Livinghigh: November 2004
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
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The first time I saw India Gate, I felt like a tourist.

All I needed was a pair of bermuda shorts, a camera around my neck, a bright Hawaiian shirt, dark glasses, a cloth cap and Japanese blood flowing through my veins to make the transformation complete.

I was in an auto rickshaw, and as the rick crossed Rajpath, I was jumping from one side of the rick to the other, anxious not to miss a glimpse of either the Gate on the left, or the imposing dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan as it reared its mighty head above the road on the right. Quite difficult, as I'm sure you can imagine. And of course, that provided my trusty rick driver all the ammunition he needed to classify me as Target No 1, to inflate the fare when I arrived at my destination.

I visited the Gate for a closer look much, much later - just a week or so before my stay in Delhi drew to its end. I went there with a friend, in the late afternoon, and we walked down Rajpath leisurely, sans any cloth caps but with surplus sun glasses (her branded Ralph Lauren and my Rs 100 Janpath specimen), and clicked pictures of that massive archway from practically every conceivable angle. I narrated to my friend how I always confused the Gate with that distant cousin, the Gateway of India in Bombay, and how I was sure I would never confuse the two therafter. O I knew its history well enough - the commemmoration of the Indian soldiers lost in Mesopotamia and Europe and Asia and God knows where else, and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier - but, no, it's more of a name thing, the confusion. It's more of a personal jinx.

I finally got a chance to examine the Gateway up close and personal, when I landed here in Bombay, about a month or so back. And of course, the very first thing my personal jinx compelled me to do was to search for differences between the Gate and the Gateway. There is the architectural style, first and foremost. What the history books call the Indo-Saracen style, and what I somehow identified in my demented head with the Char Minar (which is not at ALL Indo-Saracen from any angle, by the way!) ... The fact that it stood out against the ocean, the fact that it stood straight before that modern Taj Mahal, the fact that pigeons and doves and sparrows flutter unceasingly in a cliched cameo before its archway, the fact that it was built not to commemmorate the deaths of any hapless soldiers but as a paean to Imperialism (bless good King George!)... and many other things that fly in the face of personal jinxes.

For, despite my cool, quiet appreciation of architecture, and despite my artistic jotting down of distinctions and USPs, I have had to change 'Gate' to Gateway', and 'Gateway' to 'Gate', everywhere in this piece just now.

Moral of the story: never underestimate the power of a jinx. Or the mind of a romantic tourist.

Making do with bread and butter

Alright, the following is a blog entry on Desi Media Bitches, but I copied it here, for the benefit (?) of anybody who never goes there. Also, because, as my PERSONAL blog, this baby gets priority and first digs over anything I write. ;-) (Do excuse the paternal outpouring)

Ever wonder why we are sooooo underpaid? They say it comes with the territory. Imagine a conversation running in your head with imaginary stuck-up people, with imaginary wine glasses in their manicured hands: o, so you're a journalist, are you? So where's your khadi bag and your miniscule paycheck? O, but of course you're supposed to be poor, if you're a journalist - you're meant to start off from the very bottom, wade through all the mud, get dirty, nice and dirty, before finally sucking up to some high-profile politician or corporate head honcho, that will convince your boss you've made it where it counts, so that you get another little pittance as a bonus.

That's life, dah-ling. Clink of wine glasses, and snooty noses turn higher up in the air, as wine is ingested. You're a rookie journo, so the only wine you get to have is at official events, at which you arrive with your khadi bag, and a dog-eared note-book in tow, on the slow train from Borivilli, via Hell. That's journalistic life, dah-ling.

Well, I hate that. And I keep wondering why we never protest about that. I keep wondering why we talk about ethics and grammar and dissemination of truth and so many other things, except how much we as journalists are worth to the papers/ channels/ websites/ companies we work for. And the answer is clear: we are worth a pittance.

