‘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 underworld.

Pakomodia street, once 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 person was called by ‘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.

MARKIV’S NEW MENU, TO DIE FOR

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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.

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.

Making A Difference

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

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

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

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

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

The pain, shame & gloom….

These thoughts that i had written during the Bombay riots in 1992-93. 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 was ecstatic, “Yes, we did it padli amhi 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 riots that would ruin a good community feeling for the rest of our lives…that Bombay was forcibly converted to Mumbai.

My father, sister & I left by train for Bombay the very next day & 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.

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! Apart from that being followed, prowlers making anonymous calls at midnight, 1.00am to create rift, threaten me, telling my father ‘keep that girl who goes out indoors…” there was nothing lesser than a war in Kolhatkar household. Where my beliefs, activities were not approved by most…

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 for whom?

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 murders?
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 & using force
Unfulfilled desires surface, as the rich too grab from the muck
Confusion surrounds the goals & motive for rioting, people look dressed for some Halloween
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 across 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 reins 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 among the few had still not shed their respect

his fa� ‘ o����s 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.

Virgin Tweet-Up

Till i began tweeting & meeting tweeple, that’s been like nearly 2 years to be precise,  i always FIRMLY believed that what is virtual is NOT real. And those friends met on the net should remain there, not be met in real world.

This was till I began tweeting, first in 2009 when my trainer Craig Zelizer invited me to twitter. Initially I had NO clue what twitter was all about. I was using only FB then. I’d surf to see whether i’d know anyone & reconnected with long lost friends. But these were known since school or college or professional. strangers, i’d never met.

I made one exception when I saw a writer, lyricist who media had begun to pursue, I wrote to him on FB saying I’d like to interview him. The lyricist had composed a beautiful song which CD flipped for & wanted to meet him to collaborate with him…But destiny had other plans & my dear friend passed away…so that re-confirmed web world is best in its virtuality…

So initially I welcomed myself, left it blank & then forgot. My some friends began egging me that its a good platform for someone like me . Meanwhile I read that the HERO of my life, Micheal Jordan is on twitter. So began looking up to get more info on twitter. Tweets fm Durban, economic forums, international arena were being written in newspapers. Then learnt Prez Obama, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey Shirley McClaine & many more are there…I wanted to be in this company on the virtual world.  So far as it was NOT real.

Little did i know the people who’d follow me or i’d follow…as the tweets from my end increased followers began. Mostly friends & they would suggest who i should follow. Earlier i’d pen my thoughts & instead now put it on twitter. Also it came as a rescue operation, especially in times of meetings, which are a bore, which ever organisation you are in. The one thing that twitter did was help me release my energy.

I returned from a fellowship in Thailand, where I made really nice friends & some became each other’s followers on FB, Twitter, now Google+.  I made a rule that unlike FB, where everyone seems to know everyone, my twitter account would be new persons primarily…there are always some good old friends, old forgotten acquaintances, colleagues who i’d like to follow. But  i’ve avoided following some whom follow because you have to….i can’t be compelled. The person’s tweets & views is what influences my choice.

And then thanks to some friends like Mahafreed, my absolutely restricted group began growing. After Mahafreed & I began tweeting about our walks. Among the first to meet was Ranjeet Vikramsinh raje Walunj-Patil. Sounds like total Maratha war leader or politician. Hahaha. He is THE most cool, nice, really good human i first met outside the web world. Follow him everyone- @imayavi

Walunj as i like to call him, because Patil is a name that has many a political overtone…and some connotations too…like the dialogue in a Marathi film on politics of Maharashtra. Anyways, meeting Walunj really made believe there are many nice persons out there on twitter who are genuine.

In the above pic you see is Rajesh on left. He is my walk partner. He read Mahafreed’s & my tweets & he too joined us. Coz we are neighbours. He knew M, but i got to know him on the walks. And thanks to Rajesh i went for my first, virgin tweet up! I am adventurous in many ways, but i don’t like a big group or crowd of strangers or only acquaintances, i prefer small group of close friends. This was something absolutely new to me.

However i was excited coz there were many people who i wanted meet…calamur, b50, anaggh, jiten who is an old buddy…so on. People who i like because of their ideology, the way they think & their outlook in life. Some because they are sooo cool in life…Now here is the difference. On other sites, networking, FB whatever you write, put up on walls, you don’t understand the real person. You merely get a peek in their lives…Here before you meet you have read the person’s mindset..tweets have been exchanged, whether you agree to them or not.

