All posts by Neeta

A lady journalist in permanent Azad mode, observer.. Developed a balcony garden, lover of & video journalist


The cafe’ tucked a little inside at the entrance of the Churchgate station subway, Markiv’s, has good coffee, tea, excellent mushroom puffs, other nice snacks and pastries. Most of all it has functional airconditioners to help us bear the heat of Mumbai city.

It so happened that last week Manisha, my friend and I, were sipping coffee here, when the owners (seen in pic) were eating a meal. We two spaced out, which we usually are, did not realising they are the owners asked them taste something we had called for! Yes, laugh as you may, the couple then told us they were introducing new menu and they would like to have us both for the tasting session. Because we both told them we LOVE food and the pizza they offered was non-vegetarian. So suddenly this morning in my semi-stupor, relaxing on push-back chairs at #Insignia theatre at Inox I got a call reminding me to head straight for a tasting session. It was sheer food orgasm in store for us.

Those of us, used to fine dining, know the amount of energy and skills spent on presentation, which obviously is translated in the cost of any dish. Now many more have been exposed to this thanks to Master Chef on television. One expects it in fine dining restaurants, of course, however I would like to point out, in this cafe’ too that extra effort has been taken. The presentation is way ahead of the above-average expensive restaurants and what fantastic servers. The chef has got 100 on 100 points for the overall gastronomic experience.

This bread is etched in my childhood memory for Sunday breakfast. Brun paav, or as we know kadak paav. This has been innovatively used as a soup bowl. The advantage being, the insides of this bread get soft and you can scrape it easily to sip with the soup. The two most delicious soups – Leak and Garlic; Corn and Cheese chowder soup.

This is the lovely Spinach (see the greeen colour retained)stuffed corn and cheese Patti. It is served with a mouth-watering dip, with yellow and red peppers.

Before we finished the spinach dish, the next hot one and my absolute favourite food, the Mushrooms. These are Pickled Mushroom stuffed with Spinach and garlic. The most interesting bit, they are served on thin strips of Zucchini, both yellow and green and baked like wafer sheets. Moreover, on the sides, are slices of button mushroom served with a sweet sauce, I think it is beetroot, could be even jam. I ate as if the Mushrooms were running out of stock. Just see the way Zucchini is baked, it was attractive. This too had a nice dip with browned garlic.

This is one of the toughest dishes to make, Baked potato cheese gnochche. Tender, fluffy again well decorated with baked veggies. This we gorged on. I am a sucker for potatoes and cheese and though I felt guilty, when I asked Manisha how these Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow types can remain so very thin, the things she told me, I rather enjoy the potatoes and cheese. I promised to walk a bit more.

Now the last is THE best. The unfortunate part of being vegetarian in a so-called anti-meat country – the way they are banning slaughter and eating of various meats we will soon be eating one another. I wish I was introduced and put on fish/ meat in my childhood, coz I would not have to suffer eating the most bland dairy product called as cottage cheese, or Paneer. My sympathies with the interim CM during the late Jayalalitha’s illness. Imagine having a name like Paneer, yah. I mean so thakela, paneer is pichpichit (in Marathi, like a wobbly slippery thing). And for the diet conscious, even far worse, something called as tofu is served. Both these need to be banned. But wait, coming to this dish, it is the Best part of the cuisine. However, since it was right at the end, I felt like a Rhino whose stomach was bursting and had there been a bed I would have simply crashed. The ABSOLUTELY DELISH dish, Three Layered Grilled Cottage Cheese steak with risotto.

Now the important part, they are soon to introduce these dishes on their daily menu. I can tell you it is a fabulous idea, there are only thali and udipi type cafe’s, else fine dining expensive ones. Markiv’s introduction of these dishes will be excellent for all those on way to their appointments for rushed ones. Also, for those like Manisha and me, who like to sit, chat, enjoy the food and complete it with a tea or coffee.

