Friday, July 24, 2009

Yeh hai Mumbai meri Jaan......

Life in Mumbai(Bombay) is so full of fun, frolic & activity.....people call it the city which never sleeps. However, if you were to look at some of its popular destinations/ locations, & try to decipher the meaning, it becomes quite misleading & amusing :

1) Churchgate has neither a church nor a gate. It is just a railway station terminus.
2). Lalbaug (Red Garden) is neither red nor a garden. Its famous for its Ganpaty Mandap.
3). No King has ever stayed at Kings-Circle.
4). Queen Victoria did not stay at Victoria Terminus.
5). There is no princess or princess story at Princess street.
6)Lower Parel is at the same level as Parel.
7). There are no marines or sailors at Marine Lines.
8). The Mahalaxmi temple is actually at Haji Ali & not at Mahalaxmi.
9). There are no pigs traded at Dukar Bazaar.
10). Teen batti is a junction of 3 roads, not three lamps.
11). Trams used to terminate at Kings Circle not Dadar Tram Terminus.
12). Breach Candy is not a sweetmeat market. Its a famous hospital in South Mumbai.
13). Safed Pool has the dirtiest blackish water.
14). You cannot buy coal at Kolsa street.
15). There are no Iron smiths at Lohar chawl.
16). There are no pot makers at Kumbhar wada.
17). Lokhandwala complex is not an Iron and steel market. Its a very popular residential area.
18). Null bazaar does not sell taps.
19). Bheendi Bazaar does not sell lady fingers.
20). Kalachowki does not have a black Police station.
21). Hanging Gardens are not suspended.
22). Mirchi Gully does not sell chillies.
23). Figs do not grow in Anjir Wadi, Sitafals do not grow in Sitafal.

24). Wadi, Jackfruits do not grow at Fanaswadi.

25) Bombay, has no bombs, & is a not a bay...its a harbour.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solar Eclipse... God's eye flashing !!!

This Solar eclipse had special significance for all of us. It is said that a Solar Eclipse of such proportions would not be witnessed for around another 100 years......that means, at least for our generation, this would be the last of such a spectacle.
However, at Mumbai, it was completely an overcast sky & attempts to view the eclipse was met with a lot of disapointments. I was up in the morning at 4.30 am & after a quick wash & freshening up, I sat for meditation & chantings. It was so calm & if the nature was joining me in the prayers for the good of mankind. Guruji had asked us to do chantings, & like thousands across the world, I too meditated. It felt very nice & peaceful.
After the eclipse was over, I took a shower, & performed a Puja & then started with my day.
Curious as I was, I later on surfed the net & news to gather details of the eclipse across India.
I believe, at Varanasi(Benaras), thousands had thronged the ghats of Ganges to catch a glimpse of the eclipse. For more than 3 minutes, the pilgrims & other enthusiasts watched the eclipse. It was a sight to behold. The Sun was blocked by the Lunar disc, forming the classical diamond ring in the sky. This sight is often termed as the God's eye, & it looked like God's eye flashing over the if saying, "I am always watching you".
Up in the sky, a soft white halo formed around the black ball of the lunar disc. This was the Sun’s atmosphere, called corona (meaning a crown), that’s visible from Earth only during a total eclipse. The sight is often called God’s eye, and in Varanasi (Benaras) on Wednesday, it appeared just that – a giant eye in the sky with a black ‘eyeball’ and a white ‘cornea’. Spots of light, called Baily’s beads, appeared around the edges of the Moon’s disc and in photographs clicked by lensmen, rarely-seen solar prominences were clearly visible. These are huge masses of fiery matter that get spewed from the Sun’s surface and are pulled back in by its gravity. At the same, planets like Venus and Jupiter came back on, shining brightly in the sky under totality. Birds around the ghats flew in random circles, confused and dazed by the sudden darkness hours after dawn. It must have been really a wonderful moment, an amazing view, an event that people would cherish through their entire lifetime.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Man on Moon......small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind!!!

