Monday, April 25, 2005

Around Mumbai in 100 bucks- The Sequel

Much as I did not want to write about the not-so-paavam dude, his histrionics compel me to write a few more stories about him. We left him with the perception that the number 6 house must have brought him all the luck and laurels in life. One would have thought him to get a salary hike, to set up a nice house with his wife and do all the 'lived-happily-ever-after"-like activities. But fate had other plans for him.

He had paid whatever was due for the house-fixing like the deposit of the house, brokerage, rent and all such transactions and decided to move in last Wednesday.(Auspicious day and all of that!). On Wednesday, he knocks the broker's place at 7:00 AM. Now the broker usually opens his office only at 10:00 AM and was quite startled to find customers knocking his door at such 'unearthly' hours. On top of it, this dude gives him some incongruous reasoning.

Dude: Good Morning, I have come to collect keys because its Wednesday.
Broker: *Yawn* The keys are with the landlord.

Dude: *irritated* Since I said I will be moving on Wednesday, why did you not collect the keys from the landlord?
Broker: No sir! It doesn't work that ways. *Yawn yawn* I agree you said wednesday but its too early in the morning. I have to collect the keys from the landlord who'd be sleeping right now. *some more yawn*

Dude: This is not early in the morning!?! I have come in at 7:00 AM only, not at 5:00 AM. I have to go to office and this is the only good time of the day and from 9:00AM 'rahu kaalam' starts.....*some more rants*

Next thing, the dude arrives at our place and waits on until 8-8:30 until the broker gets back to him. After a futile wait, the broker announced that he'd be able to collect the keys only at 10. So this dude had no choice but to cancel his shifting plans. On friday morning, the dude shifts to that house and at night, he arrives home with a list of complaints. The traffic noise is a bit loud, the flush in the bathroom doesn't work, he has an upset stomach because of hotel food, water supply is erratic. He spent an hour talking about this, that and otherwise. And just when we would have expected him to leave, he sheepishly says he doesn't have a bed to sleep and wants a bedsheet and a pillow. All we could manage was exchange glances..:-)

Next day, the dude arrives at 6:30 in the morning, waking my poor MIL up. I woke a little late, and I saw the same silhouette in the hall *Oh no! not again..!* The crib of the day was that he could not sleep in that house because of the traffic noise. He managed to get only 2 hours of sleep. And lamented on how his lack of sleep could affect his productivity and eventually, render him jobless. *What foresight!* And because of this, he wanted to move out of that place. He had come early again to talk to the broker. Broker, a smarter man now, told his servant not to disturb him. So this dude waited on at our place until 10:00 AM. When he was told that if he leaves the house, he'll lose out on the brokerage and 1 month's rent besides the interest of the deposit, the dude looked visibly devastated. The look of horror on his face clearly indicated that the whole world was out to swindle him. Well what can anyone do if he did not realize that houses need to be evaluated before fixing the deal and numerology cannot help him achieve that? Now with a heavy heart and a disappointed mind, he continues to stay in that house and sleeps with cotton plugs in his ears.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Ab dilli door nahi

Been a very hectic week for me thus far. Hardly had time to pay any attention to my little space. One of my friends complained that its been a while and I have not posted anything new. With the page counter and regular visitors growing by leaps and bounds, it becomes trifle tough to spare time or find something to rant about on a regular basis.

Usually, I blog from workplace at the time when I am waiting for a deliverable from someone or waiting for the conference call to happen or when I am totally jobless. Blogging at home never happens. Either I am too busy in the kitchen trying to help my MIL or I am watching my stressbuster k-soaps or I am too sleepy after either or both.

Today, its lovely weather outside, cloudy-but-not-quite-rainy types and I wish it continued to be this ways through the weekend. I have to be taking a friend shopping along linking road and such where I need to conserve energy for great deal of bargaining. I wouldn't possibly want it to get wasted by battling with the scorching sun. I also want to watch Hitch and Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi. I want to drive the car around on nice smooth roads (a far-from-reality dream), I want to eat at Cafe 5 (I'll wait for you to get here, M :-) ). And I also want to take a break and go for a trip.

