Dealing with online abuse

It is not easy dealing with online trolls or abuse. It is very easy to tell someone else to ignore such and give no importance. I have been called prestitude – despite not taking anything apart from official salary and till now NOT written with any agenda. I let that pass, though I did give the cyber crime cell the written complaint. In February I just tweeted the information on Press Club protest march (which was just a demonstration) followed by speeches. On the day of the protest I was openly given threats. A sexual violence threat was issued, which I forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Police twitter handles. They asked me to go and lodge a complaint. I showed the written threat to my political editor friend Samar Khadas and senior journalist Samar Khadas and senior journalist and BUJ leader M J Pandey. They both insisted that I go and lodge a FIR. Later I sent the details to the joint commissioner of police, Deven Bharati who directed me to the nearest police station.

Even thought Filing and FIR is our fundamental right, police will always convince you to get away lodging a Non-Cognisable (NC) offence. In my case despite a personal call by the Jt CP the lady constable who looked far from ferocious insisted on NC. Thankfully my colleague and a friend from TOI called and she was horrified to hear it was only a NC and insisted I speak to their crime reporter who in turn called the Jt CP and he was told on record it was a FIR. By then the Senior PI returned to the station. The lady constable Like all youth, her inexperience showed – at everything. Filing the details, technology usage, patience. Thankfully universe conspired and the file simply got erased or in her words, “aho te file udali.” She bawled and I wanted to laugh! Quite an irony. I made her stop crying, asked her to relax, such things happen in life, but by then it was 8.30-8.45pm, already 2 hours into the matter.

Now usually despite being a senior journalist with the senior police officials calling the station, the true picture at police station is completely contrary. They look busy but you wonder if they are doing anything. For you, your matter is the most important one. Meanwhile they insist on asking you to be comfortable. Basically ensuring you are out of their way. that you are being asked to be comfortable on a chair that is broken, or has holes, or is imbalanced plastic one, is another reality. Moreover in my case, the comfortable seat was a hard, wooden bakda with a stained mattress and a bed sheet that looked unwashed for atleast a month. Yes, so where was I? At being ordered to be comfortable.

Then after recovering from the disaster of the file getting erased, she went to inform the Sr PI who told me “madam because of your case I was specially asked to supervise. Why take trouble. And you have shown your maturity by not shouting at this inexperienced constable we are obliged. Come sit, we shall file your FIR.” Then we were in his cabin, again the routine of shifting to that comfort zone on that stained bakda, by which time my friend made it a point to call me every 15 minutes to ensure I was not really alone. We then dissected the IT act section on pornography. I argued it was a pervert threat and he insisted that section was only for pornography. But he did hint we could add more sections later.

I am genuinely surprised I did not shout or lose it. I wasn’t the least unnerved. Oh yes, the Sr PI gave me hot tea, so one more brownie point. Then the bit of narrating it again. He asked me for a hard copy which I didn’t have, so I To try and make the new cop understand what is twitter, social media. By then I Took a screen shot, emailed it to the police and they printed it out to attach to the complaint. That I had to translate it in Marathi when they read the FIT, was a task. Two of my friends had joined me from 9.30pm and at 10.30pm Samar finally stood up and instructed the lady constable to allow me to go for dinner and we would return to take the copy of FIR. Meanwhile the police were in constant contact with the cyber crime cell.

Now after this my story was not over. I went 4 days later to enquire and they requested me to give the twitter India head’s contacts and email I-d. They had forewarned me it takes few months, my Twitter contact insisted max 20 days! I kept tracking since then. I nearly gave up, until recently when a lady political spokesperson filed a FIR in similar online threat. Accused in my case is still not found. I was told the Twitter USA is not forthcoming sharing ip add details. If any white, American woman had receive such threats the accused’ details would be given promptly to the cops and would be behind bars. Or not? I do not know, I believe the Mumbai police because I know the emails sent and the steps they have taken. So I do not know the status on investigations from the U.S. Side. Here I know the cops have been forthcoming with details, have been cooperative and have done everything they should have.

Now here are some do’s and don’t’s

Look confident, not scare and definitely not over smart
Insist on filing a FIR
As educated citizens do read up a bit on some sections, even if it is on Google
Carry hard copy of the threat, email, whatever evidence – only hard copies are attached to
Despite the hard copy ask if hey wish you to email it to them
Do not say what happens in any other county apart from India
Try to squeeze in some words in local language – because the FIR is written in the local Lang.
Ask the, to read it out and only after that you sign it
Smile when you can
Do NOT shout, at any time
Even if they try your patience
Go with someone but ensure that person is not annoying the cops
Try to win advantage to being understanding
Be stern about the time you have spent and details of the incident
Be observant – this disclaimer is most important from the moment you walk inside the station

Most of all, go and file your complaint. Lodge it at cyber cell at BKC. They made my case an exception, but it is essential you go to the cyber crime cell. They are helpful. Keep track, take the number of police officer there. Do NOT presume the cops are doing nothing. Do not fear after three months your case may shut, it doesn’t. The delay IS from the U.S. Side.

GIVE ME MY RIGHTFUL SPACE TO WALK

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Yet again I was hit by a speeding motorcyclist. Right from behind he knocked me down as he sped overtaking from the left side. His Two wrongs – speeding when other vehicles have stopped and overtaking from the left. If that was not enough he talked me down and said why I don’t I look carefully and walk. (I’m surprised he did not shout back “walk on the footpath you…”) I told him it was his fault and asked him did he not know why in India we have right hand drive? Idiot that is the reason why overtaking from the left is wrong. He argued how else should he have overtaken and that is when I said if he didn’t know that, why was he driving at all and who gave him a licence. All this happened 10 minutes away from home, Charni rd station right outside Goodluck motor training school. One of the many short cut ways to get a driving licence in this city. He got mad at me for saying what I did and asked me to go away before he lost it. By then I lost it and gave him sock on his shoulder. Obviously no one came forward to help me.

