Stop this refrain, The spirit or resilience of Mumbai!


 

The character and space of Mumbai change every nano-second.  As a city, Mumbai is constantly on its toes and access to basic and solid ground infrastructure should be the topmost priority when we look at the growing number of commuters in lakhs that occupy every limit and space or the lifeline, local trains.

The stampede and near collapse of the 11 meter wide Elphinstone bridge on Friday leave us with a sense of déjà-vu in Maximum City and something many of us who ever stayed in the city was sensing to come. Unfortunately, tragedy struck where 22 innocent lives were robbed.

Studies showcase that on an average more than one lakh use the 117-year old bridge and the average commuters visiting the Elphinstone area amounts to 10 lakhs a day. The numbers tell an entire story on the toll that the bridge takes and it’s not an issue restricted to just one but several stations in the city. It’s apathy at its best where several railways suffer from such a burden.

 

Image credit: Google/http://www.onlinereporter.in

 

The fact remains that thousands and lakhs flock to the city every day in search of a better life and opportunity. High time for the BMC and the Government to answer the pressing questions on the why’s of a city that once aspired to become the Shanghai of India is suffering from a dearth of safe infrastructure. The answer doesn’t lie in the 3,600 crores Shivaji Maharaj statue. Mumbai as a city in spirit and soul need basic infrastructure and amenities so that the people and visitors can securely move around from one part to another.

In the light of incidents taking place such as the crumbling of railway infrastructure or the city coming down to its knees every monsoon, arguments such as The Spirit or resilience of Mumbai is almost an insult to commoners. It’s high time that the BMC show accountability in giving its citizens a dignified life. One cannot afford to lose life in exchange for a compensation of 5 lakhs. It’s a slap on the face of innocent people. It makes one wonder, what is the fault of the people?

The time I stayed in the city, there were instances where I walked past the Elphinstone bridge and every time there was a fear that mayhem will strike due to the lack of space and inability to sustain the growing population pressure. Let me give one small example, every time a local reaches platform No 1, commuters jostle for space on the bridge and recklessly run down the stairs where there is a huge risk of stampede. It’s the sorry state of not just one but several railway stations in the city.

There are questions on the enlarging of Elphinstone bridge in the present case scenario and why the project to the tune of Rs 11-12 crores that were sanctioned in the budget couldn’t be implemented. It’s a clear case of apathy, red-tapism, and corruption among the decision-makers. The BMC is considered to be the richest municipal body in Asia and still, nothing has been done to give dignity and ensure safety. Chasing immigrants with the slogan, ‘Bhaiya Bhagao’ is not the answer and it only shows how they mask their short-sightedness by blaming poor migrants or looking for scapegoat.

The reality is that the Shiv Sena, Congress, and the BJP are equally responsible for the neglect and constant crumbling of infrastructure that not only claimed lives but sinking the city further down the drain. Each one of these political parties have ruled Mumbai at some point or the other where every single day people live constantly on the edge.

Bureaucracy has gone from bad to worse in the city and infrastructure is getting worse by the day coupled with a lack of minimum standard in mounting projects. The least that policymakers can and must do: Raise standards and norms first before speaking about bullet train or 3,600 crores statue.

Basic and rooted infrastructure, security and adhering to norms is what a premiere city like Mumbai needs and the financial capital of India cannot afford to lose this game due to apathy and corruption. Stop the refrain of resilience or spirit every time mayhem struck!

 

 

V

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Left, Right…Romance Chowk: Drip of stormy love


Left, Right…Romance Chowk

Chapter 5:

The car wiper was stuck. Mann lunged towards the front seat and grabbed the dusty garment to wipe the window sheet. The cab slowly ambled its way towards Churchgate but hit a dead-end to wage a battle against the water raging its might. Water seeped inside the car that soon replicated into miniature version of a swimming pool.

The two car occupants, Mann and the car driver impassively watched people stranded, kids doing a somersault and flowing on a container substituting for a boat that turned the road into a vast sea expanse.  The driver was having a tough time, igniting the battered engine to life that screeched and timidly lurched ahead. Wrong signal. The water escalated like a rush of electrical wave and ran wild on the otherwise busy road at Eros Theater.

The black umbrellas mushroomed on the road past 2 a.m and flapped open, thrust forward and backward where people had a tough time holding on to. The car again battled the rush of water spurting under its wheel. The phone battery was almost done and Mann managed to make a call to Sejal’s Mom.  “Aunty! I cannot speak much since my phone is dying. I have reached Churchgate but we are stuck. It seems like it will take me another hour to reach your house,” his voice wobbled with emotions.

The TV reporters clumsily walked inside the flood to report and stood on their naked feet with their pants rolled till the knee, battling the heavy rain and cloud outburst to report live on the state of the city. There was panic everywhere. It was may hem everywhere. The car engine conked. There was no way it would leap to life.

The police were trying their best to help stranded citizens who were lost and moving in various directions with difficulty to find shelter under the roof of nearby restaurants, hotels and the station. Together, Mann and the car driver held to each other’s arms to wriggle their way in the water and crossed the road for shelter.

As Mann trudged inside the water that ran deep till the knee, the cab driver called, “Sambhal ke Jaana.” They exchanged sympathetic glances and smiles, a rare luxury in Maximum City. A tale of two humans and strugglers in the city who understood each others’ emotions without uttering a single word despite coming from two extremely different background.

