Tag Archives: India

Mere Pyaare Desh Vaasiyon….

Dear Pradhan Mantri ji

I am as much a son of the soil as you are (or claim to be). If not more.

But, For the fear of being trolled by a patriot missile:

All names, characters, situations, country, leaders and currencies in this blog are fictional and bear no resemblance to any person, living, dead or likely to be born. Nor have they been FCRA funded or Pakistan supported.

——

I belong to the vast minority of Indians who have not stashed away tonnes of cash under mattresses, in backyards, in lockers or through benami property. And as I now read, in secret vaults behind fancy bathrooms.

I believe you when you told the nation (after your demonetization surgical strike in early November) that this was done to flush out black money hoarders and attack the corrupt. Somehow, as the reasons keep fluctuating, the end date continues to get stretched and other reasons starting travelling the corridors of whisper, I have begun believing the rumours as intently too. The real reason the nation really wants to know. (Oh How I miss Arnab now).

At the outset, allow me to compliment you for this stated intention. (But obviously, I dare not oppose it for the fear of inviting the wrath or troll of the thousands of patriot missiles who are roaming the streets of social media in the name of being Namo bhakts.

Two years ago, from the ramparts of the Lal Killa, you said India wanted a Change. You would deliver it and we the people would be agents of change.

The last One month has been baptism by fire. Mr. Prime Minister, change is what we are still desperately looking for. Of course, this only applies to those who manage to get ahead in the queue to reach the teller counter at the bank, that is.

I come from a city called Mumbai, once popular as the Finance capital of India. In the nineties, everyone had a bomb blast story to share. In the 2000s, there was hardly any person who did not have a story relating to the deluge (July 26 when portions of Mumbai were submerged in rains).

You have succeeded in giving every Mumbaikar an experience to narrate to the next generation and Karan Johar the script for the next sad-com. How I met the Teller.

Mumbai is also a city which never sleeps. You have on one strike ensured that people remain awake. During the day commuting and at work and post work, till late night and as the clock strikes 12, at the ATM line hoping for a rat’s share of their legitimate money.

In the last two weeks, three things have kept me busy.

One is to try different ways of withdrawing money what legitimately belongs to me. Which I have failed and given up, leaving me with two other options.

 Aimless time-pass with fellow ‘patients’.

There are three categories of such patients. One, who are the sarkari bhakts. Official chamchas.

Who think and have always thought no end of you and that this surgical strike on currency is the next best thing to the world. The best being the birth of Namo. With such passionate vehemence they talk of you, dishing out non existing non substantiated numbers, statistic and data, that as a listener, you feel privileged that you voted for the Prime Minister of the World.

 

The second category is of the minority few who meet and greet you. Engage in some mundane chai pe charcha and speak of how robust the Indian economy is. Chappan inch (56 inch ) robust economy  they proudly boast. Half claiming credit for this all. Before quickly slipping in a worried question on the REAL motive of this strike. These are the service class bhakts. Mostly salaried. Income tax paying. Legitimately earning. Genuinely spending bhakts. Who are too scared to criticise. For the fear of a backlash. Then there are the traders and business community. One of them who had printed Namo tee shirts when you had been elected. Thrown a come one come all lunch party after the results were announced. Today, he would rather vote for Sunny Leone.

Mr. Modi, this category is increasing by the day. But we shall never know. Because this remains a hitherto scared tribe.

Apart from conversations, the last few days I have also been busy on my whatsapp.

Forcibly engaged with the millions unofficially employed by the Namo app. I applaud them for their ingenious forwards on social media.

 “In a few minutes from now, UNESCO will be voting for the best Prime Minister in the World. Please vote for him. He is anyways going to win”, reads one. Guys, start voting for the TIME person of the year. Not many people know about this poll so ‘press hard’. Vote and forward. Reads another.

Before you press delete, your inbox is flooded with equally patronizing ‘patriotic’ messages. (Donald Trump resigns and requests Namo to take over America’ reads another. Sorry, I made this one up. But, I will not be surprised if a message pops up like this too. “Modi ji bolna shuru nahin kartey ki 500 message inbox mein aa jaatey hain”. (Even before Mr. Modi starts speaking, 500 messages praising him flood into your inbox.) Remarked a stock broker from the building where I live.

Mr. Modi, while there are many who applaud your intended move, including me what baffles me is your under-preparedness to service the countless countrymen who are being subject to agony for no fault of theirs. For someone who claimed to have known the country’s voters, not to understand the magnitude of the damage is disappointing.

You live in a sarkari-serviced bungalow so you will not know the extent of damage caused to people in the street who need hard cash to buy and sell. Money for vegetables. Jobs to do and hours to commute. These are people who are now standing endlessly in bank queues, in vain. Taking leave from office when none is available.

You have a ready ambulance travelling with you and also on standby, so you will not understand the agony of the hapless Indian who has a family member in hospital. Hospital ATMs are as cash strapped. They run out of money faster than a Usain Bolt for gold. The physical agony has compounded the mental anguish. I talk of Urban India Mr. Modi. Where ATMs and banks are round the corner. (Now a days easy to identify by the serpentine queues any time of the day or night).

