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….

Walking in Mumbai

Walking spots in Mumbai

Early morning walks in Mumbai are rib tickling to say the least. There are distinct people and experiences to each area of Mumbai. More so, if you thought walking meant exercising, giving one the solo space and time is concerned, then you’re sadly mistaken in Mumbai city, pre-dominated by star-struck people….

Loud laughter and shouts, crowds, noise and one would associate with local trains, but think again from early morning walks to late night home return journeys its all the same sad story!

Some along Marine Drive really look like they are preparing for the marathon, while there are varieties here. Now this is debatable, mainly b’coz we as a Mumbaikars are totally taken by this Marathon mania-why all run so much? So we see Mumbai marathon getting more & more popular by the day…Many also come early to see the billionaire rich Anilbhai, so that they can speak in their mother tongue, Gujuu…

The conversations meander between how businesses should be run. Their advice to Anilbhai would be-how to make them more rich-considering they are all Reliance share holders. The talks veer around money, cricket and how Tendlya should play and how much more money the Board can make.

The main necessity for a walker on this promenade is the compulsion to be a good multi-tasking person. Jogging, walking or evading the on-coming traffic is simple compared to evading large crowds of regular walkers who expect you disappear from their horizon in a split of a second. We as Indians just do NOT respect others’ space…so u have all walking in long lines or groups. Here all conversations are centred around money. One can see the religious ones greet each other throwing their arms in the air and loudly chant ‘Hari Om.’ Those like me who are dead against public display of private beliefs are disliked here.

For a walker, the grand experience is really the Oval maidan. Early mornings the crème de la crème of Mumbai walk along with their pedigreed canines. Seeing the Collies, Alsatians and German Sheperds you can’t blame me for mistaking the Oval for the cool hills of Scotland or Switzerland. Except that the dogs perspire in our city heat. Oval of course does resemble a mini Dal lake during monsoons. The interesting sights are couples jogging in very colour-coordinated outfits and bureaucrats dressed in very trendy clothes. The most interesting personality every morning is the white veshti-clad uncle who religiously keeps himself fit with some tough exercises.

Further down is the smaller SK Patil Udyan at Charni Road or known as Japanese Garden. Don’t be surprised to get a roar of a welcome from the nana-nanis of Girgaum. Every morning they throw their arms in the air and laugh loudly. Somehow the Girgaum’s moral policeman Pramod Navalkar’s given the top half of the park to the grand oldies to conduct their laughter & gossip clubs-like most even the nana-nani has become one gossip club.

Few others in various corners meditate or chant the shlokas-loud again. The best part about this park is the canteen run by Kutumb Sakhi Navalkar’s wife heads it. One can get the fresh aroma of kanda poha, vadas and piping hot chaai, its sheer orgasm on rainy mornings. Interestingly it is in this park that one can get a rare glimpse in of the traditional masala and papadwalis who walk carrying cloth bags on their heads.

Way up from here to Malabar Hill one has to take a steep climb at Babulanth junction. Everyday I’d see the variety of temples and priests conducting their rites with loud artis. I think they have mistaken this hill for the Himalayas! The priest insists on burning everything that resembles anything dry in his vision. The bells toll at specific intervals heralding prayer time…under the name of religion these temples have encroached happily on the Malabar hill. the climb however was one kuccha muddy road now its given way to one tar steep path.

Adjacent to this climb is the really cozy garden with a splendid view, the Kamla Nehru Park, also known as the shoe garden. It has been my favourite for the sudden view of the Queen’s Necklace in this otherwise green spot.

Contrary to the belief that Hanging Gardens are South Mumbai’s grand walking place. I recommend this garden for all those who are used to loudness in every walk of life. The first indication is the strong smelling deodorants that overpower the fresh cool air of Malabar Hill. In these gardens huge crowds walk together discussing about money and more money. Did I mention women across all these spots calling loudly to their cooks (Maharaj) & ordering them on their cells-between their strolls and running commentaries to cook specific breakfast within 20 minutes and menu for lunch?

The one weird experience I faced was in Malad when I had to pay an entry fee of Rs 2. I embarked on walking in my usual exuberant manner after finishing the first round in clock-wise direction. I began walking in the anti-clockwise way. I was in for a rude shock as the watchman stopped me & said I can’t walk in the opposite direction. I argued of course considering for the first time in my life I’d paid to walk in a park! He said the committee of the park had formed these rules & I couldn’t break them. I realised as I turned around, with men walking together in sixes and sevens!! That’s when I crushed the paid receipt in the guard’s palm and buzzed off abusing the park.

My all-time favourite is the Chowpatty beach at Girgaum. Spare some fishermen living in one corner else the beach has been cleared of all dirt and mess. The huge expanse of the sea shore and shells strewn in the mud remind me of my childhood. The sounds of the waves lashing as one walks by broken with sounds of sea gulls is truly a great way to begin my day!

