Archive for March, 2005


March 26th, 2005

24 March 2005


A mixed day today.


I went to the Cricket Club of India (CCI) today, with classmates. Adi is a member there. His friend Daraius tells me that he hates going to CCI because he is not allowed to enter the club in his shorts. It’s a rule that you must wear full pants in CCI. “It’s a British rule. I hate it. Hence I decided not to settle in the UK and chose America instead. In the US, no one cares about all this. You can be yourself. No problem,” Daraius tells me.


Inside CCI, the atmosphere is clearly Brit. Club, butlers, families dining prim and proper – it looked a bit surreal. My mind went back to the scene that I have frequently encountered at Nariman Point – a group of old Parsi ladies and gentlemen putting up their adda on the promenade, a little away from the entry of Hilton Hotel. It takes me back to the times of old Bombay which was shaped by the Europe-returned-Parsis. This adda of old Parsis is very ‘sophisticated’ and their space seems to be reserved. I am not sure about the dynamics of their presence on the promenade and one of my assignments next week is to watch this group – how it emerges, how it gathers, how it disperses and what their presence does to the space and the publicness of the promenade.


In the evening, I was returning via VT Station. I saw two drug addicts in a corner in the ticket area. They were feeding a cat with a cup full of milk. And they were watching the cat drink it. This relationship between animals and the people resident at VT is intriguing to me. It’s both warm and at the same time raises questions in my head. Once, in December, I had noticed how an urchin right outside the entrance of VT station, had clothed a dog with a sweater. The dog was being made to feel warm in the Mumbai chills (!). And I find animals respond to the people. There is an interesting relationship and a different kind of dynamics of space is produced with this relationship. Last year, around this time, when I was researching on water systems in slums, I would commonly come across individual slum dwellings where people had at least one pet – either a dog, or a cat or a bird. And it used to strike me that here there is extremely squashed space and yet, the animal is included and made part of the space. The animal in fact, has a very, very special space. What is this relationship? What makes the railway station dwellers, street dwellers and slum dwellers want to have this relationship with animals? What is the importance of the animals in their lives?


In the evening, I came back home and checked my blog and I saw responses to my postings. And I thought about my own role as a researcher. What kind of violence do I do as a researcher? I am already trying to investigate into the kind of violations of privacy and space that I do with my presence and note-taking on Nariman Point? Am I equivalent to the security guards or the surveillance machines?

These days, attending seminars and conferences is trauma for me. I hate them and find the same people everywhere (and wonder whether I get cynical when I sit inside the air-conditioned rooms and eat the continental food and intellectualize!). I think knowledge is also a source of power. To know means to put me in a ‘higher up’ position, to put me in a ‘controlling position’. Shuddha says it is important to be aware of this constantly. As a researcher, I have to as much look inside, inwards as I look outside, outwards. There are times when I take blind positions because I don’t know everything. And it is my earnest desire as an individual to enter through different thought/action/practice points and understand.

And there are times when I ask myself this question ‘Is research a profession for me?’ To be honest, it has become a way of life for me. Work and living are not separate. Many of my so-called ‘research subjects’ are actually friends, people in whom I have a genuine interest. And that’s another question which I ask myself repeatedly, ‘how much do I venture into people’s lives?’ Do I have to maintain distances as a researcher? If I maintain distances, am I hypocritical? Do I become academic? (I don’t want to be academic!!!)

For now, the greatest source of joy is knowing different stories and interpreting life from different lenses. Maybe I will survive ….



March 24th, 2005

24 March 2005


This morning, I entered the police station to meet my acquaintance Mr. Takalkar. I wanted to inquire the rules and regulations governing public spaces in Mumbai. When I tell him what I want, he smiles and says, “Hmmm, we are again going back to our seven fundamental rights which includes the right to property. I remember our teacher of the human rights programme in the university saying ‘if you are not standing in your private place, you are in public space!’ Everybody should have access to public space.”