And so as rajesh said he will go for the tweetup i told him i’d like to accompany him…i wouldn’t have gone alone. There it was fun. mid-way in the tweetup I met Rajat KL (the one on right in the pic) I saw him as sitting by himself. He came & introduced & just began praising Mumbai city & her spirit. He wants to move here eventually & was narrating to me in great details how a tweet up as rocking as ours would never happen in Delhi. “So many people at a public place & meeting for the first time. It would never be so successful in Delhi…Only those with political connections have a pull, people don’t meet ordinary people, met on twitter..aur aise restaurant mein milna, toh nanmumkin …etc” I told him amidst us were CEOs, Entrepreneurs, who’s who of Mumbai & all were together for the first time…all to meet Surekha Pillai…a media professional…it was an amazing experience. My dear friend S in Muscat had tweeted I should go & hug Surekha. I recognised her fm her twitter DP, she was direct (so nice) said that I owed her a hug & it was sooo nice that the first meeting was so warm & direct.

I humbly take back my stand on twitter there is real, not so much virtual… :J

My tryst with the King of Pop

The death of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, brings back memories of his visit to Mumbai nearly 13 years ago. I was in my third job with a Hindi news channel — a music lover, but definitely not an MJ fan — and was given the daunting task of covering his stay in Mumbai.

Jackson was to perform on November 1, 1996, at the Andheri Sports Complex as part of his History world tour. Raj Thackeray (now president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) had floated an organisation called the Shiv Udyog Sena, and being a fan of MJ, roped in event company Wizcraft to get Jackson to perform in Mumbai.

Raj was still a part of the Shiv Sena at the time, and close to his uncle, Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Raj received tremendous flak for the event, but Thackeray senior stood by his nephew.

On October 30, 1996, MJ was to land at Mumbai’s Sahar airport in his private jet. For days in advance, I had been pursuing people closely connected with the event, one of them being a man who was to provide MJ and his troupe with vehicles.

Along with the contract that he’d signed came a nine-point letter listing out conditions. The man was given a specific time frame within which MJ would have to reach Hotel Oberoi, now the Trident; there was to be no lapse. Part of my assignment was to cover trial runs of the vehicles prior to MJ’s landing, and these would take place at odd hours, from the wee hours of the morning till late at night. Eventually, my efforts paid off and the man allowed me to take a video of the contract he’d signed for the event.

Waiting for Jackson to arrive was thoroughly entertaining in itself. Lakhs of people had thronged the airport to catch a glimpse of him. Before he landed, I moved around trying to catch hold of all people I knew, so that we could get a closer glimpse of the King of Pop.

Among the celebrities and dignitaries present there, I remember actress Sonali Bendre clad in a nine-yard sari and a Maharashtrian nathni (nose ring), standing with an aarti thali to welcome MJ, along with Raj Thackeray, Sharmila Thackeray and innumerable politicians who were there to receive Jackson.

When he landed, Gajanan the cameraman, Irshad the assistant and I went around trying to get fresh visuals of the frenzied mob calling out to Jacko. Outside, Raj had organised a performance by a troupe of lezhim dancers with dholaks, and they wore traditional Maharashtrian clothes. They danced even as cars whizzed passed them, little knowing that they would soon have a ‘moonwalker’ in their midst.

Suddenly, an Air India employee I knew called out to me from the cordon around the lezhim dancers. He screamed in Marathi that MJ was at the centre of the formation. This was my moment as a journalist, exclusive footage: I was pulled inside the cordon and suddenly found myself standing next to a person white as snow, with pink lips and a hat, toggling his black glares at me in greeting! I stood stupefied and realised the pink lips weren’t those of Madonna — it was Michael Jackson himself.

This assignment raised my stature in the eyes of close relatives, who wanted to attend Jacko’s show. Being part of the so-called vernacular media, we were not considered eligible for free passes; however, we got entry passes for the entire camera crew, along with strict instructions. There were no cell phones at the time, only pagers and telephones.

However, I was thoroughly in demand for the numerous requests I got, asking for passes. Businessmen were willing to pay five times the cost of the most expensive ticket, which was Rs5,000. From that point on, my life wasn’t the same.

I was on duty round the clock. Girls thronged the Oberoi to catch a glimpse of the pop star, and I hovered nearby for a dekho. MJ was ensconced in the hotel’s Presidential Suite and later left his autograph on one of its mirrors. We were heard tales from the hotel of how he slept under an oxygen tent, and there was a lot of secrecy surrounding his lifestyle. During his short stay here, life in Mumbai centred around MJ and his “stories”.

Constables from the Mumbai Police complained that their lives now revolved around controlling frenzied fans outside the Oberoi. Facilities provided to them were even more basic than today: they subsisted on vada paav and sometimes did not go home despite being on duty for 48 hours straight outside the hotel. Local celebrities, meanwhile, did not leave any stone unturned to get that coveted pass and invitation to a dinner hosted in Jackson’s honour.

On the day of the concert, I was to reach early because we were categorically told that the crew needed to check their equipment, we would have to undergo security checks and finally would be allowed to shoot only 1.14 minutes of footage! The organisers would then give us some extra visuals to use as fillers for the story. It was a daunting task, and as someone who was not a fan of MJ’s music, all this contributed to putting me off.