I am not talking of rural (non urban India) where the sight of a financial institution (and now money) is as scare as water during a drought.

 In the olden golden era, Kings disguised themselves as commoners to take stock of what people think.

I think it is high time you did the same. On second thought, may you should not be trying this. You may not be able to digest it.

 I am not an economist Mr. Modi. So I am not going to rattle of comparative statistic which substantiate the emotion which I have narrated. (Don’t give me facts, I know the reality, said Mr. Trump, in his bid to silence the vast majority who went against him.) Why do I get the feeling that your social media brigade will dish out a similar statement as HMV.)

To cut a long story short, Mr. Prime Minister, I don’t need a lesson in patriotism from your vast majority of bhakts. Think of the soldiers when you are standing in line at an ATM. Give me a break.

These whatsappers should be made to get to a Virar Fast local and told to get off at Andheri during peak travel time to know what hardships and life is too.

I started this piece by telling you I am an Indian. Proud to be one. All I need is for you to recognize the fact that there are honest salaried people who have a right over their legitimate money. And to be able to speak one’s mind without being trolled by your sena.

One banker told me last evening. It is high time someone raised his head and spoke his mind off for Namo to know the ground gravity of the situation.

The problem is, several heads have begun speak out. But are you ready to listen Mr. Modi?

p.s

 

Once again, for the fear of being trolled:

All names, characters, situations, country, leaders and currencies in this blog are fictional and bear no resemblance to any person, living, dead or likely to be born.

 

 

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NaMo TRAVELS TO MARS….

WHEN NEWS OF MARS’S WATER BROKE..

The reported signs of water on Mars has led to fountains of joy erupting across the globe.

In India and outside of social media, the 5 am and 12 midnight firecrackers otherwise meant to wake up toddlers and ailing senior citizens during Diwali and Ganpati festivals, lit up Earth’s sky as news of Mars’s water broke.

The Ministry of External Affairs went into overdrive, looking pretty spaced-out though.

How could a planet highjack attention from the Great Leader who had just concluded his meeting with the Zuck? The thing had actually dropped out of the sky – and that too from a planet that had chosen to be red when it could have been saffron.

The Great Leader however was nonplussed. Outer space begone, this could be turned into a gimmick in the social media space.

Loosening his sweaty  grip and jaado jhappi on Zuck and deploying the full force of nasal passage, he intoned, “It is auspicious. This discovery on Mars coincides with my rediscovery of Mar(k)s.”

On cue, the crowd of 43 NRIs, photo-shopped to look four million, chanted NaMo, NaMo across made-in-China TV screens worldwide. The photoshopper wanted to include a few Martians in the crowd too, but decided otherwise because those darned Martians look green.

NaMo paused, stared into the cameras, wiped three branded tears on his Crocodile kurta and promptly told his team to cancel all forthcoming 18 foreign trips. “I want to go to Mars,” he announced, adding softly from the side of his mouth, “before the Patels get there.”

His crack social media team swung into action, launching (faster than ISRO could say Mangalyaan) the twitter handle NaMoMa (NaMo on Mars). The Great Leader has since then tweeted that part of the funds of the Clean Great River campaign will now to diverted to cleaning up the percholate-y, briny stuff passing off as water on Mars.

He has followed that up with another tweet: Not just funds, but H2O too will be diverted from the Great River to water the slopes of Mars.

The Make in India team has gone into overdrive as well. A crack team has been assembled to build a pipe to carry the water that will go from India to Mars. The pipe, cheap and hardy as all good desi products are, will come from the godown of Indian Pipe Dreams Co.

Congress, on the other hand, is up in arms. Its spokesperson, has just made a daring revelation that the Grand Old Party was the first to discover life on Mars. The Cong spokesperson declared that when the party’s heir apparent RaGa had disappeared and everyone knew not where, he had actually gone to Mars.

Twist in the tale: A revered saint from hinterland has poured water over everyone’s plans.

Mars, he says, is Shani. Which brings bad luck. “Mars jaogey to mar jaogey,” he has warned.

Last heard, our own DeFa has banned the use of the word Mars from all conversations.

In sharp contrast, the local alliance partner of this bad political marriage which also heads the BMC , has moved a resolution to rename Mars.

Meanwhile, NaMo’s teams are busy preparing visa documents for other available ‘auspicious’ planets.

RaGo has asked his distribution team to check if TiNo network will be available in Mars too.

Mumbai-An orchestra without a Conductor

Why does Mumbai smell so much?  Is a question I have often been asked, by friends or family, whenever and whoever makes his maiden visit to this city. Smell? What smell? I remark. Maybe you have got used to it, they grumble. Maybe I have, I mutter back.

 

Do you know Mumbai is changing? I once asked a friend, a fresh Non-resident-Indian convert now based in New Zealand, over the phone. Will it ever?  He shot back. That was a couple of years ago.