Talking of trips, I am going to be spending my next weekend in Delhi. I am most thrilled at the thought of visiting the place after 5 years. Would be good to meet up with old friends with whom I have been in constant electronic touch, have momo's and fruit beer in Dilli Haat, junk shop at Janpath, Sarojini Market and Central Market, travel on smooth roads along the India Gate area, have huge hot chocolate fudge at Nirulas, raj kachori at Haldirams, gol gappas at Lajpat Nagar and generally crib about the sweltering 40+ deg heat. Would also like to check out what our dear water-stealing neighbor (who gave us a tough time by err.. stealing water) is up to nowadays. Would also like to see how the college campus looks like and catch up on gossip on which prof is torturing whom and which junior/senior is seeing whom, would like to meet the mamis of the colony whom we visited every vishu to collect money, would like to see in what state of affairs is the metro rail from Shahdara to Nand Nagari (I wouldn't be surprised if cattle travelled with the milkmen in that route), would like to check out the cowshed-turned-retro Gurgaon which boasts of hajaar pubs and malls, would like to see the posh-pseud eye-candy junta around Chanakya and PVR, would like to see if Border movie banner still hangs on Uphaar theater walls and listen to the blueline bus conductors yelling 'baarder' 'baarder" (Thats just the border of Delhi and Faridabad, a place called Badarpur before you connect the calls to LoC or something. I have travelled that route endless times during my spartan-and-broke student days) .. oh my to-do list is endless for a 3 day visit. :-)

Anyways, the bottom line is I am so looking forward to this trip. Would have loved to be there in December. Maybe another trip. :-)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Indian Born Confused Indian

"... So where are you from?” asked a colleague while she tried to make polite conversation with me in my company bus enroute home.
This question generates a rush of frenzied activity in my cranium to figure out the best and shortest answer possible. But so far, I have never managed an accurate answer. All this processing finally gives me a headache and for the same reason I run for cover whenever someone asks me this.

Been born and raised as an NRT (Non Resident Tamilian), the cumulative number of days of stay in Tam-land has not been more than 3-4 months all my life. Needless to say, Tamil evolved in a new dialect in our household with generous fillers of English and Hindi thrown in. Our linguistic skills (or the lack of it) were often brunt of the jokes of our much-Chennai-bred cousins. The shopkeepers, there, would throw skeptical looks at us and would eventually answer in broken Hindi until we oblige a few words in Tamil for a response. And then they would delightfully exclaim, "Ooh! Tamil aa?? ". It is quite an interesting sight when their faces light up that moment. The worst is when it is time to haggle with the terrorist auto-wallahs of Chennai. That’s when our "linguistic deficiencies" become so blatant. For the first time in my life, I visited a village recently and that happened to be my husband's ancestral village. Needless to say, I felt like a museum exhibit with all villagers staring away at me from head to toe like I have landed from Andromeda galaxy. In such a scenario, calling myself a Chennai-ite is not appropriate, especially when my parents, too, have spent most part of their lives in northern and western parts of the country.

I have spent substantial number of years in Mumbai, the earlier toddler years. The memories I have of the city back then, is nothing more than going to school, violin classes, evening play time with building kids, hoards of relatives and guests for whom my parents acted perfect hosts to and quarterly visits to meet my grandparents in Bharuch. Still I liked the city and enjoyed the number friends and the lifestyle I led. Was most unhappy when dad announced that he's getting a transfer to New Delhi. Still, at this stage I cannot call myself a Maharashtrian. Because I have not been particularly leading a lifestyle of a Maharashtrian, I had a cosmopolitan set of friends of which Maharashrians were a minority, I was celebrating all festivals pertaining to South Indians nothing close to Maharashtrians (with exception of Ganesh Chaturthi which is THE BIG festival in these parts), all family gatherings involved the few South-Indian families around the locality.

Delhi was a different experience. Would say most of the formative and juvenile years were spent there. Though the huge culture shock was overwhelming at the start, we managed to stay afloat, managing our way through crowded Blueline killer buses, hostile neighbors, the glitzy-flashy attitudes, the 'dadagiri', the Hindi speaking math teachers (imagine them going 'paintees', 'pachattar' and so on while teaching in class), the Hindi speaking Hindi teachers (their league was difficult to match), the bribe-seeking postmen, the terribly cold winters (I could write another post on that, my most favorite thing about Delhi), the scorcher summer, the hep colleges, the campus and hostel life, studying with geeks, the hatte-katte gorgeous looking men, the numerous crushes, the few heartbreaks, the smooth roads, the secret car drives when dad went off on official tours, the trips to "Cute Creations" with M......
In retrospect, it was a very mixed but enriching lifestyle. But that still does not qualify me to be a Delhi-ite. Besides some friends and memories, I have no other bonding with the city.