I am in a state of shock and my body has gone into trauma phase. It will take a while for it to subside. Two friends called promptly and one recommended AT200 a homeopathic medicine in such cases. By then I stood up with the body jolted and shaking. The cabbie who I had kept waiting too didn’t bother to rush forward and help me. I seriously am expecting people to behave the way I would have, which I know is a huge mistake on my part. I have picked up a lady and given her water to drink, I don’t expect public do this to me, but the least is to help the victim and take him/her aside and try to see if requires any medical help. These basic mandatory duties don’t exist and we should not expect is what cities in India tell you.

Yet again the accident reminded me how cheap and instant death can be, apart from the fact it is violent in such accidents. Small mercies nothing is broken and I am in a single piece. At that instance you don’t think of anything. Nothing you possess or want even remotely crosses your mind. You just fervently wish you remain safe and in one unbroken piece. Thankfully a slow man came forward after the motorcyclist sped away towards Marine Lines. He walked briskly towards me and repeatedly asked me to note down the number plate. My instant reaction was to open the WA chat of Mumbai Traffic Police and immediately filed a complaint. They promptly replied as my hands continued to shake post the accident. They asked me to call RTO helpline num, that is when I revealed who I am and said I have no strength to do so. A lady police officer called and politely said she had lodged my complaint and they have communicated via wireless message but said I should call RTO helpline so that next time whenever the vehicle owner goes to RTO, the complaint against him will show up. I called and lodged complaint. Of course it didn’t stop there, they then asked me to call Kalbadevi police station, which is when I said enough I’m done.

One can do all this if only one survives. I am right now still livid that walkers have NO space in this country. we are being forced to get off the roads. There is deliberate ignorance and indifference shown by authorities. Many like me believe in public transport and we love to walk, but have absolutely no place to do so. We want proper gaps in these never ending dividers. Clean subways, most often leave aside clean, the subways Do not exist. Give us proper zebra zones and force people to STOP. Just go to the signal at Kalaghoda, Bombay University, despite green signal for walkers, all vehicles break the law speeding past us. Why is it that police do NOT bother to book all those who break law? They can just monitor even on the cctv cameras. What are these cctv cameras for, to begin with? It is a pity we abled professionals are being thrown off the roads forcibly by law breaking citizens and it is being allowed by all authorities.

Now the imp nos.
Mumbai traffic police – WA num: 8454999999
RTO helpline : 1800220110

Store these in your cellphone and spread the word

Summer quick chutneys

Yeah, me too..but the reason behind this is I want to keep the dishes of my grandmother alive. Hence fell a prey to this.. Hope you enjoy eating after you make them. Remember you read it here…

Ambe daal

Now the one thing about Maharashtrian cuisine is that with change of season, the ingredients are in sync with the vegetable or fruit of the season. Ambe daal, is self explanatory. Raw mango with chana dal

Soak a vati of DSL overnight, drain, rinse & refill early morning
1 small kairee, raw mango
1 chilly
Pinch of rock salt (I don’t use Tata salt, but as per your tast)

Peel & grate raw mango
Slit the chilly keep aside
Add salt in the mixer
Grind the chana dal, don’t make it a paste, leave it rough,

(If you prefer spicy, grind the chilly with the grated mango & Dal)

The best part of Amber daal is it is quick, easy & tasty chutney. You can eat it with anything or even just have it with a roti/phulka

Amsul chutney

Now Maharashtrians traditionally use Kokam or amsul to add sourness to any dish. In summer it is kairee, rest of the times it’s the former. This chutney for some odd reason is made only on shraddhs (mourning period). The day of the deceased family member during Piyu pakeha, a delicious meal with full thali is served to the dead souls. (May be to ensure their ghost or spirit continues to remain fulfilled). My image used to be of my Aaji (paternal grandmother) who would make such delicious variety of food. She would prepare a thali for naividya and place it at the foot of the aram-khurchi, arm chair. And I would imagine my ajoba (grandfather) must have been sitting on it.

That thali would have amsulachi chutney. I never got an answer as to why the most tasty chutney was made only on that occasion guess I still won’t. But I like it and another easy to make chutney with no great ingredients is a tasty accompaniment.

Take 3 flakes of amsul (amchur)
1/4th cup of natural jaggery
Pinch of rock salt

Soak the amsul early morning
Grind it on hand pastel till it a paste
Add jaggery, grate it so that it is easily mixed with amsul
Taste, in case you need re jaggery add, it is not supposed to be sour
Add salt, grind it all
Stir and serve
This is a delicious sweet and sour chutney that can be eaten with rice, Kachori

Making A Difference

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We meet innumerable people on a daily basis and often before we realise they have begun making a difference in our lives. Such are these two, Rajubhai the driver & conductor. Both with distinct personalities, as a cohesive team ply the AS4 (NMMT) Bus for the #BEST. From Oshiwara to Backbay Reclamation Depot. The first time I stood at the stop, I was taken aback. Smoothly the bus halted right near my step, not a breath to be wasted. I was greeted by an absolute warm smile and “Good morning,” by Rajubhai. A while later, the conductor, who I call Mr. versatile came in gold earring, photochromatic glasses, smart phone and spoke in pure English. “Good morning, where to? Are you going to be a regular traveller?” Wow! Never before has any conductor or BEST bus person shown Such curtesy to any commuter. I returned the smile, thanked and said, yes I would love to be a life time commuter in any airconditioned bus. there struck an unusual bond between the three of us, that was to remain.