Forty years ago, on this day, when Neil Armstrong had stepped on the moon, I was a toddling brat studying in my KG class at St Joseph's Convent, Faridabad. Those days, we did not have TV, & it was only All India Radio & Radio Ceylon on MW, & BBC and other radio stations on SW that narrated the incident. I remember my father speaking with his friends & office colleagues excitedly about the historic event, over unending cups of tea, snacks & cigarettes. I remember hearing Armstrong's voice later on radio " That's one small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind". I remember, my running around excitedly along with my friends & looking up at the sky in wonder, believing that I could catch a glimpse of the the two men on the moon surface, if I looked intently enough. Me & my friends would look up in the sky & wonder, if they fell from such a height, what would happen. How cold it would be up there? What would they eat up there? Is there anyone else up there to greet them? What happens if they get lost? Will the Gods get angry for disturbing the peace/ Have they taken permission from God to go up there? Can we go there as well? Can we go there & play hide & seek? Millions of questions travelled our minds & the answers we could gather would leave us in further wonder & queries........hehehehehe.....guess in childhood, we are so fresh with ideas & thoughts......

I remember, sometimes in Nov-Dec the same year, our school organised for a excursion to the Delhi Planetaruim, where, there were pictures from moon, along with moon rock & soil & other footage. I was so excited to go, & my father laid a condition for me. I have to come back & then write an essay on the whole episode & then narrate the whole episode in English (I was quite weak in English then). I was so very excited & also apprehensive of what I will will I narrate. The pictures, the images, the film footage, the rock & soil, the whole auditorium looked huge, I kept gaping at every little substance with wonder, awe & admiration. This was one of my first realisation, that as humans we can do anything, if we want of my first experiences of believing that, I am not scared.....
Coming back, I narrated whatever I could recollect & Baba was quite impressed & Maa was high with pride. Later, Baba took me our Principal, Mother Marina & made me narrate again. She too was happy & nodded with appreciation & finally at the Annual Function of the school, I was asked to come on stage & narrate again, in front of the big first public speech. I guess, I was initially hesitant & slightly overawed by the situation, but Mother Marina was standing with me encouraging me & then I started. It was quite an experience. I guess, i was out of stage fright from then. I realised, so early in life that I can do whatever I want to..........I just need to want to do so......My love for English as a language started from then.

Niel Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin, the first men to walk on the moon surface & Mike Collins who managed the space craft in orbit, all remain historical figures to me over all these years. Over the years, we have heard of lots of controversies regarding this trip. Many claimed this to be fake & stage acted, many claimed it to be Richard Nixon, the then American President's attempt to win over USSR in space. Incidentally Yuri Gagarin for USSR had been the first man in space & there was a serious race between the two super powers to reach the Lunar soil first.
The truth would emerge some day, but I still look at the moon with the same wonder & awe as I did forty years back as a toddling brat.........Life just moves on....hehehehehe

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New York.....

Saw a movie in a theatre after a long fact the first one after the ban has been lifted. The movie New York, is a well made movie on the backdrop of the 9/11 terror attack on Twin Towers. Three youngsters in America studying in college, Maya(Katrina Kaif), Sameer(John Abraham) & Omar(Neil Nitin Mukesh), become the best of friends & how their lives are completely blown out after the infamous terror strike on the World Trade Centre.

