Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2-Wheeler tales

“Aakhe hai ya button, dikhai nahi deta kya?” –the first time I ever got almost close to running over someone on my kinetic (kinu), this is what I heard. This inspite of the fact that the said person was leisurely walking on the main road (cant really blame him, footpaths where pouring with vegetable/fruit vendors, dogs, a cow in front of a temple and ofcourse more than needed pedestrians). He also had completely ignored my kinu honking which was masked by the honking of several other cars, a kachara gaadi and ofcoure the hurrrrs from the watermelon bullock cart guy. I almost lost balance, kinu wheels skid and was red in the face upon hearing this.
My reaction- Aapko sunai nahi diya, yeh main road hai ke footpath, pata nahi kaha kaha se aate hai?

This wasn’t the only annoying and painful experience of riding a bike on the streets of Mumbai, there are several memories. None of which ever stopped me from dressing like a terrorist (covering my face, foreheard and head with a scarf and goggles) and heading out every single day on my bike. Remember how you in your car, bus got stuck in the traffic and I would squeeze through the gap between the footpath and main road and go about merrily on my bike. Yep kinu had its advantages. But it also meant frustrations and interactions with particular types of bikers.

Cycle heroes: These always found ways to match up to my bike speed. How? By hanging on to buses, autos or sometimes even bullock carts and not even taking the effort of pedaling. Often a reason of me unable to overtake them and always trying to avoid running over them. I always imagined the bus would come to an abrupt halt and the cycle hero to go right into the bus (tom and jerry istyle), but alas never got a chance to witness it :(

Then there were the quadruple riders: Now these always had to ride as a family of four. Chunnu, Munnu, Mummy and Papa, all on the bike. Chunnu would stand in front and almost always was of the height that his hair would fly into Papa’s nose and eyes, causing Papa to lose balance, change track unwarned and sometimes break unnecessarily. Every time I saw this category going up a flyover and me trailing, I would fear them skiing in reverse downhill and dragging me with them. Thank God that never happened, though it meant Papa to change gears multiple times trying to ensure that the bike continues going uphill at an ant pace and me watching all cars and bikes zoom past. Hmph!

How about the extreme bikers?: Now these kinds are like 3-4 bikers who ride at ultimate speed just cutting through traffic, you find them taking odd routes, ogling at girls and often with a bandana on forehead. I have seen them taking the foothpath route too, just to get past the traffic. Its annoying to watch them break all rules of traffic, while you are stuck there. The little voice in my head would always tell me to take the footpath route, break all rules but then again that needs some courage and cool bribing qualities that I completely lack.

Then there are the duo’s: These almost always ride side to side, not on a deserted road, not on a street rather in broad daylight and on the main road. Somehow they have some interesting topic going on and the two bikers have to chat with each other while riding parallel. And if you try and honk, trust me the kind of reaction you get will be –“Kya hai madam, dikhta nahi baat chalu hai?” Huh! Ok ok, how about I take another route, because I just forgot you OWN THE ROAD.

Btw I have seen these duo’s separate and I have watched the frustration, the reason was a cow sitting right in the middle of the road. What fun, aint it?

Apart from this there are dhoti pundits riding their scooter, while if not all, most of their dhoti is flying in air, giving them a batman like look. Ahem!

To add to all the chaos that already existed on the roads, the police introduced “Helmet compulsory” rule. Which meant almost all the 2-wheeler public were riding ridiculously coz they couldn’t see which car is next to them, thanks to the helmet. But that deserves a separate post coz I understood their pain. Nonetheless, 2-wheleer in Mumbai was a blessing, easiest and fastest means to reach said destination. I miss you –Kinu!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sometimes weekends simply rock!

They gather around the Windows Mobile, three of them, buzzing like bees and start discussing the movie options, which just for record -no one agrees on even after discussing several options. So here's how it might look like for a stranger- A weekend page from my life:

Az: Hey, look look I found one, this one seems awesome, we should watch this? (then goes about again searching something else on WM)

D: What’s it about?

Ad: What do you mean what's it about? It’s about, like that one actress is like murdered by this person and we don’t know till the end who is it (rambles on about the story line, recites the climax and everything included)

D: Ok, looks like murder mystery, works, we should check out the imdb rating (D aint satisfied by the movie description of Ad, he rather start the movie and fast forward it to watch what its like to ensure its worth watching)

Az: (Everyone again buzzes around WM) Scroll, scroll, ok here here, I found it, rating looks good.Hey but look at this one, its like a romance comedy, what do you guys think? (then goes about again searching something else on WM)

D: No ways! (D apparently can’t focus on romance drama movies and will jump, scream, yell and create complete chaos and trust me you don't want that)

D: Hey how is our match going? Man last match NZ-India totally sucked.