People say that TOI is a corporate house, and not a newspaper. Well, I guess, in this respect at least, TOI decides to fall in line with the 'industry' standards (for, let us not fool ourselves - given all the breast-thumping and moral high ground, we are an industry at the end of the day) and starts off its newcomers with a mingy 8k. When I went for my first job interview at the Express, the fat old man behind the desk with his toothy grin offered me 7k, with the disclaimer that since I was experienced in journo school, I was getting 7, and not the 6k that the paper usually offers rookies. Brilliant - other than the fact that there's no way any any respectable citizen can live in a city like Bombay (or any other city, for that matter, if you ask me!) on that kind of a paycheck.

A fact that BigMedia and BigSales seems to be very conveniently blind to.

So, yes, that's my big growse against the establishment. How come the big boys in sales zoom into the office complex in their BMWs, and have executive lunches in the executive dining room, and have their personal laptops to play with, and wear Prada and Gucci and other Italian names that find their way into imperfect imitation designs on Fashion Street? How come they have a nice big chocolate mousse cake, topped up with a cherry, followed up with sparkling red wine, while we're the ones hanging in the sidelines, with plastic plates in hand, making do with plain ole Farrini - and we're the ones who provide the matter that goes out there to the world. That pays for all the chocolate mousse, and the cherries and the red wine. hic!

Bread, butter, dah-ling - we're it! So treat us better - and for heavens' sake, do pay us better, while you're at it!

Monday, November 29, 2004
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Welcome to corn-land. Write a story about it. Write a para, followed by another, and hey presto, you have a chapter. Of strange people who walk on all fours with iron collars around their necks, who go snarling at other people, on their fours, their chains held tight by fish-faced evangelists who speak of the great virtues of the One True God, Pisces.

Imagine a hero, then, a heroine (that's because I must be a romantic, or all hell will break loose), and let us imagine, for an instant, that the genes of humanity have somehow played truant here and there within these two, and they walk on two legs, and use their hands to eat food, put on clothes, brush their teeth, hold things, feel things, caress each other's bodies while making love, in their secluded little cave in a magical forest, hidden from view of the great fish-face city.

A thought-bulb blinks above my head: return to the Planet of the Apes, ala Evil Fishies?

Maybe, maybe... what do you think?

Should I write a story, strange and bizzare, of how our heroic pair are pulled out from their seclusion and forced to fight a war to liberate their lesser brethren, those of the snarling growls and those of the iron collars? Perhaps that tale would let loose a violent history of how humankind exploited fishkind for eons and eons, before intelligent fish rose from the oceans in hordes, and made canned tuna out of the snarling humans, and attached the iron colars to their bony necks...? Would you weep then, in passion, a part of you sympathetic to the fish-cause, even though your PETA heart bleeds for the plight of the poor snarling, mauling, meaowing humans now locked in their cages at night?

It would be a story that would contain a sympathetic fish, of course, perhaps a gold fish (for the sole reason that I had a goldfish once upon a time in Delhi), and this goldfish obviously must have a soft corner for the male species of humans who walks straight.

She would turn him loose, him and his mate, albeit with a heavy heart, to fight their war upon the dominating fish-folk. Perhaps there would be a Statue of Liberty they would stumble upon, while riding by the seafront, on their pet wolf... Perhaps there would be a cave discovered with so many secrets of a bygone era. Perhaps there would a be a wail of lamentation and self-realisation, for none of us mortals are free from the wails elicited by both.

Or perhaps, I may get bored by excessive fishiness and call it a day. Let the humans stew in their broth. Let the fish have their fun. Let me go see Sharktale.

Sunday, November 28, 2004
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Collegiate times

A note on somebody else's blog got me thinking about my own college hang-outs today. For those still not in the know, I graduated with an Economics degree under my belt, from the yuppie-land called St Xaviers College in Calcutta (I refuse to acknowledge Kolkata, other than in strictly official correspondence), situated bang in the heart of the city's ultra-fashionable stretch of tarmac called Park Street.