The movie starts with Omar being frisked away by FBI on charges that he is connected to terrorists. Roshan(Irrfan Khan) is the police investigator in the case. The story then goes into flashback of Omar in college with Maya & Sameer. All the three are carefree & full of life. While Omar secretly loves Maya & cannot express, Maya & Sameer are in love. Omar is quite heart broken, but continues friendship. While narrating his past, Omar is told by Roshan that Sameer is a terrorist & FBI needs evidence to nail him. Omar is scared at the prospect of being confined to state actrocities inside the prison & agrees to become a police informer. He doesnt believe that his friend can be anyway associated with terrorism & wants to clear him from all charges. As an informer, he is made to visit his old friends again & he learns that Maya & Sameer are married now & have a son. Sameer has a business of cleaning large high rises & Maya is associated with an NGO. Omar shifts to their residence & shockingly comes to know that his friend is indeed into terrorism & is scheming a grand plan. He also comes to know, that immediately after the 9/11 incident, Sameer was implicated on false charges & taken in by FBI. In prison, Sameer goes through immense torture for months & knows no way out. He is finally released, but the atrocities have left a scar in his mind & he is full of revenge. Maya waits for him patiently through all this & gets married to him & does everything possible to make Sameer normal. But Sameer is seething with anger at FBI & is planning to hot back....big & strong. All the three are sucked into the vortex of hatred & violence. Sameer & Maya lose their life to bullets & Omar takes custody of their child.

Extremely good acting by all the lead stars, with emotional turmoils, pain & anguish very well depicted. The direction is very slick & the movie has a good pace. Showing the twin towers in the background as a structure in the early part of the movie, without any direct refence was brilliant. Cinematography is very good & the camera has done brilliant work. Music is also ver good from Pritam & I was specially impressed with "Hai Junoon...."

Certainly worth watching.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ghar Apna Apna......

Over the years, I have shifted from one place to another........just like a Nomad on the move!!!! From one city to another.....from one place to another.......every experience leaves me in wonder & questions!!!
Once we shift into a place, we slowly get attached to the place......everything settles down over a period of time.....we familiarise with environment, people, facilities, ambience, travel, traffic.....all of that, & then again the time comes to move on......from one point of view, life looks dynamic, but from another point of view, its a serious challenge. Shifting to a new place brings in fresh possibilities, but also fresh challenges.
Interestingly, for people like me who live as tenants in metro cities, you enter a place on a leave license agreement for 11 months & either renew the agreement or move onto a new place!!!.......
Especially, when you are on your own, I guess, it becomes quite an interesting challenge. First of all is do the packing. This involves a check list of what to carry & what to leave behind. Having done that, packing the household items is another task, which demands a lot of attention. Transporting the packed items safely is the next big issue.

Having come to the new place, unpacking & then doing up the place is an iteresting challenge. As a matter of fact, something or the other would be missing or not in order & the solution to the situation will not be could be as simple as the tap water not working, or leaking, or water pipes choked, flush not working, shower not working, or some electrical point not working, or the door knob just being too rusty to function. Then you have to identify a housemaid for cleaning up, and the timings dont match..... (with Shiney Ahuja leaving behind not so shining examples, we single males have the other challenge of convincing that its safe!!!!...ooff!!!).
Then due to rains, the walls would be damp & catch fungus on furniture!!! In this case, I had my wooden almirah completely spoilt at the bottom drawer with fungus catching into the clothes as well.....eughh!! really gets onto the nerves.
As of now the new place is quite in order.....a bed to sleep in the bedroom, along with adequate storage space below; a wooden cupboard to hold clothes(though currently under repair due to fungus); a kitchen ready along with a refrigerator & cooking gas; drawing room with a TV & cable connection(no furniture as yet); a maid servant, who comes in the morning(though a little late) to mop the floor, clean utensils & clothes.

Anyways, inspite of all the niggles & challenges, my new place is very nice & more interestingly very quiet & peaceful. Also this place is at least 50 feet higher than the regular places, ensuring, plenty of fresh breeze & no water logging. One of the reasons, I had decided to move, was that my previous place was on the main road, with lots of was a very nice place, but too noisy for my comfort. This new place, is just at the foothills, so very green, away from the main road (but very well connected). In fact there is a nice little waterfall at the foothills, which makes the area so charming. Something, which I guess is a rarity in Mumbai......

Hopefully like my earlier residences, I will have happy memories in this new place as well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Guru Poornima.....a tradition to uphold!!!