A fortnight back, I was at the International airport terminal’s arrival lounge to receive the same friend.  As I watched him emerge, all that I could see him do was gawk in amazement. Wide eyed. Disbelieving. Whats wrong here,he gasped, in amazement. It has changed.

 

But there is nothing surprising in that look of his which I saw. I have in recent times seen many with those  dumbstruck looks.

 

I am a Marathi speaking Mumbaikar, yes. A hardcore one at that. But, I am also this city’s staunchest critic, if I could call myself one.  And in the role that I am, officially, heading a public trust which aims at transforming the lives of the citizens of Mumbai, I think my dual role helps me best.

(For the uninitiated, I recently completed 100 days as the CEO of Bombay First, or Mumbai First which can also be trached on http://www.mumbaifirst.org

Bombay First has a mandate and vision to transform Mumbai in to a better place to live, work and invest in. It aims to serve the city with the best that private business can offer. It will achieve this by addressing the problems of today and the opportunities of tomorrow, through partnerships with government, business and civil society. Catalyst. Joining Dots. A model of Private-Public-Partnership.)

 

Not many in Mumbai travel to the International Airport, the T2, as is popularly known, every day or even once a year for that matter. Thus, to expect them to shower heaps of praise on the “marvelous”drive to the airport and back, would be unfair. They would not even know it exists, but for the countless hoardings and newspaper ads and write-ups which spoke of the airport terminus when it was inaugurated. Who trusts the written word anyways, can be the argument.

 

And for staunch advocates of a transforming (which is a far cry from a transformed) Mumbai, the criticism is unabated. But yes, Mumbai is changing.

 

In the first half of this year, 2014, alone, Mumbai’s transformation  programme has offered the citizens the T2 (the International airport terminal and a fancy driveway to support it),  an elevated Eastern Express Freeway, the Metro rail, the elevated Mono rail and a lounging connector road between the Eastern suburbs and western suburbs called the SCLR (Santacruz Chembur Link road).

 

Then there is also the elevated road in the western suburbs which replaces the Milan subway and the freshly inaugurated Kherwadi flyover along the Western Express Highway which was a reason for many a traffic snarl for the better part of this summer.

 

For the lakhs of people of this city, all these are non existent. Optimists talk about the hundreds and thousands who take the metro train from Versova in Andheri (a western suburb) to Ghatkopar (in the eastern suburbs) every day.  But there are lakhs and lakhs who still wait in queues or plead to the auto rickshaw wallahs to take them to routes where the trains do not even dream of reaching.

 

Even within the city.  For them, Mumbai hasn’t changed. But worsened. The story is no different for those taking the Monorail. What’s that?  It’s that little toy train up in the sky which we may see in some parts of the city in the next generation.

 

The two works of art which have seen some appreciation and significant use, has been the Eastern Freeway, which connects the distant eastern suburbs to south Mumbai’s CST  cutting down travel time to almost one third and an almost similar, first-of-its-kind connect between the Western and Central suburbs from Kalina in Santacruz to Chembur, called the SCLR. The story of Mumbai is almost like that of the office of the  MTSU or Mumbai Transformation Support Unit, a body headed by bureaucrat, so typical in attire and yet, competent to the T. B C Khatua sits on the third floor of a rickety building adjacent to the beautiful and historic Horniman circle.

 

His job on behalf of the MTSU is to coordinate, advise, and monitor projects undertaken by the city’s multiple governing bodies.Multiple no doubt, as I would like to explain later. MTSU’s one-point agenda: to facilitate the transformation of Mumbai into a world-class city. It is ironical that the man keeping an eye on the city’s transformation sits in a building that could do with a lick of metamorphosis itself.  But, that is the story of Mumbai. There is so much happening. But the city is moving faster than the growth. The development, if one would call it that, has been more reactive, that proactive. The Metro project, for example, is a multi phased project.

 

The 11.4-km line was built over six years. The entire project should have been completed by now. What we have, is only the First phase, which has taken close to a decade.

 

One can imagine the state of the city, the population and its plight, when the project gets completed a hundred years later. Maybe not that many, but you get my point.

 

The Metro is not the only delayed project. One of the other projects which I have spoken of, the SCLR earned the epithet “world’s most delayed road project” from the World Bank. The monorail was greeted with sceptical jeers as the project in its current state hardly connects populated areas.

 

Mumbai’s list of woes is unending and like the delays in every project, is only growing.

 

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region [MMR, which includes Mumbai and its satellite towns like Navi Mumbai and Thane] is about 4,350 sq km. Of this, Mumbai and its suburbs account for 482 sq km, just 11%. But the population is largely focused around Mumbai and its suburbs.  We now have have a situation where nearly 12.5 million people out of the 22 million [in MMR] live in just 11% of the city’s land mass. A situation now gradually changing with people moving beyond Mumbai city limits and its suburbs to its satellite towns in search of more affordable dwelling. The 2011 census showed, the population of the island city of Mumbai came down from 33.26 lakh in 2001 to 31.45 lakh in 2011 (down 5.4%).