Mann tried to find his balance by walking slowly in the water, battling the fear of being carried away by the waves when a cop held his hand and escorted him towards Churchgate. Sejal’s Mom was waiting in front of the gate housing the line up of plush apartments and she hugged him. “Are you okay, Beta? Let’s get inside the car,” she was on the verge of tears.

The car slowly trudged inside the water that made a splash like a stormy river. “Where are we going to find her?” her voice choked with emotion. “Pray that nothing will happen to her,” tears welled on her face.

The vehicle slowly ambled. It was dark everywhere. Mann called the emergency number but no one was picking up. He tweeted and sent a message on Facebook with the picture of Sejal. It was 3 a.m in the morning. The status and tweets were shared zillion times.

“Where to find her?” she stammered. Mann scratched his hair and tilted his head towards the rooftop of the car. He urged the car driver, “Bhaiya, let’s move towards Churchgate station.” The driver nodded. The tide was growing at every second. It was a five minutes distance but the car was stuck for almost one hour and the wheels turning into a ship flowing in the water.

The deserted road resembled the cramped space in the city pocked with vehicles, from cars to black-and-yellow taxis and a Best Bus all flowing together in a chaotic manner like the serpentine queue. Car drivers honked blaringly in sheer desperation. The vehicles were zigzagging inside the water from left to right and entangled in a circle. They were stuck inside the car, sandwiched between vehicles across all sides that felt as if a wall has been built.  It was impossible for the driver to thrust forward or pull back.

The car stood parallel to the platform facing gate and next to the yellow and brown local taxied on the railway track drenched into a vast pool of water. There was chaos inside the station packed with the seamless crowd mushrooming like eggs in a nest sprawled with tensed faces running amok and screaming for help. Battered faces, whispers and angry voices howled with palatable tension, wondering on how to get out of this mess.

Mann furtively looked around and his eyes cocked towards the road and railway station, silently longing for the sight of Sejal.  He fixed his gaze towards the train that was filled with commuters who couldn’t get out on the platform that was filled to the brink with water. A face struck him. He looked again and was bewildered. Sejal was sitting on the seat and her head buried inside a book. She was sitting in a casual manner and unperturbed about the city drowning and rain water spurting like electric waves.

He gently touched the shoulder of Sejal’s Mom, “Aunty, look there,” he pointed out to the train. She was flabbergasted and speechless. “Look at her. I can’t believe it.  We are so worried and she is casually reading a book inside,” she heaved.

“I wonder how we are going to walk past the water to save her.  Sejal! Sejal!,” her Mom lunged out. The voice went unheard and lost to the noise.  Mann yanked the door open, dithered at the water flowing till his inch and saw a long cardboard flowing in the water. He didn’t think twice and thrust his body that landed straight on the moving object. Mann held tightly to the cardboard and pushed it as if it’s the gear of a car, pressed hard planking his body on it to wriggle his way till the stairs of Churchgate station.

Mann stormed inside the station, battling the crowd of people and pushing his way between them to leap inside the train. She was oblivious to the voices and his presence. He pressed her arms and she almost yelped. “You! Almost scared me like that,” Sejal protested. Mann berated her, “You got the nerves to  complain when the entire of Mumbai is sinking under the water and the whole world is stranded.  Your Mom is in tears, sitting inside the car and I travelled on a dirty cupboard like a fish in water.”

“Oh! Yeah! That’s why you are completely wet. Dude! You are not wet. You look like a water man,” she appeared nonchalant. “Let’s go,” Mann dragged her out of the train. The tide was growing and spiralling like a tornado. Sejal and Mann clutched to each other, trying to get out through the main platform but the waves shook them as they took steps back and waded through the small door at platform No. 1.

The water was roiling like a steam bath on the road. Both of them were tensed and figuring out how to find their way inside the car that was stationed within a touching distance. They stood on the stairs and in the flick of seconds a flash of current waves knocked them off their perch that dragged Sejal inside the storm. She howled and shouted, ‘Help’. Mann flung his body inside the water and held to her fingers. The violent waves pushed him away from her and she was thrust to a faraway distance. His body spun in the water from right to left. He hollered, ‘Help! Help! Help!’

Battling the angry water that run above the knee, he struggled to stand on his feet in a stiff position to fight the angry waves. He lost control of his body that jerked backwards towards a hard object. A dash of hope surfaced. It was a motorcycle that lay abandoned against the wall. Mann removed the stand with force and held on the bike that stumbled inside the water and hit the pavement filled with water. He sat on the bike and pushed it with all his might.

Sejal was struggling inside the water and nearly tripped before getting up again. She was choking. Mann caught sight of her and was unsure what to do to save her since he didn’t want to lose the bike that would shield both of them.  He twisted his back in a reclining position and tightly held to the handle as he fell along with the bike inside the water and struggled to hold the fingers of Sejal.  The huge machine pressed his body. He was reeling in pain and stretched his hand to clutch her palm.

Sejal hands loosened away from him and he struggled to unfetter himself under the bike’s clutches. Mann limped his way towards Sejal and almost swam in the water covering the road. She was moving further away from him and was carried by the tide.  He pressed his hand to the ground to find his balance, wading through leaves and mud, battling his way and being hit by objects on the body.