Everybody's college has the ubiquitous canteen which gathers the maximum attendance than anywhere else in the campus, and mine is no different, and if we wanted some solitude far from the madding crowd, there were the back-stairs neatly cornered behind the science library, or the sheds of green benches that were to your left as you stepped in from the back gate. The staircase was the repository of gossip, close to the storehouse of old and yellowed books that had a delightful musty flavour emanating from them, and it required you to bunch closer together whenever some nonsensical and irreverent professor/ student happened to come traipsing down from above. (Damn them, bless them.)

The sheds of green benches were far from any interfering passers-by, and attracted a wide variety of solitarists (is that even a word?) - couples, groups of class-bunkers, gossip-mongers, bands rehearsing on electric-red guitars, weed-smoking hippies, fat aunties with tiffin-cases for the children of the school that stood across the field, dreamers with their books, and dreamers without their books.

There was 'Delights', the busy dosa place across the street of the back entrance, churning out South Indian style lassi that always found a patron, and over-expensive fried vadas that always elicited a belch from you after you had one. The coke here was always Rs 2 more than from the pan-wallah next door, but this was 'Delights', and so with that warped logic in mind, you succumbed to that extortion.

About ten minutes away, on chic Rawdon Street, with its baked confectionary and ice cream stores, was a lone Cafe Coffee Day, that had a jukebox, bright colours, and good-looking waiters. Cafe Coffee Pai was closer home, in Hungerford Street, and was cosier, with wood panels and friendly waiters who asked you how your classes were coming along, and the hot chocolate there was divine. No jukebox here, but I loved the mix of rock/pop/country/classics they played on the speakers, sometimes broken with the twist of Indian classical or world music, sometimes welcomed by the treat of having a book-reading session. Somebody mutters something about Bongs and their addas and I feel a warm glow in my three-fourth Bong heart. (One-eighth is Burmese, and another one-eighth is Anglo-Indian) They served free chocolate cookies, sprinkled with brown sugar, and crispy, oily onion fries with a homemade carotene concoction of tomato sauce. Why on earth would I want to go elsewhere? (Even if it had a jukebox)

Barista was looked down upon by my group. It stood, in solitary splendour, bang on snooty Park Street, with all its jewellery and suitings showrooms, hundred year-old corporate offices, nightclubs and restaurants that embodied the Sixties' swinging Calcutta of the novellas, and the side-lanes and alleys that now crawled with pimps and hookers. There was Peter Cat, where the sinfully mouth-watering Chello Kebab was invented - and Mocambo's down Free School Street, the Mecca of Continental food, with a prawn cocktail unrivalled this side of heaven. Yes, Barista had its parcheesi set and its chess set, and some long-haired moron who played the guitar, but the moron on the green benches played his instrument so much better, and the games on Free School Street (chess and otherwise) was much more inspiring. Why on earth would I want to visit Barista?

Sip a hot chocolate at Coffee Pai, and stroll down Free School Street, ignore the pimps, and bargain for the rarest and cheapest books in India from the sidewalk pashas who are any Bengali book-lover's dream come true. And, yes, on occassion, return to college for some Economics.

Friday, November 26, 2004
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Strange, but otherwise, Balanced

Want to talk about romance, want to talk about sex, want to talk about the things I've wanted, and the things I'm scared of. The things I balk at, the things I hunger for, and the things people see movies for. (To think, that a shadowy figurine on a huge screen, coated with dust that shows up so inevitably when all lit up, satisfies the lecherous, treacherous fancies/ fantasies of myriads of people across the globe. To think that, sometimes, they satisfy mine.)

Want to talk of creation, and paradise, and trying to get the things you want in life and love. Read somewhere (not so long ago) in an otherwise crappy book (in an obviously crappy mood) that you always get the things you wanted - the time and place may not exactly match, though - and so you have to be careful about what you want. Now why on earth does that remind me of Tom Hanks and Big? Why on earth does that remind me of my life? Why on earth do we all think alike, sing alike, talk alike, walk alike, dance alike, sway alike - or maybe we don't , and it's all just a manifestation of my strange-but-otherwise-balanced frame of mind at the moment.