I'm single, so what??

Whats with people & their inquisitiveness regarding any person’s marital status? It’s infuriating to be asked all the while why am I single? As if I’m incomplete, something’s drastically wrong with me & deprived!! Grrhhh
I get very pitiful glances and more than that 100 reasons for marrying are given without being asked for. Earlier it would piss me off, it still does coz my singlehood is by ‘Deliberate’ choice-I guess this concept doesn’t exist in India?? Even among males? I’m NOT single due to lack of choice or failure to find an adaptable man-who I really don’t know is roaming freely somewhere in outer space!

Formalities are needed sometimes I think. Personal questions like weight (another sensitive issue is talked so loosely in our society), sex or lack of it, child bearing & marriage…are spoken immediately after people open their doors onto you. Its literally like a Hindi comedy film! You ring the bell & people greet u with “My look how much weight you have put on/lost! Why are still single? ” Etc etc. At least it happens so very often in our Indian families, even educated friends. Worst still-time is running out on you! wots this supposed to mean?

Then you have relatives who have the gall to their daughters-who obviously seem to lack any thinking powers- that stay away from this atya or mavshi or her influence will rub off you. May be they’d really get some wisdom if they care to see… 🙂

then is NOT wanting to have children…gosh have committed an offence? looks like. My bod clock never clicked away…its continuous all cycles purrfect…i just do NOT want kids, tho’ I luv them. The luv of my life is my best friend’s son…amaan…he brings sheer joy to my life. I’ve brought up kids, have had cousin’s daughter take her 1st step in front of me NOT them…isn’t this what all paretns go thru’????

I wonder why should my marital status affect any person. Unless people suddenly have begun envying me! I really think it’s a conspiracy that all these unhappily married ones want us singles to join them! The every 2nd police officer asking me “don’t mind ma’m but are u married?” i think they’ve already presumed my reply so their smirks say it all..

I told my arthur roda jailer friend one day, ma’m i’ve planned now to tell anyone who asks whether i’m single either that i’m married or widow, coz then it will evoke some sympathy for me. She takes the cake man, she told me, “aga nako, don’t tell divorcee else they’ll think ur over smart & u asked for it. say ur widow!!”

On a serious note this all irritates. Earlier I would try & reason, look I’ve a long way to go. Then I had career, then stopped short to study, since I graduated all seemed to be in a rush to get me married. Reason-i DONT look the studious types or wanting to study further types??? Most suspected that taking a break from my career wc had not even kicked off meant I’m throwing a hint at my family-I’ve someonetucked away. I’m still searching…hehe

But the worst is, people’s presumptions -Being single means being ‘AVAILABLE.’ Every married man eyes us single women. I’ve had married wanting to buy me lingerie of their choice. I’ve no qualms because they have been my friends & gifts are always welcomed. On serious note, I’ve tried to explain to them that they should surprise their wives too by buying them lingerie more than me. They dither.. feel their choice may not suit their wives’ and fear rejection from their wives??? Hello happily married i thot??

Each married male at whatever age wants to have an affair. Have they seen themselves in mirrors? UGHHHH – Its really infuriating to know that they think they are doing charity by telling they would like to have an affair with me coz they can’t see me alone!! I try & explain that I’m single NOT available & more so I ain’t deprived man!! Difficult to explain…firstly look at most of the men around. Does anyone even think I’ve lost it?? over 85 percent ko Na shakal ya akkal hai…less said the better.

Men have sex on top of their minds..it is gender reality..i’m fine wt it. Such is not the case with women-our reality. life is easier for us women. To top it all my drive & energy is focussed on getting a dhasu story, when I get, its like total orgasm!

Same with food, flavours & meeting people. As for companionship, I have enough, no dearth of it. Friends, acquaintances, parents, many old uncles & aunts who like my company…my friends, their children, all keep me occupied. As for me being looked after I’ve already begun preparing 2 kids for it –my friend’s son & my cousin’s daughter. Jokes apart life’ young, who knows who i may or not meet..its ok. Ashrams are there to take of me!

The pain, shame & gloom….

Hi,

these r thoughts that i had written during the Bombay riots in 1992. A lot happened during that time..visions that i still see, events that are vivid. My niece’s wedding was on Dec 6, 1992, when a BJP leader from Pune hugged my late brother-in-law, congratulated his leaders & himself.. Ecstatic that they had pulled down the Babri Masjid, I could feel the chill on my back coz i could envisage the events that would unfold in the next few days. Days? Seems the thread is broken forever..

i will be honest-i had NOT expected the killings to be so random, many & violent…worse still the repercussions  that a good community feeling has ruined our  society worse…Bombay was forcibly converted to Mumbai.