Now its back to Mumbai and my experiences I have elucidated
So, I guess I can only manage a 2-line answer to whoever asks me this question.
Yes, I am an archetypal case of a confused Indian. Born and raised in Mumbai and Delhi, trace my lineage to Tamil Nadu and speak Tamil with a hinglish accent.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Around Mumbai in 100 bucks

Our telephone rang at 11:00 AM this lazy Sunday morning. A quaint, southie-accented gent was at the other end and he introduced himself as a son-in-law of my FIL's landlord in Chennai. He got a job in Mumbai and as expected he needed some help in finding an accommodation.

Now most paavam*-type first-timers arrive in Bombay with huge skeptic-gray tinted glasses on. Like the lenses can help them differentiate between the good and the evil, the samaritans and the swindlers. Like the lenses can help them from getting gobbled up by the aaneka-jaaneka-type-hindi speaking taxi-wallahs. Like the lenses can give them keen detectors to keep conmen at bay. (I wish the detectors helped them figure similarities between conmen and godmen, but I digress!). In my opinion, any new city visited will have all kinds of people. What is required is a reasonably good insight.

So this gent talks to my MIL and my naive MIL invites him home so that S (my husband) can help him around. She gave him the bus numbers which will get him to our place. So far so good. Next thing, she starts to speed up her cooking. She was all sorry for this gent and thought maybe its a good idea to ask him if he'll eat at our place. Now, no tair-saadam** swearing individual who's fresh off the Chennai boat would refuse such an enticing offer. Not that I hold any offence against tair-saadam. It happens to be my most important part of the meal in the day as well. I just meant it metaphorically here.

S took him to a real estate owner who was a neighbor in our building and he decided to help him find a few houses in the locality. Eventually S was dragged to all the houses by the gent because he could not speak hindi. This is another of the defense mechanisms adopted by most people. They cant accept the fact that they don't understand hindi. They cover it up by saying they are pundits in Sanskrit, they have learnt hindi in school for good 7-8 years, they can write poetry in hindi but the only hitch in life is that they cant speak Hindi.
*So what dude..! Don't you know English?*
But anyway, he saw a few houses and got back home for lunch and had few cribs that the houses were far away from his place of work.
*Since when 6 km, to work-place, is considered 'faraway' in a place like Mumbai?? *

Post lunch he started exploring some more houses with renewed vigor, expecting the estate agent will block a few houses for him until he got back to him in a couple of weeks. He was most distressed that this was not the practice here.
*I wonder which land of Eden he came from.*

Just when one saw some promising ray of hope on finalizing a house, the gent comes up with googly questions to the estate agent on Vaastu and stuff. Which direction does the window of the kitchen face, which direction does the bathroom door face, what does the house number total up to? He rejected all the houses based on one such criteria or the other. Finding a house to one's liking at reasonable rates is a blessing in Mumbai and someone squandering such opportunities for reasons as this is totally appalling. He finally decided to take a house (which totaled up to number 6) without even looking at the house let alone checking for the basic necessities, like water supply, clean surroundings etc.
*So much for wasting nearly 4 hours on him.*

When time came to pay up a token amount for blocking the lucky 6 house, the gent sheepishly confessed to S that he had only 100 bucks in his purse and requested S to lend him 2000 bucks. I mean hats off to this chap! He comes home, he gets us do all the work, he gets a free sumptuous lunch, he rejects all good houses for a stupid vaastu number and he finds an accommodation within 6 km radius of his workplace - All with just Rs. 100 in his pocket.

Maybe he's not so 'paavam' after all. :-)
* Humming the Raj Kapoor song "Around the world in 8 dollars" distorted as "Around Mumbai in 100 bucks" as I write this.*

For the linguistically challenged:
* Paavam = piteous, bechara (in hindi)
** tair-saadam = curd-rice

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Distant memories

Its so cool to have mum visiting you after your marriage. Felt like I was seeing her after an eon. The entire weekend, spent with her, was bliss.

