Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The BIg TransP-Dhakka Reality show

Shilpa Shetty winning the Big Brother Reality show in London is OK.

What is really better than OK is the Big TransP-Dhakka Reality show currently playing in Mumbai, on all channels.

A couple of ordinary people and a couple of celebs have to travel daily by BEST as well as the suburban trains, as per the BIG TransP-Dhakka's instructions.

Contrary to the selections prevalent in all other reality shows, the celebs have tried every trick in the book to get selected here. The ordinary people didnt even realise they were selected, so busy were they, clutching their purses just so, water bottles in a netted side pocket, one chappal left on the platform, trying to catch their 7:17 fast to VT from Thane.

While we will come to the motivation and rewards shortly, it is interesting to look at the celebrities involved.

Himesh Reshamaiiya crooning at a special concert outseide Mulund Bus Depot, his immortal nasal song "Mujhe mujhe leylo zaroooor...." as the drivers and conductors, emerged from their trip-accounting cum tea breaks, fingers in their ears ("khali peeli katkat karta hai idhar") before starting on one more traumatic scenic trip from west to east, sinusoidally through the potholes.

Sanjay Dutt, unable to do anything else while all his cases were subjudice, decides to mingle with the VT subway crowd as he climbs the steps to the suburban railway concourse, singing, "Munnabha-ee, ek Thane Return !", as a dark coated TC , immense in girth, blocks his path, and directs him to the ticket counter, where, wonder of wonders, there is Madhuri Dixit, doing her "ek-do-teen" number, except she is counting the people in the queue for the tickets, and her song has already reached "pachaas".....(She isnt part of the BIG TransP; her non resident status will cause probems with taxes if she wins. So she is just practising her stuff in view of her long absence from the movies).

Rani Mukherjea, an expert TransP-Dhakka partcipant subsequent to her experiences with an unnamed tall guy in Bunty Aur Bubly, was most enthusiastic. All that leaning out of trains, emerging unscathed from tunnels, and singing freely waving one hand, would now come in useful, as she tried to get off at Kanjurmarg from a Titwala Local (slow), trying to traverse about 5 feet towards the exit door, as about 5 stations whizzed past.

One of the Justices of the high court, in a great gesture of "mingling with the masses" offered to join the BIG TransP, but was refused as they did not have place for all his M-security people, and his assistant has now filed a request under the Right to Information Act, wanting to know how the others were selected, and what were they doing about their own security.

The Nach Baliye winners, Hussain and Tina signed on as "Hina" and offered to use their acrobatic dancing techniques, showing how to get from the back of a Andheri-Dahisar bus (via S. V. Rd) at 6 PM, to the front in 10 seconds flat, without saying "jara bajula honar ka ?"

In the meanwhile, Kusumtai Kulkarni, senior typist(SG) working in SEEPZ is thrilled to bits (or is it bytes ?) , as the winner in the Janata category is going to a free year's pass to travel on the AC buses from anywhere to anywhere, with two other relatives accompanying at half price. At 55, she has spent 30 years at her job, during which she got married, had kids, looked after her in-laws and parents during their terminal illnesses, and just recently orgaised the marriage of her daughter, who is doing quite well in, what do they call it ? IT ?

Dnyanoba Pawar, is actually 70, but looks 55, thanks to his several decades of travelling daily from Dombivli to Dadar. He can climb and alight from a running train, can predict what message the station-announcers are going to say, from their initial tone, and is the first to rush and change platforms, when arriving trains decide to do that, 30 seconds before their arrival. P. T Usha invited him to train her wards, but his boss in Dadar decilned the leave.

Rustom Irani, a college going youth was chosen as he used both the BEST and the trains, as he went about attending college in Churchgate , and occasional visits to his relatives and friends in Cusrow Baug in Colaba. A very polite boy, most conductors smile at him, and no TC ever asks him for his ticket; Rustom always holds out his pass , voluntarily , when he has to walk within 6 feet of a TC , anytime, anywhere. Rustom is the first to offer his seat to anyone who vaguely resembles his grandfather.

