Experience of lifetime

We all have heard of #northernlights or aurora borealis. A magical dislay of lights,ainly, green, pink and purple in the skies, seen mostly in countries of north and south pole. This is the 50th year for my friend and me, we saved money for this trip. To celebrate this year we started planning for a memorable trip, beginning with Cuba and ended up in Norway. We wanted the trip to be splendid and decided we wanted to witness Aurora Borealis and so we booked on a cruise.

Believe me it is one thing to see them in films, photographs and online, than to witness it. My first reaction was NOT to reach for the camera, but to stand there and take it in. After we left Bergen on the second or third night while we waited on the top deck we heard to go out to experience the northern lights. There we stood transfixed at the natural splendour.

Lights for sure they are called, what I saw was, colours that blew in the skies with the wind like smoke and engulfed the entire area. It was absolute magic! It is indescribable, to say the least. Over the last few days I have seen these lights every night. Last night far away I saw a red colour, I clicked it on my DSLR. Oh, by the way the settings have to be manual, below one fourth a second speed, 1600 ISO, exposure etc to be adjusted accordingly. It is funny, we were told one has to be alert on the cruise, every night. They will make an announcement in the corridor and one has to run to the top deck.

The first night at 11pm I heard some sound and spring up instantly. Thankfully I have invested in a cellphone that has a camera of DSLR quality. And after the first few minutes I take in the experience every night I click. Interestingly, on November 18, I saw a red colour smoky light far away and I clicked. It got bit brighter and clicked again. Later I showed it to the bar tender lady who initally did not believe me. Tonight (Nov 19th) was magical. I yet again saw red and green lights. I clicked on the camera and showed the lady who was accompanied by another staffer and they appreciated the ‘different lights.’

Like I said it is a natural phenomenon, no fixed formula but one needs to witness it at least once in life. In fact it was a double bonus. The first two days we saw rainbows and at night the northern lights. I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate life! This cruise is good sent, relaxed, living every moment and enjoying nature’s splendour. I definitely could not have asked for a better way to end this year.


Now many may have seen me with a Chinese fan on the roads, in bus, cab and at the bus stop. Obviously I get smirks, people look at amusingly. As i touched 50, I was aware of THE BIG change in my life, menopause. I was all prepared for it, or rather willing to welcome it with open arms. Believe me if there is one thing about being a woman I completely detest, were the menstruation cycles. So as 2017 dawned I was happy. But what started was not something I was ever prepared for.

Suddenly a cyst in my ovary was detected, followed with dental issues, then I found myself getting slightly emotional, which in turn unnerved me. I sat in front of my childhood friend bawling and he has never seen me like this and was astonished. After that day I decided I do NOT want to be like this. Believe me, any amount of reading, preparations (I started on natural supplements and precautions (peri-menopause time) since last few years. The symptoms were loud and clear – loud sounds, especially honking would sound magnified, (which made me ANGRY) and in addition, the professional stress. The last HAS BEEN a huge precipitating factor. The 24×7 broadcast news culture is such, remember bosses have to switch off and can take weekly offs, holidays, but none of it for us. We are bonded labour. Sorry for this slight stray, but this was huge detrimental factor at the onset of menopause.

At that time, I came across the concept of a pelvic magnet. I read up on it in details and women in UK, US said it helped to control the flushes. Over 7 years I have been wearing, beginning with peri-menopause and not that it has helped me overcome insomnia, but it has done no harm. While at it, I increased my dose of vitamins, had to undergo series of tests, that are needed and the blood hormone test pinned it. Yes menopause had just begun.

Being on medication is not something I like, especially for the side effects. The medication for cyst made me lethargic. I changed my job, took something less stressful and moreover my timings simply matched the changed body clock. I am more like an owl at night and slow in the morning. Accepting it with a work profile, a newspaper job, made my Life less stressful. Heading a team of young reporters has is it pluses and few disadvantages. They may give you many a frustrating moments, but it is less stressful than broadcast. There is a sense of fulfilment when you can mould young minds to think differently. It gives you a sense of hope in the current political climate when they move for better prospects. Even in the hot flushes moment, you get a sense of fulfillment, one has helped them to try and be rational journalists who can look deeper.

I began staying more with people who are younger, happy, for less stressful interactions. Friends apart, of course. I avoid the ones who provoke. This phase makes women bit more sensitive and before I get into situations where there could be misunderstandings, moreso make me feel vulnerable, I simply stay away from such situations. In this initial phase things may not be as they occur— often things seem magnified for no reason. When you exchange notes of menopause with other women and friends, one realises each is going through similar emotions and changes. In fact when we school friends meet, we realised for a while all of us were talking about menopause making us sensitive, hormones, hot flushes and bladder issues. Fuck! Never in my life I’d have imagined to be like this.

Among few compulsory things I imbibed, I stopped battling the changes. These are body changes which are natural and one needs to work around them. Yes, I feel like a walking volcano all the while. Though I have tried to make changes in my diet, it is the acceptance which helps one to deal with situation. So while I am taking vitamins and suddenly a spur pain crops up in the heel, I am more open to accupuncturist and naturopathy, than medication. Coming from a family that has history of cancer, the HRT is completely ruled out. Apart from which personally I am NOT in favour of it.

Currently, I want be in a happy place, more comfortable in my skin and that dear women friends is the most imprtant determining factor. Hot flushes, now that is normal and less bothersome.

‘Pakmodia street, the HQ of Mumbai underworld gangs’

This morning when I heard that a building had collapsed near Pakmodia street, it was a walk down memory lane. As a reporter and lover of old Bombay, I had gorwn up with the tales of crime and the underworld.

