Pakistan war memories

Now when we talk of war people first connect it to the most notorious US-Iraq war. A little back home many connect it to the Kargil war in 1999…now if this is way long back by any standards then think again. Coz I’m now talking of the ill-famed Pakistan war in Bombay!

Yes, I know many will ask how would I remember? What is the connection? Was I even born? Well, to give myself some credit, not only was a I born, I was over 4 years old! Yeah sharp enough to understand a lot of things as I always was…as to why speak of it now…I remember many instances of that period. A lot of other stuff in my life is blank….for instance, I can’t remember many names faces & have even deliberately blanked out old memories.

Now coming to the war…I distinctly remember the Kolhatkars living in the DARK! I’m sure scores of other Indians lived in similar conditions & functioned in their deliberately darkened homes or in dim candle light inside dark windows. So why should I be saying only the ‘Kolhatkars?’ That is only because I can’t remember the outside world in Bombay of those times. I have a recollection of only few memories & that too inside Jagjivan Mansion, 2nd floor at the end of Awantikabai Gokhale Cross Lane, or the renowned auto-spare parts lane!

The memories now sound entertaining, but then were bizarre, jarring & frightening to say the least. Sounds of zooming planes which deafened our ears, living in dark and more so having family dinners in dim candle light. This truly was NOT romantic. We were lucky my father was a photographer so we had these photo papers which were silver in colour on the inside and dark charcoal black on the outside. We did not have to invest more in dark papers, they soon were pasted (my aaji made wheat glue) on all our windows, wc are easily over a dozen. Then on top of that, we had to sit in pitch darkness at our table (yes somehow we were privileged and possessed a huge dinning table!) and would try to eat ( no wonder I still spill food on my clothes) when suddenly the youth of our lane would scream hoarse “Kolhatkars divey band kara.” “Kolhatkars switch off ur lights!”

Gosh! It was frightening…chilling u know. I’d begin howling –well according to my family I never needed a reason to break into tears-so may be just that’s why I’ve finished my quota of crying & I’m dried of any water in my eyes!

The whole experience is most haunting. Imagine any child’s nightmare… Firstly manoeuvre around a 15 ft passage with NO lights; then go to the rear end of the house where the kitchen was it seemed like we would take the whole night for this simple process, wc now takes few seconds in complete darkness.

I remember my mother & aaji tottering around the kitchen silently…outside world we don’t know of, how the sounds & colours of blackness are i can’t recollect. Our hushed sounds & cries were mixed wt the regular fights we two sisters would have.. Then suddenly it was a like a Ekta Kapoor serial as each would compete with the other in shouting & coaxing me to ‘shut up!’ Coz according to most i would only cry…hope everyone thinks this is exaggeration…i never thot so but my entire family thinks its verbatim.

It was too chaotic and confusing to say the least. I have NO memories of how the mornings would pass, i do recollect having played a lot. One uncle was nice, he was ailing all the while, but was concerned and caring. I have NO memories of running in the middle of the compound to take cover as part of the drills…some kakus around the wadi distinctly remember.

I remember the threatening shouts from below the building as the men took patrolling duty “Silence Kolhatkars, cut out the sound.” I mean how insensitive people are I always thought. Why were they constantly shouting at us only? The bloody war makers-I mean children don’t know anything about these wars-they only know to cry at four. Plus how could they expect us to live in dark?? Then the so called incompetent governments that allowed these wars to take place & then on top of that the bloody rascals who patrolled!

Imagine its like putting those plastic gags in the faces of the children. As if this is not enough, I had a Hitler incarnation called Baba, my dearest father. He insisted that one should perform a particular task in a particular way (as he dictated) & at a specific time. It was far too much for a scatter-brained, dyslexic child like me, who also was under weight & weak!

I distinctly remember standing at the entrance of our living room on the doorway & in the pitch darkness I dreaded to get across the huge hall at the other end, which seemed like a dark ocean in which I’d drown. Now, I’m NOT exaggerating a word of this. Because it seemed I’d take few years to cross it & especially as every time I attempted to cross a fighter plane would zoom at my eye’s length creating a thundering sound that would make me slump & burst into cries. I can’t remember getting across, but i’m sure i did. Coz that Hitler wouldn’t have given, i would’ve surely given up then…now i live on challenges

Fear, cries do NOT exist in my dictionary now. At that time they were my middle names. As if this pressure was not enough, the Hitler sat in opposite end of the hall with my aaji (paternal grandmother) who was my teddy bear! She tried to coax him to letting me come with help & that Hitler would burst into vigorous hand movements (which I’d see flying in the air) & a stern voice that would make me pee in my panties.

This really was my tight situation. The impact was however far worse. At that time of my life I peed in my pants, pyjamas, panties the most. I would simply pee, got pulled up for it (since I 4 years old) & was told I had no toilet discipline. No one simply realised I was living in mortal fear. I also kept crying. I developed vision problem three years later, but many of my fears & psychological problems were sowed in the war tremors.

I had NO clue there was a war. We would murmur in hush tones, stern voices would read out news blaring through our old aerial radio box, but the seriousness of the word ‘war’ was not known till I was educated.

The first impact was everytime the lights would go out in cinema theatres, i would begin bawling. I was a problem child. I would simply cry. So as a punishment, i was never taken for good films-yes i was given the miss for SHOLAY!! Now that’s unfair…bcoz once my atya (aunty) took me Haathi mere Saathi, i think in the first few minutes there’s a shot of herd of elephants making sounds & i had to be taken out, after few hours of bawling i was dropped back half way in to the film!

The other impact also was that when I grew up I would return home late at night & for many years I would unwittingly switch on all the lights from the passage to the kitchen! My baba (ya see the change in reference from Hitler to father) even told my mother Neeta may be having a problem why does she switch on all lights so late at night. He wondered why I could not manoeuvre at night.

Now I did NOT do it deliberately. These patterns continued for a decade, unconsciously. The minute I realised it was a psychological problem (then I should be on permanent medication or treatment) or an indication of it, I began working on it. I first discussed the incident alive in my mind about the war times or rather nights. Initially my aai & baba rebuffed it. Then my father claimed I always have a theory ready for explanation for any occurrence in my life & most importantly he thinks I love to sound like a martyr. Now we all do that. But the memories were real. I argued sensibly with him.

I tried explaining that I in no way was accusing him of any crime or lack of understanding. It was plain stock taking for some latent possible fear or effect of it. I decided to work on it & that meant free of fe
ar. That was something hard for me, coz among other experiences I had also suffered abuse at a young age, so all this needed to be addressed by me. All issues that made me the way I am, that gave me my identity as Neeta & that which made me stronger today have that little tragedy in early days.