Am I the only one who sees the world through cut glass, and in shades of precisely four colours? Am I the only one who talks funny, walks funny, laughs funny, cracks up jokes that people say are un-funny, and thinks the whole world is quite, quite, quite funny?

Whatever happened to humour? Whatever happened to getting down to basics and letting your lips do the talking? Whatever happened to admitting that you're in love (or may be slipping thereupon) instead of sending coy sms messages and trying to distance yourself from the message inside (deep inside!) the sms? Someone called me a romantic the other day, and I quite agree. I have these notions of romance and love and what they should be, but I also have these childish ideas of playing the game and flirting and sleeping around and in general going forth and multiplying till I find the right person - and when I do, I settle down, like a good, obedient lad, determined to be all prim and proper. (I need my old school tie to be really prim and proper, though.)

And flash a smile. But I do that perennially, though. Damn - (no reason).

Sunday, November 21, 2004
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Cheap Boss

Will never get used to the Mumbaiyya way of getting someone's attention by making lewd kissing noises, something akin to a nymphomaniac songbird's mating call, cheap cheep cheap... and its many other variations. I found it weird at first, insulting then, shocking when I discovered that my broker was trying to call me in the same way, and became resigned to the universal fact that Mumbai will be Mumbai when even cabbie drivers started making sucking noises at me.

Then of course, there is the fact that a highly professional work culture in the city has gone overboard, so that every single individual you meet on the road, from the local vada pav maker to the doorman at your office becomes your 'boss'. Perhaps, the only person I don't address by that supreme salutation is my boss at work. For all intents and purposes, she prefers to be called by her name, even though she controls my wallet-strings.

One thing that definitely does not work here is the chummy and o-so-confidential bhaiyya, that does the rounds in Delhi. In capital-speak, bhaiyya can fit for anyone - from the tall barrel-chested military man on Chanakyapuri, to the mustachioed Surdarji who steers your auto-rickshaw, to the Ramu in baggy bermudas who gets you your morning paper, or the kindly soul at the mithai shop who's trying to help you make up your mind as to which overpriced sweet to buy.

But when a friend of mine tried a coy and o-so-sweet bhaiyya here in Bombay, she got a rabid glare that accused her of trying to be elitist. Pipe down, woman - the mighty glare seemed to say, - this is Mumbai, and all animals are equal here, except some animals, and those kind of animals certainly do not include you! My friend piped down suitably, and promptly shifted to 'boss'.

While Calcutta takes off on the bhaiyya hang-over and prefers to call every able-bodied male, from the age of 15 to 99 dada, meaning older brother, Chennai goes the work-culture way of Mumbai, and everyone becomes a saar, or sir. The uses are very much the same. If any outsider tries to get the dada or the saar pronounced right, you are immediately recognised as a pretender, but then, the denizens of the mighty cities are pleased as punch that you're at least doing as the Romans do when in Rome, and so you might be rewarded by a a quick show of thirty-two teeth, before the cabbie takes you for a ride. Pun intended.

In which case, you have a perfectly great story to recount to your 'boss', while you buy your ticket from him in a gleaming red BEST bus, after you come back home.

Friday, November 19, 2004
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An innocuous walk through an avenue lined with trees, late at night. It would seem ethereal, magical too, if only your heart was with the person walking with you. Arched doorways on either side of the road, old buildings that reared their heads at the turn of the last century, seem immobile, impassive, as the two of us can only pretend to be.

I told you once, how much I love old buildings, how I would lose myself in the lanes and alleys of north Calcutta, and suddenly come to awe-struck attention before one spectacular wrought iron gate, spangled with leaves, flowers and mythical beasts that numbed my self to the pavement. I remember I told you about that love of mine, and this love of mine smiled, and pressed my hand closer. And now, here we are walking at night, on an avenue lined with trees, and I stop suddenly, to stare up at the big dome atop the Taj hotel ahead.

