stories. Mine traveled from Pune to Mumbai. A stop at Pune station’s CCD waiting for the next train. Sit alone, ask for coffee and blow the smoke outside for who knows and how one can get lucky when eyes may be met with a damsel.

CCD at Pune Central.

CCD celebrates friendship, dating, love and romance. Initial days of swooned over, the music and what was not just ambiance but celebrating youth anthem in this refined coffee culture and basking in luxury that spared none of the easy-going dudes and babes.  One couldn’t stay away from the madness of Cafe Coffee Day, the vibrant crowd bustling and bonding, glamor wearing its USP on the sleeve. I loved sitting upstairs and watching the bustling FC Road from the glass panel. The initial days of CCD waned away and shifted to Barista housed adjacent since we were allowed to blow curled ring smoke.

The perks at CCD remain the free party tickets distributed for free and at times, studying for exams, gulping iced coffee preferred over hot Capuccino. When I shifted to a new flat, a group of us during the evening at the Law College Road outlet to meet the female friends. Hugging and charming conversation, the dudes sneaked outside letting the chicks having a hen kinda party. Squatting on the floor and back fixed on CCD’s wall, boozing in hiding and singing on the road. Many years later when I came back to India, hanged out with M a couple of times at different CCDs in the city. Harking back to the past, I vividly remember one Saturday evening, encountered K my crush in those days with her gang and flowered her with compliments. She was wearing a saree and was just standing outside CCD. To tell, the odds of spotting someone outside the brand coffee outlet and there is always a chance of someone meeting someone.

I had a blind date, fixed by a friend during a Mumbai trip at CCD in Dadar nestled outside the station and made few silly jokes over coffee, turning the tagline into cliche for nothing ever happened. When I shifted to Mumbai, CCD at Juhu Chowpatty was the place, I would regularly trip over alone and sat there to study for my Masters exams, sitting smoking and admiring the sea.

CCD offered an identity of being young in India, affording space in a cramped city like Mumbai where roof is the raw and real deal. The barista once shared how Kareena Kapoor would sashay in the evening and sweetly entertain the staff with autographs, made interesting anecdotes. Of course, going back to Pune, a very awkward and embarassing incident still sends a chill down the spine, the beans cannot be spilled. I simply owe my coffee shop addiction to the curated CCD, the concept in itself, making reading and coffee, a uniquely enthralling experience, something can’t do away with the regular weekly trips till now.

On the eve of India’s departure, I spent some time with M at CCD, clicking each other’s pictures on the Kodak camera as we sat for coffee and chatting about every single thing. The moments shall be entrenched in our memories forever as the parting gift that felt like yesterday. There is a story in the final year when I didn’t set foot in CCD for a string of months after this super embarrassing and hard to say who was the victim me or the stranger.

An early tryst of CCD was at Aundh and the first PG I stayed at Goodwill Housing Society, wooed by Ozone mall and the tiny place for a quick iced coffee to beat the heat and boring day to death. It makes for an interesting walk to the mall, spacious and open, shopping for stuff inside, sipping coffee and watching kids delighted playing outside under the watchful gaze of parents. CCD is about pleasure activities.

 

The college bum B skipped work and we drove on his bike from FC Road to Karve Road when he took me to the bank. No success! Money not in. He took a quick detour to be avoided from being seen by office people and we landed again at FC Road. This time at CCD! It’s quite surprising since in those days, we hardly hang out there. Our den was Savera. We were in for some delightful moments as a newly designed CCD greeting us grandly and the open space as we slouched on the couch gulping coffee with huge door jutting towards the road. Yes! Smokers were allowed downstairs. When you don’t have money, friends settle in and truly a lot can happen over coffee.

Tragic that the founder and brain of CCD VG Siddhartha ended tragically. He gave joy in abundance to thousands and millions in this coffee abode and the man’s soul will loom large. Perhaps, newbies may be unaware of Siddhartha and his out of world concept. The show must go on. Post his death, it’s been business as usual with the crowd teeming around, laughs, first date and a kiss! Couples may have courted, and will lead to a harmless fling, serious relationship and marriage. A thought to the coffee conoisseur. Hope the truth will triumph on what led to his ‘death’ and gen next are educated on this success story displayed in CCD. A lot happened…coffee or not! I take a bow, Sir! An adda for so many!

 

Love

V

 

 

 

 

Posted in uncategorized

Day 26: Mumbai diary-Shooting the moon


Bombay is a city. Mumbai is countless emotions, tall buildings, frenetic pace! How cliche! Cliche is beauty like pigeons flock swarming above the sea edge, beaches and people wading in and out, hymning a new tune, happiness, anger and struggle!

The gentle and silent night, burst of breeze and wind skirting past the sea, heat belching to cake the face,  running a sensation of thickness past the Arabian Sea juxtaposed between the monuments and buildings splayed, horns ok of black and yellow cabs, red buses ambling as slums stares with silent eyes, wide and open.

Rattling of trains and whistles purrs like the fat cat whining, conmuters scampering in the hustle and bustle. Chaos has a name, Mumbai local. A city of the impossible. Every step taken is worth money.  Grabbing a Vada Pav and cutting chai quenches thirst and hunger, counters the cornucopia of wealth flicked on the face.

Silent nights compensate for the day’s struggle as one sits on the cusp chasing flies and watching the water slowing unlike life in Maximum City. Lighting a smoke and the company of cheap rum soothes the spirit, watching revelers hanging out at the parapet. A long journey may never end nor the night provides closure for a restless mind wandering to make the moolah. Living on the edge and constant worry of homelessness, uninvited monsoon washes not just our deep worries but an entire city riding against the tide of uncertainty, running aimlessly and shooting the moon. Struggle is another name for Mumbai.

When pressure cooker whistle disappears like the train whistle, the difference about two worlds, slums and high rises fade away. A cab driver heckled out and slapped for daring to enter the city as saffron flags threaten an eco system, of inclusive Bombay vs fast Mumbai.

Yet, another day triumphs when the sun rises for the commoners. United the people are and we call it the resilience residing in the world of extremities. A beggar child at the traffic signal and a scarred, wrinkled young woman decked in a cheap saree squatting on the floor begging for milk to feed the urchin, yowling for small mercies reminds us that as ruthless as Mumbai may be, hope hanging on a thread can never be wiped off.

A random child singing nasal in the local, wiping the train’s floor and selling handkerchief to commuters hoping for a single coin as a bridge collapses right under the face, blood-smeared like paan stains and lives lost in the chaotic, flesh twirls into a spin. Every second matter.