Psst, most important part, the staff do NOT throw you out if you even sip over a glass of tea forever. Moreover, they have excellent rock music. Go fast..

A strike or extortion?

The recent strike called by the Resident Doctors forcing hospitals to turn away the patients, thereby depriving them of emergency medical services has raised many issues. Firstly, violence of any sort on anyone is not condoned. The attacks on the resident doctor at Dhule should be condemned. After which there were few more attacks.
Before presuming all patients and relatives coming to public hospitals are aggressive and should be blamed, one needs to understand a few facts. The resident doctors are studying in colleges where usually NOT anyone gets admissions. Moreover they get the best of experience at these government hospitals, where these very poor come to get treated. The conditions are pathetic, poor are denied the basic medical care, 1000 times the number of patients come, while there are dedicated beds for only a few. All the hospitals run on the resident doctors. Everyone knows that and acknowledges it. But now starts the problems.

They have come to these medical colleges to get best of medical education at affordable fees and avoid capitation fees. Their education is subsidized and taxpayers like us are funding their education. They forget this fact the minute they become doctors. There is no indebtedness to the society. Then they become money-making machines. Many a doctor and their families are out to make up for the expense of their education, which is by far more affordable had they studied abroad, and the aim is to have a flourishing practice.

Fact number two -The very government that has denied the security and protection to doctors has denied more rightful and basic a service, health care to the millions of poor. The level of frustration that the poor have to experience I am not sure anyone of us can even imagine it. The resident doctors are primarily middle-class, upper middle class and the rich. Each has at least one vehicle in their families. They have no clue of long distance travel in public transport borne by patients The patients often do not have the knowledge of their illness, worse they do not have money to afford. For them doctor is a miracle performing person or may be even god. That however was an image even perpetuated by many doctors. It is now in the last 5-8 years that educated patients, media pressure that doctors do not get offended when asked questions. Otherwise how much was an interaction? Patients are discouraged from asking questions to the visiting doctor on their rounds. Why? Who is s/he, god? They are answerable and the patient has to know progress of treatment and status of their illness. Things are changing now, but it is nowhere near than what it is in progressive countries.

Fact three – The hospitals have plans and rooms as per these plans. The doctors are paid fees as per these plans. Now begins the racket. The doctors fight (and I have witnessed it, has happened with my own father’s case), when the patient has to be given discharge, the visiting doctor insists it is done beyond noon in private hospitals. Now it is not for nothing they say it helps to know a doctor. Thankfully my cousin and his wife, who are our family’s medical in-charge literally had cautioned me of this and pushed me to go to the cashier before noon. It was shocking that my father’s doctor threw a anger tantrum. My father has not forgotten it till today and once when he was to come home to administer him an injection, called him and told him off. He refused and said he will not take it from him. The doctor realized my father’s predicament and the fact here was one intelligent man asking him far too many questions. But that is how it should be. Poor do not have these sensibilities because they are not aware, deprived of education.

Fact four – the distances in small towns and villages are far too long. As I said, the poor often do not know what is happening to them, the doctors at the public health clinics make rare visits, if at all. Tell them off, give some pills. Once they bring them to the first government hospital they wrongly expect the doctors to drop everything for them. Moreover they expect miraculous effect. Now in Dhule the doctors told the patients relatives of the fact which they refused to accept. Because we also need to understand this time the doctors were right, but it has happened in cases the doctors do not encourage patients admissions at nights or early mornings. It has been reported. That definitely does not give patients or relatives right to beat them up.

Fact five – there is lack of security measures and facilities. Again, the government has denied these. But here the deans of these hospitals have a role to play. The resident doctors need to tell their authorities of these lacunae. If not provided then have the guts to stand outside the minister’s bungalows and demonstrate. Shout slogans there, but no. They will not do such. When we media asked them to do so and said we will extend support if they do this, they told us they can’t do so. They need the help of the government. If this is the stand they are taking and then resorting to extortion of depriving those very patients who are angry with them, then they are to be blamed for this situation. This is not the way to protest or raise pertinent issues.