Sejalben Mehta ,champion traveller from Ghatkopar to Bandra via Vile Parle(East), is 40. She got married at 18, her eldest daughter is 20. Between the two , they run a womens cooperative, where they organise the making of khakras and pickles at centres in Ghatkopar, Vile Parle and Bandra. During the day, Sejalben and her daughter Kruti, (after seeing off her husband and son with their dabbas to the diamond arcade at Opera House), are often seen supervising the correct packaging of the Khakras, so that the stuff doesnt get reduced to pure slivers as they make their way to getting out of the bus, to deliver stuff at Santa Cruz on their way.

There will be different assigments given by the BIG TransP-Dhakka.

Getting in with Khakras and Pickles (Nadiad Style), into a bus at Powai, as it arrives, with three people hanging on to the last step, and the driver in two minds about stopping. Glaring at the guy on the second last step , when all he has done is offered toe space to her daughter Kruti, bringing her, a centimetre closer to him....(of course, she always carries her very versatile, multi-function umbrella, occasionally used as a weapon).

Dynaobabhau Pawar, has to to carry a big cake from Dadar to his bosses house in Thane , where there is a family gettogether to celebrate someone passing the 12th class exam at the age of 24. Finally. If the cake gets converted to a creamy mass in the 5:08 double fast to Thane, the saddest person will be Dnynoba himself; you see, he had just joined when this chap, the 24 year old was born.

Rustom Irani will be travelling on the train from Thane (visiting relatives) when it will have a planned breakdown on the outskirts of Kurla for an hour. His job will be to get to Sion on foot, so as to make it in time for Navjyote in Parsi Colony in Matunga, in a presentable state, partcularly clean shoes.

Kusumtai Kulkarni, has been assigned an office at Masjid Bandar. She will travel daily between Saki Naka and Masjid, and her brief is to carry the cash payment for their temporary workers from Seepz to Masjid every day. There is no "upgradation" clause, say, for the train travel. But Kusumtai has decided that she will carry the stuff under a pile of knitting and religious books which she carries with her at all times. her only concession towards this partcipation is the purchase of a handbag-cum-purse, with deep insides, luckily available at the "Koi-bh-cheez-dus-rupaiyya' stall outside Ghatkopar station.

The question is, who will win the BIG TransP-Dhakka Reality Show?
The rewards are people specific.

Himesh , if he croons his way to winning, will win a compulsory trip to the Amazon Rain Forest, where the World Bank is studying the chimpanzee's response to certain music frequencies.

Sanjay Dutt, stands to win a free lawyer, a lifetime reward.

Rani Mukerjea, is in line for a treasure trove of 500 chiffon sarees, in lieue of the various Yashraj movies she will now lose out to Aishwarya.

Hussain and Tina , or "Hina" are vying for a chance to perform at next years Republic Day Parade, on the Maharshtra float, in a Koli Dance.

Everyone has to travel "the TransP-Dhakka way" for a fortnight, and undertake the various difficult assignments.

Unlike what Shilpa Shetty endured, no one here will be at the mercy of the other contestants. Actually, everyone will be at the mercy of the normal commuters of Mumbai.
Who are, come to think of it, given their huge variety (of religion, customs, language, mode of dressing, social manners etc) , a wonderfully tolerant lot.

There will be hardly any racial jibes a la Jade Goody, no racial outbursts a la Daneielle Someoneelse; someone will offer to hold the khakras for a while to give Sejalben a break, Dynnoba Pawar will be offered a seat by a yuppie, who has been sitting for a while; Kusumtai's daily unknown seat companion, will offer to complete a bunch of lines of knitting, as she finshes reading one of her daily stotras before Byculla comes; and Rustom Irani will help an Aunty climb down from the ladies compartment of the stalled train, by offering his knee as a step - and to hell with the spic and span clothes; the Navjyote folks will understand; and surely applaud.
At the end of the day at the most, , there will be a voice , sometime, somewhere, which will, pipe up (as it does with unfailing regularity), saying "Kya ye apke baap ka rasta/gaadi hai?".....

And who do I think will win ? Well, Kusumtai, Dnyanoba, Sejal, and Rustom - a fourway tie.

Any doubts ?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kachra Re !

Over the new year and immediately preceding it, the papers and magazines have been full of various so called "attractive deals" offered by hotels and restaurants. Special weekend deals, baskets of fruit, locations next to the beach, gastronomic excesses of the highest magnitude, and monetary excesses of even a higher kind. "Just "seven thousand" rupees for a grand new years eve dinner. (If you stay on for breakfast its extra; two thousand "only"). Some guys in white uniforms and caps, do their kadhai stuff behind see through glass enclosures, arrange the miniscule dish (of the non-miniscule price) in an artistic way on the dish, decorate it with sprigs of green stuff placed at startegic angles , and suddenly , its "fine dining"......