Upon hearing this Az is all on high alert and starts searching the match scores while Az and D buzz around WM.

Fact of life, when men talk of cricket that’s it. Need I say more?

All this while I, G and Am are sitting on couch and watching, waiting for the movie decision to be made.

G: Guys, guys listen up, I can’t stand blood and brain eating type movies, find something else. You don’t want me screaming all through the movie. (Ahem, let me enlighten you all, for any movie this will happen irrespective of which kind)

Me: I am totally cool with it. (Usually blood, killing and such doesn’t get to me, with D around there aren’t any other kinds that we could watch)

Am: Does anyone want tea, coffee,icecream? (Am is the sweetest, like G says Paavaam)

Ad: The laptop speakers kinda suck, but if it works for you guys we could watch 13b? (Like that would stop us)

Am: Yeah yeah 13b is good (As usual she goes on to provide her sincere feedback, and goes on to explain how there aren't really any ugly faced ghosts in the movie)

Me: Its horror, no way, I am not watching horror (Now I am chicken when it comes to horror movies, yeah I know blood and brain eating doesn’t scare me but ghosts do, how lame is that?)

G: Who is the actor? (Most of her movie decisions revolve around songs, music and actor ofcourse!)Az and D scrolling the WM. (Totally ignoring us)

Ad: R. Madhavan!!!

G: Oh wow, R. Madhavan then I can watch that one.

Me: Hmph! This Raghavan na, why does he need to act in horrors?

G: Madhavaaan, madhavaan not Raghavan (This wasnt the only time she corrected me, through out the movie I ended up calling him Raghavan and G correcting me :))

So there we were 3 crazy couples sitting very close to the laptop with almost zero volume, trying to hear dialogues and concentrating to watch the movie. And believe me, I still was scared.

D: What the hell is this movie, so lame, I mean 3 women watching a ghost serial and they can’t figure out till the end of the movie that it’s the ghost serial which runs only in their home, how stupid?

Am: They don’t want to. They just watch the serial no, they don’t analyze it. (Now Am had a soft corner for this movie, dunno why, so all through she was trying to defend it)

D: Well they could atleast get the tv out of the apartment and check if it still works?

Am: But they don’t want to. They want to keep the tv inside the house.

Az: (Btw the argument and such, Az was the one sitting closest to the laptop and would occasionally put one ear to the speaker reciting the dialogues, in a very fast monotonous style)….Errr bhabhi ko phone karo, argue maat karo, phone karo, chalo hume udhar jaana hoga, jo serial mein dekha woh hoga (and such, trust me it was quite funny, to hear these dialogues without any expressions)

Suddenly G burst into a fit of laughter, some joke she figured in her mind and just abruptly started laughing. That was it for us. Everyone roared with laughter for no reason at all. I was very adamant on watching the movie, so after a lot of shhhsssing, folks settled only to find another reason to laugh again. This went on pretty much till late in the night.

Sometimes weekends are just worth it! I mean they obviously always are but well I guess this song puts across my point in a much better way.
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Just like that an hour passed by!

Waiting at a bus stop:

I wait and the red BEST bus just zooms past. I watch the bus wheels blow up dust in air and the entire bus rocks through a ditch in the road. I observe 12 different faces, hands , legs, chappals, shoes, college bags, hair styles (oily, colored, bald head) just dangling at the door of the bus. Two people, one of them almost holding on to a back seat window and the other at the rod on the entry, giggling and cheerfully chatting while hanging (most of the body) in midair. I heave as I look at the passing bus, hoping the next one arrives in time and praying it’s less crowded. A little girl walks up to me with a bunch of bright yellow flowers, some petals of the flowers are faded to brownish yellow due to dust settling on them as the bus zoomed past. She asks, almost requests, then commands and nags me to buy them. While she pursues me to buy the flowers, she continues to flash her radiant smile at me. Salesmanship at its best. I realize I can’t break her heart so I buy one bright yellow flower and put it in my purse. My purse, hanging from my shoulder has a flower head poking out. She runs to her next customer while I wait for the bus. I watch a vegetable vendor walk by, calling out “Bhendi ghya, Vangi gya, taaji taaji bhaji ghya” (Buy Ladyfinger, Eggplant, buy fresh veggies). A kid runs from the building opposite the bus stop. He is running after a cricket ball that’s been hit by his friend hard enough to reach the main road. He athletically dodges the cars, rickshaws and scooters. One of our neighbors walks in my direction, the same one I waved bye as I headed to the office. She stops and chats of how crowded the buses and streets are, how her son seems to be constantly arguing these days (teenager ofcourse), how load shedding is just not fair, how the other neighbor next door fired Kamla bai (the maid) and how her next parlor appointment is due. Suddenly realizing she is running late to get to wherever she had to get to (which might be nowhere), she hurriedly leaves. I hear a kind of gunshot or maybe a fire work or is it a siren of a mill? And suddenly flock of pigeons fly in sky. Even between all the noise of cars, chattering, honks, shop keepers, kids screaming, crying, playing I hear the sound of their wings and look up. The blue sky background makes it a perfect picture which I take a moment to admire and then I look at my watch. Just like that an hour passed by.