I've heard stories about it of course. Vague, scary stories of a blueprint gone wrong and a suicide all because of a damn blueprint. Scary to think people can be that stupid, vague to think there is no other evidence to support that theory. And then , it took another walk at night, by the ocean, before the Gateway, to debunk that vague, scary theory, and get at the facts behind it. I remember I had laughed then, and nodded my head in relief. Scary to think of anything so scary and brief and vague.

But that dome is a monster in itself, a theory and a fact in itself. Can hardly look up at it, and not be transported to another century. There are no iron grilled gates here, as they were in the lanes of the city I grew up in, but there is that something else. It is not so much about history, as it is about aloofness, or grandeur, or haughtiness. Of aloofness. For a second, I have a thought about touching that dome, whereon the moon glints in a smiling scimitar shape, and then I feel your breath come behind me, and your hands touch my shoulder. Your fingers close on my flesh, and the dome is no more my centre. It is a background. How could it ever be anything else, a lone corner of a mind in turmoil asks softly, drowned in the ocean waves crashing behind the Taj?

We walk on back into the avenue, away from the waves. I have seen them too often here, too often at this time of night, too often with other people, to see them now with you. I find it impossible to walk in silence to the car, and so I laugh, and try to make a remark designed to make you smirk, designed to make me think to myself - ouch! I never apologise for bad jokes, I toss my head and say, that's me, take it or leave it, and I pray inwardly all the time, that no one does leave ever. You reach out a hand and grasp me again, and even though I can sense you falling in love, I only feel myself falling into a comfortable alacrity. But I tell myself that it's alright, that I am not deceiving you, and that you are not looking for anything more from me than I can give you, and I lie myself to bed each night.

A left turn here, a kiss shared under one of the arched doorways on either side of the avenue, and then we get in the car.

Thursday, November 18, 2004
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On a high

Am a hopeless Morning Person at home, straight out of bed, but by the time I enter office, I'm a brand new improved singing-disco-dancing avatar whom every respectable person wants to lock up and feed the key to mice. I'm not sure what causes the change myself. Jaggu and Tarana on the radio, jibber-jabbering about so many nonsensical things; the pineapple jam sandwich, fortified with excess vitamins, that I consume each morning while listening to the jibber-jabber; the sight of my unconscious flattie on bed that presents such a sorry picture, so much so that I strive unconsciously to be as diametrically opposite as I can; or just plain, dumb hormones?

But here I am, floating on a high that is comparable to the flush you get after spending twenty minutes flirting with someone you have no occasion to know, or get to know. Anonymous flirting, which carries with it the promise of good things to come, but is separated from all the tangled webs that commitment necessarily brings along with it. Someone asked me the other day whether I was a Casanova, and I found the idea hilarious, and yet, my ideas of flirtation are, if nothing else, notorious.

Another thing I am notorious for is digression. And of course, talking to my computer. Minutes ago, I was chatting up my PC with all the charm of a college crush, and asking her why on earth I was talking to her - I'm going mad, I'm going mad, dammit, comp, why on earth am I going mad, but how would you know? you don't talk - only I talk - I talk all the time.

I think I'll blame it on the pineapple jam sandwiches after all.

Postscript: Though I love wheedling and needling, and whining incessantly, I love my life. I love me. I love me living my life. I do not like anybody else living my life. Which basically means I love me.

Postscript 2: I cannot type fast enough to give went to all that's in my head - and the world heaves a collective sigh of relief - see what I do for world unity?

Saturday, November 13, 2004
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To bed

One of the most memorable goonight lines in my mind: the miniature (don't ask me why I used the word in this case) daughter of Captain Von Trapp in Sound of Music singing in a sleepy tone on the staircase, before a hall packed with Hapsburg's creme de la creme:
The sun has gone to bed, and so must I...

