February 23rd, 2009

Join the Masses

Short interlude for Delhi 6

After much hype, and much talk, I relented and saw Delhi 6. I walked out maybe 10 minutes before it ended, because the movie just did not end. And for some reason it was full of religious propaganda. And Delhi, Chandni Chowk, is not Haryana. People do not speak Haryanvi there. People do not discriminate by caste there. Not now. Maybe 15 years ago. Not now. Police is not evil. Delhi police is amongst the most helpful in India. Coarse, rugged, but they work. Yes, there are cases where they go wildly wrong and misuse their power, but not as blatantly and as regularly as shown. And women in Chandni Chowk wear jeans.

And, if the director felt he should show negatives of every religion, then there should be equal emphasis on all sides, not biased in a bid to please some fagments. If relegious propaganda is what is the motive of the movie, the director should have the guts to be true.

The Movie should have been called 'The monkey man episodes' and not the loving slang used by people of Chandni Chowk - 'Dilli 6'. Because its more about an alleged monkey-man murderer, which was rampant almost 10 yearsago, and religion than about the people, and even less about the accidental love story.

There is no scope of reminiscing and liking whats shown about the city - it is too matter of fact a portrayal. Snapshots do not a story make. And the best actor of the movie has a total of 15 minutes on-screen time. OK maybe 20. Abhishek Bacchhan needs to spruce up - in looks and acting (really, too much beard). And Sonam Kapoor deserves more. The pigeon and she fight for screen space it seems, and both excel. As compared to the rest.

But. I loved the music. After ages Rahman has given music that is nice. Music you dont have to 'get used to'. Which is true for most of his songs. And for the past few years, they have definitely not even grown on me. However, after a long time he has given a really nice score. And it was needed. Afterall, there are some decent songs in Indian movies now.

Watching waiting

Caste system and Bombay

Yes, this is a post on Bombay. Almost everyone I know seems to know the parts of the city because of the media centric role it plays, and has an opinion. (In case you, reader, have doubts about any part of the city, here is a map tp help you.). Oh and this is a long post, and not a rant, really. People are free to choose how they  live. Choice of travel modes and property prices are individual decisions, I believe and not a factor of circumstances (usually). So this is just casual observation about people in Bombay, as free from judgemnt as I could muster, because most people anyway know what I feel about the city. I dont need to blog it.
Bombay is two cities. It is not about rich and poor (which is indeed very contrasting in Bbay unlike most cities) and neither it is about religion (unlike what movies and books may make you think). It is two cities because it is one city forced to become larger than what it is. It is, perhaps, at some level about Bombay and it becoming Mumbai.

Traditionally Bombay was a city at the edge of a cliff, barely any aerable land, area scooped away from the harsh sea. Then, somehow, it became the land of opportunities. And people came to Bombay from all over India. And Bombay grew. The suburbs became part of the city, and what was not Bombay 10 years ago is now almost central. And what was an uninhabited island when I was young, well, its mainland now, almost the place where I live - part of 'old Mumbai'. And the city is still growing. One day it might reach Pune. And at this pace, the day is not far.

All that is beautiful. All that is nice. But that has divided the city into two parts - 'The Town'  and 'Suburbs' - nomenclatures used only by people living North of the Mahim Creek. The southern tip facing the sea became the 'town' region and a the city grew northwards - the only available landspace - suburbs grew and became part of Bombay. For those who life in the 'actual Mumbai' or in the suburbs, they are the 'mumbaikars' while anyone from South Mumbai just say they are from South Bombay. Suburbans of course, call them 'Townies'. According to them townies are snobbish. Amongst many other things. Bandra lies at the cusp, unable to choose. Unable to be accepted into what was Bombay and not deigning to be a part of the suburbs. And so anyone who comes here from other cities goes to neutral land, Bandra.

But it is not about that. It is a lot about the way of life in these two parts of the city which differentiates them so totally, that the moment you clap eyes on someone, you can guess which part of Bombay they are from - South or North. For one, it is north Bombay that is so immersed in the famous Bollywood culture. It is remarkable. Pass Santacruz and enter Juhu and from there to the ends of the city the movie feel does not leave one. There are posters of every single film that has been filmed - and you realise just how many there are.