Every morning unfailingly from a distance I could see white set of smiling teeth, a wave and a welcoming nod with good morning and while I got inside the bus, if Mr. versatile was not dozing off (well after the small naps he would get energised), he would come with folded hands and speak a new language waiting with the ticket machine. Mr. versatile knows and can speak English, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Kuchchi, Punjabi, Marathi and I am sure few other languages. He has been featured in an English newspaper, can recognise gadgets at a distance and has a love interest to whom he would coo softly on the phone. He knows every regular commuter’s name, profession, cellphone number (never asked for mine as he thought in the initial days I am someone connected with the government or media!) and addresses. He is like the bus shrink, talked to all, inquired about their weekends, work, bosses, parents, in-laws etc. the young and old all seemed to connect with him. He distributed sweets on the day his son passed with a first class and was the first to announce he hadn’t expected as he thought his son was useless and uninterested in studies.

The duo kept us entertained, they are well informed and would discuss latest news and happenings. At the end of every trip when my destination would arrive there always was a thank you, have a good day. With Mr. Versatile being rather filmi and Rajubhai waving hia hand. Not a word of this is an exaggeration, may be understated but nothing excessive. Those few seconds of greetings made an impact. Even though the timings would vary, I never felt agitated waiting for this duo. I would want to smile, step in feeling wanted, a
Welcome that was heartfelt and everyday each commuter is being made to feel like a family of AS4. I stopped taking this bus after the change of job. I had absolutely no idea when next I would board this bus and meet this friendly duo. Then in the last week of December I had to go to Shivaji Park to meet a police officer. I waited for the 83, 84 ltd bus, but fervently wished I could get the aircon bus. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine or expect my 2 friends to stop the bus.

The minute the bus came to a smooth a halt, the big beaming smile greeted me with a bigger laugh and “arre madam gd morning. Kitna achcha laga apko milke,” and Rajubhai called out to Mr. versatile. “Dekho kaun aya!” My happiness too knew no bounds, I was like yay my old bus team, my year ends well and I am confident 2016 will go well. The two friends told me they miss me every morning. “Hum roj Subah baat karte hai, madam ayegi, ek din zaroor ayegi. We look out for you in the Roxy lane, bus bhi slow leke jatey hai.” I can’t tell you how important it made me feel. There is no need for these two to butter me, because I don’t take this bus everyday. The point is, there are most genuine and sincere people, who make such a difference in the lives of others, especially when they are not expected to. While most often bus drivers and conductors behave like they are participating in formula one races, are rude, often sound miffed, as if they are doing us a favour, snappy and never stop for commuters. Here is by far the best team I have come across. They are warm, polite, wait if they see anyone run for the bus, even stop in the middle of the road if someone waves out.

All I can say is that there truly is hope in this city. I am so thankful and lucky to have met these two and can wish them and their families happiness and only the best, always.

Million views or make millions

I’m not sure you have seen this video or not. If you haven’t I suggest you SHOULD. As a journalist I had learnt that one always gets a bloody good story in ordinary life! This video too my friend and co-creator of this YouTube channel #thereport and me got from ordinary life. We don’t track our videos on a regular basis. Sometimes we do, when suddenly we remember we have shot lovely videos, we have a channel and as a small reminder to ourselves we tweet them. the best part is while surfing YouTube this afternoon I read we have received a million hits!

Wow! This is called a video has gone viral, right? We entered this virtual world to make millions, we are to make a beginning nowhere near million, but we have reached the million mark of hits. Now you will not have read of it or heard in any mainstream media. Because we do not lobby with the tech writers who obviously do not do proper research. But the virtual world is tracking it all and also has acknowledged our video. A young girl contacted us Last year on the comments below this video requesting us to allow her to feature the video. She wanted to also feature the team behind this. and that is how we were featured by http://hitpunjab.net/innovative-indian-cutter/ .

Suddenly we had people informing us to give a price for this video, interested vendors wanting to buy this video. And their terms were of course absurd. They wanted us to give away our rights, if you please. Then few portals and online networks wanted to tie-up with us. I bet none of these had faith in both of us when we first embarked on starting this video. What clicks nobody can predict.

We showed the knife vendor the many thousand hits. He was nonchalant for being featured. He is a lesson for how to go about doing one’s work day in and day out, the same routine, at the same time, saying the same thing in the same tone!

The point however is about our channel and the success we have seen. I can say it’s NOT a dream gone wasted. We were called losers because when we were asked about business and marketing plans. And we will never have any. We are two creative and people and as we learnt from our subject we will continue doing what we believe in and that which gives us utmost joy-making videos.

This was what we wanted to do for our city Bombay. To showcase her in smallest manner with details that we see on daily basis. I think the important part here is to do it continuously with no expectations. Of course it is our dream to still make millions online ever optimistic 🙂 There is nothing that gives us more thrill than capturing the nuances of our city. So cheers! Time to celebrate.

Court valued my life at Rs 300/- in an accident

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A lot is being reported on law, bail and the legal system of India especially after the hit-and-run case of Salman Khan. Mine is no chilling tale of h&r. However, I am a survivor. Moreover, after my accident, I have personally experienced what usually happens in such cases. Curious bystanders, many who watch for amusement, rare few true helping hands and lastly, but most important, those in your own vehicle who walk away from the scene of the accident, leaving others to suffer.