Fact six – you sow what you reap. Have people witnessed the bullying by seniors on the junior resident doctors? Last year I visited my niece in Nagpur, who is studying MD and was traumatised. Both her parents are MDs and as I said, my family’s medical in-charge. The stories she told me of the harassment she was put through by her lazy seniors was not shocking, it only angered me. The seniors insult the juniors in the ward, they speak to them rudely and in the case of my niece they slapped a file on her face. As a result, expectedly, few patients and their relatives began speaking to her rudely. The others took pity on her and said she needed to give back. I had to grill her to raise these points with the dean, who had been asking my niece why she lost the smile on her face. I finally gave an ultimatum, told her if she did not, I would do a sting and tell the dean I am a senior journalist and will expose them. This is the harsh reality. These doctors perpetuate such behavior and they are closely observed by the patients. If they fail to understand these multi0-layered issues which are highly influenced by socio-cultural and political factors then it is a huge mistake.

Fact seven – the politics of this issue is deep. The obvious is depriving the poor of essential health services, mutli speciality services and give proper health care. Worse is the mutual benefit racket that exists between the deans, doctors, government, media and the rich. Many who can afford modern medical treatment take favours and get treated by the top doctors of the city in these government hospitals, to save their money. The politicians use their muscle and pull. Then these politicians have used the uneducated poor to provoke them in the name of the ‘sons of the soil,’ ensure they remain the disruptive elements in the society and are used accordingly. The idiot poor do not realize the ramifications of their action. The media too sometimes plays a crucial role. There is a very senior Marathi journalist, who still works for a Marathi newspaper. He was THE one who provoked the Shiv Sainiks at Thane to go and destroy the Singhania Hospital at Thane. When the Sena leader Anand Dighe died, the doctors had given one last shot to save him. And when they got angry and protested, this so-called political journalist told them, “Baghtay kay, jaa jala/toda hey hospital.” The sainiks went on a rampage and the hospital was forever destroyed, patients were injured and a child even died in this violence.

Any violence should be condemned. But when politicians and certain political parties have specialised in using violence as a means for bargaining and getting their demands fulfilled then sorry, the followers and population is going to do exactly just that. This whole situation of beating doctors and their strike is rather complexed and multilayered. Sadly like today’s young journalists, the young doctors do not know of these complex issues. The number of players, the manipulation of their own senior doctors and deans and then they would care. Such things most youngsters wish to stay away from and are encouraged by their families too. But if they do not care to understand, I agree with what CJ Chellur says, holding poor to ransom will only further intensify their emotions. They will go a step further to beat. The doctors have a bigger role to play in putting an end to this whole issue. The standoffish attitude needs to be replaced by more sensitive one.

Saffronised nation

The recently held elections in BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and in 3 states mainly Uttar Pradesh (UP), Goa & Manipur have shown interesting patterns. Firstly the Bharatiya Janta Party is here to stay at the national level, whether I may like it or not. Till now there seems to be no formidable, as cunning and vicious an opposition like the Narendra Modi led BJP. Without him the party is zero. This reminds me of the Indira Gandhi times. In fact in 1999 when I ws in Bellary covering Sonia Gandhi’s election rallies, I remember Bellary voters showing me their palms & saying ‘Indira.’

I am no poll pundit & do not wish to be, however 2 friends, who most will call Bhaiyyas, lived for a week in UP & were there, had something to tell me . One hardcore supporter of BJP & 1 not at all had same things to say. The bhakt met me a day before the results and he told me “BJP ne communal line lee hai, jab ki UP ke logon ko pasand hai.” Modi camped for 3 full days in Benaras and Varanashi. He conducted 3 rallies & undertook campaign walks every day. 18 hours his obsession after the first 2 phases was how to turn the mood of the people in favour of BJP. He was told that first 2 phases were not in their favour. His strategy was simple, target the 3 main parties. SP supported Yadavs, Congress the Muslims and BSP supported Dalits, Modi told the majority he was with them. friend told me, “Neeta, this is going to mark the difference just see in a few hours.” It was tremendous, undoubtedly.