Waiting at a red light:

Booksellers, flower sellers, balloon sellers, fruit sellers, all of them run to my car, one after another, each one has his/her sales strategy and persistence. There are those who approach with a cloth to clean the windshield, I nod to them, a serious no. Someone starts honking, everyone joins in. In the car on my right someone is playing a blaring latest Punjabi hit song, on my left in another car someone playing a blaring hip hop English one. I try to turn up the radio volume. The light turns green yet no one moves, 2 cars are stuck in the lane change kinda fight (you first or me first). The book, flower, balloon, fruit sellers gather around the cars, people start getting out of the cars and walking to watch what’s happening. There are those who are cracking jokes, those who are giving unwanted, unasked advice, those who are merely watching to kill time and those who are utterly annoyed. Some street dog tries to cross the road and someone from a Double Decker BEST bus throws left over bread at him. The dog stops to eat, no one passing by minds it. I hear a cop blow a whistle somewhere. I look at my watch and just like that an hour passed by.

Waiting at a clinic:

Me: Hello is Dr Desai in?
Front Desk+Nurse+Lab person (Same person playing multiple roles, let’s call him FDR): Chattering away on phone, totally ignoring me.
Me: Hello, Mr….Mr….sun rahe hai? Dr Desai is here or what?
FDR: Looks around as if some housefly buzzed by, picks up a file and just walks away.
Me: Well, I’ll just wait here (Sit next in line, after around 15 patients, all of whom are in pain and making weird sounds)
FDR (calling out loud): Yashodabai, Kon hai Yashodabai? Next, hai, Yashodabai.
Me: Looking around, someone runs to FDR, some man, so certainly not Yashodabai
FDR: Nahi nahi, aap nahi ja sakte (no no, you can't go first), Yashodabai is first, even if she left we have to wait for another 5 mins.
Me: (walks to the FDR) Hello I have an appointment with Dr Desai, can I go meet him now, its almost 10 mins past my appointment?
FDR: (Chewing on his mawa or pan) Kya chahiye, sab ka appointment hai, line mein baitho (What do you want? Everyone has an appointment, go sit in the waiting queue)
Me: I just want to submit these reports to him, can I leave the files and papers with someone?
FDR: Hmmmm, you can but no guarantee ok? That nurse (points at a nurse who is busy chatting with other 3 nurses) works with Dr Desai, lekin aadha time idhar udhar gossip she does (but half the time she gossips here and there) You can leave the file with her but if she gives it to someone, its gone. I can help you but I am so busy you see. I haven’t even had a cup of tea since morning.
Me: (Yeah right, you are extremely busy, I see that) I really need to get to work, and I have to get these papers to Dr Desai today. Can you help me, please?
FDR: Arey madem, please kaay? Ek cup chaha dya ki zhala. (Why you saying please madam, just give me a cup of tea and consider your work done)
Me: (Oh! Why didn’t I think of this earlier) Ok lets go to the canteen, I’ll buy you a cup of tea and batata vada too.
FDR: (Smiling happily) Ho chala…ek min…(Yeah works for me)....calls out Yashodabai….Yashodabai…(an old lady arrives)…bai kuthe hota tumhi? (Where were you?) Then FDR helps her go see the doctor and comes back in a blink.
FDR: Chala madam (Lets go)
Me: As I walk with him to the canteen, he nods and chats with several nurses, doctors, regular patients. This dude knows a lot of people I guess, quite resourceful. I buy him a cup of tea (cutting chai) and he completely refuses the batata vada. He then walks out of the room and calls someone by the name Hari.
FDR: Hari yeh baas (Hari, come sit down)

An old man in his 70’s slowly walks in the canteen and sits down, broom in one hand. FDR demands another empty glass from the waiter and pours half of tea from his cup in it. He then hands this cup to Hari. Hari smiles, his wrinkly face shining at the site of tea, wipes his sweat and thirstily sips the tea. FDR puts forth his hand for my file. I hand him the file and look at my watch and just like that an hour passed by.