Today those memories & visual rewinding of war images are truly in the past. I am truly free of fear! I fear NO one or anything. I love myself for all my faults. I roam at night, in fact I am alert, aware & have learnt the skill of moving around in the dark. Life is brighter I have faced near-death experiences & count myself lucky to be alive. But its taken many years to realise that it is NOT my weakness or personality problem, it was impact of bizarre childhood experiences wc i’ve worked upon.

Cool breeze

I bought my first air-condition 2 years ago. Yes! Now I had thought that all my summery heat problems would be solved.

I know at the age of 38 it is tad late to have bought an A/C. For numerous reasons it was delayed. Firstly my father was clear since our childhood, NEVER get dependent on any ‘thing.’ We should be brave enough to face all extremities.

So even when we went out on holidays we did NOT wear thermal-Coz firstly we couldn’t afford, more so it would create dependency!

This attitude dominated our thoughts. Then the famous worry-AC will increase the electricity bills! So from few hundreds it will run into 1000s. This was always spoken of, so whenever any Maharashtrian would want to buy microwave, it was made loud n clear, veejecha billvadhel! Your electricity bill will rise. Now these are the same people who have quietly stacked their homes with all hi-tech gadgets…
So later as we grew up we kids grown into adults too resisted buying ‘unwanted’ gadgets & electronic items that create dependency. Now fridge too does that except that it helps you to preserve your food. So it is allowed, fans too create dependency, but it does NOT increase your bills, plus zero maintenance.
Interestingly what a person once thought will create dependency becomes a necessity in some period of time! So first new music systems were put in place, home theatre, personal computer, mobile phones, cordless phones & the list goes on….Now when all these self-improvements were happening my best female friend anne told me its time I bought an AC, which I could get on instalment, wt zero% interest.
So urs truly went & bought it. Now the simple me thought this AC would solve all my summer heat problems! I mentioned that before right? Ok true to my track record it took 2-3 days for the installation to take place, electric connections too were made, the demo guy came & rattle something to my parents & rest was left to me.
Now I do NOT like reading catalogues or ‘How to do’ material. Its never problem free, as easy as it looks & the final product just does not look the way they show it in the picture. Also, even if it is all as per printed format in real life, you fucking mess it! More so I’m a strong believer of trial & error method, this a-way u improve every time on what has been done before, by you, or anyone.
The first night I switched on the AC, whoa! Miracle…cool air..i though I was going to have the coolest & deepest sleep in my life! Quite short-lived this romantic thought was considering the immense drama that followed.

Firstly being a journalist who had covered a 6 part series on power crisis in my city-Bombay- Mumbai for many others-plus the state Maharashtra wc was facing load shedding, I thought it wise to keep my ac device in energy-saving mode. Initially i timed it for 4 hours only which ensured the temp won’t cross 24 degrees.

Now all of this on the first day was pretty complicated but was convinced it was a MUST. My deep hereafter sleep was more like a side splitting comedy film. Well, urs truly was firstly disturbed by the constant sound of ac. I’m used to sounds of birds, water pumps at odd times like 4-5.00 am, may be vessel falling in a kitchen in one of the homes behind, parrots, sparrows (loads of them, they haven’t left our abode) & those hideous crows! Plus sound of the winds…sorry NO space for the grrrhhhh of an air condition…

Then the energy saving mechanism obviously switches on & off the automatically. So it went on & off after every few 30 or some time minutes…so I was pre-occupied wt sounds, then when it would go off, I’d panic that the ac has been switched off. I’d wake up & check fidget in the dark & switch on the light to figure out the rmote, device & variations. I timed it to some few hours…wc kept getting skewed everytime id fidget…so I wondered what the problem was. This episode of trial & error continued for 4 days & then enlightenment dawned on me.

I began timing my cold air to 1-2 hours only. I would cool the room, switch on the fan at high speed once its over an hour i open the windows & tuck in bed tight…So the room & air is cool, i still hear the horrendous crow & cooing parrots. Plus most imp, I now get peaceful sleep…except that in the winter that lasted long till March this year, i didn’t on the AC at all! This summer though the outside temps has compelled me to leave the ac on for 2 hours.

New Year began with more questions…why???

The night before a newly wedded youth lady was molested outside JW Marriots. Why? The many politicians first jumped the gun criticising ‘outsiders.’ Who are the POLITICIANS to call anybody outsiders? Aren’t the politicians outside our mainstream life, our radar & our bloody lives?

And what is this theory, presumption & foolish ideology that locals do NO harm while migrants, so-called outsiders who are even born in this city are held responsible for all social, criminal, civic evil?

Then they all did an U-turn, suddenly they petitioned for the ‘arrested’ youth who turned out to be Maharashtrians, locals. What happened to all their ‘good cultured’ sanskruti youth? Problem is like many families, the Marathi families have suddenly become extra aspirational. They want their children, youth to excel, make fast money & be IN with the mainstream, something that typical Maharashtrians have NOT been. We are mainstream in our own city & state? But that also has a flip side, our very own youth have botched their thinking outlook to life.

U will see these very people standing at the end side of foot over bridge at stations to take a peek at women’s chaddis, while they walk up the stairs. They will make lewd sounds like ‘chaksa chaksa’ or pass vulgar comments at us endowed women. I’m sure their families they are ‘good’ boys/men.

That apart & the fact what happened was not good, I feel we went over board with this whole coverage of this issue. This was a raging issue even when I was college. We were getting molested even then…we had to fight men at all corners…we still do, especially on the platforms & roads…still have male friends & colleagues saying why am I so aggressive…that too for standing up for my own rights, for respect for my body!

The real issue is if a Dalit or Muslimgirls is raped, killed- wc is sooooo frequent- that will NEVER get the kind of coverage wc is deserving. English media is aversive to the word DALIT. A Dalit family was butchered, hacked to death in Khairlanji by upper caste men, the wife of Bhotmange was gang raped, and metal shoved up her arse, NO paper wrote about it…except DNA. But here again these details were missing.

The detailed pic of the NRI Gujju girl’s panties were spread across a leading National. Bhotmange’s family pic was never seen…the gory pix were uploaded on Orkut & blogs where Dalits in their frustration & outburst against the indifference of our society.

This brings me back to the basic point…bias against deprived, lower caste atrocities & our obsession to elite people & their lives or problems..

Stagnation?

Well…its boredom that propels me to write often. Dunno…but this year I seem to get more bored than before, then to top it I have a boss who breathes news 24×7 & then says this is a shit field/profession!

I know I’m capable of being a police officer, gardener, cook, may b something like writing reports besides but it won’t be the same as journalism. I’m passionate about it, luv it & live on it. I strongly believe, “Nothing turns me on more than good stories,” I will also add food..but that apart.

I know there are times like now when I’m bored, feel I’ve got less than what I deserve, wc is a FACT, etc etc…I also know this field has changed drastically as times have changed. The emphasis is more on looks rather than news gathering or disseminating or even journalistic/reporting skills. Today, visual pleasure rules & the yippies too are clear that since they lack the basic skills they can make up in the looks department, then life is simpler for these hip journalists & their bosses…NOTHING is expected, yet the work can get done.