Right now thoughts in my mind :

ü       What is private place?

ü       What does the notion of private citizen?

ü       In the emerging urban, public space is increasingly being made private e.g. residents of A, B, C and D roads at Churchgate claiming that the roads and streets are their private property!


In the evening, at Nariman Point …


I am walking past the Nariman Point / Marine Drive promenade. The tetrapods are in the sea now. Work is ‘progressing’ as you find the crane moving further and further. People appear to enjoy their time here irrespective of the condition of the promenade.


Right now thought in my mind :

ü       Why?


I walk past slowly and start noting.


·         Blank space

·         Three girls sitting

·         Blank space

·         One couple with some blank space between them

·         Little blank space

·         A woman sitting contemplatively

·         Lots of blank space

·         A man sitting facing the sea

·         Blank space

·         Two men sitting and chatting eagerly

·         Blank space

·         Four boys sitting and chatting

·         Little blank space

·         A man and woman sitting close to each other

·         Blank space

·         Blank space

·         Blank space


I settle down in a place which is slightly diagonally opposite the Sony World showroom. There is a space where pigeons abound and a man makes his living by selling pigeon feed. People buy the feed for him for various reasons. Some for religious reasons, some for spiritual reasons (both aimed at feeding the pigeons for self-contentment) or buying the feed for their children or grandchildren to throw at the birds. Children love pigeons. And it’s a great sight watch children play with the pigeons. A different kind of space is created when you watch the kids play with the pigeons or when children run all over the promenade.


Just as I have settled down, my classmate, architect Farrukh Hyderbadwala appears and smiles at me. I cannot believe this. Everytime, everyday, I am meeting at least two people I know in the city. I wonder about my own visibility in the area which is now my ‘field’.


I start to make notes about who is sitting to my left and right and who is walking before me (since I facing with my back to the sea).


·         Before Me – one man walking by merrily and in a jolly manner, looking at me briefly and going along

·         To My Left – blank space – a man in coloured checked shirt, facing the other way

·         To My Right – blank space – a couple

·         Before me – reduced blank space – two TOPS security guards walking by easily

( Question in my mind – what does this promenade as a public space mean to these security guards? Aren’t they also enjoying themselves?)


·         In Front of Me – blank space – a hefty man in Pathani suit walking pensively, looking to the ground

·         In Front of Me – a group of men walking by and wondering what I am writing

·         Diagonally Opposite on My Left – Two old men, one child and lots of pigeons

·         To My Left – increased blank space – a girl in burkha with a man and two children

·         Before Me – reduced blank space – two girls jogging, one of them is fat and the other is okay-okay. Both are walking fast-fast with their walkman sets and ear phones plugged in their ears and they are chatting with each other

·         Before Me – lots of blank space – Special Number 8 bus goes by

·         Diagonally Opposite to My Right Side – an elderly woman dressed in the Maharashtrian kashta nine-yard saree walking slowly and parallel to her, closely, is a middle-aged housewife in a saree and sports shoes walking very fast. I imagine what relationship they could have and immediately to my mind is the relationship of a mistress and maidservant. Middle-aged housewife soon overtakes elderly Maharashtrian woman

·         Before Me – lesser space – a middle-aged man with a newspaper in hand walking slowly

·         Slightly Diagonally Opposite Me: an old man, an old woman and a girl who looks like their granddaughter and she has a camera in her hand – lots of blank space

·         Slightly Diagonally Opposite on My Right – reducing blank space – a mother and daughter walking slowly

·         To My Right – increased blank space – a youngish man, restless

·         Before Me – lots of blank space – a girl dressed in lemon green clothes with an embroidered bag, walking on the edges of the promenade, as if lost in another world

·         Before Me – very reduced blank space – a burkha clad woman with a man and three girls dressed in bright colourful clothes, carrying similar silver wallet bags

·         To My Right – slightly, very slightly reduced blank space – three girls have come and sat by, facing the sea. They have taken off their shoes and are completely relaxed.