Today is Guru Purnima..... On this day, Hindus from all over the world offer their gratitude to Spiritual Masters & all the teachers, from whom they have learnt & attained wisdom. This full moon day in the Hindu month of Ashad(normally in July), is observed as the auspiscious Guru Poornima day, in the sacred memory of Great Sage Vyasa, who is believed to have edited the four Vedas, written 18 Puranas, The Mahabharata & the Srimad Bhagwatam. The lineage of Gurus started with him, and over the centuries Hindus have attached paramount significance to spiritual Gurus. A Guru is equated with God & at times given an even higher position of respect, always considered to be a link between the individual & the immortal. This full moon day is also of deep significance to farmers, as it heralds the setting of the much needed rains for the crops, a life line for the paddy.

" Dhyaana moolam Gurur Murtih; Pooja moolam Gurur Padam;
Mantra moolam Gurur Vakyam; Moksha moolam Gurur Kripa"

"Meditate on the Guru's form/picture; Worship on the feet of the Guru;
Treat His words/ preachings as a sacred Mantra/chant; His Grace will ensure final Liberation"
Having a Guru in life is a blessing in itself, & having a Living Guru is probably blessings of many lifetimes....... While, we have had many Gurus in our tradition & lineage, the presence of a Living Guru, establishes an instant connect........the knowledge from the ancient scriptures & experiences of the past Gurus are made easily available. Guru is the light which removes all the darkness from our lives & walk us from ignorance to knowledge. Guru is a Tatva, which is all pervading, omnipresent & omnipotent. Its a connect with the Holy tradition & Supreme Consciousness, that is infinite & everlasting .

I am so eternally blessed & thankful to have a Guru........a Living Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in my life. My whole being bows down to Him in reverence.
"Gurur Bramha, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheshwarah;
Gurur Saakshaat, Para-Bramha, Tasmai Shri Guruveh Namah"
"Guru Matr Pita, Guru Bandhu Sakha;
Tere Charno mein Swami, mere Koti Pranaam"
Jai Gurudev!!!

Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi......blown away in a moment of madness!!!!

Breaking News : "House Maids in Mumbai refuse to cleaning Shiney objects"........

I guess 3-4 years back, I saw 'Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi' as an offbeat movie on video & had instantly liked the fresh face of Shiney Ahuja.......he looked like making big in bollywood & there were rave reviews on him. Later, he hit more recognition with his role in 'Gangster', & many started dubbing him as the star in the making. 2006 saw Shiney getting multiple awards for his performances on the screen. There were news of bollywood damsels lining up to do films opposite Shiney......his dreams of making big in front if the camera were just about coming true.

So when the news flashed....and flashed hard on Shiney last month, that he had raped his maid servant at home, it was quite shocking. Apparantly Shiney's wife & daughter were out, & Shiney, under influence of liquor had forcibly had sex with his housemaid. It all sounded unreal & difficult to believe......Shiney was taken under judicial custody & various tests were conducted, which shows him as guilty. While Shiney admits to having sex, he claims it to be consensual!!! Remanded in Arther Jail ( same place where Abu Salem is being kept), Shiney must be ruing the moment that made him do all this. The Sessions Court Judge has refused to grant him bail as he 'might tamper with evidence' if released on bail. The whole episode leaves such a bad taste. While Shiney's wife Anupam claims that her husband has been framed(how we wish it to be true), the forensic reports say a different story.

This probably is one of the many horror faces of bollywood that goes unnoticed. I have a few friends in the film industry & the stories I get to hear are simply outrageous & replusive.

As of now Shiney is clearly not shining at all.......personally or professionally.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fedex ....Greatest Tennis Player.....of all times!!

Fifteen - Love & way to go.......