It was a battle against the storm. Sejal’s body twisted and recoiled like a snake. Mann saw a wheel flowing and flung it towards Sejal who held to it by using the feeble force inside her. He finally held one side of a wheel flowing in the water and pressed her hands tightly. Mann shouted, “Don’t worry about me. Fucking put your head inside the wheel.”

He pushed the wheel and pressed Sejal’s back towards the wall, covered her with his body. She was choking. Both were tightly holding to each other. He kissed and hard pressed her back. The water has reached their necks and they exuded relief to see the rescue team of police and citizens taking a dive into the water. They were ushered towards a safe spot on the pavement coated with red bricks.

Their lips sat passionately tight on each other and curled together in the monsoon drip. They stopped in their track and smooched again. Sejal and Mann embraced each other and oblivious to Sejal’s Mom standing silently behind them. They smiled sheepishly. Sejal held on to her mother like a child guilty of a crime. Mother and daughter wiped each other’s tears with their hands.

 

 

Love

V

 

 

Mumbai flood, accountability and passing the buck


Image sourced from Google.

We were taught our lessons the hard way in the older days by a tough master who spanked us down the bum that made us diligent students.  Times have changed. No quite so for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The same administrators who want to turn the financial capital of India, Mumbai into Shanghai has simply lost the art of learning. It makes me wonder from whom the BMC, albeit, rulers of the city elected by the people, learned the A-Z of administration.

There is no excuse to justify the crumbling of infrastructure in the city that was brought to its knee on 29/8 when 30 lakhs commuters were stranded for an entire day and devoid of food or water.  The BMC is the richest body in Asia who has a budget of Rs 94.91 crores alone in 2016-17  and they simply cannot pass the buck or pretend it is business as usual. While we didn’t face a repeat of July 2005 when more than 1000 lives were lost and 944 millimetres of rain were recorded in the city, it could have been completely worse in Mumbai with just one-third of that rain on Tuesday. Everything stood paralyzed.

First and foremost, the helpline number 1916, fire brigade or all emergency numbers were choked and went for a toss as reported by the TV channel, Mirror Now coupled with the complete lack of facilities. There was raging chaos. It’s a matter of shame that it’s the commoners who mounted help on a colossal scale through Facebook and Twitter by publicly offering their phone number to shelter, arranging food provisions, rescuing people stuck in the rain or issuing advisory while political administrators simply went out of sight. It is the people that make The Spirit of Mumbai. A grand salute to the commoners who went all their way to help people, be it the cops, Navy, NGOs or women organizations or religious organizations who pulled all strings, and fearlessly strode their way to occupy every space in the city.  A special salute to the Mumo Mumbai moms that boasts of more than 1.4 lakhs members on their FB group and some 2,500 ladies, which a friend Neha Kare is part of, offered their personal mobile number to help citizens. It makes me in awe of Mumbai and its people who has never shied to help in the face of calamity.  The spirit of the city is all about the people and not rhetoric of pandering to political emotions. A complete revamp of infrastructure should be insisted upon.

Secondly, the lack of drain facilities, the careless manhole dug and potholes claimed lives. It seems like a déjà vu of 2005. This time, a doctor slipped inside the manhole that was uncovered and lost his life or for that matter, a young man choked inside his car due to the rising tide.  My friend’s husband like many commuters was stuck inside the local train for 18 hours, just to give an example. Who will be accountable for such dangerously lapses? It’s high time for the BMC to become accountable in the face of tragedy and as a world-class city, we cannot afford the infrastructure in Mumbai or any other Indian city to fall apart like that.

Image credit: Google

Every day, people flock to Mumbai to make a living and it takes a huge toll on the city due to the dearth of quality infrastructure or housing facilities. There is a lack of provisions to expand the city reach and creating vast spaces coupled with quality of life which is the need of the hour to avoid tragedy.  There is no point to mount a statue of Shivaji Maharaj worth Rs 3,600 crores when one third of that money could have gone to sort out the mess in the city and give the citizens state-of-the-art and safe infrastructure.  On Tuesday, we witnessed how disaster management control room went clueless in the face of adversity.

Thirdly, every time the mighty rain strikes, lives are lost and humans are buried under risky buildings like the 117-year-old Hussaini building at Bhendi Bazaar crushed like biscuits. According to reports, there are 25,000 dilapidated structures proned to risk in Mumbai. It makes one wonder on the state of such building spread in every nook-and-corner of the city. For instance, The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is responsible for the maintenance of the buildings and it begs the question whether a structural audit has been done by the latter or for that matter, offering alternative and safe accommodations for the people whose lives are in jeopardy. The city has reached a saturation point.  What we need is not throwing people out but court action against the culprits such as corrupt officials who are often in cahoot with unscrupulous builders violating Floor Space Index.

The role of the BMC is not to send notices for breeding of mosquitoes but be accountable to the tax payers and the people.  What have we learned 12 years later? Zero. Zilch.  The sad part is that it’s not just in Mumbai and Delhi but also in other parts of India such as Chennai , UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand or J & K. Life cannot go on like that be it Mumbai or any part of India.