In 1995, I do not remember (moreover no longer care to remember) the exact date and month of the incident. I was a member of the crew shooting for a promo. We spent second half of the day at a bungalow in Juhu and wound up from there by night time. We left for Cuffe Parade and right behind my house, at Sukh Sagar we were suddenly hit in full force in the middle of the signal. This signal is exactly 5 minutes from my house and imagine till the time I shared this news with my parents, nobody had any clue. There were NO cellphones at that time. We were travelling in a Maruti 800, that belonged to cinematographer Sunil Mehta. He sat in the front seat with the driver, the director, another assistant director and me in the back seat. I had blacked out. I recall my name being called out my legs had become limp. I know now how it feels when we say ‘there was no more life left in one’s feet.’ I nearly tripped as i tried to walk, I was shaking and believe me I was angry that I let myself feel vulnerable. I shook myself and flew with rage to slap the driver and the police dissuaded me saying “Tumhi kayda tumchya hatat gheunaka tai, amhi ahot, amchyavar bharosa theva.” I must give it to DB Marg police and the traffic police. They pulled him out and crossed questioned him, i saw the fucking asshole’s eyes were blood shot red.

Now understand, this was in 1995, pre-internet, pre-cell phone or even pre-pager days. There was absolutely NO awareness regarding drunk driving, anti-speed laws, or a civic sense that even though we still lack on large scale basis, is being strongly felt. So we were left to fend for ourselves. There was 1 more car ahead of us, a Bohri family with an elderly man and his family-9 lives were at stake, at the mercy of this drunk man! There was NO remorse on his face. Our Maruti 800 had become nearly 1/4th its size, we smashed into the Bohri uncle’s car who too were shaken. There was chaos and while police cornered the drunk man, the director coolly held the hand of the more frail and shaken assistant director & said, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” May be I should have listened. As I walked few steps with them out of sheer disgust, I looked out for Sunil Mehta because it was his car we were travelling in.

There I saw him on the divider outside cafe ideal guiding the traffic and unaware that blood was streaming down the back of his skull. I walked back to Gupta kulfi, shaking with fear because Sunil had no clue of his condition. The kulfi man gave me handful of ice which i wrapped in my napkin and asked Sunil to hold on his skull and told him he was bleeding. From then on began our useless ordeal. I am glad Sunil agreed we should lodge a complaint at the DB Marg police station. We went to Lamington rd station and were there till midnight. All the 3 cars were towed to the police station while our statements were being recorded.

At that time we all sat around recounting the horror of that night. A production person prodded the director of how the day was a waste, shooting going bad and problems of continuity. Nonchalantly they turned to me and said I should never have got into filing this complaint. “We could have settled this matter and saved time and money of the company.” This was UTV, mind you, making profits. I don’t think any one of them to date realise or even have the sensibilities required. This was shocking to say the least. Here are potential parents and in many ways killers if all they think of is ‘settling matters with money.’

This all occurred within 5 minutes distance of my residence. The accident spot, the walking away cold heartedly, the DB Marg police station-every scene was in half kilometre radius. And nobody in my building or the lane was remotely aware of what had occurred. Worse still, here were educated colleagues and boss who lacked all sensitivity and respect to anybody else’s life. That was the first jolt. The cinematographer called me later and even assured me of support if I were to pursue the case, which I did. I still am not sure if my decision was sensible. I did what is right and what comes naturally to me -to abide by the law.

A few years after that, the matter came up on the board twice. Now this I am sure is still a followed practice. An absolutely unfriendly and indifferent, abrupt and I do think communication-challenged public pleader was ‘appointed’ to take up my matter. She NEVER interacted with me regarding this case. The matter would come up at Girgaum Court, which is a dingy, dark and depressing court to be honest. The public prosecutor behaved with me as if I was the accused. She refused to listen to me. And considering that I already had television news experience going to courts, I was confident of dealing with these lawyers.  But no, she deflated all my confidence. After a few months when the final hearing was on board, this lady refused to defend the matter the way I wanted. I seriously don’t know what she put up to the Judge. Sunil’s driver too was present and all I can say is we felt like total shit. The court declared the accused was from out of Mah. MP or some such state, (that asshole was present in court and looked far from guilty) so he was let away. The judge told him to pay rs 300. I shouted, “This is not fair, my life is not so cheap.” Yes i took the liberty and refused to care two hoots for what the court would think of me. The gall of the judge, who said, “Whatever you have to tell, go to your lawyer.” That cow was not even hired by me, she was NOT ‘My” lawyer. The all round challenged moronic cow snapped at me and asked me to shut up. I cried, NOT because of the judgement only. Because a potential remorseless killer was let free. Moreover out of helplessness, since I had NO powers to fight for myself, the driver and my colleague. Worse the freaking judicial system valued me worth only Rs 300/- DO you know how cheap that is? Even a sex worker in 1995 must have charged lots more than that.

Do you know how shit it feels? It had ramifications on me. I was dealing with multiple frustrations. I did not inform my parents of this accident for long, I was on medication for back ache, was scared in case of any internal injuries. Thankfully after a few weeks the pains stopped. Worse were the mental scars and the need to overcome any sort of fear. I am surprised I did not become an alcoholic or a mental case. I still cannot get over the fact that a court has valued our lives worthy of only Rs 300! This made me an angry woman, I know I often pull up rule offenders. People think I fight for no reason. But it is a matter of existence – do I walk away silently as I see it happen repeatedly? Not that the offenders listen, so why waste my time? I am learning, you can’t change others, one needs to change. And every day I pray I do NOT become an indifferent person..it is a daily battle every single day of my life.