Pakomodia street, this name would send shivers down the spine of people when the underworld ruled the old streets of Bombay. People dreaded a phone call or visit from this locality till the 90s. A call from the person called ‘Bhai’ or his man meant the worst. The Hussaini building was where Ibrahim Kaskar, the father of Dawood and his family lived when he worked as the head constable with the Mumbai Police. His eldest son, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, alias Bhai, ‘D’ started the Dawood gang from this street.

In the urban legend of the old Bombay city, Pakmodia was the Head Quarters of D gang. From late 60s, 70s till early 80s, there were there were 3 main gangs, Dawood, Pathan, Karim Lala and Haji Mastan. The Pathan and D gang were juxtaposed opposite each other, even geographically. These were the two ferocious gangs that were violent and controlled initially the smuggling, supari killings and were notorious.

These were situated in Dongri, off Mohammed Ali Road. From there to Byculla boudn ary began much later Dagdi chawl, the den of Arun Gawli. Then from Jacob’s Circle or Saath Rasta, was the domain of Amar Naik. Even today police believe the Pakmodia street has spotter, informers and is the stronghold of Dawood. Families are said to receive calls from Bhai and there is informal exchange of information and business.

Till many years after Dawood fled from Bombay, the room where his father lived was locked. After Idrahim kaskar returned to Mumbai he began staying in the same vicinity. He recalled the childhood memories of living in the old Hussaini building, where his father had a room.

For Mumbai police though this was an area for ‘look out.’ They were tricky days for policing and many a challenging night. “Long back Pakmodia was known as Dawood’s gulli. One of the main gang of the underworld was headquartered here,” Rakesh Maria, the former commissioner of police said in a telephonic call from London. Maria recalled his days of policing in this area, “This was the origin from where Mumbai’s underworld began.” Maria said the location was such that areas were demarcated. “On one side was the Pathan gang and on the other Dawood gang. Ahead was Haji mastan, these were the main gangs.”

These controlled the crime – murders, shoto outs, extorition, smuggling and much later drifted into drugs and major killings.

Veteran IPS officer and former DG of Maharashtra, Arvind Inamdar was one of the first to have gone in this area to bust the smuggled gold. The mention of a building collapse and Pakmodia brought a cheer to his face. “Yes, I remember Pakmodia street. Sometime in 1988, we had raided this street. Gone inside and busted their plans. We seized gold worth Rs 3 crores at that time. It was the first time police had taken such a strong stand,” said Inamdar.

This was the first kind of direct action by police in Pakmodia street, for which the entire team was enthusiastic. Inamdar would frequently parole the area in plain clothes. “I would go to Pakmodia and the entire area in plain clothes as part of my job. In fact one could see spotters. We ensured that whatever action we took, the police would have an upper hand.”

Today, life has changed a lot. Name of Dawood does not evoke any awe or fear. Residents would rather stay away and get on with their lives. Nature too has its way of alarming. Dawood’s younger brother Ibrahim Kaskar who lives in the adjacent building got a rude shock this morning when his building too vibrated as he heard an explosion-like sound when the Hussaini building fell.

Stray love

I am proud to be part of this team. I am not the pet loving sorts, because I am of the opinion animals should be allowed to remain in their natural habitat. My childhood friend drew me in her world of helping strays and for someone with zero experience I helped her rescue small kitten from under a car at an elite club in SoBo (South Bombay).

I had to keep it entertained and ensure it wasn’t scared to death. That the kitten was not aware not to paw me and scratch nails was evidently absent! From then on the number cats in our catland have touched a dozen.

I have been often stalked by stray dogs and cats. Demanding a pat or two, like it is their right. Must say it is far more enjoyable than proud parents who believe only their child is special or extraordinary.

Recently as I sat at the regular take away counter near my house for my quota of falooda just before the monsoons, I saw a blood eyed cat. He was scared, wanted affection but was trembling with fear. His right eye was not to be seen and when I queried the feeder Safwal Bhai, owner of Al Baik and he said it had been few days he was in this state. It sure looked infected and likely to cause more damage. I immediately put up on Twitter, sorwd the word among cat lovers. Most of all, I called Shankar, caretaker of cats in our compounds. He has been trained and is in constant touch with the venetnary hospital. He did primary investigation and told me to keep the cat occupied near us while he will rush back with a cat cage, he needed immedii hospitalisation.

As you see to your right, Jack Sparrow (I call him that and looks on adoringl) had a bloody eye. It was all quickly that we lured him with chicken and lifted him to put him in a cage. He screamed, howled, but obviously, but we knew we were doing it for his sake They promptly injected him and put him in a cage at the hospital. After a few days he was operated, the gangerine had spread and we couldn’t save Jack Sparrow’s (yes, you have to call him by the full name not just either) eye but his life was saved.

Then one fine day he returned to his domain, he rannup the stairs of a building. A night later I went to check on him and I haven’t seen such pure love! He ran to me, never thought cats had these emotions or showed them. He got himself patted, purred, playfully nudged with his open jaw where he wanted more pats and it was unusual friendship. Alao may be because ginger boy’s are more adorable says a cat lovers friend.

He knows my voice, he still has various sounds. My moments with Jack Sparrow are interesting. When he is getting attention, recently a stray dog came by and our pirate purred nastily that actually drove the dog away 😁 glad one cat saved, nine lives it is?

He is a joy to watch as he now has adopted a grey stray kitten under his guidance. So the whole existence continues, love taken forward in our universe.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A strike or extortion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saffronised nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BMC elections that were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farewell, not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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