I've realised its all marketing. Taste buds have nothing to do with it. The whole idea is to make something look so attractive, that young people and yuppie types will throng, and yes, empty their pockets.

Maybe, circa 2010, we will witness some of the following ads?

"CRUSH 2010" :

"Spend the new years eve in the midst of the throng, pulsating to the throbbing beat, standing room only, most popular locations, all across mumbai. Subsidised Seng and Channa available throughout the evening at all locations. Enjoy yourself on a moving stage, and get off when you feel like it to have a cutting chai or a subsidised shoe polish (in case too many have syepped on your shoes in the frenzy). Get into the mood with limbupani and kala khatta. Native music on innovative instruments a definite plus. Cant forget the almighty , can we ? Special bhajan "karo...ok" sessions in selected locations. Those staying till 1 am, will get special transport to visit Titwala and get the Lord's blessings for the new year........"

"The MOO Year Special"

Like the Beatles sang " Get Back, Get Back, to where you belong..." The call of the wild, the green of the earth, and its a wonderful new year eve nestled amongst the sylvan surroundings of Gobarnagar, the new special "Earth Info park" created outside Mumbai (ISO 10001 certfied) , by the thousands of tabelas that shifted from Goregaon on instructions from the World Bank. . Get away from the glaring blaring mumbai lifestyle, and enjoy a new years eve lassi as you relax on a satranji , leaning against a tree trunk. Exciting greenery everywhere you look, and even more excitement on sudden encounters of the bovine kind. Meet your own buffalo, and admire its resemblance to several famous people as it chews the cud in style , circa 2010. Get drunk on the smells of the earth, mixed with other aromatic materials , obtained free, courtsey the buffaloes. Bhakris and Zunkaas available on order , and red chillies will be on the house.Special dawn conveyance for everyone , upto the Gobarnagar entrance. We throw in FREE Puncture Nikal training during this ride . Rush. Seats are limited . Like everywhere else. Rs 1000 per couple. 50% off instantly to those who can MOO in style. Decisions of the buffaloes will be final....

Kachra Re ! New Year Shindig.

Dance to the latest version of the song immortalised by Alisha Chinai , and enacted in 2006 by members of the Bachchan Family . Bring in the new year as you sink your feet into the studded sands of the Yahoo beach in Mumbai; home to scintillating bhelpuri, dripping panipuri, burning vadapav, and tingling chinese.....Experience the latest USE AND THROW technology imported specially for the occasion from Bihar. If the heat gets to you, we have special stalls supplying mumbai's answer to pepsi/coke and assorted mnc types; those not brave enough can enjoy kapi from mobile cycle coffee bars , India's answer to Starbucks...Take part in a dummy film shooting - ride horses on the beach and rescue unwilling random damsels, whether they are in distress or not! Stay on to watch the dawn, as Mumbai's glitterati get into their Reeboks and Nikes and jog around you, their X-category security following in their steps, to the beat of Kachra Re ......

And finally.

The BEST of it all !

The Nachos BEST

Can anything beat ringing out the old and ringing in the new, to the exciting sound of brakes and clutches ? Join us for a no holds barred ride across the length and/or/breadth of Mumbai. Travel on the only 5 remaining double decker buses in the BEST fleet, (ever since they banned them after one bus threatened to lean over a flyover). Special ragtag honking music in specially designated areas like Parel , Dadar(TT and BB; central and western to you modern types), Mahim, SV Rd Bandra, Malad, Sion, Mulund, Borivli, Kandivli and so on. You dont need to know how to dance ! Just hold on to the world-class-recently-installed hangers in the central bar, and the bus driver will take care of the rest. Enjoy the thrilling acceleration, the disdainful "sneezing" attitude when changing gears, and the unique bus-stopping mechanism recently perfected by the drivers, that involves all standees in a set of fourier series sinosoidal movements , culminating in a deadly action dance . Yes, Nachos! Its not just the "nach". Drawing inspiration from the mexican nachos chips, the BEST canteen has been, for the last several years converting left-over chapaties into nachos chips. These will be offered , "on the bus" , to all those who grace the BEST with their presence between 11pm and 2 am. Buses plying through Parel and Borivli will get complementary pickle, and lasoon chutney.