 

During this period, Navi Mumbai grew by 59%. Which is why, among the list of demands that are being pushed forth by the city planners, is the new International airport closer to Navi Mumbai.

 

Orchestra without a Conductor:

 

For every right that takes place, there are ten wrongs, remarks one town planner, who has been associated with this city’s infrastructure  project since the time he has living memory.

 

As Adi Godrej, Chairman of the Godrej group told a journalist, “Mumbai is not in a decline… things are changing, but not at the pace they should be. The city has to keep up with the times.” Seventeen agencies are involved in the city’s governance. It is like an an orchestra. You have 17 players — each one of them good at what they do — but without a conductor…it simply can’t work, I remember Narinder Nayar, Chairman of Bombay First once telling me. There are multiple bodies doing the same work, be it in the Railways or the Public works and infrastructure, almost competing and sometimes fighting with each other.

 

What Does Mumbai need?

 

First and foremost, Mumbai needs a CEO like officer and an institution which can be the conductor of this unwieldy orchestra. This should be supported by a ministry in the government which looks differently at mega cities and their growth and issues. For instance, much of Mumbai’s mobility woes have been attributed to the increasing number of vehicles on the roads, which have left pedestrians with no choice but to either stay indoors or come under the wheels of these vehicles.

 

The alternate option is to have a coastal road. Mumbai being a coastal city. But, the stringent CRZ (Coastal regulatory Zone) rules, which apply to all coastal cities, apply here and prominent citizens have been advocating that these rules be eased for mega cities.

 

Mumbai also lacks open spaces. Landsharks seek out any bit of open land before the public can get to it. What town planners have found as a safe alternative is the under-utilised land of the Mumbai Port Trust.

 

There is a huge track of land, completely underutilised. Along the South-east coast of Mumbai. Free this up and make it available to Mumbaikars for recreation, has been the voice of many a campaigners, including former banker Meera Sanyal, who twice contested the elections from South Mumbai but lost on both occasions. What Mumbai also needs is a kinder eye to the problem that masses face every day. A significant number of people of this city commute by the rail system every day. Under extremely pitiable conditions. The suburban rail network desperately needs a coat of modernisation. Bombay First has also been campaigning for a body which can integrate all forms of public transport and uniformly transform it, modernise it and make it a place of pride for the citizens.

 

Almost in the manner that the metro rail has been for this city. And then make the entire travel air-conditioned.

 

Then finally, citizens will get an opportunity to breathe easy. The sigh of relief can come later.

 

WHEN THE PUSS-BOIL BURST…..

 

Four years ago, exactly a week after the attack on Mumbai, hundreds of thousands of people swarmed to the Gateway of India. They were expressing ‘solidarity’. To whom I do not fairly remember any longer. Because there were almost as many posters, banners and demands as there were people.

Some condemned politicians, some the police, some of them were hate Pakistan messages while a few hated their own country too.

It seemed the entire nation was on a boil. But, nothing happened after that.

A few months ago, Anna Hazare decided to give up food, championing an anti corruption crusade. (Bhrasht aachar is basically corrupt behaviour and not financial corruption, which he was fighting against.)

Again, gas burners came on full throttle. This time it was pan (urban) India. Unlike the December 3, 2008 Gateway of India candle-light slogan-shouting which lasted an entire evening, this one was far prolonged; it took about a week of action before the ‘solidarity’ drama simmered down.

Delhi is on slow fire again. The sea of human anger is this time displaying ‘solidarity’ against the pathetic state of human life and security /sexual harassment towards women/the State/Delhi police/police brutality/ and /or the government’s inability to handle a situation well.

It is too early to predict the longevity of this agitation. But whatever the duration its and outcome, what makes me wonder is the Why This and Why NOT that.

(Mumbai 2008 saw the then Home Minister and  Chief Minister of Maharashtra resign whereas the Anna agitation saw news channel TRPs shoot up and Ralegaon Siddhi coming on the national map),

Why is it that a (quoting a Union minister)  “rarest of rare rape case” (whatever that means) on a given day sees us out in the street but for similar or worse offences in our backyard we tend to show a damn.

Why is it that we raise slogans against corruption as we are precariously perched, triple-seated, whistling and ogling at the opposite sex, and do not even have an iota of misgiving about the mess in our home constituency?

What is it that drove us to the Gateway of India one Wednesday evening in 2008?  Was it the desperate desire to bring change? Instantly?

Was the candle-lit march to the Gateway post the Terror attacks nothing but an orgasmic display of machismo on one Wednesday promptly replaced by a shrivelled up manhood a week later when a similar call for arms did not even evoke one finger?

Why is it that Anna Hazare’s fast undo death evoked within many of us a hunger to ‘do something’? So desperate were we that we paid our way systems, dug into loopholes and broken every possible traffic rule on the way to make it in time to show how keen we were to see a clean, law abiding India.

But then, if we were so desperate, where has our bravado gone when it comes to taking to the street when countless instances of eve-teasing are reported or seen by us day in and out? Or at least sustaining the agitation we had so bravely championed.