The second person who met me this week corroborated the communal line. He added that BJP deliberately refused to give a ticket to any Muslim. This appealed to most Hindus. Moreover, he separated the Other Backward Caste (OBCs) people from the Yadavs & Dalits and said BJP was with them. Moreover, Modi emphasising in Hindi and the BJP line appealed to the people. Modi is the party & BJP is Modi as of today. This is stating the feedback I received a day before results & immediately after it.

Speaking of other states, the media missed deliberately the win of a rather large state Punjab. Considering its location, close to the seat of power, though it may be smaller to UP. UP definitely drives the pulse of the country, however the fact is Punjab is important. Congress defeated BJP and AAP. On the other hand, it also was a single largest in Goa and Manipur. The Congress strategy was to remain low key and not get into ‘horse-trading’ a term sadly used for buying loyalty of humans. The Goa is a classic case of a desperate ex-congressman who wanted power and many Goans (especially Christians) pinned their hopes on him and are now being let down. Vijai Sardesai of Goa Forward, who the Congress did not give a ticket to in 2014 has since then he blasted both the BJP and Congress. He has criticised Manohar Parrikar time and again & one can still see posts on his Facebook slamming Parrikar, defence minister & the BJP. He was in post-polls talks with the Congress, especially Digvijay Singh. Congress leadership has done NO wrong by delaying talks. There stands exposed the Goa Forward politician who has let down his voters & breached their trust. They voted against the BJP to keep that party out of power and he goes ahead to support them and will now be a minister in the same Parrikar’s cabinet.

Pathetically, leading editors & anchors of TV channels have ignored this point. May be the name sake editor who prided in his caste (Saraswat) as he tweeted in 2014, does not wish to highlight the negativity of his caste brethren. The main point is, for a change Congress acted wisely and has stayed away from money trading or buying over independents and take support from regional party for forming their government.

The sad part is Congress party leadership has failed to acknowledge the win in Punjab and did not tell its cadre to celebrate, for whatever reasons. They did not send a positive message boosting the morale of the Councillors who won in the BMC polls. This is where the leadership should be aggressive.

As for the future, if this Congress works dumping all the dead wood of their party in Maharashtra they have a chance in 2019. Overall, the party needs to lose a lot more to come out of its dynasty hangover. The media will be selective in its approach and coverage. While there are few committed pro Congress journos, it is equally bad the majority are pro-BJP. The need to remain neutral is felt even more. However, when the managements have been co-opted it is but obvious the reporters will be the targets. The editors are conveniently doing everything to please the managements. SO it is foolish to expect all ethics from the reporter who will face the consequences either way.

BMC elections that were

Coming to the recently held BMC and Maharashtra, both the Shiv Sena and BJP strategically aligned together. Then Sena broke off, but at the end it seems like a scripted finish. The huge void of no opposition, both the parties traded accusations & counter accusations, as a result the public focused only on these 2 parties- Sena & BJP. Nobody spoke of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) or worse still Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which in order to keep itself in public domain made a few personal and other mentions. Eg: the Son’s illness, which Raj Thackeray courageously hinted, but his son refuted. Then the friendly overtures with his cousin, which were ignored even by media, but few still give that party a platform.

Congress has been a disaster where its image is concerned. But mind you, winning 31 seats is NO joke. How they won, is a miracle. In-fighting, bickering, bitching the party has been reduced to worse than AAP. One has lost track of the number times Gurudas Kamat has quit the party in a huff & rejoined claiming massive demand & popularity. He only issues releases & nobody questions. The party next time he quits should tell him sternly, accepted & simply move on.