A new ride

NMMT bus

Hello! After a long time that i felt i should share my thoughts. These usually i’ve been capturing on either my camera or cellphone camera. With the change of my job, my bus travel has become rather different. I now travel in the air-condition bus AS4 and it most convenient. Except for few stray transit passengers, most of them are regular ones, who have been on this bus for few years. Now yesterday, March 30, as I boarded the bus, I saw some new people. What I didn’t know was they have been regular passengers who have been on this bus for longer while, but weren’t to be seen for few days. As soon as the conductor came to give me the ticket, the lady opened a box of mithai, my abso favourite, kaju katli and asked the conductor to offer me. As I took a tiny piece (Practicing self-control), she said “Take the whole piece.” I asked her the occasion for sharing sweets with us on the bus, she said, “It is my super annuation day.” I congratulated her not thinking for a second it could not be exactly the happiest day of her life. Recovering that it could be her retirement, I asked her what the term meant. Bashfully she told me, “It means I now will retire after working at a place for 35 years.” Another regular fellow passenger sitting next to her told me he knew the meaning and hence did not congratulate her. I actually felt she must be so scared of the freedom and ample time on hand. I reassured her, that the good part was she now needn’t have to board the bus as early as 7.00am!

Just the sound of those words echoed in my ears. “Worked in an office for 35 years.” I told her honestly that I shudder at that thought. I asked her if she will be given a farewell. So she said, “No all that is over last week. They took me for lunch, dinner and I took some on different days, now it is officially last day tomorrow.” When I asked if she was nervous? “Yes I’m nervous, I don’t know if it’s good or bad.” It seemed all so overwhelming to her. Yet, she had remembered to bring 2 separate boxes for the conductor and bus driver.

Today, as I took my seat like yesterday, I faced her. She looked away from me and she was visibly preoccupied. She had worn a golden coloured saree with gold border, a lovely golden decorative neck piece and yes, retirement day was here! I wished her and complimented on her looks. She thanked me and told me “It is mixed feelings. There are tears and cheers, as they say.” That moment i felt if anyone of us were to hold her hand, she would have burst into tears. She thanked the conductor and bus driver doing a Namaste to them. All other fellow passengers cheered her on. It was all so sweet and emotional, I shared this on twitter. It was a very ‘awww’ moment. I found out that Stella worked in the government ministry, I overheard her saying Shipping.

These are the wonderful experiences I will cherish as a citizen of this city..cheers to all.

Police too can be nice, after all

2015-01-04 17.53.37Now, in early October 2014, i received a call from the police station in my area -DB Marg. They asked if any police verification was pending? Then again mid October they called& asked when had I got my passport renewed? Had i come to the police station? I replied i cannot remember and one of them had the gall to ask sternly how i couldn’t recollect if had personally visited the police station. I was really annoyed. I had renewed my passport in 2012, thereafter I had visited Europe in  2012 and Krabi Island in 2013, now they had woken to harass me? I too sternly informed them it has been 2 years ago and even gone abroad. Again for 2 months i did not hear from them. Then i received a call in December.

The man on the left, Mr Shinde had called. He was very polite and informed me that i need to personally visit the police station and bring a list of documents that i was required to submit in a day. He said, since i had got my passport from ‘tatkal’ scheme and that entails police verification to be done later. Now, my dear police station and that time Sr PI didn’t do it, worse still the passport registrar’s office did not think of it then. Just to respect the cop’s word, because i felt he was polite, i need to go personally. I reached the station in like 8 minutes.

Here I was in for a surprise. Mr Shinde now treated me like an accused. As soon as i entered he said, “here see madam. You had wrongly written the name of the police station.” I was shocked, i never recall writing name of police station. I said i have not written it, so he accused saying someone did and i should have been more careful. From that moment onwards the conversation was no more a polite talk where they are supposed to help customer. Now this is a ‘help desk’ at a police station, yeah so imagine how helpful it was. That now let me explain is a squeaky small room. Another bulky man sits at the entrance, who is a writer. Then these 2 constables. Behind them is a blank white wall, with no sign of ‘documents required for renewal and verification of passport.” there is a semi-partition on the right, where another bulky officer sits and is never to be seen, he is the senior of this help desk.

Around 7ish at night, i am firstly accused of erroneously writing the name of the police station. It is no breach of law. Then 1 lady sat while i was made to stand as if i am in a witness box. So 1 by 1 i too read aloud the list. I was horrified. I asked repeatedly, 14 documents for police verification? They insisted its less and just bring them along with copies. Impatient at my questioning, the cop seated behind tells this young man, “give this slip to her, if she wants to fill it, let her, else forget it. apla kay jata.” Yeah i had not told them who i was, no, because this real picture would never have unfolded in front of me. Mr Shinde said “madam you have to submit all these documents, else your passport can get cancelled.” Now that was my break point. I was on a war path thereon. I said go ahead cancel, it. Let me see whose father cancels it, go, do it. Then they tried to calm me down. I sounded aghast when i asked them why they needed my bank passbook. Simultaneously i had WhatsAppd my personal banker about the statement part. I irritatingly informed the cops we no more get pass books. Now the minute i said this, Shinde turned to the lady seated and asked if she had brought her passbook. She said yes, he turned round and said “See she has brought hers, what are you saying?” I was livid and said mine is not Shyamrao Vithal or cooperative bank ok. He admitted later he shouldn’t have done this. For me this was the lowest. I was no accused, had committed no crime and being verified by some strange lady who was stupid enough to get 1000 documents, it was a total insult to my intelligence. I came out and raved and ranted to my colleague and friend. Dharmesh had a point, why the hell was i speaking to 2 rude constables? It is a help desk and not a place where i am called for questioning. He asked me to head back and bring up this matter with the Sr PI. He was surprised I had meekly got out.