In these times I often wonder what am I doing here? Even after 17 years in this field all journalistic norms & rules apply to me, my stories, I still have to prove & there are scores who get away with murder. It makes me wonder have I chosen the right field? Am I in the correct profession? I eally don’t know I go thru’ these phases every 8-10 years. Sometime in late 1999, no actually early 2000 I didn’t work for like 4 months, splurged my savings (yes!) puhleez didn’t do any introspection…fed up of it, I think our culture & philo makes us see faults ONLY in ourselves & often there are extra, external circumstances that are beyond one’s control….

But I’m passionate ONLY abt news…I breathe on it or live on it…dunno know if anyone can understand my predicament….yeah I also have to thk all those arse hole lovers (who I had during my career) because whom I began to love my profession even more gawd I’m glad I NEVER chose them above my profession!

In such circumstances one really wants to do NOTHING…believe me even someone like me who’s considered married to news, journalism goes thru’ it…sometimes u get bogged down man…Then comes a story that lifts ur spirit…straight like a knight in shining armour on a white horse, except that the story rejuvenates me…its inexplicable…but what depresses me is some really good seniors who are part n parcel of this field really despise it & who otherwise would make a difference to this field, actually plan to quit it!

These are also the seniors who breathe on news; they think news 24×7, unlike the young ones who easily switch off once they’re out of the office. This bit of news then is even more demoralising & depressing…we need more good, people with passion for this field than those see it as a place for passing time & getting quick fame & money.

Living with dead

What is it like to lose someone you love most dearly? What is it like to lose your best friend? What is it like to know your best friend has a terminal disease and he is going to die soon?

On October 18, it was the third death anniversary of Kartik Mukherjee, my only bachchu. I still feel he will walk through the door & give me a hug fm behind saying mama now you need good sex….that is the way Kartik was-candid & always had sex on his mind.

I still feel the phone will ring & he will ask “Mama what are you doing? You should be domesticated & should cook, what women like you are doing concentrating on a career?” I would call Kartik anti-women.

He was was amazing, a woman in form of a man! Girls & women of any age would share their darkest fears & secrets with him. He knew each one’s body rhythms! These women would tell him everything…plus Bachchu was a super-bitch.

Kartik would go to all our kitchens when he’d come over. All the women of the houses would simply love it, yes my aai too fell for it. Forget my aai, when my parents were away Kartik fulfilled his promise of staying for 8 days at my house before he died. He befriended my neighbours, relatives shopkeepers who regularly inquired about him.

Yes we had our fights- he couldn’t say NO to anyone. In the peak of his illness Kartik would move heaven & earth to go & serve milind khandekar who did not know of Kartik’s predicament & Kartik wldn’t allow me to tell him . Like this he would be at the beck & call of many, only few of us knew he was dying… But beyond a point I couldn’t despise Kartik. He was not happy Chetan & I had decided to tell Milind that he was going to die. Milind’s wife was upset & felt it unforgiving that for years Kartik knew them & he had not prepared them. I spoke to Milind & let me tell you NOT many have the maturity & a non-judgemental attitude to accept that our closest friend or relative has a terminal illness wc is quite maligned.

Also to handle the situation was not easy coz for all the chauvinism that men proudly display not many are able to tackle emotionally distressing situations. I do believe women are less judgemental, more accepting & can easily adapt to crisis & emergency situations.

Now, Kartik was wee-bit older than me, but was orphaned. He had me & Chetan as his best friends. He suspected we two would never marry (although Chetan went around proposing, wooing & was even engaged) neither to other partners nor to each other. So one day he declared me as his mama and Chetan as his pappa.

Imagine being called out ‘mamaaaa…’ loudly in the middle of the road? Yes, at that time I’d look around say no not me, out of sheer fun…coz there was NO way Kartik could me angry for more than 5 minutes….

Bachchu believed strongly that I had strong maternal instincts which I was curbing! Yes, I love kids but I’d vowed early in life that I did NOT want any kids. My body clocked never ticked, I’ve never felt time was running out or that I needed to be a mother! Bachchu was scandalised as he was truly chauvinistic, me & rest of my gender should succumb to male power, yes he believed in it.

Over a period of time Chetan & I began calling each other Mama & pappa. Kartik had really become an integral part of my life. We were by Chetan’s side when his father Dada passed away. Kartik was the ‘informer’ in our lives giving info on each other’s lovers. Chetan & me couldn’t escape his prying eyes! Kartik would also become possessive & really at some point of time I would face situations that were strange to me…

Bachchu himself was stubborn. He & his sister faced tumulus relationship. She admitted him in a hospital & bachchu called me to come & rescue him from there. I got him out despite polu’s severe criticism & taunts. I’m sure he would’ve died immediately. But he could also be insane. Kartik suffered from severe slip disc. We tried various alternate therapies. Eventually he got admitted to a nursing home, but he loved his mini-zoo-that had 6 dogs, equal number of cats, turtle whom we called Shiva for a decade when we learnt that he was actually Parvati & some more animals.

Kartik’s cat had run away, now Kartik that he is, escaped from the nursing home, made his sister tape his voice in a meow call & went around to find him!! He became stubborn by the day & wouldn’t listen to us for anything. We would meet regularly at his place discuss pros & cons, he was meticulous so all last minute tying up of details wc he finalised. He had the pep in life so called me over to see the jewellery he had made for Polu. In Marathi we call it haushi.

But bachchu liberated me. It was the closest I ever came to be being called mama & now I never want anyone else to call me. He made realise my feelings, emotions, yes made me more tender….

His death was expected but I’d been strong till the end, only for Chetan. One of us had to remain strong. It is not easy to see your best friend give up wanting to live. He just gave up! I was at his side when he turned his room dark, drew curtains not wanting sunshine to enter, told us to get him admit in hospital.

It was difficult to see bachchu in the last moments, Chetan, monty & I pumped oxygen manually so that his life could be extended. NO I didn’t want my bachchu to live like this. For the first time I prayed he would die peaceful & with least trouble. I had to rush to work but in the evening I received a call fm Polu my bachchu had died. I was relieved but yes I was shattered I won’t be seeing, hearing Kartik anymore.

I can’t explain how my life changed after that, little did I know the impact bachchu’s death would have. I didn’t hold myself back for feeling bad that he had died. For days I was sad, I had no control when I’d get teary eyed, miss him suddenly, no this was all new to me. For months I was affected. Thankfully Chetan & I spoke, met.
More so a film hit the theatres at that time wc was a catharsis for me. It was truly therapeutic. ‘My brother Nikhil,’ it helped all 3 of us to throw out all our pent up feelings. I can’t explain how it helped me to ease all the pain. I still get emotional about Kartik, I have no control when I will remember him, miss him & when suddenly I feel tears trickling down my cheeks or smile from ear-ear when I think of him…. I miss u bachchu.