Roger Federer has done it.....& done it in style....He is the undisputed King of Tennis, having scaled all possible peaks......His victory tonight at Wimbeldon finals over Andy Roddick was probably a demonstration of his physical & mental capabilities. The pre match preview showed Federer as an overwhelming favourite to lift the crown with a 18-2 record against Roddick. A lot of tennis fans across the globe were looking at a one sided contest. However, Andy Roddick was a much improved player this year, & was determined to stop the Swiss Champion on his tracks. He had already consumed the English heart throb Andy Murray in the semis & was looking mean & good on Centre Court.

The finals began with Roddick fighting tooth & nail with Federer from the word go. The score line of 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 goes to demonstrate how closely the match was contested. In fact, Roddick had won the first set by breaking Federer serve & then in the 2nd set was leading 6-2 in the tie breaker, with just one more point to make it 2-0. But Federer came back ahrd & won the next six points to win the tie breaker 8-6 & level the score. The next set again went to tie break & Federer had his nose ahead again. with two set to one up, Federer looked on course for a victory, but Roddick stormed back to break Federer on service again & take the 4th set at 6-3. Fifth set was simply fascinating, with both players matching shot for shot, volley for volley. Since there are no tie breaks for the fifth set, the match kept extending, with both players draining their energies & winning the services. Finally Federer managed to break Roddick & win the marathon at 16-14. In fact, this was the only service game that Roddick had lost in the entire match, a tribute to the way he played. That one service game cost him the Championship, as he mentioned in his post match interview, " Am sorry Pete(Sampras), I tried my best, but could not." As one of the commentators mentioned during the match, it was like two gladiators on the court. Its amazing to note that Federer had hammered 51 aces(a record for a grand slam final) & yet had to fight so long & hard to win the title. While, the heart went out to Andy Roddick for his outstanding game(one really felt sorry for him........he so much deserved to win today), it was the Champions luck & tenacity, that gave Federer his 15th grand slam title.

Roger Ferderer, has now won 15 grand slams(first ever), one more than Pete Sampras, who was present at the court to watch the classic contest. Federer had achieved this in just 7 years, what Pete had taken 12 years to achieve. In post match interviews, all the yester year champions, including Sampras, Borg, Laver, Becker, & others, hailed Roger Federer as the all time greatest. At 27 years of age, he has been in 21 consecutive grand slam semis, a record, which looks so unreal. With at least 5 more years of tennis, we can only imagine, what records he would be setting for the next generation. Question is, does he have any more heights to scale??? What would drive him to further victories. Possibly the hunger for tennis, as he is enjoying every bit of his game. It would now be interesting to see his contest against Rafa Nadal, who has been nursing injuries of late.

For now, Fedex rolls on......hail the greatest tennis champion af all times.....Roger Federer.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gay & Happy.......its Legal now!!!!!

In a path breaking verdict today at the Delhi High Court, article 377 has been revoked & consensual sex between adults of same sex is now legal in India. The judgement came after unanimous opinion of the medical & psychiatric fraternity, that homosexuality is neither a disease nor a disorder. Its just another expression of human sexuality. The media, both electronic & print, several radio channels, all have been busy covering this hot hot topic & people from all walks of life are being interviewed for their opinions & reactions. Various celebrities, especially from Bollywood think that this is a very good move. Lots of human rights activists are welcoming this move. Personally I am not sure that the problem is over. In fact, we might just be opening up a huge pandora's box........& results could have very diverse effects, mostly regressing.

My first interaction with a gay person was way back in mid 80s, when I was studying my Masters from Calcutta University.
It was late on a chilly December evening & I was travelling by bus in Calcutta. The bus was fairly empty & at a stop somewhere in Central Calcutta, a queer looking & behaving man boarded the bus, looked around & then came & smilingly sat besides me. He was sporting a floral shirt, reeking of cheap perfume & eyes heavy with eyeliners. The bus conductor came along, looked at him knowingly, & muttered a regular profanity while cutting his ticket, "ooff aabar ekta boka***** elo"....a slang rhetoric in Bengali, meaning, "again one of those dumb bastards have come". The man was however most unmoved & after paying for his ticket, looked at me with a smile that had my guts revolting without any reason. He tried to open a conversation with me, while the other passengers looked at us with interest & smirk. He sounded very effeminate & queer. Suddenly I became very conscious & uncomfortable about this man. Something inside me felt very repelling & I quietly got up & sat two rows away. By this time two other men came up to this man as as he smiled at them, they caught hold of his collar & slapped him. They started abusing him & beating him up. He was not very defensive & did little to protect if he was enjoying the blows. A minute or two later the bus stopped for the next passenger, & this man was virtually pushed out. The men in the bus started laughing aloud & passing lewd remarks. It then dawned on me that this man was a Gay. I was too shocked & startled to react.