I asked for the senior PI – he happens to be the head of the station. It was then i gave my visiting card, a  journalist. His PS asked me to talk to some Patil, which i outright refused. I was told to wait. At that time somebody saw my visiting card and mumbled about tv reporting, all this i could hear. I asked another crime journalist friend to speak to the sr PI and tell him of my episode. It was an hour after which the Sr PI came.The first thing i asked is as a citizen am i allowed to ask questions? At the outset i praised the constable for being polite on the phone, but said i was disappointed with the whole experience. Meanwhile i put up on twitter my experience and more horror awaited me. In Andheri cops asked for 20 odd documents. Another friend shared his terrible experience.

So the Sr PI like my friend Dharmesh confirmed we need 3 basic documents for renewal of any passport – Proof of Birth & Age, Proof of residence and Proof of Education. One needs to note that. Now for police verification one needs to show –  Proof of Birth & Age, Proof of residence. The reason they list 14 documents is because most often people have varying addresses or information on many documents-some give old add proof, some have made changes but do not have it changed on all documents, some don’t have many of these documents. Which i understood. Now i shared my experience verbatim. He fired the hell out of these 2. A week before another lady had complained. And it came as no surprise that ladies asked more relevant questions and it bothered these 2 cops. I like what the Sr PI said, “These are not accused or criminals. You both are here to help them.” They were given orders to respect us. Later as we continued talking, i suggested why don’t they put up a board. The Sr PI summoned Mr Shinde and we returned to his desk making peace.

On the way another police person recognised me and asked Shinde if he knew me and that i was a senior journalist. Shinde by then needed no introduction to me. He apologised and said he should never have asked the lady as he did and should have answered my queries patiently. I too said hey sorry i had to complain to your boss and we made peace. He then advised that i only bring the following originals and 2 xerox copies- Birth certificate, pan card, ration card (yes despite the fact it is no more a valid proof, SBII branch is ancient) and electricity bill. I went the following sunday and both were helpful. They sat and completed my full form. We chatted amicably and were thrilled that i took their photo. They thanked me for telling their boss to put a board for us citizens and also give the cops a better place to sit.

At the end all was fine. But the cops too have a valid point. Keep all your papers in order, ensure all the basic facts like name, age, DOB and address is the same on all legal documents. Else get them changed, so that you do not face problem in future. Most of all, do not fear asking any question, however stupid. Also ask even though it may irritate the police, that is your right. Respond to their calls and go visit the police station. The police only verify and send it up to SBII. but they are there to help us, so we too can help them to help us.

My day at Tienanmen Square (In 2003)

Tianemen

Recently, during the Assembly elections, a childhood friend contested from my constituency. It was his first time as a candidate. For me, as a journalist, I have been covering elections since post 1990. He got a ticket from a party that I really dislike. But as a friend I had committed to help me in personal capacity. Often in the evenings we would analyze the possibilities and probabilities in the elections. As we neared to the day of voting and later results, we would discuss ideologies at length. Now his party strongly believes in regional identity. They have indulged in extreme violence too.

Frequently we would take stock of the situation and all of us exchange notes. As the election date drew near my friend R seemed confident that he could bank on the Maharashtrian vote. He did tell me that his party president had done lot more and gone beyond his capacity to help him win. Their rival party had put dummy candidate was what he was given to believe. I wasn’t confident. However, beyond all this was the strong ‘Hindutva’ ideology that he was up against. That is something he could not believe.

We had arguments and I realized this friend would not understand till he learnt his lesson. Point being even though the voters in our area are otherwise hard core ‘Marathi manoos’ otherwise, as another friend said, most of them are Brahmins. They are staunch followers of RSS- Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghatana. The RSS had ensured that otherwise cynical Brahmins came out in large numbers and voted for BJP. My friend could not fathom that these very Brahmins otherwise show allegiance to Marathi manoos politics, but how they could ditch it for a non-Marathi candidate. It is this ‘ideology’ that over rides all thoughts and actions. He initially had refused to believe, but as he saw the booth wise report he seemed disillusioned.

Mao40002(have deliberately put my pic outside Mao’s memorial, for pictographic evidence of this incident and visit). Now, this reminded of an eerie experience I had in 2003 when I went to China.  I remember I was mighty excited to be in the land of Mao. My first halt was Beijing and I am glad I got see and learn a lot. I got the best of guides. Now this was before the Beijing Olympics and China had just begun to open up. The  college students had begun speaking in English and that too only in Beijing. Most would double up as tour guides. But the fact was we were being followed, checked upon and that every guide told me. They asked me not to ask too many questions.

On the first day I climbed the Great Wall of China and had already begun preparing my 2 students guides about my visit to The Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. I have always been accused of asking too many questions. Before it became my profession, I had learnt that if I didn’t open my mouth, I have lost an opportunity to learn anything new, moreover, often people misunderstood because you just let things pass. I told the boy I was excited to visit Mao’s tomb and most of all the Tienanmen Square. This seemed to have upset the boy. He said firstly he was not at all upto it to accompany me there and why was I so excited about Mao. I told him how the man has impacted the South Asian region till date, India has suffered and our struggle against the Maoist groups. I wasn’t admiring the ideology at all nor was I fascinated by it. I told him I felt bad about the Tienanmen Square firing and wanted to know more, except I feared no one will talk in China. Now this was the iffy part. The guide refused to tell me initially the reason he would not accompany to the square. He said he would take me to the Forbidden City, posed for photographs with me, was cheerful, but the minute we would have quiet discussion or any hint of the square, he would change the topic.