·         A young man comes walking by my right side, loosely stretching out his hands and separating his fingers

·         A dog, let off his leash and its owner dressed in sexy tight shorts, walking with another girl. This woman is now familiar to me. I see her everytime I am at the promenade

·         Reduced Space – two girls walking and talking

·         A hawker passes by – thought and question in my mind – “hawkers walk very close to the promenade wall, very closely by the people sitting on them. Do people feel that their space/privacy is violated/encroached with the hawkers passing by them so closely?”

·         To My Left – same amount of blank space – two male friends sitting facing the sea, one explaining the city to the other.

·         Question in My Mind – “Is Nariman Point / Marine Drive then a reference point to the rest of the city?”

·         To My Left – reduced blank space – two old men, dressed in white kurta-pyjamas, tired, relaxing, thinking deeply

·         One Sardar couple walking closely to each other – little to none blank space between them

·         A hawker selling tea-coffee, passing by slowly, makes crackling noise with the plastic cup to draw my attention to the wares he is selling

·         One funky chic, dressed in tight red three-quarter pants, walking in a cool, forward and hip-swinging manner

·         Thought in My Mind – perhaps it is the friends/neighnours from the same building who jog/walk with each other. Building identity is very strong in the Churchgate/Cuffe Parade area. People of the same ‘class’ walk/jog with each other. What kind of a neighbourhood is Churchgate/Marine Drive/Colaba then? Closed, in-group?

·         Crossing My Path – One slightly balding man, two young girls, and one school-going age boy

·         Diagonally Opposite to My Left – reduced number of pigeons, lots of grain spread around

·         Thought in My Mind – people cross each other’s paths, sometimes very, very closely, but no one’s sense of space is violated!!! Does this happen in an open public space? Is this what is ‘supposed’ to happen?

·         Question in My Mind – Was the promenade consciously created as a public space?

·         Question in My Mind – Are public spaces consciously created?

·         Question in My Mind – Are public spaces unconsciously created?

·         Question in My Mind – Who created public spaces? Planners? Architects? Government? State? Citizens? Residents? Outsiders?

·         Question in My Mind – Is the sea a natural public space in a city?

·         The Sun has Set – returning joggers / walkers; emerging hawkers …

·         One returning jogger meets an elderly couple and chats with them for a while

·         Question in My Mind – is it that only known people meet each other in a vast public space?

·         Question in My Mind – do unknown people meet each other in a vast public space? How? What is / are the anchor/s?

·         Space is gradually getting crowded

·         A young man passes very closely to me and eyes into what I am writing. My sense of privacy is violated for those few moments and I feel angry

·         Question in My Mind – am I violating people’s anonymity and privacy when I note them in my field notes?

·         One old woman and one young girl greet each other as both cross paths while walking in opposite directions

·         To My Right – reduced blank space, in quantity, but relatively still the same – an old man with thick eyebrows, black track suit, and a fancy child’s ball in his hands, comes and sits down to relax and catch some breath

·         To My Right – Old man is soon joined with his wife and granddaughter – space is not reduced. Granddaughter is arguing lovingly with her grandfather that this space is not Nariman Point and that Nariman Point starts ahead with the onset of the Air India Building

·         Four boys to men – coming from somewhere to be at the promenade and maybe will go somewhere from here

·         Question in My Mind – are there public spaces in world which are not consciously used as spaces for leisure and relaxation, but as spaces which people access in order to get from somewhere to somewhere?

·         Thought in My Mind – Nariman Point / Marine Drive / Churchgate is a mixed use area with commercial, residential and educational institutions and hence is frequented more when compared with Worli Sea Face / Bandstand / Carter Road promenades which are strictly residential.

·         Question in My Mind – the exteriority and centrality of Nariman Point / Marine Drive / Churchgate make it a frequently accessed and lively promenade


I get up and start walking towards ‘Nariman Point’. I have plugged ear phones in my ears and am listening to radio.