Hundreds and thousands are taking turns to face water cannons near Rashtrapati Bhavan every hour, in the last few days. Protesting against a system, callous statements, administrative bickering and wanting to ‘do something’.  The very mention of the Delhi gang rape makes the blood boil and take one to the streets.

Less than a decade ago, two teenagers , in the want of some extra buck broke into their teacher’s home and unable to find much money, brutally murdered the sixty-something lady teacher. Unable to pacify a wailing and petrified child in the room, the two boys used a telephone cord to hang the innocent two year old from the ceiling fan.  In the almost Maximum (rape) city, Mumbai.

In the last 24 hours, another two year old, in the western Indian state of Gujarat has died. Raped by a house guest. Two year old.

”Is my child’s rape and death  less brutal, that no one is out on the streets protesting here, but choose the Delhi gang rape matter to raise?” is the question from an inconsolable father of the two year old. Why is it that hundreds have turned up in Delhi, to protest a gang rape and none have displayed a public outcry to the Gujarat incident?

What makes our stomach churn? What causes the tipping point? Why is it that situation A makes us go ballistic and sometimes, a case as brutal and heinous, or worse, not even provoke us to leave the breakfast table? Why?

I remember many years ago, and every time Mumbai’s underbelly was ripped open by a terror attack, we in the media would say, Mumbai will bounce back, because it is a city that never sleeps.  People will be back in office within a day or two.

It has taken many an underbelly ripping for us to realise that Mumbai, is in fact a city which has no options.

Why is it some situations make us take to the streets? And other situations, we are back at work? Is it because we, like the dying city of Mumbai, too have no option but to close our eyes and believe that everything will soon be normal again?

 

Disclaimer: My heart goes out to the family of the girl who was brutally assaulted. And to the countless victims of pain and assault of all forms. Secretly, I do wish the alleged perpetrators were born in a country where the rule of law is public stoning without a trial.

I must also confess that I am a diehard optimist. While I often question myself on this lopsided behaviour and reaction of us Indians towards crime and human pain, I am always amazed and grateful that despite hundreds of cases which go unnoticed, there are those rare instances where people do take to the streets, expressing their heartfelt..

Having said that, the question refuses to leave.  What is it about or cerebral wiring or the chords of the heart which tell us, not this one but that one?  Why?

I quote a friend: The issues that irk people happen to them all the time but they find collective expression difficult. But, as anger subsides, so does euphoria and madness.  Does life allow ordinary people to continue such struggles?

 

 

 

Ends

THE (DEAFENING) SOUND OF SILENCE

 

Is Silence really Golden?  Whoever may have said it first, and, wonder why?  For anyone to actually ‘SAY’ that, in itself, is breaching silence. (err…by that I mean, when you speak, you make some noise, however meaningful your sermon may sound, it would be breaching silence anyways)

 

Silence holds different connotations to different  people.

There is Silence by order.

When Shatru saab thundered KHAMOOUUSSHHH,  it was the baritone which defined  the  Boss.

When (mafia) Don Corleone  swore his men to secrecy, the oath was one of silence.Omert’a. An Italian mafia’s interpretation to  A Code of silence.. Silence promising not to squeal even if caught by either the cops or rival gang members.

Then, there is silence by choice. ‘I like my space so I want to be quiet and be silent’; The Anna Hazare silence. Or,  I move into a conditioned and customized space to practice silence. Vipassana silence.

I am pissed off with you so I am not talking to you. Sulking Silence.

But this is not about the silences which are compelled by situations, circumstances or people. Voluntary or otherwise. 

This blog is on a different not, altogether.

 Is Silence really Golden today? Especially in a world where communication has become such a key? Where Speech has become even more critical. And misunderstandings  are like second nature to most situations. When Silence , however inadvertent, can lead to conflicts, bitterness or even assumptions which even time may not promise to heal.

Thus, this blog on the ‘other’ silence. That,  not by choice, or design, but, by default.

What if one is preoccupied? Or busy. Or unable to communicate (not deliberately but thanks to a situation which has cropped up all too suddenly). Don’t you have a right to that silence? And how accountable are you to the others, when faced with situations beyond your control at times? Is the word ‘accountable’ appropriate at this juncture?

 

In the silence by sulk, there is someone to blame. Action, Inaction, or very often, Ego.

But, what when the silence is provoked by nothing.? Who is to blame? The person who is silent for reasons beyond his control? Or the(other)  person who is suddenly subject to communicating with a wall when he/she keeps waiting for you to react?

Should one pounce on the other for deliberately withdrawing into silence? Assume that you are being ‘avoided’? And being unfair?  And slip into a persecution complex and launch snide attacks against the other? Or should the person who has slipped into a forced silent scenario still try to make the time and make amends? Is expecting even a moment of time from the ‘silent’ one to convey that he/she is busy, a fair expectation, or is it unfair to expect even that? Considering that the situation could be unforeseen. And that it could happen to anyone. Even you.

In a world where communication plays such an important role, is there any room for silence left at all?

Meaningless silence? 

