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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing with online abuse

It is not easy dealing with online trolls or abuse. It is very easy to tell someone else to ignore such and give no importance. I have been called prestitude – despite not taking anything apart from official salary and till now NOT written with any agenda. I let that pass, though I did file a written complaint with the cyber crime cell. In February 2016, I had tweeted the information of Press Club protest march (which was just a demonstration) followed by speeches. On the day of the protest I was threatened with sexual violence, “hard gang rape.” This sexual violence threat I forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Police to their twitter handles. They asked me to go to the nearest police station. I showed the written threat to my political editor friend Samar Khadas and senior journalist Samar Khadas and senior journalist and BUJ leader M J Pandey. They both insisted that I go and lodge a FIR. Later I sent the details to the joint commissioner of police, Deven Bharati who directed me to Azad Maidan police station.

Even though Filing and FIR is our fundamental right, the police will always convince you to get away filing a Non-Cognisable (NC) offence. In my case despite intervention from Jt. CP, the lady constable insisted on omly a NC. Thankfully my colleague and a friend from TOI called and she was horrified to hear they were filing only a NC and insisted I speak to their crime reporter who in turn called the Jt CP and he was told on record it was a FIR. By then the Senior PI was ordered to return to the police station. The lady constable Like all youth, displayed her inexperience in everything. Filing the details, technology usage & patience. Thankfully universe conspired and the file simply got erased or in her words, “aho te file udali.” She bawled and I wanted to laugh! Quite an irony. By then it was 8.30-8.45pm, already 2 hours into the matter.

Now usually despite being a senior journalist with the senior police officials calling the station, one would have expected things to move fast. However, the picture at the police station is absolutely different. They look busy while you wonder if they are doing anything. While I sat waiting, I observed that the so-called comfortable seat was a hard, wooden bakda with a stained mattress and a bed sheet that looked unwashed for atleast a month. Yes, so where was I? At being ordered to be comfortable.

Then after recovering from the disaster of the file getting erased, she went to inform the Sr PI who told me “madam because of your case I was specially asked to supervise. Why take trouble. And you have shown your maturity by not shouting at this inexperienced constable we are obliged. Come sit, we shall file your FIR.” Whole tone being he was doing me a favour. By which time my friend made it a point to call me every 15 minutes to ensure I was not really alone. We then dissected the IT act section on pornography. I argued it was a pervert threat and he insisted that section was only for pornography. But he did hint we could add more sections later.

I am genuinely surprised I did not shout or lose it. I wasn’t the least unnerved. Oh yes, the Sr PI gave me hot tea, to ensure I don’t get upset. Then the bit of narrating the whole incident again. He asked me for a hard copy which I didn’t have. Hard part was trying to make the new cop understand what is twitter & social media. By then I Took a screen shot, emailed it to the police and they printed it out to attach to the complaint. That I had to translate it in Marathi when they read the FIT, was a task. Two of my friends had joined me from 9.30pm and at 10.30pm Samar finally stood up and instructed the lady constable to allow me to go for dinner and we would return to take the copy of FIR. Meanwhile the police were in constant contact with the cyber crime cell.

Now after this my story was not over. I went 4 days later to enquire and they requested me to give the twitter India head’s contacts and email I-d. They had forewarned me it takes few months, my Twitter contact insisted max 20 days! I kept tracking since then. I nearly gave up, until recently when a lady political spokesperson filed a FIR in similar online threat. Accused in my case is still not found. I was told the Twitter USA is not forthcoming sharing ip add details. If any white, American woman had receive such threats the accused’ details would be given promptly to the cops and would be behind bars. Or not? I do not know, I believe the Mumbai police because I know the emails sent and the steps they have taken. So I do not know the status on investigations from the U.S. Side. Here I know the cops have been forthcoming with details, have been cooperative and have done everything they should have.

Now here are some do’s and don’t’s

Look confident, not scare and definitely not over smart
Insist on filing a FIR
As educated citizens do read up a bit on some sections, even if it is on Google
Carry hard copy of the threat, email, whatever evidence – only hard copies are attached to
Despite the hard copy ask if hey wish you to email it to them
Do not say what happens in any other county apart from India
Try to squeeze in some words in local language – because the FIR is written in the local Lang.
Ask the, to read it out and only after that you sign it
Smile when you can
Do NOT shout, at any time
Even if they try your patience
Go with someone but ensure that person is not annoying the cops
Try to win advantage to being understanding
Be stern about the time you have spent and details of the incident
Be observant – this disclaimer is most important from the moment you walk inside the station

Most of all, go and file your complaint. Lodge it at cyber cell at BKC. They made my case an exception, but it is essential you go to the cyber crime cell. They are helpful. Keep track, take the number of police officer there. Do NOT presume the cops are doing nothing. Do not fear after three months your case may shut, it doesn’t. The delay IS from the U.S. Side.

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