Milind Deora, a fine person, truly nice guitarist & what is he doing in politics he needs to ask. Wish he had learnt many things from his father, Murli bhai. Well, except for that surname else he would have had zero chance of getting into the party. Then Priya Dutt, another who is a daughter of former MP late Sunil Dutt. Now this very issue has destroyed Congress, the nepotism and dynasty rule. These all MPs NEVER step out of their airconditioned homes & cars, have never given surprise visits, walking in the heat, checking if the roads, gutters & footpaths in their constituencies are fine. Instead they complain they are MPs and such civic issues are brought to them. Exactly, so at the time of BMC elections they need to SHUT UP and allow the MRCC president, even if they consider him an outsider to do his job. But the petty politics they play & myopic visions they have they will dabble in the party politics at lowest civic level and instead of tackling the issues, winning over the voters & their trust they complain the voters have no understanding.

If these endowed & privileged off springs of veteran politicians & even Gurudas ever understood then the Congress did have a fine chance of bettering their seats. I am nowhere hinting that they would have outshone Sena-BJP, that is no chance, but they had chances of doing better. The NCP as a party is worse than Congress. It was started on a negative note, to oppose Sonia Gandhi wanting to PM and then the party president, Sharad Pawar, true to his behavior promptly went in alliance with Congress. The one strong factor he looks for in his cadre, that is loyalty, is something he himself lacks. The number of times he has extended support to Modi & number of times he has denied & gone back to praising him is no joke. Everyone knows he has been awarded Padma Shree and that is where his story ends. The party foundation is only family based. So It is shocking when Ajit Pawar recently criticized Bhujbals and regretted giving the reigns of Nasik in the hands of Bhujbal’s family. NCP is born out of Pawar family. Imagine the misfortune of political journalists first one has to chase Senior Pawar, then they have to chase his nephew, Ajit & then daughter Supriya. All so full of themselves as if the journos are dying to chase them. The party members will do Maharashtra a favour by merging with other parties then they will know their true standing in politics. The fact is this arrogance and pompousness of Ajit Pawar led to his severe loss in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad elections Municipal Corpns and local bodies polls.

After all the fighting and bickering the CM Devendra Fadnavis was called by the PM and after over an hour’s talks he was adviced to give up claim on BMC. His last Press Conference was complete anti-climax. He not only gave up claim but extended support to the Sena.

The entire elections have been a gimmick and a sham. The 2 saffron parties consolidated majority of seats between themselves. Life is not likely to change drastically. But that also does not mean that the Congress leaders have the right to be thankless to the voters. Deora tweeted out of frustration & lacked graciousness in the loss. He wished the voters potholes, malaria problem ridden BMC. The larger picture he missed, that the voters have REJECTED him in 2014 & moreover his party. If this is the point he has not learnt it’s a huge loss to the party. They need a better leader than him.

There are many new faces, smart ones, but the sad part is they are with the leading parties and then voters like face a moral dilemma, thankfully we have been given the right of NOTA.

Farewell, not

Now, I have not gone to say official byes to most police officers or politicians when they have retired or resigned. It is part of one’s career and the usual interviews they give. In one’s career of 27 years as a journalist I have lost count of the number of heads of state, Director Generals of Police, Police Commissioners and so on who have been given farewells. However there are two specific officers I will always make exception to, one Rakesh Maria and second Datta Padsalgikar.
I am one of the few lucky journalists to have seen both these accomplished police officers rise up the ladder. Maria was one officer with whom I have shared the most honest professional relationship. He had one horrible habit though he would test my patience and would keep me waiting for hours. He knew I was not the sort to give up, I am persistent and he would test it always.

He was funny, always had deep insight and if I were not quoting him he was way more honest than many would believe. He was sure one of the finest investigating minds the Mumbai police had. Maria was my senior alumnus in St Xavier’s. Moreover both had passion for basketball, he continued, while I was forced to give up after college. So when we would meet, more often than not we would speak of many more other issues, interests than just news.
He appreciated that I was not in any police camp or coterie. And in the 90s a lot of politicians and police officers who saw me a young female broadcast journalist, have been like guardians. They have given me tips be it for stories or regarding taking care of myself. Maria too cautioned me from keeping away from certain people within not only his fraternity, but even journalists.