Around ten years later, probably in 1994, I was working for a large multinational firm as a Sales Manager. Coincidentally again on a wintery evening & in Calcutta, this time, I was riding my mobike from Lake Gardens(South Calcutta) to Lake Town(North Calcutta). At Gariahat, a man asked for a lift uptill Park Circus, & I obliged. Sitting behind, the man started a conversation & told me that he was an LIC agent & wanted some references. He asked me if I had friends & I said I had plenty. He instantly said, "I want to become your special friend" & gave me a tight hug from behind. Though this was queer, I probably did not pay attention. We spoke generally some more about our likes & dislikes, while I drove. When he got down, we exchanged our business cards & then I left. He promised to come over to my office & in turn I said I will introduce him to my colleagues. Strangely he said, "I will come, only for you". The very next day, I was out on business calls through the day & when I returned in the evening, my office colleagues started giving me cat calls, passing jokes & generally picking at me. At first I did not understand. It had been a long day & I was hard pressed for time to prepare some business proposals. Then someone told me that a man had come looking for me & had waited for me for more than 3 hours. He finally left with a note & a small packet for me. I tore open the packet immediately to understand what was going on. The note was a love letter wanting a physical relation at any cost & the small packet was Cadbury's chocolate bar along with a pack of condoms!!!!!!!It was the same man whom I had given lift the previous night. He was a Gay....a homosexual. The office colleagues were all over me, cracking with lewd remarks & laughter. I was embarrassed & did not know how & what to say. It felt awkward to be associated with a Gay person. I narrated the previous night's episode to everyone & told the office boy not to allow this man in our office, if he were to come again. The man returned the very next day & obviously after some heckling, was shooed out. The whole incident had left a bad taste in me. I felt repelled.

These two incidents had me thinking about people who are gay or lesbians. I have felt sympathetic & sorry for these people. Over the years, I have heard a lot being said about Gay & Lesbians acorss the world. Some in favour & some against. I have been involved in many debates & discussions on this topic....
I consider myself fairly liberal & modern in my thoughts & actions, but fundamentally, I dont endorse to Gay or Lesbian habits. I feel, it is a perverse attitude. Something that is unnatural. Something that is repulsive & unhealthy. I believe that such feelings are a result of deep rooted insecurities & trauma. Some childhood incident or experience or abuse that has distanced them from the mainstream. Therefore we need to empathise with such people. We need to help them come out of this emotional disorder. The medical & psychiatric opinon says that "this is not a disorder or disease, just another expression of human sexuality." Therefore these people need to be given support & counselling. We need to help them return to what is normal. There are historical evidences of such abnormalities in all religions & their scriptures alright. But, they are depictions of what was present in olden times as abnormalities. So reference to past does not make homosexuality an 'in thing'. We need to work sensitively towards bringing back these people to mainstream. We need to show love & affection & build courage & faith in them, helping them to drop their past experiences which has led them to such behavioural patterns. Various STDs(sexually transmitted diseases), HIV etc have spread so rapidly across the human race the world over, due to homosexuality.

Homosexuals deserve to have democratic rights.......they are sensitive people, probably a tad scared & lonely. They tend to look for people with similar behaviour as that is comforting for them. Some of them are immensely talented & capable. The Law now helps recognise them, but does not heal them. By just making homosexuality legal, we have not resolved the issue.