In 2003 too, China was not open. I was well warned in advance that I was to be careful. No political discussions and since I was a journalist, there would be people who would be listening to my conversations. The college kids were well aware of the Chinese mode of functioning. So we had an understanding when we would be well away from the driver, or any such people who we thought were keeping an eye or ear on us, we would speak of Bollywood, life in India and safe topics like Dr Kotnis, etc. Such sensitive issues, we would talk when away from crowds, at the historic places where only te 3 of us would be able to speak. So we decided to live up to the name of ‘Forbidden City’ and speak of why he was embittered and angry with his government, moreover Mao.

beijing18

Now for non-Chinese and rest of the world, the Tienanmen Square is etched in memory for the pro-democracy movement protests. These protests ended on 4 June 1989, with the declaration of martial law in Beijing by the government, wherein the army was ordered shooting in which hundred or possibly thousands of civilians were killed and the exact number of dead would never be known. Now what the guide told me was chilling. The reason he hates the ideology was among those dead was his dear friend’s brother. He was part of those lakhs of students out on Tienanmen Square. Many parents though supported were scared for their children’s lives. These were ordinary citizens who wanted democracy but had no courage to say so,  He came near the square while describing and asked me to closely observe the landscape and buildings. The day the shooting took place, the government officials were in continuous discussions with the army and students’ representatives. The minute the sanctioned armed action and the army began firing upon the innocent students, many parents stood at the windows of the government and Communist Party office and watched their children die. They did not shed a tear, the guide told me. He was in tears while he narrated to me. That is the commitment to the ideology. I remember sharing it with my friend in China and Mao sympathisers in India. Some rubbished it, some had nothing to say, yet some said these were rumours. I do believe that it is NO rumour.

I held this secret for a long time, after I shared it with my college friend who lives in Shanghai. He asked me to keep this secret, however much later I shared it with my Indian Mao sympathizer friends here, when the police and ATS had begun arresting the Maoist group members. This was not appreciated by the followers. It has two aspects I believe. While I do understand their fear of allowing such stories to pass around, one obvious is the negative. What I find intriguing is the staunch belief in ideology. How did such stories not come out in the foreign press then? In China mainland, people don’t talk for obvious reasons, they FEAR. But it is known. So did the media not penetrate enough in the 90s? Did the foreign media not enough reach, at that time? I do believe it that was the scenario. My friend moved from Thailand to China many years after this incident and till 2000 the environment was still not as open. He did not rubbish it though neither did he confirm it. That is how it has always been China about such sensitive matters.

But when Indians over-react to Mao and Naxal, they should not forget, any indoctrination, Maoism, RSS too is part of that ideology. So while we condemn one, I am immensely shocked that the other in modern Indian times is finding more followers.

(All pictures have been taken by me. The 1 of mine, the boy guide took).

Different ‘stroke’ Diwali

stroke

It is Diwali and I wish all a wonderful Diwali and a prosperous year ahead. I finally have decided to write it all. I do not like personal intrusions for many reasons. Firstly since it is personal, whatever anyone may say that individual and their family only has to go through it. Secondly, I call it intrusion because I can’t handle people reacting in far too dramatic a way. I don’t mean to undermine their good intent but often find people are too melodramatic and emotional which, i cannot handle.

Our day began as usual. My sister was visiting us, my brother was down from Pune..so it was one different sort of Diwali, us siblings together after a decade. My parents were thrilled and especially after few trying months. My father is a recovering cancer patient. That too was detected in July, when he had a near ‘total renal failure.’ We admitted him by noon and by the end of the day, the family doctor looked shaken and colour had run from his face and asked to speak to me separately. He asked me to go and prepare my mother for the worst. When I shared the readings of his reports with my Doctor friend R, he told me it was a near TRF. Baba hates hospitals and suddenly was in the ICU, something i’ve never seen and ever want any parent to experience.

Well, my father’s family is endowed with some war genes. The way they bounce back is amazing. And the first sign is when they ask for food. Baba first asked for an idli in the morning and the sisters in the ICU said its fine, give anything but liquids. Later, he insisted on a masala dosa only from dakshinain-we believe one should have a memorable end, eat good tasty food, if alcohol permitted then the best of it, as death should be worthwhile. So contended with his food, by evening father was set to leave. Even though he was out of danger, drs wanted him to be put under observation. By the end of the second day, he came around completely. In those 10 days, he underwent innumerable tests that were gruelling and could have taken toll on him,but he was rock solid.

The news of cancer was not told to him till then. My family doctor first asked me to prepare my mother. But I was clear baba needed to know first and yes, usually the tough part of telling the harsh truth is my job. Like me, Baba too had a hunch it was cancer. My father’s mother, his older and younger sister had all died of cancer. He has an excellent sense of observation having been an ace photographer (professional). And he had picked up the leads already. He was just waiting for me to tell him. He wasn’t shocked and we discussed in details life here after, the options and time frame.

After the biopsy, endoscopy and other tests we learnt my father’s prostate cancer had spread. Now there is a good and bad to it. Bad is that it had spread a lot, affecting his urinary tract. Good part is it had not spread to his bones or vital organs. We had few options and going by his age, (was nearly 82 then), there weren’t many choices. Thankfully it pays huge dividends to have very good doctors in the family or neighbourhood. We have in our extended family and school batch, friends who are fine doctors. We took second opinion from one of the best doctor and we were told the possible treatment option and the side-effects. The fact is going by his age, doctors made it clear prolonging his life was NOT the priority, which I too 100% agreed. Our priority is to give him a good quality of life in the remaining days/weeks/months or even years. Moreover, we felt he should be most comfortable. We were told to look at the hormone therapy as the best option. I went online and read in details.