Love

V

My Ganesh Chaturthi moments in Maharashtra


Ganesh Chaturthichya Hardik Shubhechha. The extravaganza and simplicity simply add to the glory of the elephant God, Ganesha that unfurl in every nook-and-corner of Maharashtra but also across the entire of India and far-flung corners of the world that Indians made their home. There can be no soul that is unmoved by the sparkle, might, and sweetness of Bappa where his blessing is sought to gain knowledge, wisdom, and wealth.

As I hark back to the past, Ganesh Chaturthi or Chavithi Chaturthi brings vividly fond and personal memories of witnessing devotees throng to celebrate his presence for 10 days and the beating of drums, dancing wildly and the pandals adorned with clay and earth idols that make the celebration a grand spectacular affair

The eclectic grandeur of the celebration was first witnessed when I first shifted to Mumbai in 2006 and found a triple room in the hostel at Churchgate to stay. It was the immersion day and along with roomie, Lalit from Kohlapure and another friend, we wrestled our way in the midst of the swarming crowd, buses, cars, and trucks carrying Ganesha idols in various forms and shapes. Of course, colors sprinkled on devotees scything their way to Girgaon Chowpatty.

All roads converging to Chowpatty are normally closed on the Visarjan day and the only way for devotees, admirers, and curious visitors is to take the local train to stop at Marine Lines. The vehicles must stop somewhere at Marine Drive and walk a distance of three minutes to reach the sea. The ambience drags one into the world of Bappa where the crowd scrums their way to get a darshan of Bappa rising tall in various forms, from small, big and mammoth idols carved with the love of devotees singing, Ganpati Bappa Morya’, swirling from one side to the other on the beach, pushed back and forth to make way into the sea water.

The universe of Bappa brings a vibrant sense of community that blends beautifully in the Maharashtrian way of life, be it the conversation in Marathi by organizers and devotees involved in arrangements that make this melting pot called Mumbai endearing. It’s about oneness where the Lord reminds us that there is no outsider in the city where celebration touches souls and spirits.

The drum beating to an octane level, folks swarming and gyrating wild to music on the busy road and pandals sprouting on every path makes the city endearing. It a uniquely aesthetic treat and enthralling experience where the drum beats still reverberates in the mind as if it was yesterday only, ear-splitting Marathi folk and crazy foot tapping songs bringing so much joy and wild abandon.

I was spending my last few days in India before moving out in 2008 and it was a Sunday evening that the coach from Pune took a grueling five hours to reach Mumbai. I got off much before Dadar and plodded my tiring feet to experience the festival that the mind captured forever. It’s such a beautiful sight to walk through the night and be surrounded by colorful pandals sprouting on both sides of the road where devotional music is played and posters of Bappa greeting everyone makes the road taken a sheer delight.

Of course, Pune happened much before Mumbai where the celebration was in full swing in the various colonies where I stayed from Gokhale Nagar and Fergusson College Road and the slums nestled not very far away. It doesn’t come as a surprise where music was played full blast till the wee morning. The chapri dance and children gyrating in sheer wilderness, fire crackers may disturb the sleep but it brings so much fun and joy in a seamless manner. Of course, walking past the crowd and pandals decked in colors, from red to yellow makes Ganesh Chaturthi a memorable fest in true Puneri style.

The best thing is the double whammy celebration since Pune Festival celebrates tradition, music and folk dance takes place at the same time. The Peth areas become magnificent and of course, Vinayaka Chaturthi cannot be celebrated with the traditional Lavani dance. If you are in Pune, make it a point to seek the blessing of Bappa at popular places like Jogeshwari Gbapati, Kasba Ganpati, Tulsi Baug Ganpati and of course, Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple, Pune which is famous for its opulence where the idol is carved in gold. The place is visited every year by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

The eclectic beauty and magnificence make the pompous celebration in Maharashtra and many parts of Pune an enthralling grand affair that hails Bappa who brings so much glitter and sheen in our lives. You cannot afford to miss the celebration in Mumbai at Gurgaon Chowpatty, Lalbaug cha Raja or Kasba Ganpati in Pune. So much for the vibrant life and pandal hopping that makes Chaturthi a blissful celebration.

Ganpati Bappa Morya

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

V

 

 

Kodak moments: Mumbai on its toes


It’s both a very busy and lazy week for me as winter has already seeped in which makes it an arduous task to write at length. There are so many things to do. Since most of you have beaten hands down the Monday Blues, a small treat to most of you in the form of my favorite shots taken during my last visit to India. No prize for guessing? It’s Mumbai! It’s been ages that I haven’t shared pictures on the blog that makes memory whooshed to the mind as if it was yesterday only.

The skyscraper aerial view of Mumbai from the Emirates Airlines as it was descending its way towards the airport at Santacruz. I was so excited and felt a pang of anxiety at the same time to see the city, my city. No wonder, it’s a treat as the heart ran amok with excitement trying to locate places near the CST airport.

This shot was taken as the taxi screeched its way out of the airport zone and it gave a feeling of life embedded in simplicity in Mumbai and of course, the humble line up of houses and shops, billboard of the Vodafone banner, a lady dressed in saree walking past the rickshaw gives a feel of life in the city. There is so much to Mumbai, right from the fast life to simplicity that can be found in some places far away from the bustling center.

It’s my city where life is not fake and its inhabitants toiling hard 24/7 to make things happen for them. They may bear traces of bruise on their respective faces but they will carry the burden of life walking past the iconic yellow-and-black cabs. It’s one image that brings a smile on the face watching people determined and for whom the world never stops. Happens only in Mumbai. The picture must have been taken on the way towards Sion station from JJ Flyover.