The mind boggles at the stuff on offer....

And you STILL want to attend the Taj ,Oberoi, and the H-H-Hy...att (sneeze)... stuff ?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Patterns of Departure

We all come into this world the same way.

Looking for a way out through a labrynth of contracting muscle tissue, seeking that liitle ray of light at the end of the tunnel, as we navigate through, still connected to our mothers by the umbilical bond. A gasp of fresh air, a feeling of being held upside down. Come to think of it, we dont really know what upside down is, we havent really lived in co-ordinates , for sometime now, suspended as we are in amniotic fluid. But someone says we are held upside down, so we will go along. Just in time for that little whack from the white coated big people with gloves and masks. And for the first time we burst forth crying out our pleasure and / or displeasure at arriving like this, in what purports to be , our life.

Then it's years and years of babydom, indulgent childhood, precocious teenage, dangerous and carefree adolescence, the confident twenties. Marriage,children, their tears and laughter, welcoming new members into the family, losing old ones, the cycle goes on.

One was priviledged to be the member of the particular family, and one learnt to appreciate the special qualities of people as they endeavoured to bring you the best life had to offer.

And then it was time for them to go.

Tired limbs, thinning hair, receding hairlines, and verterbral columns perenially physically displaying a question mark There was so often a tussle between taking in the oxygen, and your heart demanding more. Having to refuse that extra helping of cake at the granddaughter's birthday, because of a tired digestive system; falling asleep in the rocking chair, with the mouth open, while watching the 35th rerun of the famous 1945 movie, the lead actors of which were no more. Having to take more than a couple of starts while trying to elevate oneself out of a chair. Trying hard to listen to someone say something, thinking it's about you, and realising that its not that they speak softly; its more like you can't hear well these days. And its so difficult to read the paper now; whats there to read these days anyway ? War, money, waste, disasters, lying; sometimes some good, like a great lecture by a great leader of men, a discourse by a holy man, and jokes by a child, and the peals of silent laughter keep resonating in your brain.

And unlike the way you came into this world, there are different ways of saying goodbye, different patterns of departure.....

She was always the principled, godfearing, strong minded one. No effort was ever enough where her children and grandchildren were concerned. Exercise was a BIG thing in her life, long before the American Heart Association started their 10,000 steps a day program. Her theory was that only a body exertion earned you the right to eat. So daily exervise was a given. She was following the food pyramid, when it was dismantled and lying around waiting for someone , from say, Stanford, to rebuild it. Her prayer to God, before dinner, was a daily occurence, and she fasted every Monday.

Having just returned from a trans-pacific flight of 24 hous duration, she was tired. Physically, beacuse of the flight. Mentally because she was returning to a dormant, tired life after a vibrant visit attending a grandchild 's graduation, where she got to meet all his professors, who were delighted to note that she came all the way at this advanced age. She wouldnt have had it any other way. Life was about facing up to various situations to the best of ones ability. Life was about sticking with the true and tested, honest, occasionally considered oldfashioned, but very solid standards by which life was to be lived. Of course , most of the grandchildren could do no wrong. When one of her grandchildren at 7, challenged her to accompany him on her own bike (actually her daughters) to the park beyond the lake, she sportingly agreed. On the way back, the exultant grandson suggested exchanging bicycles, and being a grandma, she agreed. Except the childs bicycle was the easyrider style. But a promise was a promise, and she came back, riding back with him, a great combination of Gatsby meets Jon Voight, to the unabashed delight of several folks on the road.

She had been shopping after a lunch at a mall, and although a bit tired, she decided to indulge the children. Returned home, spending a great funfilled afternoon with family. Lay down for a while. Stared feeling uneasy. Wished away obvious thoughts from her head. Tried some easing postures. No effect. She was taken to the hospital where she collapsed . That would have been the end. But it wasnt. That was not the pattern of her life. It wouldnt be the pattern of her death.