However, the biggest divide of them all are the train travellers and the road travellers. The population count in South Bombay is relatively lower than that in North Bombay. Also, most workplaces happen to be concentrated in South, though there are hubs in Bandra and Andheri as well. So people travel, from all ends of the city, people traverse distances to reach their workplaces and then leave for home, tired, beginning their home work on the way itself (cutting and buying vegetables, deciding on kids' homeowrk etc). Because of the way the city grew, infrastructure did not keep up and the nodal transport means are Trains. Indian Railway trains that connect smaller towns to major cities - the locals - are the main transport means for Mumbai. And people willingly pack themselves into these trains, spilling over, trampling each other and zealously guarding their right to be there.

A glance can tell a person whether s/he are a train traveller. They have a haggard look to them. No matter if that day they have travelled by the most luxurious car. train travellers are usually thin. Extremely, anaeimically, thin. Not the worked-out, dieted thinness that is more common in South Bombay. Also, their shoes - they are extremely flat. Like bedroom slippers, almost. It can be skirts, dresses, jeans or salwar kameezes. Footwear is slippers. Most train travellers have hair severely pulled back and tied up, in defiance to the wind in trains else if left open (rare) are meticulously brushed, often, all the time. Men wear shirts tucked out when they can, but anyway they are dripping with sweat. And, to my nose, no matter how much they use perfumes and deodorants, I can smell the train. The slums areas that the train has to travel through.

Train travellers always seem to be eating. And the fd seems to go nowhere. Its like they live to chew. To eat, to catch up on the time they lose between the autos and the trains and their destinations which could have contributed to a sit down meal. They carry big bags - men and women. And the bags contain food, the newspaper (folded into a tiny square), an FM or music player (nowadays phones are more common), and a small bottle of water. Then there is the attitude. The way they stand. The way they abhor personal space. Can you feel someones breath on your shoulder? Oh not to worry, Mumbai hai, yahan jagah kahan hai! And thats the attitude. People stand so close to each other for such a large percentage of their lives that even in an open area, a train traveller will stand centimeters away from a person, probably brushing them, breathing down their necks (literally).

And then the dressing sense. Perhaps there are more middle-class people in the suburbs than in South Bbay, but the clothes can be classified into 'suburbs'. Where the clothes from a small shop in south Bbay will scream South Bbay, the same holds true for vice versa. The 'bling' factor seems magnified. It may be the Bollywood effect or it may be the hurry, the buying from station markets and not proper markets, or  just lack of discerning customers culminating to a lack of choice. But even a casual observer can differentiate men and women just by what they wear. Even the higher end shirts on men somehow seem woebegone, just by how they are worn (loose) or by their colour and designs. train travellers stay away from pearly whites you see. And I have not yet broached women clothes with regards to deeper necklines and skirts and dresses.

Contrary to poplar belief, and quite like any other Indian city, dressing for women in Bbay has to be just as well thought out. But its lesser of a worry if you happen to be travelling South. For while the city has fair share of travellers and women, just like the rest of India, men in the suburbs are stll unused to women with plunging necklines and hems.Hems, period. Somehow a woman in a body hugging teeshirt and tight, tight jeans is OK as compared to someone in a knee length skirt. Anyway, the point being, travelling to North Bbay makes one realise that the wardrobe that is normal in South may just not work. And if you are travelling by train, in a general compartment as compared to a Ladies one, there is no scope of sitting down unless its totally empty. You dont want men stading right on your toes while you sit. And the beggars. At crossings, in trains, everywhere.
The car travellers from the suburbs therefore, span the opposite end of the spectrum. Because of being surrounded by train travellers, they are usually snobbish enough to not even want to grace a taxi, forget autos. And this attitude extends to every other thing.

South Bombay on the other hand exudes a different feel. For one, public transport is restricted to Bus and Taxi. No autos, and trains are badly connected. On women, there is a prevalence of heels (and not the sensible block heels of the adventurous North Bombaiites) and clothes that are chic - if not from coutoure houses, then they look like they are from expensive shops. Its all very different from the feel of a Bollywood movie, and more like a neutral city. And that is because the emphasis seemsto lie more on style than whats de rigeur for the latest Hindi movies. And sequins seem rare(r). Even in the poorer sections an eve teaser is rare and so are the starers. Wear what you may. Women smoking is not wierd, and somehow the crowds are more structured. The personal space factor may be low, but as compared to the train travellers, it is a football field. In short, this part of the city seems more comfortable with itself. Perhaps because of its history it consists of older residents, more at ease with being a part of a rich, growing, multicultural city. Perhaps this very comfort reflects in their clothes and their attitude. Perhaps thats why the more affluent (and not noveu riche)  are attracted to South Bombay (apart from property prices) as are the more affluent foreign residents.
And the major problem that any suburban has with a South Bombaiite is - they dont travel by train. No matter how many cars they own, a suburban has to travel by train for some part of their lives. And as per them, you have not lived in Bombay unless you have travelled by train. And the townies seem unable to grasp that.