Or should every quantum of silence come loaded with a meaning. I quote from an interesting book which I am currently reading…and I write this in context to what I am talking about.

Often, when we are confronted with silence from the other end, especially when silence is not the norm, we (and I quote) “over react, blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly and  focus on the negative aspects of life”.

“We get irritated, annoyed and easily bothered, our (over) reactions not only frustrate us, but actually come in the way of what we are really wanting. We lose sight of the bigger picture (and here please do refer to one of my earlier blogs by the same name, The larger picture). Somewhere, somehow, if we do not realize this in time, there is a possibility we may lose the person for life. Or, the crack is far too deep to fill. Unless, there is the willingness to let go and look at the person in the same light, as we once did before the ‘assumptions’ took over.” (quote ends.)

I have seen many-a-friend(ships)  move in different directions when a silence is misconstrued. I have seen many-a -friendships get back from the brink, especially if the situation is handled well.  

I am not here to judge who was wrong when the gap widened. But I, for one know, that a stitch in time, always saves nine.

And assumption, is just a step away from destruction.

That brings us back to the point that I began with. If it is likely to cause so many misgivings, misconstrued feelings and conflicts, is silence really golden?  Or, more frightening though it may sound, is it the end of the road for Silence?

ends

p.s. I remember a senior cop once explaining the concept of ‘silence’ and said people accused of a crime have a right to silence.

What about the common man. Does he, or doesn’t he have a right to silence? Ironically, the moment he invokes that right, he becomes an accusedJJ

From Wikipedia:

Omertà(Italian pronunciation: [ɔmɛrˈta]) is a popular attitude and code of honour and a common definition is the “code of silence“. It is common in areas of southern Italy, such as Sicily, Apulia, Calabria, and Campania, where criminal organizations defined as Mafia such as the Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Sacra Corona Unita, and Camorra are strong. It also exists to a lesser extent in certain Italian-American neighbourhoods where the Italian-American Mafia has influence and other Italian ethnic enclaves in countries where there is the presence of Italian organized crime (i.e. Germany, Canada, Australia).

Omertà implies “the categorical prohibition of cooperation with state authorities or reliance on its services, even when one has been victim of a crime.Even if somebody is convicted of a crime he has not committed, he is supposed to serve the sentence without giving the police any information about the real criminal, even if that criminal has nothing to do with the Mafia himself. Within Mafia culture, breaking omertà is punishable by death.

The code was adopted by Sicilians long before the emergence of Cosa Nostra (some observers date it to the 16th century as a way of opposing Spanish rule).It is also deeply rooted in rural Crete, Greece.

ends

OPEN LETTER TO THE CHIEF MINISTER

 

Dear Mr. Chief Minister

 

I should have written to you almost one year back, when you took over as the driver of the elected machine in Maharashtra. The idea was to give you a brief about the state of affairs. Or, affairs of the State. Since you would be(relatively)  new here.

Mercifully, it is not too late. You remain as clueless and as far from reality as you were then.

I wonder if you were any point interested in handling this State? (Your disinterest seems a bit too obvious). After all, you are Prithvi-raj (one who rules the world) pray then why would a tiny inconsequential state like Maharashtra, however MAHA  it claims to be, should interest you?

Or is it that the hangover of your previous portfolio, MOS in the PMO,  still remains and hence, matters  of  a state, belittle your competence.

Having said that, I must confess, you are ideal for the state of Maharashtra.  Why, that I shall justify later in this note.

Talking of ideal, at least you are ideally better off than your predecessor, who seemed too engrossed in his ‘ideals’ ( Adarsh),which  led to his downfall.  How can we trust a Chief Minister who can disown his mother-in-law and say she is not family, at the drop of a hat, or in this case,  at the sale of a flat.

But that apart, I think it is high time you knew something about your State.

To begin with, a lesson in state capital, Mumbai’s Geography and contours.

Mumbai is not seven kilometers  in radius, from Mantralaya to Varsha. (For the uninitiated, Varsha is the official residence of the Maharashtra Chief Minister).  Mr. CM, you may live in Varsha, but, the real downpour happens in the rest of Mumbai.

 Central Mumbai for instance, once had mills which Mumbai was recognized  for.  Mills have made way for Malls. What remains are chimneys, more as a heritage fascination. Obviously you don’t seem them billowing with smoke as in the past. Strangulated off their last breath by DBuilders , or people who have more filth in their veins than that flows through Mumbai’s archaic drainage system.

The little hope, from public representatives has been dashed. In central Mumbai itself, one such rep  notorious for his stone chawl which even cops fear to scale, while another is popular for his dahi handis rather than ‘upliftment’.

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But then, people have given up expecting much from the likes of elected representatives. Many of whom have criminal records and share space with you in the cabinet, or under the same roof  in the legislature. You , Mr CM, do not have the courage to enquire why the most inconsequential of leaders manages to travel in the fanciest of cars the moment he gets elected.

.Lower your cr windows and look at their convoys too, Mr CM, You could pick a tip on which car to use for your convoy the next time round.