He was dead right, always. As for stories, he had a knack of giving tips, useful information that would help me question. Maria had a fine sense of humour and knew every reporter’s network. In fact when he was heading the ATS and I visited, he remembered to katao me nicely. He once laughed and told me, “Now go see who has joined my team. Go and say hello to your old friend.” That was his way of telling us old timers, Pradeep Sawant was reinstated.
Maria had a fan following among the journalists, but they would indulge him. He had asked me to keep away from those press briefings, which were later termed as ‘Maria ki class.’

Maria was a well travelled person, who is a thorough Bandra boy, who loves his city. He is a devoted husband and among the few secrets, he followed every word of his wife’s advice. She would keep one red rose in his cabin, feng shui or vastu or a personal belief that a fresh red rose keeps negativity away. Maria has reading glasses and he knew I would look fascinatingly at his magnet specs which he would wear around his neck and there is a magnet in the centre. So the two glasses for each eye would hang like a stethoscope. He then asked his orderly to get few more and once gifted me a pair of glasses.
In the days when we could catch up over chai, we would recount many old cases, olden Bombay and sure he was one cop who has details on the who’s who of the world. He was not the sort to be anybody’s yes man. All have shortcomings, legacies and stories in the police. We all heard. But the fact is he has been one of the best interrogators, with a fine investigating mind and cracked some very important cases that matter to this city. Had he not been transferred, I can bet the investigations in Sheena Bora murder would have shaken the ruling party and corporate India.

The city and Maharashtra force has certainly lost a fine officer with Maria retiring.

A lane that depicts corruption by auto spare parts shops & cops

This is the lane which leads to the Wadi where I live, in many ways still has old world charm. In many ways it is a dinosaur land with average people living are mostly old. Many of us in this neighbourhood are adults who live with our parents, while some families keep getting bigger, many like mine are shrinking. But the number of Vehicles in this neighbourhood can easily outnumber the normal rational types. In fact I haven’t yet uploaded the Cross Lane photos which will show how there is a quiet, serene feel to this whole picture. A childhood friend and Me have adopted a small patch and converted it into a green zone with pink and yellow flowers that flowers that are a welcoming a sight.

Once you are way inside my building, it is quiet and soothing. However, to get in here, it is one challenging task. This lane has a very Dr Jekyll Mr. Hyde schizophrenic look, it is a horror living during the day. As one can see, right at the entry with Cafe De La Paix to one’s left there is a No Parking board. And you bet, a BMW is parked right at the mouth of the eatery on the turning. So already the driver/owner has flouted three traffic rules.

Now I haven’t mentioned few crucial elements of this lane, where I live. It is a one way lane, the head quarters of auto spare parts market and most of all the haftas to traffic police and I am sure even Mumbai police amount to few lakhs per day. The spare parts shopkeepers live with an air of arrogance, which is basically – go and complaint to the police, let us see which policeman has the balls to tow our cars parked on the wrong side.

Now the films that were banned would be strewn along the pavement, most rip apart the cars parked in the second lane, which is breaking traffic rule, but all of this is about adhering to laws as compared to the amount of money made on a daily basis and the bribes sent to the Mumbai traffic police for ensuring NO action is taken.

Till now I have fought, and you have no idea when I mean fights except for getting violent, they ventured on anger, explicit and eventually one uncle shopkeeper telling me to take it easy else one of the shopkeepers may bump me off. That was years ago. Then another uncle told me “How many people you will tell? Now people living in your own neighbourhood are flouting the rules and breaking the one-way law.” It was a like a slap in my face and actually one night when my sister, mother and I were returning from a dinner later night, our next door neighbour had the gall to look at us while we tried to veer away his on coming car, that was in the wrong direction! Shameless is to say the least. Since that day I look down on him and treat him like a second class citizen. Interestingly, his son studied in US and doesn’t prevent his father from breaking law.