To bed, to bed, and then, to bed. That is the mood I am (predominantly) in. And yet, here I am, typing away, determined to record some little memory of what I have done for the past half an hour, sitting here, exhausted from a day of devouring Bapsi Sidhwa, but still beady-eyed, reading from the web details about this new city I live in. I know, lately this blog of mine has come to resemble a What's what in the big, bad world of Bombay, and yet I find it esential to unearth even more of this city. Call it a momentary interest, call it a prehistoric desire to find out about the habitat this caveman has migrated to in his seacrch for roots, call it what you will.

And so, I learn about Koli fisherman and their venerated goddess of the sea, Mumbadevi, and I learn about Mumbai and this place (more a state of mind?) called Bombay.

Like the fact that I'm sitting on a city that was claimed (the official version is reclaimed) bit by bit from an angry ocean titled enigmatically the Black Bay. Like the fact that my woe-begone Parel-of-the-Mills (the Thomas Hardy influence) once housed the Government's official residence, before one particular colicky Governor's wife decided to die of cholera, and that started Malabar Hill's good fortunes. (Not to worry, we still have High Street Phoneix) Like the fact that Breach Candy is situated over what was previously the Great Breach between the islands of Bombay and Worli.

Enough said and done. The encyclopedia session is finished. I have turned the last page of Sidhwa's novel, and hoped for goodness' sake that Ayah (Ice Candy Man) finds her happiness in Amritsar. All in all, Diwali has not been so bad, after all. To bed, to bed, and then, to bed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
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Nodding land

What sort of a person would poke her head out of a cab window at 3 am in the morning, and yell out, her voice throaty with exasperation: GO TO SLEEP, BOMBAY!!!???

The answer comes pat from a Bombayite: a crazy person, of course. I happen to know the same crazy person, and at the risk of sounding like a total and complete nerd, would venture to say that I have, on occassion, felt like doing much the same. My friend is from sleepy, sleepy Chennai, and though she happens to be quite the hip-swinger in every disc you may while your way in, she prefers a city to go to sleep after it is 2 am.

And of course, Bombay is the city which never sleeps. Where vampire-bats cartwheel in mad exhilaration through its highways and alleyways, adding to traffic and chaos, while the rest of the country sleeps.

That is a common enough complaint that most high-flying Bombayites have against India's other metros. The lack of a night-life. Not that they mean the discos and pubs and what-nots that drum alive in energy every night - every metro has its share of those, even sleepy, sleepy Chennai - but rather, the absence of the bustling cab or the hustling streetwalker or the whistling train. Walk down posh Park Street in Calcutta at 1 am, and you are sure to be approached by a pimp if you're a guy (actually, that happens at 1 pm in the afternoon here, too!), and propositioned in quite colourful terms if you're a girl.

In Chennai, the only option for transport past 1 am is in fact walking. Rickshaws are an endangered species at that time of night/day, except in front of movie halls. And there, they charge exorbitant rates that will make your bank balance an endangered species of its own.

But, all the same, there is something extremely annoying about a city that never sleeps. Where do you get that anonymity you crave sometimes, then? Like the way you can walk down deserted South Delhi, after it has just rained, the road still gleaming wet in the glimmer of cracked streetlights, and you're quite glad to be the only one in the neighbourhood, alive and crackling, awake and forsaken. Makes you wish, sometimes, that Bombay really would go to sleep - if only for a few winks.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004
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Watering hole

A month in Bombay and I have not yet been to the beach, be it Chowpathy, or Juhu or anywhere else for that matter. Dastardly thought, when you happen to live in a coastal city, my Lonely Planet conscience says. Compare and contrast to the Marina in Chennai, which I visited within a week of arriving in the city. True, it was over-crowded, teeming with candy-men and baloon-men and men frying vegetables served to you on greasy newspaper plates, and you had to walk furlongs across the polluted sands to finally get to the water's edge - but it was a beach, nonetheless.