Noisy season

Its that time of the year when the noisy festival season of Mumbai has begun!

To begin wt its Gokulashthami…the Dahi handi stuff. Loud drums & bells, some disco music & loads of shouts. It is physically challenging I know. But as our society’s aspirations increase multi-fold on daily basis, it is no wonder that the usual 3 or 5 tier pyramid is getting taller by the day. Well the prize money too has risen 10 times over. With the whole package deal of Dahi handi comes the loud music & noise.

In between these festivals is the famous Shiv jayanti and whole lot of other jayantis. Then comes my favourite festival, as I do think Lord Ganesha symbolises for all good things in life. However not the followers, who think they have to display their personal devotion, emotions & feelings. The drums, bells, noise gets louder, shouts pierce one’s ears and the atmosphere is more wilder than a carnival. More so people under the name of religion, devotion and love for Ganesha get dead drunk! But we get offended when Karunanidhi says Lord Ram was a drunkard. Why are we so touchy when the truth is right in our face?

Oh talking about drinking, I think only the Hindu religion permits drinking. Well there is a full fledged ‘gatari pornima!’ Ya that day one can see most no of dead drunks zooming in their vehicles or staggering around the city.

More so I never understand this whole formula of playing loud deafening music which will wake even the dead! Do they think their devotion is purer than the polluted waters of the river Ganges? I really dunno. More so I fail to understand as I said the ‘formula.’

Let me explain, first like at some unearthly hour (excuse me on a holiday 7.00am is as unearthly as 5.00am on working day!), so at 7.00am we are rendered with Sugam sangeeet and Bhaav geet of the renowned Lata & Asha fame.

Residents or rather the devout Ganesh bhakts in my neighbouring lane strongly believe they should begin with “Uthi uthi govinda”…then go on to playing “Jay jay Maharashtra maza”…rendering patriotic songs for the Motherland and for some absurd reason their devotion & patriotism takes an unexpected ‘disco’ turn!

Out of the blue the latest top charts are doled out like Maggi hot’n’sweet ketchup! Believe me my walls rock, ears get blocked and all I want to do is run away from my house, which otherwise is a decently serene place.

Then yes did I forgot to mention that to bring or bade farewell to Lord Ganesha loud firecrackers are essential? Well sutli & laxmi bombs along with the malas. Gosh! There is a small break in the noise levels for not even a fortnight, thanks to Pitru paksh. For not other reason except this I love Hinduism. It keeps people sober man! No, not even shravan.

The noisiest festivals are Navratri & Diwali. Navratri for the dandiya raas & Diwali for the darn fire crackers. There is stiff competition to partake in both at the most unearthly hours. Why people want to consciously & purposefully ‘disturb’ normal mortals like me I really don’t know. The loud disco music, beating drums & those authentic dehati versions of saxophones, deafen mortals like me. And then ofcourse the icing on the cake is New Year’s eve. No one should risk their lives & or succumb to rash driving as it happens every new year’s eve.

I do have a grouse when people publicly display their devotion which is a personal emotion. I have NO problems to couples cuddling coz im fm Mumbai & I do know how many live in match-boxes, some people’s kitchens are converted into bedrooms at night. But dancing or rather gyrating obscenely to lewd Hindi or Marathi songs for religious functions I do think it’s a tad too much.

Lop sided justice

These are rushed thoughts although had been planning to write all this few days ago. Firstly I strongly believe the ‘blackest Friday’ was on July 27, 2007. When TADA court judge gave death sentence to Yaqub Memon, the younger brother of Tiger, mastermind and killer of lakhs of Bombayites for the blasts he planned. Yaqub a thorough gentleman, highly educated sensible man was dragged into the mess ONLY because he was the blood brother of the main accused.

The problem is in our investigations & lack of evidence some say. Problem is bad policing. All the authorities & administration knew the night all the Memon family was sent off. The tickets were issued by a leading political leader of minority party living in South Mumbai. He was arrested under POTa was later released. Then ofcourse many others were arrested including Sanjay Dutt-who I’ve always believed was a spoilt brat who is NO child for being called baba when he’s above 40!!

Coming to Yaqub-like Khawaja-I ask wc criminal will come & tell authorities i am here come meet me…i thot criminals are on the move, escaped to Dubai, Pakistan or now Khazakistan. Meanwhile the police strike a deal & all is forgotten.. Yaqub is shown to be arrested. Why? Only bcoz the police has failed & Govt of India has failed & will NEVER be able to catch that D & Tiger & them all…so catch Yaqub..easy right? The judge says he’s NOT directly involved but he’s a muslim & memon family member so how can they release him? My question is what justice is this? Injustice…to say the least.

As a Bombayite I feel ashamed. What happened to our public memory? The blasts came after a heinous phase called riots. DO we forget how people were called names-landya-cut, butchered, their women raped, children hacked to death. Oh yes by peace loving Hindus. Or is it common amnesia being displayed?? More so isn’t it convenient we don’t want ‘our people’ to be tried & punished? But they still were crimes, killings, hatred was spewed & people were instigated to ‘kill.’

We have failed to pin down the five big players-Thackeray, Joshi, Sarpotdar, Munde, editor of Navakal. They provoked, prodded their loyalists & hackers to kill their neighbours, burn houses, butcher people & NOT spare even their women. What happened to Tyagi & other murderers. Police officers? Who ordered shooting of a full family. Their crime? Off the record the police said they gave shelter to a ‘terrorist.’ Did someone call Shivaji outlaw once?

We are a majority population living in times & world where our names are not seen wt suspicion. That some Maharashtrian names are rib tickling its another hilarious issue. Yet, we are ‘safe.’ Yes we are…we don’t have anyone coming up to wt a gun or weapon & saying give us shelter else we rape your women or kill u. Let’s not forget what happened in Punjab during terrorism. We can’t label all people as anti-national as a rule.

The riots shamed me…I protested, worked against the popular rule, tried to drill sense in people & basically was convinced we are to be blamed. The educated, sensitive so-called Hindus. We should be ashamed that someone used us & we allowed to become pawns, whores, pimps, say it our folks were pure murders…women, men, children.

Ok, coming to the investigations there were problems I agree things weren’t easy for officers. But the way the whole investigation and more than that justice has been meted is a shame. On the other hand we have that Dutt, baba, actor turned star overnight. What is the whole mockery man…all coming to visit him in jail. World over people like stars, actors who have negative & criminal tendencies…search me…but that attracts most newspaper space, TRP & mileage.