Sadly, owning a vehicle is a huge status symbol in India since many years now. So according to this belief I am a loser and highly unsuccessful. I dreamt of being chauffeur driven and thanks to Uber and Ola, this cream is a reality. Firstly, our family has been staunch supporter of public transport and I still continue holding that flag. Secondly, I am staunchly against multi tasking, especially when demanded by employers, because it basically means they are short changing you for cheap wages. Moreover, I also believe not all are born to do all things or should even waste their time doing so. Like cooking everyday, driving, so on and so forth. There is more to life and there are people with those skills who should be doing that and are paid accordingly. Lastly, when parking is free, nobody should even murmur or fight about spaces as if its their birth right. Come and see how my neighbours like cheapskates over some person taking over their parking space. Wow, when all of it is free. In fact one even tresspasses into another’s compound with a fleet of cars, but all has been tolerated.

So over a period of time the neighbours who realised they want to benefit from this situation have begun not protesting. They don’t argue with the shopkeepers or bring it to their notice that the cars parked along the wrong side is a violation of a Road Transport Act. They do not foresee it being a problem for anyone. Now even in the cross lane at our building gate, one arrogant young man has fought with me when I have demanded he shift his two-wheeler from the gate, as it obstructs my way. I am baffled at the way the officials turn a blind eye to all these violations.

Once the traffic police would come to our lane and tow away cars. Now somehow the police have conveniently made a policy of towing away only scooters or motorcycles, NOT cars. I have had issues with traffic police who come to my lane stand mutely and when I have brought the wrong parking or breaking of one-way rules, they have snapped at me and demanded a written complaint from me. This has become a joke in my life. So all these years it was write a letter, go and complaint to the seniors were the rude replies by cops. While spare parts shop keepers could not be bothered since their defence is our own neighbourhood residents break traffic laws.

As a result, I began using the social media platforms. First on Facebook, Sandeep Ohri started mumbaitrafficviolations page and i would upload pics with addresses. Later, I began using Twitter, then the WA number of Mumbai Traffic. All of it has failed. I get mandatory robotic replies. TO begin with – please give/share exact location and address. If I say Awantikabai Gokhale Lane, in town, they don’t take the effort to find or google it! Joke because the maps show it. Funnily, the Uber app and most maps do NOT show it as a one way, which invariably creates an issue for me to take uber from inside my lane.

After every complaint with photo and write up on WA, I am given a formal reply that says my complaint has been forwarded to a police station, a day later that station acknowledges, but I have NOT seen any concrete action of clean-up drive. My lane is still congested and difficult to pass through at normal working hours. No amount of influence, my experience as a senior journalist has helped in making life easy to live here, this I see as the biggest failure of my profession. An absolute indicator that if rules are being allowed to be broken then there is little hope we are offering the world.

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 file a written complaint with the cyber crime cell. In February 2016, I had tweeted the information of Press Club protest march (which was just a demonstration) followed by speeches. On the day of the protest I was threatened with sexual violence, “hard gang rape.” This sexual violence threat I forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Police to their twitter handles. They asked me to go to the nearest police station. 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 Azad Maidan police station.

Even though Filing and FIR is our fundamental right, the police will always convince you to get away filing a Non-Cognisable (NC) offence. In my case despite intervention from Jt. CP, the lady constable insisted on omly a NC. Thankfully my colleague and a friend from TOI called and she was horrified to hear they were filing 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 was ordered to return to the police station. The lady constable Like all youth, displayed her inexperience in 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. 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, one would have expected things to move fast. However, the picture at the police station is absolutely different. They look busy while you wonder if they are doing anything. While I sat waiting, I observed that the so-called 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.” Whole tone being he was doing me a favour. 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, to ensure I don’t get upset. Then the bit of narrating the whole incident again. He asked me for a hard copy which I didn’t have. Hard part was trying to 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.



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


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.