As I maintained earlier, Mumbai is not only the road from Mantralaya to Varsha. You must some day, drive into rest of Mumbai. Oh yes, there is actually life beyond Dadar too.

Bandra, yes, the same where the sea link begins or ends. Yes the same Sea link which your party leaders and alliance partners squabbled, over the naming, the day it was inaugurated.

What? You haven’t heard of Andheri is it? It is one of the biggest suburbs of Mumbai. Yessss….that’s where Bollywood is. Oh Bollywood you have heard of, is it? How come? Yes, Correct, the same Bollywood where one of your predecessor’s son is gainfully employed. Yes the same chap who went with Ramu Verma into Oberoi hotel shortly after the 26/11 attacks. No wonder.

 

Honestly Mr. CM, Mumbai has grown. Oblivious to your information, some of your colleagues, hand in glove with the builders have managed to make this city’s geographies extend to far and beyond.

‘Ab Dilli Door nahin’, was once used by politicians who eyed a ‘influential’ seat in the Delhi political circle. Your men in Mumbai have redefined it, by promising land to the hapless Mumbaikar in far-flung areas which may appear closer to Delhi than to Mantralaya or mainland.

When (and if ) you do travel to the suburbs of Mumbai, don’t be shocked to see vehicles with just three wheels bobbing up and down.  These are not smaller jet planes going through air pockets.

These are called auto-rickshaws, which are going through crater like pot holes.  (A little word of advice. Instead of filling up pot holes, your civic admin can simply join all pot holes by breaking the edges. The road will get leveled. It is far cheaper and faster. True there is lesser money to make, in such a scenario. )

I invite you to a ‘sponsored’  auto-ride. (Of course, the first test will be if you manage to convince  an auto-wallah  to stop for a passenger.  Nope, the cops are very unlikely to pay heed.

 

Talking of locals and cops.

 I think you need to look at the police machinery too. Of the 33,000 police force, as of last count, only a handful are busy in investigating crimes. (Yes some have committed them and some have been shielding those who have committed them). Rest are busy guarding VVIPs, political morchas, clear traffic when your party’s President or the country’s President also from your party visits Mumbai, the latter, so very often.

 

There are also some in uniform, too busy hiding behind trees and bushes to jump onto the road and scare the shit out of an unsuspecting driver and pocket some money from him for traffic violation.

Net net, you don’t see them doing what they ought to be doing.

The locals are next.(here I mean the local trains and not the Bihari babus  who Raj bhau seems to be fixated upon) The scores of massage parlors which were fronts for sex rackets have now extended themselves  to the local trains too. Ummmm…..This is a feel you have to feel.

Talking of Local trains, I sincerely urge you to board a Virar fast local, and try getting out at Andheri.  Don’t forget to inform the Congress Hi-kamaan (HQ) to start looking for a replacement in the meanwhile.  The term Molestation gets redefined in such locations, whichever gender you may belong to.

Well, Mumbai as I repeat, is much more fascinating than your eight minute drive.

 In some suburbs, after you get off the train(or get thrown off ), stop by a paani-puri wallah and gently bend down to look under the stall. Hello Mr. ,  I didn’t ask you to look at the paani-puri wallah’s  fingers pacifying his itchy lower half. What I want you to gaze, is  at the ground below. These are called foot paths, meant for people to walk. (Some of these relics  are visible in paintings of Old Mumbai and  portions of Ballard Estate).

Your over-zealous money-maker partners-in-crime  have done a magic trick. Like you. They have made the foot paths disappear. Filled them up with hawkers and, converted them into elevated footpaths, which most senior citizens find it tough to climb. But, who cares.

It is all a blame game.Your guys blaming the cops, cops blaming the system and  everyone making hay, waiting for Madam’ s son to shine. Just a little note to tell you that in all this, your Executive, who are meant to execute what you guys legislate,  are busy playing God to anyone with grease.  This is one lot, who do not need palmists for sure.

Net net, Mr. CM, you need to wake up. You need to smell the coffee. When you start smelling, you will realize that Mumbai smells like crap. Different suburbs, different smells.

 

As I said at the beginning of my piece, this city deserves you. You deserve this city too. For someone who is now known across political circles in Maharashtra as too good and too nice a guy, let me tell you,  translated, in hindi, it is not a very charitable way to describe a person.

But, as I mentioned earlier, Maharashtra  and Mumbai deserves someone like you. We, of recent past, now belong to the state of  anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. With great pride and excitement we attended his rally. Some of us also packed our cars with booze so that we could party the night away after the day was spent waving at TV cameras in our designer ‘I am Anna’ caps.

 Many piled onto bikes and scooters, a-la three idiots,ignoring traffic laws, whistling and passing remarks at women on the way.(How dare any one stop us, we are Anna’s brigade and fighting corruption you see).  Some were also stopped by cops but a hundred rupee note ensured , that our rally-party wasn’t dampened.

Some also told their respective office that they want leave to attend Anna’s victory rally, but headed off to Lonavala. Booze and butter chicken zindabaad.