Here is a man who’s one side of family is known to be close to anti-social elements. The actor Dutt is known to be close to the underworld. For the protection of his family-since he was mortally scared of vested interests who threatened his father-actor-turned politician Sunil Dutt. He was scared? He gave shelter to illegal immgireants across Bandra, Khar-Danda & reclamation. He surely must’ve been scared that they will kill some people around. Don’t think he was scared of his life, coz he managed to legalise all illegal.

His son however who was doped out by then, his life he had ruined & that of his wife’s decided to law in his hands! He thought ‘naively’ as he told the court that he could get weapons for protection. He already had a gun mind you & had fired it & also threatened his gardener years ago under influence of drugs…He then went ahead ensured he got a gun & arms. Now mind you he ensured he got an AK 56.

I think most educated people wt lil common sense are aware (or kindly google) that an AK 56 means ‘official Russian army weapon.’ This is for protection of his family, whom he wanted to protect from threats. His family then included himself-Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Dutt, sister Priya, now MP. Arey more is awaiting us.

This official army gun he didn’t purchase from either white market or a black market in Afghanistan or else where…no no he got it from Dawood gang from some of his buddies who came & delivered it to him. One who is now in jail, semi hero-Abu Salem. Who too will go scot free, but NOT Yaqub. Then Sanju baba-poor thing- was informed that Sharad Pawar his father’s arch rival is contemplating action to take revenge? Ok, even if we were to believe this theory, the above facts who can ignore? Where is there revenge, arch rivalry, etc? The actions thereafter are what an innocent does.

He sends his cousin cum friend Nullwala, who take the weapons go to their friend Adjania’s compound & destroy them! Finally law caught on the Dutt. He was arrested, went in for 16 months & later father & son paid reverence to Shiv Sena pramukh Thackeray, paid few crores & got bail in SC. That was enough for the father to leave the world & pass away.

Meanwhile, reams of newsprint were wasted on how Sunju baba’s indicted! Even dada Kondke movies’ have more intelligence in their humour than this. TVwalas have gone beserk about baba getting conned, deceived, indicted!! Didn’t know he was a toddler..he was in his 30’s when this incident of buying army weapon, delivery by underworld gangster & destruction happened.

There Yaqub & family came down innocently believing that they will be given justice! Sadly amnesia is reflected by media & reporters at every level. POTA, TADA, blasts all of it came after the riots dearies. Srikrishna commission, its tabling of report, rejection by various govts, reassurance to table & take action& an election victory took place.
Why are we NOT questioning the real justice? Why are we not getting other accused being tried for the exact crimes or issue like Sunju baba who wasn’t tried for planning & abbeting blasts like the rest of Muslims? He has been tried under Arms Act. Why someone who really in good faith delivered a paper bag not realising there was a bomb was tried as a murderer, prime accused or master mind?

Why is our justice lop sided? I strongly feel Yaqub should never have come to Bombay. Nadeem is a more free man this really true Indian who wanted to face the world despite having a criminal brother. How many of us have relatives who are real arse holes? All of us will qualify, yes even me. They have done something, duped people, lied, cheated. Are we tried for their crimes? Why fight being held responsible for someone else’ actions. That is why Maharashtrians want to play safe always in life…but that’s a fact..so the principles we want to be applied to us, shouldn’t we apply the same on others? Why is there hypocrisy or double standards?

I only hope our law-makers wake up to realisation & truth that this man Yaqub needs justice. His family, children, wife t
hey need justice. The all accused against whom there is concrete evidence-including the fact that the army had arrested Madhukar Sarpotdar for carrying weapons & spreading hatred-are tried, taken to task & given the severest punishment. Yes that includes, Thackeray, Joshi, Munde, others. Why if someone has political access & money he goes without a blot on himself while a truly innocent man willing to face the world has to suffer? Hope justice prevails one day while we are alive, all those who have seen the worst days of this city & the worst crimes in this city!

Magic Rains

Ok firstly its raining so I’m abso thrilled…..i feel as if oxygen’s pumped in me & I’ve got a lease of life. It’s a strong feeling once i exprience I can continue living wt all the downs, flips, sickos & miffs the next six months…

Its dat times of the year when Mumbai looks its romantic best! Bombay has this permanent romantic look when it is overcast…the old buildings of South Mumbai looked washed and wear a pampered look.

Summers are the worst for me & this city. I’m at my worst, dunno…something seems missing. I’m out of sync with myself, people around, the city…hate it most from April-mid June..even the atmosphere seems dull & uninteresting….trees look soooo very sad, droopy, lifeless like the still waters of our Arabian Sea. The sea also wears a dead pan expression. Lifeless B’bay is & all seem to be in an aggressive mood set to kill each other. May be they should compare rates of crime in summers to the rest of the year in B’bay.

Summers are time when I’ve quit jobs becoz I’ve woken up to realisation that the job or boss is NOT worth all the effort I’ve put in. I’ve disassociated myself from people because I’ve reached a stagnation point. Every summer I want to run away from this city to the Himalayas.

Generally this mood continues Till…wait…when those lovely drops of water bathe the earth…aha…the scent of the first showers on the earth is my all time favourite turn-on. The trees look suddenly alive again.. Leaves looked washed & sparkling green…the Arabian Sea is ferociously black…pl its nothing to do with the sewage treated water that flows in there…it is the blackish-red colour that indicates, ok friends the rain gods are here.

Rains are really a life giver forget the role it plays in the nature’s cycle. It’s my oxygen in real life. I can tolerate people, idiosyncrasies, a lot more bullshit being said or happening around us. I really am in a world of rains…a quick trip to Lonavala, Khandala-vow! The charm of these hill stations in the rains is awesome & abso rejuvenating. Nothing comes close to Khandala & Lonavala in rains. Tiny Waterfalls on the horizon, huge water falls meandering from the peaks around…misty mountains, clouds on the roads, drizzle to heavy rains…the total green beds of fields around, to the grass and mountains…it’s a different beauty & romance altogether. It is the additional vitamin that Bombayite needs once a year.

Oh! Yes that I almost forgot other best essential, hike to Matheran. Take the last 12:44 Neral train. Stay over at the station with mosquitoes biting into ur body. One has to wait till early morning & the climb begins. Rains lash on ur head and as you meander ur way short cut thru’ the mountains or the tar road, this is my annual pilgrim…well some fondest memories are also associated with this hill station so I would rather relive them visiting it.

Bombay meanwhile has this lovely sleepy look. One would like to eat hot bhajiyas, sip chai looking out of my balcony…the cacophony of this city ceases to exist. I’ve stopped searching why I get so more tolerant & love myself the most during the rains…I dunno. I love myself otherwise too but this time of the year I really don’t think I pay attention to anyone but myself…haha

Yes, there is muck & now recently discovered one gets leptospyrosis if one walks in the mucky waters of Mumbai…how come earlier too we waded thru’ this shit water & we didn’t get this disease? Fuck knows…but even that wading is a challenge worth taking. Which ever organisation I worked and however far (only twice in my life I had jobs that I was compelled to really travel far), I waded thru’ dirty waters and heavy rains…it gives some kick.