 

The picture was shot in the surrounding of Colaba near the National Gallery of Modern Arts in the city which was a regular sight for me the time I was staying in the city and walking to Colaba where you get to see a city on its toes.

Love

V

Left Right Romance Chowk: Chapter 2


Left Right Romance Chowk

Chapter 2: Naughty sprinkle of love, sweetness and pepper

The shiny red double-decker bus ambled slowly in the center of South Mumbai, looking like a lost child competing with the mighty and iconic, black-and-yellow cabs, powerful cars and commoners scrumming their way to jostle for space. The commoner bikers were in a frantic hurry as they screeched their way between buses and cars, right in front of St Xavier’s college where young boys and girls, dressed in modern and branded outfits stood outside the gate chatting, puffing a smoke and indulging in public display OF affection, caressing hair, holding their special someone by the waist and lips pecking to the tune of bees and flowers.

The Best bus swiveled at the traffic signal and halted right in front of Mumbai’s hip-and-happening and most glamorous college in the city. Sejal hopped down and carefully held her dupatta to prevent it from flowing into the pool of water. She sashayed past the college gate to disappear in the flitting seconds.

As she waded her way inside the sprawling campus, the boys upped their eyes to survey every single move that she made and shamelessly peered at her curvy body, perfectly sculpted round boob and bum. She feigned ignorance but was flattered at the same time. Some dudes whispered, “She’s the machine of hotness that whirs above our head and stops our hearts from doing dhak dhak. I’d prefer this machine to the coffee dispenser.”

She was unfazed by the eyes longing for a ‘hi’ and returned their smile with a large wry expression on her face. “Despo! They badly need a masturbation,” she told her herself. Sejal made furtive glances and finally zeroed on what she was looking for.  The flawless hand was raised in fury as if she was going to sling at something. A strong jab was felt. A resounding bang and thud! She couldn’t conceal her smile.

He leaped to his feet and bellowed, turning his face towards the person who was standing right in front of him. “Kya re, hero,” she chuffed.

Mann was still moaning in pain and almost cursed her. She tittered, “Madarchod bolne ka mann ho raha hai (You feel like saying maderchod). Fulfill your vow, Mr Ashiq.”

“No, yaar. It’s your new way of greeting kya,” Mann hollered.

She hugged him tight and whispered, “Sorry.” He smiled. “I am not apologizing for now but the last time when you were told to fuck off from my house,” she placated him.

“The ganja was making me spin in the air and at the same moment, Mom had to shoot this message that she was landing in front of my door in five fucking minutes. Did I have a choice, baby?” She made dewy eyes expression. It melted his heart.

“You should never do that. You are a kid and just 18. I am elder than you,” he purred.

“Stop giving me this lovey-dovey expression and it’s making you sound feminine. Yes! You are elder to me by two months. A half baby cannot take form in the embryo in such a short time span…,” she casually remarked.

“At least you will not throw me out of your house. See! I can claim my age over you so that you fulfill all my wishes and desires,” he persisted.

“In that way, some 5 cm penis may just claim sheer horsepower to ride me but it doesn’t come with warranty or else viagra will go out of the market.” A triumphant and tart expression popped on her face. Mann went into a silent mode, not knowing what to make of it.

“I bet you will not have sex for a long time now. See how my words can hit the cock with force. At your own risk,” she chuckled gleefully. They walk together towards the class but made a u-turn. Their eyes nodded in agreement and scampered their way out of the campus.

The tea was boiling and steam curled from the huge tea pan and the plump man with his protruded belly expertly steered sugar, milk, water, and cardamom to heavenly bliss.  The steam blew on the face of the man who wiped the sweat with his hand while the horde of men and women made a beeline with impatience for the morning tea.

Sejal grabbed a cup poured in the glass that touched the cusp of her lip. She loved the sensation when the steamy hot cup strokes her lip. She glugged her tea and order Mann in a sudden fit, “Now! Jaldi! Let’s run away from here. Just leave the glass. It’s not like it’s your last chai on the death bed.” She grabbed his hand and yanked the door of the taxi open, telling the driver, “Churchgate station, chalo.”

As the car steered to life, a tall and fair man in his 30s was staring at Sejal which didn’t escape Mann’s glare. She realized that he got wind of things. “You see, this guy is my ex-boyfriend and I saw him from a distance. This idiot couldn’t digest that I broke up with and been after me. Issliye! We are fleeing to a safe destination,” she said.

“Is he a stalker?” Mann’s face turned red.

“No! Man! He was looking for something more…some kind of commitment and marriage. Ek toh, I am ten years younger to him and it was just plain sex…I thought ki rumpy aur pumpy and we will bang and bingo…but no. Now, he’s after me.”

A tremor like sensation jolted Mann’s body and he tried to put a fake smile on his face. “Jealous,” she quipped. “Arre chill! See how scared you are?” Sejal cackled.

“Arre! Pyare! I cannot have sex with my sperm related sibling. He is my half blood brother that sprouted from Dad’s second marriage. I ran away from him because this old fox would dole out gyan lesson to me afterward.”

He exuded relief. “Who old fox?” he queried. “This brother of yours?”

