When Love and Hate collide..

Mumbai is Maximum City because of the migrants, the several hundreds who pour into this city from all parts of India. And Mumbai in turns offers them a chance to make a decent livelihood, provided you are willing to work hard and smart for it. And yet, several share a typical love-hate relationship with this city. An open letter from Mumbai to its citizens regarding this relationship..

To,

Whomsoever it may concern

You tell me that I am pathetic and terrible. You tell me that I am a big gutter that is full of shit!. You tell me that I am maddening and a pain. That I cause you to tear your hair out in frustration. How would you feel to be abused relentlessly? But that, my friends is the sad reality I have to grapple with almost everyday as you complain 24/7 about major aspects about my personality – the infrastructure, the traffic, the sanitation problems, the high cost of living, the overcrowding…But at the same time, defying logic, you love me as well. You love the buzz, the vibrancy, the culture, the people, the money and the magic, the spirit..you and I, we share this unique love-hate relationship.

I am not oblivious to the problems you state. But I ask all of you, is it my fault that I am seen as a land of opportunity, the commercial capital of the nation, a land which promises the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Is it my fault that so many of you come to me and take solace in my loving embrace that I have always provided for so many years? Is it my fault that there is no really viable alternative destination which can lend a shoulder to me and provide similar opportunities? Is it my fault about the apathy shown by your elected representatives who have neglected me?

But you continue to blame me and abuse me and yet you continue to live here. It may be because some of you have lived with me and loved me too long and going and settling anywhere else is no longer an option. Some of you have learned to adjust with me like sitting on the fourth seat on my local trains. And some of you are forced to stay with me because you know that the opportunities I provide are not available elsewhere. But your abusing and adjusting at the same time, alternating bouts of hatred and love have continued to confound me.

And then I ask myself – how did I become what I have become today? This thriving and yet decaying paradox? And the answer dawns on me – humbly and simply. I am just a collective noun, a representation of a unique people. An assimilation and a melting pot of all of you and the values you embody.You are the ones who have made me famous and have given me this vibrant, dynamic, cosmopolitan nature. You are the ones who have turned me into the city which never sleeps. But it is equally true that you also are the ones who have the power to elect your representatives responsible for governing me efficiently and protecting me. You are also the ones who have created the garbage and the traffic jams, the pollution and the greed…Most of you have good intentions. But most of you are too busy in your daily lives to do anything about it. It’s not that you have not tried – the victory in the battle to preserve my open spaces and your intense and continuing pressure on the govt. over the state of my potholed roads fills me with hope. But much more is needed. You know that as well.

I hope that you realise that I am only as helpless as you are. You have made me what I am today. And only you have the power to prevent me into turning what I am now becoming – decaying and crumbling.

Yours (hopefully),

A city of dreams/nightmares,

Mumbai

The Secret

Paradise Road – Why it is so aptly named..

Our mind is still a nomad. Its ability to wander off at the slightest possible excuse is unparalleled. Just the other day, while registering for a website, the webpage prompted me to “please select a Secret question”. The drop down menu presented a list of questions. The first one asked me – “which city would you like to retire?”

Almost instantaneously, the subconscious conjured up a slideshow of jaw-dropping images of a place we had been to and at the same time, remembered a question asked on the same trip,  a question quite unusual and yet earnest – “Can you keep this a Secret?”..

Almost three years have gone by since our visit to New Zealand. My wife and I reminisce about the trip often, marvelling at how lucky a country can get. He must have been in an extremely generous mood when He created this island, placing it in one corner of the planet which perhaps led to it being populated with so few people, and perhaps one reason why its beauty endures to date.

One of the most vivid memories of that trip came out of something we hadn’t even planned for, as it happens quite often. On the day we were scheduled for sky-diving, we woke up with a spring in the step and butterflies in the stomach. I guess jumping from 15000 feet had something to do with that.  But a phone call from the agency informing about a 99% chance of cancellation due to inclement weather was hugely disappointing. Nonetheless, the 1% chance of the weather clearing turned us into Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption, filling us with hope…

And so we set out,  knowing that in all likelihood, the highlight of our trip was about to turn into a nondescript footnote. A few kms out of Queenstown, the highway showed a fork approaching to the left, veering towards the high mountains visible in the distance. The GPS lady, aware of the same, directed to turn left after 500 metres on to Paradise road. Paradise Road. I repeated to myself. Let us see where does this lead to…

The road, which began with a gentle slope, gradually started to ascend as the mountains forested with tall trees and crowned with shimmering snow showed itself on the right. The road firmly hugged the imposing mountainside, as if afraid to let go of its shelter and comfort. On the left, suddenly out of nowhere, the dense green canopy gave way to the icy blue waters of Lake wakatipu. Straight ahead, we could still see the clouds looming, gradually descending, eager to kiss the mountain tops. It was an image I had dreamt of numerous times. In all probability, we would have painted it when we were kids – a road curving around a mountain, running alongside a lake…

I found it difficult to keep my eyes on the road, much to the concern of my wife. Sensing her worry, a few minutes later, a shoulder opened out on the road towards the lakeside, wide enough to park a few vehicles and ogle at the vista on offer; the blue of the lake and the green of the mountains yonder. We obliged gleefully as we trod gently on the soft gravel to the edge of the lake. The elements had worked hard on the pebbles, giving it a wonderful smooth roundness. I picked up a few flat ones and as I threw them into the lake, I felt my heart leap as it bounced once, twice, thrice and Splash!  And after sitting on the shore, hand in hand with my wife and only the gentle sound of the waves for company, another image from childhood flashed across my mind..