Tubes,beepers, electrodes, needles; anything that could be attached was attached to her persona. In the Intensive care unit, began the last fight of her life. She had been through so many tough times, this was just one more. Her child abroad was informed, and he began his long 22 hour journey back. She lived and improved on just raw willpowr. The doctors had never seen anything like this. Thirty six hours later, Tuesday at dawn, as her sons plane landed, she was getting rid of the last of her several tubes, and for a while , it was all systems go, albeit, tired systems. (And she was pleased because she had automatically "fasted" on her Monday !! ).

She lived another day, to see her youngest come to her. She fussed about whether he had eaten, who was with the grandkids, fired him for wasting his time like this in hospital. That night as her children sat by her bedside, she turned away from them when she realised the footfall of Death. She had held on for 24 hours and it had exhausted her. It was time to cut loose, all bonds that would cause a lingering of the spirit.

There was one sharp breath intake. She never exhaled. A pattern so heartrending in its peaks and troughs, a tough lady waging a tougher battle, showing how its done.

And he was the total opposite.

A writer, a dreamer, he was very comfortable with utopia. Nitty gritty house and children situations were not his style. Problems got solved, solutions appeared . A great one for organic basic nutrition and old systems of medicine, his greatest joy was challenging modern doctors. Like her, he sometimes worked on sheer will power.

At one point in his 70's he was unable to sit due to a herniated disk. He loved to order the household around. NSAID's were a 4 letter word in a 5 letter world. He listened to the doctor, then refused MRI's amd Xrays. They prescribed some meds which reduced his pain temporarily. Whereupon, he undertook learning of some great yoga exercises, all religiously followd , and 6 months later, he was accompanying his granddaughter on a climbing trip across the neighbouring hill. He read voraciously, wrote prodigiously, and campaigned with great passion for his pet projects in vegetarianism, eye donations, forestation, rural deveopement, , and subjects as diverse as education of the girl child, and rehabilitation of women following the oldest profession of the world.

Everytime he felt age catching up, he walked more, to prove a point, mostly to himself, but sometimes to others too. The one day he fell down, and hurt himself. The doctors found an aneurysm, and asked him to take some meds, and avoid certain exercises. He reacted to this in a typical way. Gave up taking meds after a month, and simply continued doing the specific exercises they told him to avoid. He'd even call up the doctor , and tell him all this, and tell him how great he was doing WITHOUT all HIS medicines. He wrote health articles where he professed to know the secret of longevity. And peple flocked to see him, learn exercises from him and take his nutrition advice.

Like I said there are patterns and patterns. Of Departure.

The graph which was coasting along, on a plateau now started a slight slide. Movement reduced. Energy reduced. Over a year, his favourire exercise of walking almost stopped. He was slowly confined to bed. Every now and then one of the physiological body systems would get into a tangle, and need straightening out by a doctor. There was a feigned indifference to the prescribed meds. When the body couldnt do much else with the physical systems, given his strong heart and lungs, it started messing around with the brain. The reading and writing got tiring. So did people. So he stopped remembering them. The he stopped remembering places and events. Finally he was completely confused in time.

There was a dream type quality to his last few months. He had delusions of great grandeur. He would blithely wish away his physical afflictions, and get into a rage on finding it still there. Heard voices somewhere. He was always a great eater of traditional food, and that continued . His children and their children came by and stayed with him. He knew and they knew what lay ahead. But he continued to say to all who enquired that he was in excellent health and there was nothing wrong with him. He would say that he walked 2 miles everyday. It was the ultimate manifestation of translating what you will and you want-to-happen , into something verbal, just enough to cheat youself. Complicated, but true.

He became so weak that swallowing tired him. So he would tell those who fed him, that he was full.

Full, not tired.

He did that on the last night. His daughter was feeding him. He motioned to her to stop, whispering that he was full. Everybody took a small break at this point, it was a routine thing. Fifteen minutes later, when she went back with the soup, it was all over. Just like that. It was as if the slow slide of the graph from a plateau had finally started along the asymptote. It was a game of hide and seek amongst us. He tricked us into believing it was just another break, and the graph quietly , asymptotically went to zero, as if cocking a snook at all those around. He had managed to convince everyone so well, with his great powers of recovery from so many afflictions, that no one thought death was so imminent.

Both patterns of departure. So different in style. But very equal in magnitude. And the high intensity drama over 24 hours, and the gentle slide over a few months, both have something to tell about the persona and the style of living of the person.