“Nah! My Dad. His morale is like an ejaculation that fizzles before shaking the bottle…a bit like thumps up but doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Love

V

SoBo: When time never stops (II)


Mumbai is a religion. South Bombay (SoBo) is a sacred prayer for its aficionados and loyalists for it adds zing to lives, adorning the city like sweet and pure desi ghee. I bring the second part of SoBo, narrating places for its larger than life character and appeal that never stops growing on us. South Mumbai is an obsession, right from shopping like crazy at Colaba to trawling for novelty at VT, cozying at Churchgate, gliding through Peddar Road or Kemps Corner and the trilled notes of waves at Chowpatty Beach. The dock of life just never stops in Mumbai and more so in our SoBo. It’s an obsession that never halts. It forms such a potent character in our lives and jaunty existence. We may carp about pot holes but we love the city to death.

  1. Colaba

 

 

A second view of Colaba.

There is no second thought about it: Colaba is one, if not, the most frequented place in South Mumbai where people living in the western part or outskirts of the city make it a point to throng in droves every single day or week. You name it, you get it! It’s a haven for everything where you haggle among the swarm of crowd at the Colaba Causeway for a steal.

It’s the destination where branded shops snuggle with street hawkers who haven’t left any space left or stone unturned to give wind to their imaginations. Fake Gucci bags, chains, fancy wrist watch with decorations or cover, perfect imitation of designer shirts or tees, lockets or bracelets where you can scribble the name of the special someone, colourful  bangles in all hues and size, wristband, clocks, beads, fancy bells, lamps, goggles, unique toys, belts, bracelets, handcraft made elephants and Goddesses and Kohlapuri chappals for women. The list is endless.

It’s the place to shop ‘cheaply’ for your favorite items as you are transported in a fancy world and lanes of the extraordinary and magnificent items to cherish over time. Your eyes and mouth want to scoop up everything as if it’s the last plate of yum biryani. Strolling leisurely at the Causeway and shopping for small items was one of my favorite activities where I would visit Colaba every two days to whine time or gape at everything ‘marvellous’. It feels like an invisibly mysterious force that sucks you inside some Chamber of Secret. I remember bagging my prized toy, the iconic black, and white taxi for 70 bucks after much haggling.

 

Image credit: http://www.travenix.com
Olympia Cafe at Colaba serves one of the most amazing cakes.

There is no dearth of eateries such as Picadilly, Cafe Churchill, New Apollo or Sahakari Bhandar that serves one of the best vegetarian foods, be it Pulao, Biryani or Pav Bhaji. One of my best places for breakfast was Olympia to gorge on the caramel custard and flavored cake, decorated in various colors, green, yellow, Orange, and pink coated with cream exuding a flavor of exquisite ice cream. I call it the cheap man breakfast served with amazing Indian chai or coffee. Of course, bread and Kheema are always something to die for. It’s delectable.

In the mood for yummy and mouth-watering non-veg food at an affordable price, Baghdadi which is behind Colaba Causeway and minutes away from Gateway of India and the grand Taj Mahal Hotel is the place to be. Beef and mutton fry masala were priced between 25 to 30 bucks in those days with a jumbo naan worth 5 bucks that fill the stomach to perfection. Of course, Bade Miyan serves a multitude of legendary food such as Seekh Kabab, Mutton Seekh roll, and Chicken Reshmi Tikka. The tables are set and spread on the bustling street as you relish your food with cars zooming behind you. It’s truly a jewel in South Mumbai.

There are so much to do and see in South Mumbai, stretching your legs at length wading past Regal cinema and entering the world of Colaba Causeway where you can spot small jewelry shop. Believe it or not, once I landed myself a decent room for 100 bucks in 2004/05. The room was enough to move luggage, legs and sleep with two beds, a small table, and chair.  It’s no shady place but was quite cozy which translates the spirit of Mumbai finding expressing and giving an identity in cramped space showing seamless happiness.

Waltzing at the Gateway of India for the first time becomes an enthralling affair where you set on a path of discovery and indulge in a squinting exercise. It’s marvelous, the deep water at the bridge, admiring the boats on all four sides and taking a walk where visitors and couples strike a pose.  Be wary of photographers who hound you and pressing for money in advance for hunting them may be quite a task. Not quite so in today’s times where everyone has a smartphone with camera. Monsoon is one of the best times to visit Gateway of India and the waves crashing and water splashing behind your back as you stand with your back firmly entrenched to the bridge propel you to jump or feel the cold waves with the wind blowing in your direction. One of my favorite past time was to bend my body on the bridge and watch the deep water, spritzing walk, the caress of the sea waves, breeze, and water accompanying me as a protective force. The Taj Hotel is one of the city’s monuments and an architectural marvel that your eyes doesn’t want to leave since it’s a tale of glittery gold. I enjoyed walking in the concrete pathway where Taj is housed, admiring the branded shops on the ground floor and the marbles where the bricks are done with an aesthetic taste that makes it a blissful moment in life.

Drinking in Colaba and clubbing finds echo the spirit with much-frequented places like Leopold, catching a cricket or football match at Sports Express Bar and guzzling beer at Cafe Monde. Of course, Gokul is always a cheap option but worth visiting in a lifetime.