People have actually warned me not to head down to Bombay's beaches. The reasons are the usual ones - dirty, crowded, and what-not, but sad to say, I think that is one aspect of beach-life that Indians living in other parts of the country are quite accustomed to. Bengalis like me dash down to that old favourite in Orissa, called Puri, quite habitually, to catch a glimpse of the Sun Temple, and everyone knows how utterly polluted that place has become! The rocks on the sea-shore of Digha, another Bong favourite, has plenty of plastic bags strewn all over. And before you start stoning every Bong you see in the name of environmental policing, let me hasten to add that so-called Pristine Pondicherry is hardly any better, and the Marina in Chennai, supposed to be the second-longest strip of beach in the world after Rio, is famed for its filth. So where does that leave Bombay?

A grouse I have against the city is the fact there is hardly a beach at all, where you can frolic and banter on the sands till kingdom come - apart from the strip in Chowpatty and in Juhu. You have walk-ways instead - Marine Drive and Worli Seaface and Carter Road, all with receding sea-lines, I may add. So one evening, say you want to walk down the Carter Road promenade and smell the sea-smells - after walking ten paces with your eyes closed and your heart sighing in rapture, you open your eyes to discover that the sea is a good distance away from you, and the smell is coming from the fishing village down the bend.

But I do remember Marve from my visit to Bombay a year earlier, when I was still not a bonafide resident of the city. I remember Marve's gorgeous stretch of sand and rock and sea and sun, and I'm hoping that a whole year has not changed Marve's character so completely. True, technicaly speaking, Marve does not perhaps qualify as a Bombay beach, but I'm counting on its proximity to nearby-and-yet-on-a-different-planet Madh Island to argue my case.

A Bombay sea-addict however will cock his head in the face of my arguments and say that the city has all the sea-flavour it needs, despite the receding shorelines of Worli and Carter Road, and he will exhort you to step gingerly onto the buoys of Nariman Point. I have done that, and methinks that Bombay sea-addict might well be true. Every Bombayite has gone up to the water's edge at least once in his or her life, to stand right there on a three-headed drone, and gaze out at the water, sometimes foaming and gurgling, sometimes a deceiving placid, and then, back to the towers that form Bombay's heart. The towers of silence, and the waters that speak.

Monday, November 08, 2004
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Thinking about a comedy sequence somewhere along the line of Friends, but then, most people who think of comedies/sitcoms/yadayadayada these days always do think of Friends first, don't they?

I planned on starting a Friends club back in college, but of course, that never materialised. Wonder, on hindsight, if any college ever did have a Friends club? I mean, think of all the possibilities - the world and its cousin's share of wierdos, all in your backyard, all sitting in a classroom with you, paying scant attention to ... economics?

And then of course, when I shifted out of Calcutta, I began thinking of my new flatmates as an extended loony version of Friends. I gave them names to amuse myself - Un-Surd, Nepali, Tam-Bram, Nonsenseboy (or was that last my own monicker?) - and I wondered how on earth we would survive in the real world, under a real job...?

I guess I know the answer to that now. Nepali cracks cases of child abuse in rural Nepal. Nonsenseboy still has that drawl and that death-defying snigger, but he chases press conferences for a living now. Tam-Bram has become a hermit at his desk, his shenanigans of the past long dead and buried. Un-Surd whines for a TV nightly. And I have stopped popping pills.


Sunday, November 07, 2004
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Going loco in Bombay

The idea behind the Bombay local trains is, I am told, transport. And yet, my Punjabi friend and I, newly arrived from that other bustling, hustling city called Delhi, which most Bombayites look down upon, stand stupefied on the platform, as the masses of Mumbai maniacs push, pull, shove, scamper, claw, maul, throttle and crush their way into an already over-crowded carriage. Transport, as one can well guess, is the last thing on either my friend or my minds.