Dear Chief Minister, we have pot holes and no footpaths. We have traffic and no roads. We have rainfall but no water and we are such a huge and large city, but, your men have made it unaffordable for the average man to buy a place here.

We have to make a living, but we have no life.

We are proud to be Mumbaikar’s,  Mr. Chief Minister.  But, we don’t really care about Mumbai.

Somehow, we are like you. Same-same, but different.  You claim to be there, but, do you also really care?

 

ends

The (Real) Game Changers

My generation may recollect a once-so-very-common  screen saver  on their now-extinct desktop. Much before palm tops, flat screen laptops and slim fit Kareenas  had begun to corrupt the body and soul.

 A tiny, cute ball would gravitate towards one end of the screen, gently kiss the edge,  and with the impact of that touch.  would bounce  towards another end. The touch would determine the direction the ball would move in. The point at which it would touch the screen would determine the angle the ball would move. 

So often I think of that screensaver.

Game Changer,  is what I have named it.

For years,  It was a permanent fixture on my comp screen and, fascinated, I would stare, for hours as the soft-ball image would bob across, almost smiling at me..Often,  my colleagues wondered  at my ability to go deep thinking, when actually all I was busy doing was watching the screensaver.

It was during one of these endless gazing games that the Eureka moment happened.  All along I had been staring at the movement of the ball. One day, I decided to monitor the position of that touch and how that touch changed the course of the balls journey. One small tiny feather touch.

For the ball, THIS  blink-and-you-miss touch was the Game changer. 

Our life, is no different from that of the soft ball. We celebrate the impact. The direction we are moving in  and of course the end result of that direction. A new job, an acquisition. Meeting someone new.  Or, just something nice happening. Almost invariably, we thank the one above. Thank God we  at least thank God.

Well, at times, it is not only the one above that we are grateful to. We quickly identify the next in line in that chain seemingly link responsible for the goodness to have taken place. Rarely do we go beyond that.

How often have we taken  the thank-you-I-am-grateful  thought   to  the last key person in the chain? The link furthest away from the impact/result? The one act/touch/or person who  may have actually actually started the movement?

For instance, My first job as a journalist can be credited to my English professor whom I had bumped into, at a newspaper’s Sunday magazine office where he worked as a consulting editor.  Or so I had begun to believe, for a very long time. (Then, I was pursuing my Law and Journalism as a career was never even a speck on the horizon).

It was he, who kept pushing me to keep writing. Appreciating and critically analyzing my work. When the first vacancy came up, it was his persistence which won over my laziness. I got that job on merit,. But had he not been persuasive enough, I would not have even known about it.  To Sir with Love, Thank you.

Thus, by all means, I often credited my being in Journalism to this man. But if the screen saver is my barometer, is it enough to thank only my English prof?

At least five years prior to me writing for magazines, I remember my school chuddy-buddy showing off his name as it appeared in letters to the editor column of the local English newspaper. In Nagpur. With unfailing regularity. Call it competitive shit that I had, or the desire to see my name in print, I asked him how did he do it. Much before the term came into existence, thanks to my chuddy buddy, I had not only become a citizen Journalist, but, would look for areas of civic improvement and write to the newspaper. Three weeks later, and onwards, I was a regular in the newspaper too.

This was five years before I met the English prof.

Now, it has almost become second nature to me. To recollect a pleasant happening, sit back, smile about it and start tracing the people and events, backwards, responsible for the good deed. Finally resting at the last stop. Then, step two is to pick up the phone, track the persons number and, tell him /her what an important role they have played in my life. Leaving them puzzled or smiling. Or maybe both.

That this exercise has brought me in touch with so many more old friends, is the bonus. And there are so many wonderful memories, events and people I have met in life.  For instance, of all the people in the world whom I could be friendliest with is someone who neither shares my age, nor my profession. So much that we haven’t even studied in the same school or college unlike some of my other close friends. Yet,  we are like a house on fire, whenever we speak. We have passed the test of time (I know him for 25 years as of this day).

Is it destiny? Or should I now put it, is it JUST DESTINY? Will it then, not be unfair to thank all those who  were mere dots in the line-up to the circumstances which led us to having met. Dots which are now a complete circle.

 Any one of the dots not being at its place at any given moment, and my life would be so altered.  Often,  the last dot in the chain maybe so completely unrelated to the final result. Yet,  its presence at that place that time is all that it took for things to turn the way they did.

As  I maintain, these dots have played a huge role in my life. There are so many good things, events, people that I have been blessed with in my life. There are so many more dots that I am eternally grateful to. A short visit to Shillong which was till some time back not even on the furthest horizon.

As I look back, the trip is now a wonderful memory filled with fascinating people who have each been dots in their own way.  Where does one begin, where does one end and whom does one thank, is in itself a wonderful exercise.

I am sure your life is full of such game changing events too. Take some time off and reverse-join these dots.  You may find very old friends, totally off your otherwise busy radar, who have played a big role in what you are today, and whom you have completely forgotten to thank.

Game changers. That’s what I call these angels from the past. Who have been responsible for my present.