One of my best places at Colaba is Barista off Hanuman Mandir. You can reach there either by walking through the Gateway and Taj Pathway or on the main road at Colaba Cause where you take a left just after the Hanuman Mandir. It’s quite big and spacious. There are two sides to the coffee bar, one is the AC room and the other compartment gives a colonial ambience since it’s an open-air shelter made of mortar bricks and spacious with wooden structure where you can enjoy your thick cappuccino, smoke and watch the traffic swirling outside with the cars and buses screeching their way. In short, it’s cozy, comfortable and super friendly.

2. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

 

Originally and famous as Victoria Terminus, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) is one of the biggest central railways in SoBo for the Central Lines and translates into the culture enshrined by Mumbaikars. Trains are our lifelines chugged to thrust us on our feet.   Every single day, 6.3 lakhs commuters travel on the iconic station that was built in 1887 and bearing the imprint of British architects Frederick William Stevens and Axel Heig. The Gothic structure and the huge clock make it a very thematic and aesthetic marvel that finds its way among the gems in South Mumbai. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage which is never shy in attracting tourists in drove.

The iconic station was earlier named Bori Bunder before it was christened VT and now CST, has two main lines, one is local Central Railway and the second is, Indian railway traveling from one destination in India to the other. The booking counter for traveling outside Mumbai is enshrined in a large, spacious and amazingly done Gothic structure adorned with huge steel pillars.  The window and dome structure is crafted in a half circle, circumference form coupled with dotted and shiny window structure which bears its signature design, owing to the Raj era. The booking is super efficient with the token system as you sit and admire the delightful structures and in no time, the job is done. At night, the station shines in iridescent colorful lighting that sparkles in all corners and forms where the place becomes truly alive.

The CST area is one place which is no short on entertainment, be it the nonveg food on the street stalls, cheap restaurants and semi-luxury or comfort for foodies. You name it, you get! There was a small, dingy non-veg place as one get out of CST station and scything past the bus terminus which was the place to be for me.  It’s a small and cramped place but bearing a homely feeling where the mutton curry or Biryani was available during those times for 15 bucks.

 

 

Taking a detour, the bus terminus at CST was always a favorite for the fruit salad, Bombay sandwich, bananas, Vada Pav for cheap and the delectable taste quenched the hunger raging in the growling stomach.

Off you walk past CST towards the JJ school of Arts which is one of the landmarks to your right and keep walking at a stretch and sweating it out in the heat, you come face-to-face with the Maharashtra Police Department which is not far away from Crawford Market. It’s another iconic and colonial building made of brick in the hustle-bustle of city life. There is more to the entire sprawling space when I had a chance to zoom my way inside to see the numerous police chowki and police quarters.  Trust me, you can zigzag and lose your way if you don’t ask for directions from the cops stationed inside their vans. There are the north and south wings, grand entrance floor where the panel teak ceiling will grab your attention. It’s called the nerve centre where major decisions and planning are taken to ensure Mumbaikars sleep peacefully at night and the city breath.

 

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View of Crawford market. Image credit:@ dnaindia.com

Time to get a peek into the crowded and popular Crawford Market nestled between CST station and the Mohamed Ali Road. The market was built during the British Raj and has been renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandi but is still apparently known by its iconic name. The market has a charm of both the old and new world, boasting of its old colonial structure, cone building that reminds one of the traditional Bombay at a time where every city is losing its spark to the new, superficial structure and every old legacy is being razed off. The Crawford Market stands tall as you enter the world of birds, parrots, fresh fruits, imported chocolates, cosmetics, dry food, spices and goodies, garments and every imaginable thing under one single roof where you will never be tired of shopping and visiting. It brings to the mind the ubiquitous charm and simplicity of the old Bombay days at Mohammed Ali Road.

 

View from JJ Flyover.

Everything vintage Bombay is sprawled in this part of the city merging branded and small, modest shops, old flats in the buildings dating back to ages. Taking a ride on JJ Fly is a wondrous trip snuggled between the old, decrepit buildings and apartments. Of course, Eid is one festival where this part of the city sparkle with the best food, deserts, and delicacies cooked spicy hot on the streets, restaurants serving unique dishes and shopping for garments, kurtas and salwar. The uniquely amazing crowd throng during Eid showcases the cosmopolitan culture of Mumbai. Tootle your way below the JJ flyover and you are chaperoned by a line-up of hotels and restaurants where you should absolutely try the Chicken Sanju Baba at Noor Mohammadi Hotel on Mohammed Ali Road. The recipe was given by superstar Sanjay Dutt who visited the place late at night and entered the kitchen to concoct this amazing dish.

Of course, CST boasts of several cinema theaters right from Sterling, New Excelsior, and New Empire. One of my favorite hang-out was at Barista which is minutes away from Mc Donald and New Empire Theatre where I was a regular almost every day sitting with the gang outside, having coffee, chatting and smoking.

3. Chowpatty Beach

 

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Image credit: http://footage.framepool.com Chowpatty Beach.

Girgaum Chaupati our famous Chowpatty beach off Marine lines is one of the biggest city attractions with the crystal clear white sand and various food outlets, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, Bombay Sandwich, Masala Dosa, Bhel Puri, Papdi Chaat steamily cooked right in front of your eyes and the Bombay Falooda or Gola sipping at the beach. It takes the Mumbai spirit to a whole new level. The beach always teems with children running and prancing, lovers stealing a silent intimate moment at dawn to watch the magnificent sunset. There are balloon sellers set to make a killing to the children’s delight and you can sit on the beach and plod the naked feet watching the waves crash. It celebrates the spirit of Mumbai in all its forms and colors.