Bombayites laugh at this experience of mine, as indeed they are wont to. My friend from Thane, who has been crying for Bombay every moment of her six-month stint in Delhi, chuckles in private glee. This is her way of getting back for the never-ending construction of the Delhi Metro service that, apart from kicking up a major dust storm every afternoon, was responsible for conjuring various traffic jams whenever she was late for an appointment. Which, of course, was quite frequent. So she snorts now, as my Punjabi friend lists his woes with the Bombay city he has plummeted headlong into, and tells of how Punjus like him and Bongs like me always quibble, quibble, quibble, and how Bombay is the stuff dreams are made of.

All's fair in love and city-wars, I am told.

But Bombay dreams are hardly the thing uppermost on my mind, as I stand, squeezed between one man's armpit, and another man's Samsonite, during the twenty-minute train ride from Lower Parel to Andheri. Bombay dreams are not what I think of, as I shove and claw and throttle and maul my own way to one of the two pincers that form the door of the bogey, after ascertaining on which side the Andheri platform will arrive at. Bombay dreams are not what dance before my eyes as I am unceremoniously pushed out of the carriage, alongwith at least ten others, to shouts of Andheri, utro! Andheri uto! even as the train is still chugging along at an even pace. A Bombay death before my eyes - maybe.

Of course, as I write this, I can already hear my late-Kate Thane friend chuckle sweet nothings to herself and her favourite locomotives.

Thursday, November 04, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 1:39 PM / (0) Comments

Hating waiting

Waiting is something I cannot stand. At the bus stop, at the canteen, at the corner store, watching through a window. Sitting on a window seat now, in someone's home overlooking a park, surrounded by rare bric-a-brac that reminds me of somewhere else. No, waiting is something I cannot stand.

A drink is placed in my hand, and I smile. I talk about my life, and what I have done so far, but most importantly, all that I am yet to do. Plans, plans, big plans, hanging in the air like some lost Bavarian castle I remember having seen in some crappy rendition of Conan Doyle's The Lost World. Impressive, I hear, and other accolades, but of course, insecurity remains, clinking with the ice in the rum. Take a sip, she urges, and I do, now swallow, and I do, now smack your lips, and of course I do.

I laugh with someone next to me and muse on what I would do to transform that person. A new hairdo, remove those glasses, horn rimmed now instead of that tacky frame that even the Sixties left behind, colour in the wardrobe, begone (!) rare whites,... and there, I have transformed myself into a modern-day Picasso. A part of me is in that fictional alchemy, and I wonder and I hope, and I hope some more, that I find some mysterious alchemist for myself. I ache for something more - something that may simply be a hug, or a smile, or holding hands in the dusk on a leaf-ridden trail in the park.

But, aaaaa, waiting - waiting is something I cannot stand.

PS: Thank you, Sharon, for The Scientist.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 5:29 PM / (0) Comments

A heady affair

Have computer, will type. Sounds outlandish, moronic, (inspired?), and a whole lot of things not in the least insipid. Insipidity is the true danger, so as long as I steer clear from that street, I'll be fine. Or so says the voice in my left ear. The voice in my right ear advises me to steal my flatmate's pills when he's not looking. There simply is nothing like an antibiotic-induced high - a whiff of cough syrup followed after those, and you're off snoozing a warm, happy sleep, dreaming dreams that it's nobody's business to dream...

Do I need to issue a disclaimer that I don't really abuse drugs? Damn, takes away all the fun when you have to be "nice" and "responsible". That was the voice atop my head.

On another note, please do check out this site. A friend of Sharon's is writing a blog-novel (blovel?) and it's kind of exciting, really, to come every day and read a chapter gradually, as he keys one in, every hour on the hour. (Ok, maybe that's four or five hours, but the voices on my ears and head gets the point.)

So, as part of a bargain, here are some of the lines I liked in the blovel:

a) Anybody who knew him for thirty seconds could swear that he had just met an asshole of distinguished cadre. (wonder if anybody thinks that about me?!)

b) "So, what happens in this game?" Joris asks. (yes, I know, a very cliched kind of a line to choose, but sue the voice atop my head)

Goodnight, wicked, wicked Bombay.