Hormone therapy is especially useful because prostate is to do with hormones, I mean that’s why we are born in the first place…now the down side to this treatment and that’s where relevance of today’s illness comes into picture. It enhances the chances of heart attack, stroke, enlargements of breasts (imagine male he first boobs), etc. What caught my eye was the stroke, heart attack bit. But you know, what was the choice? We want only the best for our loved ones. I had seen my aaji who took the stand in the fourth stage of oesophagus cancer that no needle will be pierced into her body and she died in 21 days of internal haemorrhage; both other atyas who took the medical treatment of every intervention, surgery, name it and they both suffered through it all. Or then the option of hormone injections. We opted for the last. And what a memorable period and healthy life my father has lived!

Initially he struggled to get up in his bed to even have food, then a bigger struggle after 2 weeks to take stand and even walk with the help of a walker. From August 15, there was a complete turn around. He began to move around in the house without any support, do every chore in the house, walk from one end to the other- and by Bombay standards the house is a cricket field! This was a huge improvement and we were actually relieved for him. Honestly, we had forgotten he had cancer, despite weekly urine checks and monthly blood tests with the injection and medicines.

Now, talking of Diwali. My sister was to leave on Friday night and she wanted to buy clothes from a specific shop. I had taken her to the suburbs and within minutes we got a call from brother asking us to rush back home. My brother said baba’s right side had gone numb and speech was slurred, there was pain in his head and he wasn’t normal.

Now for the symptoms- My father was watching a serial, after it got over, he stretched to pick up the remote and he felt no sensation in his fingers. My brother saw my father’s jaw shift (yes such things happen) and his right knee and right hand had gone numb, while his speech was incomprehensible. He suffered two strokes at home in half an hour. There began series of phone calls and i called two friends Dr R and my school friend. Dr R said my father has to be hospitalised immediately. And my school friend who is a HOD in Saifee said I should move him immediately to Saifee hospital because it has a full-fledged ‘stroke protocol.’ Among the many hospitals in this city, we may not be aware of which has what facilities. There are certain compulsory tests that are required before the person who suffers stoke is admitted.

We moved him for MRI and Angio and in the MRI they detected an ‘intracarnial haemorrhage’ and said it is serious. I read the word ‘haemorrhage’ and for a few minutes I went through mixed feelings. One wants only the best for one’s parents and in limited choices we had taken the best and now we were seeing the impact of that! I believe we have to accept the inevitable but when you see it unfold in front of your eyes, you feel life’s not fair. From a hale and hearty person to someone in tubes, who now has to be told, it may only get worse from here, is not fair for a man who had not seen a hospital in his life. We waited for his neurologist to come, a very senior Dr and just listening to one fact i was sure this is the best Dr. He does not carry a cellphone, he does have a number but nobody knows. He has a residence number where one has to leave a message or at the two hospitals he is attached to and he responds ASAP. This says he is a stickler for discipline which is so important. He is very senior and he is just SUPERB. Firstly he was at the hospital within forty minutes of admission, on a public holiday. He walks in with a brisk gait, absolutely soft spoken but dreaded by all. He was upfront of all possibilities and said the impact of medicines was important.

The problem detected was the blood clot was in a sensitive area of his brain, which controls vital functions-respiration swallowing, palate, speech, etc. The doctor even asked me to prepare father to get a pipe inserted for food intake. Ugh. Never in my worst dreams I’d have imagined my father in this situation. The  doctor was more diplomatic, but i told Baba what Dr had said. I had to explain how things will deteriorate and swallowing food will become hard and he may eventually choke on it, if the pipe was not inserted.  That sparked off a weird conversation on life, death and we spoke of euthanasia, Indian laws (which he thinks are absurd) and compulsions of living a life. Let me make it clear, my father is NOT the kind to want to give up or take his life. He only told me he will never want to live in that condition. He will motivate himself he said and i was confident. Believe me early next morning when i met him, his speech was fine and my father looked normal.

My school friend called the ICU head and asked for my dad’s report and the ICU head gave a green signal to shift my dad out. It was timely medical intervention that helped andhad a positive effect. The ordeal of waiting in the casualty, getting a vacancy on MRI machine, billing, admission is all a bloody time consuming process, which i battled. We lost time on it. And most of all, being a bank holiday the charges are double. Yes, it doesn’t matter for one’s loved ones, but these practical details we aren’t aware of and miss out. Processes that would cost not more than 5-6K just get doubled because these are ’emergency services’ for which specialists are required; and they work for us even on a public holiday. Despite all those procedures and yes, even the ambulance took 20 minutes to leave, we got him admitted by post noon. Dr felt we had lost vital time, then i told him father suffered third stroke in the casualty in front of the docs who had kept my dad waiting on the stretcher.

Like I said on a normal day in a normal life anything extraordinary can happen, I shudder to think what would have happened if it were not Diwali? There wouldn’t have been two more people to help me and be around for help. Human power is so important and we lack in modern changing Indian society. My brother was prompt in calling the doctor and asking us to rush back. So actually I do mean it was “A happy Diwali.” Had it not been for this festival, we all wouldn’t have been there to celebrate and be here. while one of tackled the docs, the other tied up to shift father to the hospital. It is not the best way to spend the Diwali. But now with parents ageing, i think everyday should be celebrated like a festival and i’m NOT saying it for the sake of it, I truly mean it. So live it up for your parents if they are old and celebrate each day…have a splendid festival season.