There are numerous coffee shops such as CCD opposite to the beach, popular branded shops such as Levis but also Wilson College just opposite the sea. As you walk towards the beach, you can spot the restaurant owned by actor Sunil Shetty H20 and of the course, the beach is walking distance from Nariman Point and Marine Drive which makes for good 20 to 25 minutes exercise. But, you also get the BEST buses from Marine Drive that ferries passengers to Chowpatty beach. Of course, the Taraporewala Aquarium and the Savitri Phule Girls Hostel are very near to the beach and keep walking off Girgaun Chowpatty, there is a sea of discovery that awaits you. One of the best place to visit is during the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi to witness how Mumbaikar come together, singing Ganpati Bappa Morya and immersing the idols of Ganpati in the sea.

Whether it’s the Marine Line flyover where vehicles storm the way in a rush as you make your way to Bombay Hospital or Liberty cinema at Marine Line or Inox Metro, it gives a feel of life moving at blistering pace.

There are a couple of landmarks very near to Chowpatty and one of them is Walkeshwar Road which you can reach by turning right after Wilson Collge and keep driving. There are several interesting spots such as Walkeshwar temple and the Hanging Gardens as well as St Elizabeth and Kemp Hospital. Aditya was one friend who stayed at Mumbai Central with whom I would initially stay in my earlier days and at night, he would drive me on his bike. The night drive is dazzling with the lights adorning the city. Of course, Dhobi Ghat which is the spot of washer men cannot be missed in the city to get a feel of the real Mumbai.

4.Kemps Corner, Nepansea Road and Cuffe Parade

The posh, high flyer and most expensive localities in the suburbs boast of city heavens like Kemps Corner, Peddar Road and Nepeansea Road that lie at the crossroad, offering breathing taking views.  High-end shops, hair parlors, upmarket shopping outlets, banks, coffee shops frequented by the creamy crowd have found a place in the frame of filmmakers capturing the city to perfection on celluloid with the wide roads amid fanfare, frenzy, and chaos of a city life. Make no mistake, property prices of sea facing ostentatious flats and bungalows start above Rs 8 to 10 crores. The sloppy roads are a treat to walk in the monsoon and admiring the vehicles swarming their way and honking can blow your ears like splitting glasses.

 

Kemps corner.
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It makes the city life a tale worth captured in your memory box. Of course, Cuffe Parade makes for a joyous outing to one’s aesthetic senses, appreciating everything grand and marvelous in an opulent fashion.  It wouldn’t be ludicrous to state that Cuffe Parade bears the great divide in the city where on one hand you have the rich and famous snuggled in palatial sky rises and swearing by obnoxious wealth but on the other hand, slums dwellers of Ambedkar Nagar surviving on morsels and living in match box, which was partially demolished this year.

No wonder Mumbai is a city where folks crave for the extraordinary, opulent, simple and below ordinary in the same fashion. Elphinstone Road is your go getting place for everything electronic be it mobile, laptop or repairs. The world impossible simply doesn’t exist on Elphi and ask it, you get it.

5. Churchgate

Back to sashaying one’s way to Churchgate as promised and you can read the earlier post here. This part of the city has never ceased to fascinate and intrigue me at the same time, be it the fashion street for cheap stuff or Khau Galli off the station. Churchgate station has always remained a favorite spot which I made home eons ago for two years. It seemed like a life time. The Biryani sold outside Churchgate station for a measly 20 bucks, paperback books and the uncle who sells all of the wares from China, be it fancy gas lighter, scissors, newspapers, and magazines, imported cigarettes during those days-aha the Marlboro pack of ten from Malaysia. You will find him under the umbrella near LIC building. Take a walk towards Baroda Bank and there is this shop I call magic, Enkays with its fancy lighters, zippo and imported cigarettes were a luxury in those days off Dinshaw Vacha Road.

Of course, the guy making anda burji at night was the place to visit, and soothing drinks like Mango which was a favorite, rose or chikoo flowing in a huge container. Mango drink was always a favorite for me that soothed and cooled the heels in the hot summer.

Our real treat started past midnight outside Churchgate station gorging on the yummy bun maska and sipping hot tea. It’s one of the road stalls that concocts a delicious serving of bun maska at nightfall as we admired the city, right from the Rajabhai Tower at Fort when the clock struck and Bombay High Court or the last train siren at 1.40 a.m

Strolling around ITC and Ambassador Hotels off Marine Drive is always a pleasurable activity where we would be spending our time in the cafeteria past one in the morning and in those days, a coffee worth 70 bucks came with a refill, enough to keep our body and brain well oiled to study till the wee morning hours.

Discover a fancy world in Asiatic Department that has everything for you as your body temperature sizzles to the ac, flitting your steps from one place to the other, boasting of snobbery, simplicity and jazzy where you get everything in this ‘fairyland’. It was my feeling when I first entered this haven for the first time in 2002 which became my favorite that displayed home wares, spices, dry fruits, food, medicines, footwear, cards, flowers, memorabilia and anything your mind can ever imagine.

Simply Mumbai

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