Covering news in rains is mixed…In 1996-97, gosh I had to cover the floods for tv news. Changed transport some 5 times, hitch hiked (ya the mike was the passport to free bike ride!) then reached the favourite spot for tv news-no not Milan subway-but Sion raiway station. It beats Milan subway believe me. Its always flooded even with slight showers…

Yes, instances of people helping is all time reality. However the most interesting part is heavy rains lash the city every year, city gets flooded, life comes to a standstill and then the moment it stops raining, the roads become spotless dry! Magic..but then it begins getting still all over again…wot to do dats life in Bombay!

Disappearing talent of Bombay

Come summer time and our childhood days were filled with people who we now realised have stopped frequenting our old areas of Mumbai.

Living in Girgaum has its own advantages besides being centrally located. We would get at our door step services ranging from entertainment, vessels, repairs name it!

Among the utility services, a particular from Gujarat would come with sparkling new steel vessels and porcelain crockery! They’d call to homes “yeh bhaandi (vessels) ye.” The neighbours would call them to their apartments and haggle till the last one rupee. I’d simply gaze into their shiny steel vessels to see my reflection!

The vessels were given in exchange of old clothes. Definitely not torn ones but those which were fairly old and decent. Sometimes I must admit that these sellers would come up with some unique ceramic crockery, which my mother would want to buy and my sister and I would go searching for some clothes which we wanted discarded!

Come Sundays and we all kids would plan our pocket money and play times around the timing of the bhelwalla who would serve us delicious sev puri and bhel. This particular bhaiyaji would call us by our names-how he knew I do not know. But the problem was my father. Invariably we’d have a 15 minute over drawn debate on why I wanted to eat that chat pata stuff. Only because he strongly believed that the bhelwalla perspired a lot and that is why the bhel he served was so tasty! Well this would be a weekly saga. But at the end I don’t know how we children always won. Don’t know when he stopped coming. The same would be reaction to the man who brought corn stuff, chan chor garam.

Among the first communities to disappear were the tribal women who came to repair the grinding stones in our old neighbourhoods. They would shout out “yeh taaki,” They sure were hot and dusky ladies, who wore nine-yard saris without cholis! As a curious kid I was fascinated wanting to strike a conversation with these women whom I thought were bold and sexy. This community specialised in the talent to level the grinding stones which needed to be cut specifically. It has been over two decades that I have stopped hearing their calls.

Summer time also meant time for us kids to share our space for playing with the ladies who dried and pound the papads and masalas. For days they would spread old saris, usually they were old nine-yard saris. We had to evade these drying ingredients, which included the deadly red chillies. We brats of course would throw the ball on the chillies and papads and stealthily flick some drying bits to chew on the raw ingredients. They’d warn us that time for their revenge was just round the corner as they’d pound the chillies and other ingredients threatening to throw it in our faces.

Among the real sharp memory reminders is the knife sharpener who would bring the cycled metal sharpener to the building. The process evokes loud and sharp noises which come close to the tile cutters in modern buildings today.

Among the last but my favourites are the dombari community of acrobats. The whole family would come and entertain the neighbourhood. The children would run through a circle of fire and juggle with a string and stick. The parents of these children would perform tougher tricks like walking on the rope, balancing a torch of fire on their forehead and jumping through a frame of knives. As I kid I craved to perform some of these acrobatic tricks, the rope was my ultimate fascination. The closest I came to was doing cartwheels with ease!

Bombay became Mumbai, but the old world charm has been lost in the name game.

Hapus in the Himalayas

Well yes that was my mission for this year’s b’day-wc happens to be ma 40th birthday!

I wanted to take Alphonsos to the Himalayan mountains this year. Initial plans were to go to Lahaul, Spiti & Zanskar valley. My friend Anne Margaret who too will complete 40 in Oct, will be celebrating her b’day in South Africa. What to do can’t afford it so she suggested we go elsewhere in India. Again Lahaul, Spiti was getting to be a costly trip so we proceeded from Srinagar.

Now firstly I’ve been to Ladakh 20 yrs ago when I was younger & fitter. I’d gone on a trek. That was my first trip ever alone, a month to Kashmir and Ladakh. It changed my life forever & gave me a whole new perspective to live…earn for the next holiday & help people. I was treated marvellously well in Kashmir. I was not allowed to pay anywhere. The Kashmiris treated me with utmost respect & love, one reason because I’d gone alone to their part of the country.

The men would ensure I was not alone anywhere, they would send their wives or daughters to accompany me even if I went to pee. I was on shoe string budget in 1987, when I was a student & had gone with few 100 rs in my pocket. Even then I ate cherries & fruits, lived on curds & rice in Kashmir & potatoes-rice in Ladakh..besides other local cuisine.

It was the most thrilling experience & one that will always stay with me. There was strong army presence even 20 yrs ago in Kashmir. Infilteration, bomb blast and heavy rains that had flooded Srinagar for 4 days. In fact I got the first harsh brush with authorities when I clicked a pic from my camera in the bus on way to Pahalgam! The soldier stopped the bus & asked me all sorts of questions. He demanded I hand over the role to him & asked who I was, place of origin & why had I clicked the bridge. Now except for that soldier I had no idea about the bridge-I had not seen any.

The reason I clicked was one doesn’t get better pics than when on the move-The turns and curves of the of the mountains & valleys always make good pics and that is what I’ve done all my life. Didn’t know even this would get me into trouble.

It is still a mystery and marvel to me how I reached Srinagar & from there to Sonamarg. I vaguely remember the bus journeys. I distinctly remember falling ill-rather out wt gastro- due to bad water!!

We went all the way upto Leh after Sonamarg. Here not much of trekking, but I visited Thispay, Hemis, Gonpas and the famous Lama Yuru. The little trekking we did was from Baltal to Amarnath. I could not afford thermal or other warm clothes. I had taken haversack & as little clothes cover as I could afford. My SLR was in place though. I remember the difficult trek to Amarnath & the fact that we were at the cave for 4 undisturbed hours! It also was a fact that I was the only girl who completed the trek, as the others had left the group to return to base camp.

To re-visit is fun, although I had read somewhere yrs ago that one should never visit the same place again. But this time too I was keen on going as we were to visit Pengong lake & Nubra valley, new places in the Ladakh region. I’d heard these were really beautiful & the experience is unforgettable. Believe me this is an understatement.

Anne, her aunt Ayala too agreed then anne’s bf ashiq & mr raja Hindustani the driver…whos good at the wheels & insists since he’s set his heart on me I shld too fall for him….grhhhh why me??