A cold gust of wind shook us out of our reverie and we continued on our journey. The clouds were now descending rapidly and just a few moments later, enveloped everything in its path. We felt like we were in a cotton field as the clouds wafted past. A few twists and turns later, they gave way to a drizzle, and that surely washed away the 1% hope with it. But we decided to carry on. Paradise road, with its bewitching views was too compelling to resist. The scenery was consistently spectacular as the roads went up and down past mountains, streams, dense forests and green fields on one side and the Lake on the other. The gentle rain and the car wiper played with each other, making a nice symmetrical pattern on the windshield…

The appearance of a few houses suggested that the town was now not far away. We passed a couple of relatively busy junctions and brought the car to a halt opposite a quaint looking cafe, which seemed straight out of a western movie set. It was still drizzling slightly and the weather had turned cold and nippy. We zipped up our jackets, hands shaking and teeth chattering. We called the skydiving agency only to hear what we already knew. They were sorry about the cancellation. We thanked them and smiled to ourselves. The disappointment had long gone… If it were not for that one percent hope the agency gave us, we would have not made this journey..

We stepped inside the cafe ordering coffee and hot chocolate. As we took our seats inside the cafe amidst the laughter of people, we realised how sometimes the best moments are the ones which aren’t planned. Obviously the baggage of expectations was missing which could be one key reason for the delight in the unknown. You could plan all you want but in the end, you may still fall short. As the beverages arrived, my wife echoed the cliché running in my mind; “so that’s why wise men say, the journey is sometimes far more important than the destination and to enjoy the little moments that lie enroute..” The first sip of hot chocolate was almost like nectar as the warmth seeped through the bones. I smiled as I dunked a soft juicy marshmallow in the hot chocolate and took a bite, “perhaps the wise men were not aware that hot chocolate and marshmallows awaited them at the end of the journey. They might have changed their mind..”

As we were paying the genial lady behind the counter, she asked us where we came from. India. And it was then she smilingly asked us to keep this place a secret despite knowing the futility of her request. To keep this gem a secret would be doing a disservice to this wonderful place. The road to Glenorchy deserves to be driven on and experienced. And whoever chose the name, chose wisely indeed. Paradise Road. It is the closest to paradise you might get…

Walking in the rain…

An ode to the romance of the first rains..

I had a few meetings lined up in town today. After finishing the last one, which was quite close to Marine Drive, I decided to walk for sometime on the promenade and take a cab after a while to VT station. But no sooner had I passed the imposing NCPA apartments, was I already questioning my decision. It was past 6 pm but the sun was still blazing down mercilessly. The placid waters of the Arabian sea were reflecting the sun light with such intensity that one could not look at it without squinting. By the time I reached the Air India building, I was already sweating profusely.
 
I decided to take a cab from opposite Oberoi and just then in the backdrop, I saw dark clouds closing in from the east. They looked ominous. And something inside me said “Wait! Keep walking'”
 
I decided to take a detour and buy something for home and took a right into the leafy sleepy boulevard of CCI lane, home to the Brabourne stadium. I reached 210 degree centigrade just outside Samrat restaurant – a favorite hangout spot when we were in college and picked up freshly baked bread and biscuits. Steeping out, I realized that the clouds had mobilized their army in far greater numbers. But still the humidity was quite stifling.
 
Again, I decided to take a cab from outside Churchgate station as I passed the landmark Satyam gift shop on my right. But, as if angry with this decision of mine, the clouds started to rumble. And I found myself telling me – “Keep walking!”
 
I had hardly walked a 100 metres when I felt the first drops of rain. I looked up. The sky was completely dark grey now. Not a speck of blue on the horizon. I smiled. People around me quickened their pace. Why were they in a hurry?! I reached Flora fountain. The famous Vada pav wala on the corner and the Booksellers on the corner adjacent to Amex bank were quite well prepared as a nice blue canopy had already been put up unlike a half dug up road on the side.
 
I went past the Standard Chartered building and other colonial era structures on Fort and it was now drizzling steadily. I smiled even more broadly. A few umbrellas popped open around me. A few makeshift umbrellas were created out of office bags, books and handkerchiefs. Why were the people walking so quickly?! I looked up and felt the raindrops falling gently on my face. I found myself humming – ” Raindrops keep falling on my head…”
 
The clouds rumbled again. And finally opened up. A torrential downpour began just as I reached Mcdonalds. ‘Am loving it’ I told myself! It was a fantastic scene. The BMC building loomed straight ahead and the magnificent Victoria Terminus ahead on the right. People realized there was no point in running anymore. For a moment, they turned school kids again as they forgot their worries and soaked in the rain. For a moment, their troubles seemed to have been washed away by the rains. The beautiful smell of wet earth wafted through the air. Sounds of laughter and excited chatter could be heard all around. The temperature had dropped considerably. The sky began to turn on a hue of yellow and orange, a portrait that only the monsoon could paint. It was a magical sight. Pure unadulterated joy!
 
I reluctantly entered VT station dripping wet and caught a train. A guy sitting next to me was updating his status on Facebook – “First rains!! Am loving it..” I looked at him and smiled. He simply smiled back..