I notice that I walk on the left when I am walking towards the Point and to my right when I am returning back. That appears to be the pattern among a section of the population.


There are lots of couples kissing each other facing the sea. Why would they want to express such private emotions in a public space? What is their sense of space? What are their notions of publicity and privacy?


I am walking back towards Churchgate now. The music is rolling in my ears. Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice. It is my classmate Adi and his friend Daraius. My god! I meet apnawalas in a public space – again!!!



March 24th, 2005

15 th March 2005


This morning, I began to look out of my house window. It’s a great space. The window is vital for my sanity. I enjoy watching how people walk, what kinds of people walk the path, how they walk at the edges, in the center and in various horizontal, vertical and diagonal ways.

This morning, there are some pigeons assembled at the square. Two white kids come running from somewhere and have fun with the pigeons. I conclude that kids and pigeons share a universal relationship in an open space (going back to my observations at the Marine Drive / Nariman Point promenade and also Gateway of India).


I am getting ready for an appointment with Patrice. He is going to brief me on the conference and the notion of “creative cities” prevailing in Europe and the UK.


In the Supermarket


I needed to buy the tram strip-card which works out cheap if I have to frequently travel in the tram.

The cost of a single tram ticket is one euro sixty cents.

The cost of a strip-card is six euros and fifty cents for seven and a half trips.

Seven and a half trips could be converted to fifteen trips as well if I travel in one zone and return back in two hours.

I enter the supermarket.

There is a fat, grumpy woman at the counter.

I ask her for a strip-card and she mumbles something.

I angrily ask her if she understands English.

She responds even more angrily “Yes, there!”

She directs me to the machine which I need to operate to get the strip-card.

I try to follow the instructions.

I fold a ten euro note in Indian style and try to push it into the machine.

Patrice shouts, “Oh no, oh no! What are you doing girl?”

He takes the note from my hand.

He takes charge of the machine and its operations.

To get strip-card, we need to punch number 46 in the machine.

Patrice starts to punch.

Number 4 don’t work.

He tries number 4 again.

Number 4 don’t work.

“I hate machines,” he mutters under his breath.

He is agitated.

He pushes number 5 instead of 4.

Out comes a pack of 12 condoms priced at five euros eighty cents.

I am almost to tears with the thought of having to buy condoms worth four hundred rupees.

“Oh my god! Look at these machines. Now you can be happy with 12 condoms,” screams Patrice.

He takes the packet from my hand and rushes to the counter.

He starts shouting at the woman in a dramatic manner.

Fat, grumpy old woman gives back the amount which I have paid for the condoms.

She rushes and comes to the machine.

She snatches some money angrily from my hands.

She works the machine.

She punches number 46 in the machine.

Out comes the strip-card.

She stares at me, as if saying, “That’s how easy it can be!”

Patrice paces up and down outside the supermarket.

“I hate machines, I hate machines!” he announces again.



March 23rd, 2005

23 March 2005


I did not do fieldwork today. I am still jetlagged from Amsterdam. The only interesting thing I noticed while traveling today was a poster by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) on one of the pillars supporting the JJ-VT flyovers. The poster says “You cannot tamper with the MSRDC property by sticking posters on it!” I am shocked. How can the state claim ownership to property? Where are the spaces for expression and protest in a city? Can state own property? Isn’t the state only a guardian of public property?



March 23rd, 2005

14 th March 2005


I meet Patrice today. All along, our conversations have been on email. Now we meet in person. “I could die in my apartment and no one in the building would even know that,” I tell him after a while. “Hmmm,” he nods, “that’s true. It is the North European-North American way of living life – individualistic.” I tell him how I am attempting to make sense (or non-sense) of the other inhabitants in the building through my imaginations!


Patrice and me walk around the city a bit and then we go to his friend’s house. As I walk up the building where his friend lives, I watch for signs on doors to understand the people living in this building. On one of the doors is a silver elephant and I wonder whether this is the house of a Surinamese Hindoostani. But I could be wrong – for all I know, the inhabitants of this may be interested in collecting kitsch and artifacts.