Firstly we travelled quite lahdidah! We flew by Cheap air tickets on May 19, then we hired a vehicle which took us from Srinagar airport, went straight to Sonamarg and stayed at a lovely cozy hotel Snowland. The next day although we were ready in time, we had to warm ourselves as we waited for the army convoy to leave so that we could leave thereafter to Kargil. On 20th we reached Kargil. Till Sonamarg it was just about ok, from then on it was cold, chilly, rainy and got more dark, cold and finally the snow.

Sonamarg was the same-one dream run. Cold, rainy, over cast and the army cordon was to return only in afternoon so whole morning we sat around chilling…taking pix. A river flowed behind the hotel, one of the most picturesque views. Horses mating, grazing…snow-capped mountains & slight drizzle. Only a decent man for TLC was missing….but that’s ok.

It was a pleasant surprise to live in a hotel in Kargil! This was unheard of even a decade ago. One could only live in army barracks or municipal hospital. But what a set back to all my plans. I sat quietly listening to my pm3 with some cool dire straits, suddenly one darn Gujju aunt walks happily with washed undies of her hubby, blue electric ones to b precise wc she coolly hung bang in front of ma face. Hello auntiji this is my part of the string I don’t want to see neither urs nor ur bloody husband’s. I looked astounded & abso shocked.

This was the same one who sat with other huge aunties bitching abt my friend anne’s size!! These gujjus I tell you..but more fun. At night a load of Maharashtrians sat at the dinning table staring into our boobs! What’s wt Indians & staring man?? They were talking in chaste marathi-hahaha I know Marathi, Hindi & gujarati….hahaha
They looked like straight out of one chimanrao- gundyabahu comic strip with monkey caps & ears to be precise!!

Food was awesome everywhere. Except that Dum aloo kashmiri had different pastes & taste in every other restaurant. Ok, I was all set to open my b’day goodies that I’d brought along-alphonso mangoes! Early morning for breakfast before we left for Leh. One tiring long and dusty journey to Leh it was.

But so much is the same! State of the roads, lovely people & more than anything the beauty…that’s still untouched & virgin…so very rare in India.

We were dead tired…had a lovely hot shower & prepared with the white wine that I’d carried for everyone to drink down for ma b’day. Surprise…anne & ashiq planned a lovely cake wt my name & 40 written on it. They sang, candle was lit & lovely meal we had wt white wine.

Yes dessert was hapus in the Himalayas!

Next day we took easy. Thanks to the elections in Ladakh there was a call for bandh. Visited some Gonpas, hall of fame as respect to our brave soldiers who gave their lives in Kargil war, etc. Finally in the evening we went to the market, didn’t buy much as had to go for dinner with my army friend.

Vow! Had some good Chinese food and went on a lovely night walk around the city. Saw the more low profile 2nd palace. Went around and was dropped back safely. Col Sannat told me to be careful as it had snowed on top & pray we don’t get stuck on way to Pengong & Nubra…now that was NOT good news at all. I was freezing as it is..I knew that it would be cold but not like this man. One set of thermals, 1 sweat shirt & 1 flannel pull over…gosh why didn’t I carry my humungous jacket??? Well too late dear…

Next morning we left-daily we ate out of lunch boxes wherein the menu was 1 boiled egg (ugh), 1 boiled potato (ughier), sadela synthetic juice, rarely a macaroon, perk (VOW) some such stuff & yes Indians love Bananas…fruit I mean

Anyways long ardous drive boob breaking roads I’m serious thought they existed only in Mumbai but the Himalayas beat them! Most were asleep, stenzin our driver-by some mercy raja Hindustani was called back to Srinagar-also in Ladakh the Tibetan union is stronger so any vehicle has to be parked in the city & we have to take their cars. Now stenzin’s reply to my repeated query where is the lake, he would say “ma’m 15 minutes!”

Khair, saw Yaks & Pashmina goats grazing-yes same ones whose wool is used by the Pg3 celebs for wearing Pashmina Shawls…The terrain was a mix-dusty & specs of greens, then dry, arid, suddenly sno
w…I saw flakes & went beserk..then icicles…gosh when was the last time I saw them? To top it all the car-wc was cramped man-kept skidding. Thankfully some other vehicles too skid so all together would dig snow, pick mud in their freezing hands & chuck it along the path. I wondered there’s something called as snow wheel chains wotta happened to them?

Drive was long & winding…frustrated with sitting for hours & days, suddenly I saw a spec of clear crystal blue between few coloured mountains! Ordered stenzin to stop, got out changed the lens & with the zoom clicked away this spectacle! Later some more drive & reached the lake! Gawd pl do something abt these loud Indians ya…

Drive back was ok, though snowed. We were keen on getting back ASAP coz we had to wake up at 3.00am the next day. Never have understood how in Mumbai I can’t wake up early, in the cool mountains I’m up with the sunrise.

Now begins some adventure our journey to Nubra. Early morning winding thru’ mountains is now daily journey…but as we went higher towards Khardungla, my sleep was tossed outside the wee bit open window. It was Snowing! This realisation dawned as I stepped out to pee…both the cameras & me was I remember…at Khardungla Pass-shit man teeth chatted, shivered & my body shook…rubbing hands we went to the army canteen. There was one spooky shop for souvenirs. Why aren’t we more enterprising? At 9.30am this shop was closed! Some really cool beer & coffee mugs, caps, scarves, etc…again had lunch in a box. Thankfully stenzin found a good Tibetan hut that gave up Ladakhi food –Tukpa, soup & Haag-Kashmiri saag-green as ever.

We saw dry sand like the kind you in the desert. Suddenly I saw Turquoise blue rivers- Shyok & Siachen. One is supposed to be slightly salty. Like the Pengong lake-wc is salt water, so is one river. Theory goes that once upon a time there was sea in place of the Himalayas, after the massive earthquake & movement wherein the Himalayas rose, we got the mountain range..good for us India. Also as a result the Ladakh area which is very dry & arid has these little spots of oasis around the rivers, water bed and in between the mountains.

We reached later afternoon 3ish..cold ya it was…there we saw tents..i’ve been soooo used to living in tents, shivering at nights, hoping for some warmth on my numerous treks, wc gave me an opportunity to travel to remote places- that this was luxury. Beds, tents that closed, warm blankets, we were special guests so got 1 more blanket & hot water bag for the feet!! Yeah…but my water drinking had not decreased so bladder needed constant release on top of that the cold it was horrible.

Ok, now starts a real Gujju saga…openly amidst the quiet serene beauty loud jibes & a harsh lang pierced our ears. Near the common toilets& bathrooms was a red board that read ‘heena travels.’ Hahaha good place. All silence was broken by these Gujjus who had come in hordes to Kashmir…why wot sin had we committed to bear these ones man…

The server brought some bhajiyas that vanished in split of a sec…when I asked for us he had to request the gujjus to eat less! Then they stared into anne’s face & talked about her weight. To top it children screetching around-it is genetic deficiency their community suffers from-seriously.