My father, sister & I still proceeded to Bombay the next day we thought of getting on wt our normal lives come what may. We left Pune by train & it was shocking- had to pull down shutters, fm Kalyan people had begun throwing stones at the trains, delays & people rushing wt fear in their eyes when we did reach VT. As we neared Girgaum there was not a soul on the streets..reminded me of the dark window days of Indo-Pak war.

For 2 days we managed to live on few foodies that were at home. I had to try innovative things to fill our stomachs, like crushing garlic into paste mix it wt butter for garlic-butter-paav & other such things…we had to threaten our father who has a habit of going out at unearthly hours like 5.45am! Good time when prowlers target unarmed people in tensed situations, why even police had resorted to all sorts of tactics…meanwhile baba & I would have Indo-Pak war coz his predicament & mine clashed. In addition i have a friend-Altaf, who’s name is a give away. So less said the better..it was tough for his family too that was uprooted from their home in Tardeo..life was not the same for all for few months. Years after normal life was restored, the Shaikhs could not put up their name plate! These are my thoughts…

1.

The air is tensed & the skies rage with hues of fires
Little children, youth & adults are gripped in a mania
Reason, is visibly absent
All perform ‘acts of duty’ with utmost loyalty
For whom? As inexplicable as the acts of violence
Ironic, you see hatred more on faces of those who pulled down the Masjid
Revenge is for those who saw their place of worship crumble

They have sent fear down streets of ‘Bombay’
No bearded man or a burqua lady is being spared
Men are forced to pull down their pants
witnesses ensure there’s no one circumcised!
Majority indulgences in thrills to satisfy their sadism
Scared they will be out numbered soon

Is this the triumph of any religion?
Who are these victorious soldiers?
What medals should be conferred on them for merciless muders?
Children have died, women raped & riots on the streets
Arson, shooting and houses destroyed as clouds of smoke blur the horizon
Sounds of swords, bottles and tube lights ring in the air

Are we the same peace-loving Indians? Is this democracy?

2.

‘This is just the beginning,’ warn the hardened Hindus
The quiet tolerance has disappeared
They smirk devising heinous plans
These frenzied have become the voice of majority
But most civilians are mere mute participating in a vicious game plan
Do they realise they are being used?
A chill is sent down our spines as the commissioner orders shooting a baker’s family
While in the suburbs a politician is cleared of carrying arms & explosives

Blame game has begun whilst a gangster has initiated a new terror chapter
A blanket of fear has covered the faces of common people
Bombayites witness one of their worst nightmare
While our government turns a blind eye to all destruction
Gory visuals leave all benumbed, sadly not shamed
The world watches Bombay change from cosmopolitan to communal

3.

The war continues..Now even the middle class has taken to looting, killing & force
Unfulfilled desires surface, as the rich too grab from the muck
Confusion surrounds the goals & motive for rioting, people look dressed for some haloween
Except no sweets are asked at the door, they break-in to spread terror

Anger, pain, and isolation have embraced the scary souls
Haunting memories make them shiver
Lights are out in mohallas where all whisper in fear
Nameplates are missing from doors & many tip toe towards nearest city exits

The homeless huddle in clusters & cries of children echo the over crowded stations
Platforms have disappeared under sea of humanity, all look in stunned silence
Only heads are visible-caps or burquas many have still retained their lost identity
For many the journey of migration to safety has begun, destination still unknown

4.

Are these crackers heralding a New Year or gunshots & blasts?
Shimmering sparkle have set the streets on fire
The epidemic of religious frenzy has spread wildly
Humanity has been thrown in a whirlpool of pain
Most have been uprooted, is this a war?

The markets are closed & goods vanished
Only ashes remain on the ground
Hunger is the last worry on their minds
Fathers are prevented from going to work,
Police arrest thousands from only one community

Leaders cry for strong action but the administration fails to deliver
Is this the city I was born in?
Everyone seems to have joined hands to claim their share of ‘power’
These are plain chess moves & the reigns in the hands of conspirator
Madness continues as even noble attempts to restore peace seem superficial

The culprits are at bay, but rest live in a world of suspicion, hostility & revenge
All have been used & abused, but the conspirators sleep well
The crack is now evident, they have succeeded in dividing us
All we can now do is plaster & paint,
But we will never be able to hide our shame

5.

My journey on the BEST began being seated on the last row
My serenity was broken suddenly by loud sounds of laughs and loose talks
The hooligans rushed to squeeze next to me What was the excitement?

After many days this travel was possible
The bus was full as my eyes searched for rescue from the taunts & jibes
Ahead sat a lonely man isolated from the rest
His beard was a give away, my saviour was right there!
He like few had still not shed their respect.