Bombay has its own caste system. A geographical one. And one gets pulled into it no matter how hard one tries to stay away. Because the caste system ensures a life style difference. A difference so stark, yet so subtle.

And I did not even speak of the subdivide of East and West as seen in suburbs, and that of the 'western line' livers and harbour and 'central line' livers. I have not seen such strong, apparent, distinct differences within people of the same city in any other city. I guess its part of Bombay?

Sky around HAji Ali

Light Play

A Monday morning at home

I moved from the bed, feeling relaxed and happy. Not delighted, just satisfied - and that made me feel happy. A morning of peace, no phone calls or doorbells and music of my choice with a book. Even my maid Vijaya who came late today was happy, smiling and laughing and talking about irrelevant stuff when I paused and lifted my head from the book. The book was finished now. A marathon completed, and my brain was rewiring itself to start on a new jog, feeling happy at having finished the race, and rejuvinating itself before the next one. Because, happily I have two more books lined up for me, by authors I like. There is nothing more rewarding than reading someone who agrees with you, knows what you like and tells you that they are nice things. Haruki Murakami in his real-fantasy world did that.
Just like telling me that Bob Dylan sounds like a kid standing at the window watching the rain. And then he marvels at it himself. And I marvel at him. It cant be truer. And I had put on Tambourine Man to play. I wanted to verify the truth.

I suddenly realise Im famished, I havent eaten a thing since morning, only my mediocre cup of coffee. I go to the fridge and stare, there is so much food, yet nothing I want to eat. Finally I take out the salami and keep it out to thaw. It gives me time to decide what I want to eat. I pick up a slice of cucumber from the plate I had asked Vijaya to prepare - a plate full of cucumber, beetroot and tomato slices, no dressings, no salt. I wonder what they would call this - its not exactly a Salad, but add salt and its what passes as salad in a dhaba. The cucumber is nice, ice cold and crunchy. I pick up a beetroot and remember its been ages since I ate beet. It lovely. Mildly sweet, crisp but not crunchy. And juicy. The tomato is too tangy so I pick up another beet circle and close the fridge door. The big bite into the circle of deep red beet leaves it in the shape of a less than half moon - kind of like the moon from the production house - Dreamworks. Only with jagged edges on one side and uneven polygonal ones on another, and thicker. I take another bite and feel the cool of the other edge of the arc brush my left cheek. I finish the slice, and walk back out of the kitchen. I think about what I mean to do today. And I pick up a brush and brush my hair. Its been so long since I brushed my hair without a reason - the brushing before going out or getting dressed. I enjoy it. I enjoy the sensation of the brush edges touching my scalp lightly, passing through my hair, leaving it rejuvinated. I pull back my hair into a ponytail. I dont use my regular scrunchie, but a simple plain band of purple. I like the purple band. I re-found it last night in an unused purse. While Im at it, I thought I might as well wash my face and see if it can remove the cottony feel of satisfaction from my brain as well. Make it sharper. The mirror shows the drop of blood left by the succulent beet on my cheek. I wash it away.

I feel refreshed, calm, serene, but not yet ready to take on the small jobs I mean to do today. I look at the computer and I think after I write this down I will get a coffee to go with crisp, deep fried salami and soft buttered bread. Perhaps some of the chicken soup as well. But Im not to sure about that. And then I will be energised. And so ready to move out of home and do my self designated work. I pause and listen - there is no sound apart from my fan whirring. And distant cars. I feel nice, relaxed.

Having written it all, I already feel better. The brain a little sharper, the edge a little more refined. I will make strong hot black coffee now, perhaps with a drop of milk. And put on Aerosmith. Crying.

Climb the Summit

Keyboard Circuit Pouch

Yesterday, I put together the remaining keyboard circuit I have after the last operation and started making a cell phone pouch. Only, halfway throughI decided it would be a multi-purpose pouch with a flap that I could close with a magnet.

However, as it shaped up, I thought it would be way cooler to keep it as a pouch which I could hang somewhere, using the holes in the circuit or simply by magnets. And I made this.

Its pretty handy, and I intend to keep recipts and bills of immediate use as well as a few often used take out menus in it. Of course, it contains a little stationary to make life simpler. On the whole? Im pretty happy with it.