Loud mummy, wah wun fuck knows wot more…then when we inquired about dinner we were coolly told-wait this is real-there will be kadhi & khichdi-this is Ladakh man. What happened to Tukpas & momos? Arey madam unka majority hai na, wo apna maharaj leke aye hai so pure veg khana padega. Now….i’m a veg but I always eat local cuisine. Either remove the non-veg or ask for the same to be made in veg. But no these ones won’t eat local food..but we have to suffer? Search me…

One extra smart kiddo called anne fatty…took his case man..called him monkey, taunted the gujjus & realised this is our culture. We took to our tent for the drinks & warned the manager not to call us for dinner till these ones had finished. Before dinner as we approached the loos more was in store. Kids screamed & mothers told them poat upar base…sit on the pot! More over some told their tods ainya karje-piss on the ground! The loos were stinking man..plus we became safai kamgars! This only meant @ night I had to go behind the tent.

Dinner was sad as mentioned…slept well. Breakfast was another episode as the server opened all windows & doors to drive away the omelette smell…else the gujjus would run away. All along they spoke only of lack of sex, chill & sacrifice they ha to make for this lovely beauty! Spare me man…

Return journey was full of prayers & patience. Stenzin is quite frail. Now we went to the base of Khardungla pass, wot a queue. A smallie wireless army officer who was Shahrukh look-alike & with some attitude- controlled the traffic…basically communicated with the officers posted at the peak of the pass. I excused & asked him when we were likely to start…coz anne & I were dying to pee….he went on to telling me how unfortunate we were, unlucky, all in one breath! He said vehicles were stuck up in Khardungla, so he couldn’t commit to anything & more so sadistically stated we may spend the night in Khardungla. By then our bladders had reached beyond burst capacity.

By then I’d chatted with plenty army men, who told me their sparkling white snow boots cost Rs 10,000 a pair, there were over 20 soldiers, that’s where our tax goes honey I said to myself. Then god knows why that puny Shahrukh decided to chat wt me. Knocked on my closed window & asked where from was I? When he heard Mumbai he simply said bad timing, arse hole. Then saw aunty ayala & displayed some emotion for the 1st time. Thankfully stenzin had cut line somewhere & we began the long steep crawl. Some aberrations and stops..rather plenty I should say. Heavy snowfall, hazy atmosphere chilly sub-zero & we were huddled inside the scoprio. Outside all drivers pushed, dug snow splashed mud all over, pushed each others cars & the stops were just too frequent…why weren’t the snow chains on any vehicle, my simple query went unanswered all through.

Finally we made stenzin stand guard behind the vehicle facing other vehicles, anne & I opened all doors went up front & peed till we felt like relieved humans. Thankfully we began crawling…me think anne’s prayers & commitment was answered. She promised to go to the church every week, arey god will go walking to her if she doesn’t. She has good luck-mine is hilarious for myself. Her prayers or presence always brings us good fortune, mine brings good fortune to others not to myself…so it contributed I think in this.

We managed to reach a Tibetan eco-friendly shop in Leh & rushed to the hotel to have hot water bath…we thought we’d take some good rest. Food was lip smacking Ladakhi food with stewed apricots in honey!!!

Next morning were Leh elections, we were to leave in time so that army & police do not stop us. Suddenly ashiq began banging all doors & waking us up. 1st time in 10 days ashiq woke up early, gawd I hate it when I’m given a time & then we are made to wait on these late types….ok, so finally we boarded…that’s when ashiq told me at the 1st army/police post flash ur card. Thankfully my manual camera equipment, press ID, etc came to our rescue…for long sunshine greeted us. Then delays along the road were due to road maintenance and blasts being conducted by BSF roads organisation. By the time we reached Kargil it was dark, rainy & cold. Ya ya gujjus were booked in the Siachen hotel in Kargil…loud as ever man. Woke up at 3.00am drizzle & loud awazes of that same piercing language…finally the other frail driver arrived..I was dead for the first time & couldn’t stay up to see Tiger hill once again…from Min
i Marg it was plain snow all along…I cannot hide my excitement.

In December 2006, anne & I took a special trip to Gulmargh, only to witness fresh snowfall, which we got only on a high ropeway point, here for my 40th b’day one of ma dreams had come true! I was in midst of snowfall every 2nd day!! We managed to reach Sonamarg for some quick hot coffee & bread toast. It was raining then. We went straight to Srinagar. Showered & went in a total high zombie hungry appetite to Moghul Darbar. Vow! What Kashmir cuisine we ate..me veg others Goshtava, Gosht, etc. We were drowsy after that? Some understatement…have vague memories of what we did thereafter..but we slept early. Oh! Forgot to tell that from the hotel that we’ve stayed in usually, we were stacked way in some super compact cottages…that day I really gave to the puny arse hole fuck knows his name…hitting on me like nobody’s business. Well im so used it by now…Gave him a piece of my mind because we were paying for it months in advance & if someone then gives attitude they’ve had it!

We then woke early to go to Pahalgam wt an abso cute kiddo Bilal driving. Sadly Bilala’s story is like many in Kashmir. 4 year old kiddo Billal’s father was struck by a stray bullet when he was shutting shop. Their mother barely managed to bring them up. He now drives the car…I goaded him about his future, studies & poor thing has to fend for his younger sibblings..that’s life.

Anyways anne & ashiq paid a man to catch their fish, wc they handed over to a restaurant in a hotel. It was nice to see a very aged bow-legged lady in a nauvari! Reminded me of my aaji…except the group began clapping & singing loudly to teechi taal turu…hahaha

Anne, ayala & I went over to the hotel garden where we got some really good Kashmiri herbal/acupressure massage. It was a treat…by the river side, cloudy overcast, slight drizzle, hot tea and massage! Sheer pleasure…ate something, went to ice cream corner ate ice cream & went back to the hotel.

Next day 29th we were all set to return…well I don’t carry heavy heart anymore as holiday is planned to be enjoyed to its optimum & then one has to return to reality, that’s why its called holiday.

Altho’ I admit I didn’t want to face the fucking heat in Mumbai. It was worse than I expected. The journey back till Delhi was fine. Fm Delhi it was worse by the min. These cheap fared airlines are a pain in the butt man! Spice Jet tops it. 1stly NO communication only we know how we managed to get our tickets for onward journey in Srinagar after we learnt out of the blue that the flight had been cancelled…the crew @ Srinagar was really nice but the company sucks!! The plane had some chutiya accented swiss ka aulad…the atmosphere was 40 degs with NO cooling facility for wc he didn’t even apologise. Then to top it some tartlet (cabin crew) was impolite…ya lodged complaint against her.. generally was in a raging mood….But to touch Mumbai’s soil is some other expreince altogether…when I returned after my stint in Bangalore 1999, I kissed the ground when I disembarked don’t know what it is abt this city man….

Experiences, travelling alone as a woman, observations & current issues