I led an independent existence for nearly 4 years. Answerable to none but myself. I enjoyed my freedom. Time was never a priority. I slept late, woke up late, worked late, partied late. (Oh well, I am not particularly the disc-hopping kinds but do enjoy going out with close friends for a movie, dinner, drink etc). Cooking, cleaning, washing and such sundry activities were low priority. I cooked when I felt like it, ordered pizza at other occasions or just survived on Maggie, the staple food of the alone-and-single. And when urge for mummy-ke-haath-ka-khana got too unbearable, it was time to say hello to the few relatives to kinda lessen their cribs that I never visited them. That's when I use all my earned-with-experience charm and say coyly "I'll get there by lunch and be there the whole day and will leave well after dinner". Inviting some other homefood-starved friends is an added bonus. In effect, they are happy and my stomach is happier.:-)

Cleaning, washing etc was a mandatory activity for the weekend. Me and my best-friend-and-room-mate M took every effort to make the small, little, matchbox-like apartment look like a home. Needless to say, we were quite popular hosts. We had a TV, a computer, a huge SONY music system, a bean bag, a keyboard, a violin, a nice straw carpet, a painting, embroidered cushions and bedsheets and nice complimenting curtains. Not to mention a fridge and a spacious kitchen. I liked our home. Almost a setting for a mehfil when some melodious friends dropped in. Had enough space to shelter 7-8 people at a time. And when mum came visiting, all meals were strictly at home.

Also, M was a wonderful driver and drove a Bajaj Super with exceptional ease. (Though I was the official kick-starter if the vehicle stopped abruptly at a signal or something). So maneuvering through the busy roads of Bombay was never a problem. We did trips to Churchgate, Esselworld, Manori Islands, Thane and other far flung areas on the two wheeler with relative ease though it used to be taxing on our backs. We knew every decent, hidden, unknown, expensive, cheap, pretentious and obnoxious eateries around the suburbs, small or big. Right from a small kabab restaurant in Andheri which served excellent okra manchurian to an unassuming south Indian joint in Matunga which served lunch on banana leaves complete with avial and rasam (Yumm!) to a small bakery in Malad which served delectable pasta for as low as 60 bucks to this Thai restaurant in Bandra which conned people by charging 70 bucks for a bottle of Aquafina mineral water.

We also were abreast with all the latest movies and plays. Have managed to gatecrash into numerous housefull plays at Prithvi by hoping for last minute cancellations. In fact, most of the plays, watched, were thanks to these 'bikau' tickets. Managed to bump into the likes of Gulzar and Naseeruddin Shah. Also, managed vain attempts to get a glimpse of Shah Rukh Khan at his bungalow in Bandra.

Have done enough footloose weekend trips to places like Munnar, Goa, Daman, Khandala, Matheran, Dandeli, Mahableshwar and many other exotic locations near Mumbai. Got conned, traveled in rickety buses, stayed in cheap hotels, got thrown out of hotels (in trivandrum), gotten high on wine (in Daman), did adventure sports like paragliding and white-water rafting (in Goa and Dandeli), watched Malayalam movies without understanding a word just to spend 3 hours in an AC theater (in sultry Trivandrum), wore the most expensive sarees for dinner at Dosa Diner and such, rode the victoria horse-carriage at Nariman point at 3 am, called in ill at work and watched morning shows at Fame ad-labs on week-days. I could go on like this... :-)

After marriage, things have changed, rather mellowed-down would be a safe word. Movies and plays do continue but not at the same frequency (attributed to the spate of depressing movies like MDBaby hitting the theaters), fancyfree trips have almost reduced to null (people say I agitate the delicate equilibrium of nature when I go on trips now. For some reason I think they mean the tsunami..;-) ), no mehfils, no two-wheeler trips. Of course thats replaced by a four-wheeler which is equally fun provided I get a little more experienced. Life is more about what to cook for the next meal, what household shopping needs to be done his week, what bills are pending and so on. Life is also about home food (thankfully..!!). Mummy-ke-haath-ka-khana is replaced by MIL-ke-haath-ka-khana which my stomach doesn't see a need to complain. Life is also about a lot of social visits, meeting new people and friends. I guess married life is a different adventure. :-)

Mum came visiting and one cant help but wonder nothing has changed on that front. The family stories, the funny incidents, the gossips, movies, experiences and much more are all in abundance and evoke the same excitement, fun, sorrow, happiness as it did before. I guess some things in life will never change and I am glad this is one of them.