But, I admit, I stood in stunned silence when the King of Pop MJ made his grand entry. I’ve seen innumerable shows thereafter in India, and I admit I never saw anything like it. MJ was brought down a crane amid a cloud of artificial smoke. There was thunderous applause and screams, and I feared that someone in the crowd might just suffer a coronary. I actually found myself tapping a foot to the music, and a colleague said to me, “You don’t like his music, Neeta, but look at you enjoying it.”

Suddenly, MJ pulled a girl from the crowd and for the next 10 minutes, we saw them clinging to each other, as if transfixed. Later, when she stepped off the stage, she told me it had been a dream come true for her.

Bal Bhavan

Last few days my walking friend cum junior fm DNA cum budding good journalist cum soon to be teacher Mahafreed & I are on exploration trip for walk friendly places. She’s live wire, great comic timing, may be being a bawi is an added gentic quality wc other mortals lack. coming to our walks, we have experimented galore first me singly then Mahafreed & now us both. Same experience – difficult to walk in Mumbai city even for exercise. Very walker unfriendly city this is.

Few days ago she told me lets go to Bal Bhavan – our childhood garden. No fantasy please this is THE most beautiful garden, green spot between Charni Rd & the Arabian Sea. What a location in the 1st place. Now i’m in my 40s so imagine over half a century old this garden is.

Most of the garden is as it is. However there are many new things. First things first. This is solely reserved for Women & children below 12 years. Whatta fun this is. I love reservations, that topic is for debate and discussion later. We women & rest of the Bahujan, deprived sections of society deserve reservations for the next century.

That apart, as we enter Bal Bhavan main entrance on the left is the gargen gate behind is the Arabian sea side, on the right is a new small garden with all scienc gadgets. The Nehru Science Centre has put these things for kids. There are some metal gadgets that depict solar sys as seen in Jantar Mantar of Jaipur & Delhi. As the name ‘Bal Bhavan’ suggests the building premises, gardens, gym, et al are dedicated supposedly for the benefit of children. And here they declare the 10th & 12th board exam results.

In the science garden, they have plasitc manequinn blocks placed separately. When you see them fm all angles they look separate. Then you have to place your face near a metal board wc has a tiny hole & look through it & you see a wholisitic figure! So now you know how Mahafreed & I have some fun during our walk in wee hours of morning.

Mahafreed is scared of guards. She says all guards scold her. She look naughty while i am naughty..in my childhood all shouted at me, now roles have changed i guess..hehe

The garden has lovely morning dew. I saw a lady walk on it 2 days ago. We exchanged notes on walking on the dew. Scientifically we need to understand things. as we began walking this morning, M felt the garden was watered. It wasn’t. We removed our shoes at a bench which is well coloured. Imagine cobalt blue colour! How children friendly is that! We sat down for some time to enjoy sitting on that bench. Then we walked on the grass like little kids. And we remarked how lucky today’s kids are na. We both were amazed with these efforts taken byt the govt, education dept for the kids.

M says she used to come here to play, learn karate and she did duck walks etc. I don’t remember if i had to do all this. I was never atracted to Karate. May be because the trainers looked uninspiring, dunno too far back my childhood is. What i do remember is we played here, my sister & me. At that time there were slides, jungle gym thingies, swings & sand pits. Yes you guessed right. i would roll in the sand pits, take big swings and luuuuved jungle gym. Most of those things are there & some new additions. Plus now i see 1 extended part of the garden.

I’m sure that additional garden must’ve existed then too, but i’m not sure such a big one did. Or it was surely restricted to us children. Because now when we began walking it seems large. It was fun as we walked barefooted. We realised the different variety of grass that is there…most of the garden has soft nice levelled grass wc resembles Neem leaves. This holds the more dew and water. M wasn’t willing to believe that the grass wasn’t watered & there can so much of dew wt previous evening’s water. She asked the gardener & he confirmed he waters only in evenings. Plus we saw some abso dry portions of sand…slowly M got convinced. The magic of dew we began discovering…

We noticed Many nice flowering plants & trees, rat rani, champa- 1freshly bloomed flower had fallen wc i wore above my ear. My best friend who’s no more, CD would always tell me, “keep a flower wt you babes it’ll make you feel nice. When you get angry or upset, take a deep breath of it then think…all else is insignificant…” yeah Chetan’s right, the fragrance makes you forget everything else!

So we walk around this garden everyday…i feel young yet again. Not that i ever know what it is to be in 40s..really speaking. I mean i would never have imagined that i would return to this garden to take walks. Interestingly this garden is reserved for women & besides M & me only 4 women come to gossip or share tid bits abt their lives. Rest pass by and look from outside the fence at M & me as if we’re animals in some zoo.

I don’t want to be seen by people or show off that i go for walks in the mornings…also too much noise these walkers make…they are a nuisance actually. They talk too much checking out others while they expose their fatty stomachs through slinky sarees…shee

Everyday we decide to add some spunk to our lives…i love my Bal Bhavan. We were also surprised to see the door to a govt building open at 7.00am! Times surely have changed…. 🙂