Caroline, Patrice’s friend, house is on the top floor. Guess what! the doors of her house are open and I exclaim this to her. “Oh yeah,” she says, “there is nothing to steal from my house!” Caroline lives in an ethnic Jewish neighbourhood which was a hotbed during World   War II. Patrice informs me that he too lives in an ethnic neighbourhood and he greets everyone in his building.


I think about doors. Closed doors lead me to imagine about people living behind them. Do closed doors enable the processes of otherization? What would happen if doors were open? Would I tread them, enter ‘em?


Patrice invites me to his house!

This evening, I have a dinner invitation to Patrice’s house. He provides me directions and tells me to take Tram number 17 and get off at Peter Jan Hierstraat station. “If you tell the conductor, he/she would tell you when to get off. In any case, the name will appear on the electronic screen inside the tram.” Confidently, I take off in the evening. I tell the conductor to let me know when the stop arrives – very Mumbai habit! “But the name of the stop will appear on the screen any which way. You watch out,” she says to me. “Okay,” I respond and precariously watch the screen.


Suddenly, at some stop, the conductor shouts, “Peter Jan Hierstraat, Peter Jan Hierstraat, Peter Jan Hierstraat” and she is looking at me excitedly. I am trifle surprised because the name has not appeared on the electronic screen. I walk up to the conductor and she beams, “I remembered, I remembered, Peter Jan Hierstraat, I remembered.” “Are you sure,” I query. “Yes, you get off here,” she says and I offload myself.


Now, as is characteristic of me, I never attempt to read maps. In the morning, Patrice had told me that if I have to ask directions with people, I have to approach them carefully so that they don’t think that I after them, or their money or that I am not asking something from them. I carelessly go to the first two old men who come across my way and ask them. They look around here and there and then look at the map. “Sorry,” they tell me. I go ahead. Next, I ask a fat woman in a car. She shows me the way. Then I go that way but I am not certain whether this is the right way. As I am walking past a building, I notice someone coming out of it. It is a black guy who somehow realizes that I have lost my way. He tells me to cross the bridge and take the first left. I tell him that he may be mistaken. “Oh no, that’s the way to Peter Jan Hierstraat. I am telling you.” I try trusting him and go that way. It turns out to be the place. But now I need to find the right street.

Again I start to look here and there. I notice a man who looks somewhat Indian and ask him. “ Aap kahan se ho? (Where are you from?),” he asks. I tell him I am from Bombay. He starts to show me the way. I am curious whether he is also from Bombay. “Where are you from?” I ask him. “Karachi,” he responds to me. “I have been living here since twenty years. I drive a taxi here.” We reach the street. I tell him that I will find the house from here because I have the house number. “That’s okay, I will drop you,” he tells me. I think that South Asians will always be South Asians. “I want to go back, back to Karachi. I remember my mulk a lot. Tired of living here now. Friends have no time. They have kids and are busy with their domestic lives. At least you have time to socialize back home. Here you work all day and in the evening, you back home. At home, you have the TV for respite. That’s what my family does all day. Watch TV, TV and more TV.” I listen to him carefully. “Why are you here?” he asks me. I tell him the purpose of my visit is to attend a conference. “You have come all alone?” he asks a bit surprised. “Yes,” I tell him. “You must be having family or friends here?” he asks again. “No one,” I tell him, “except for work people.”

We arrive at the door of Patrice’s building. The Pakistani tells me, “Okay, here you go. I’ll give you mobile number, in case you need anything.” I ask him what his name is. “Aymen,” he responds, “What’s yours?” I tell him mine. “Oh, Muslim!” he exclaims.


Hmmm … apnawalas in a foreign land!


This was my first meeting with Aymen, first in the few more days to come. Hmmm … South Asians will always be South Asians!!!



March 22nd, 2005

22 March 2005


This evening, I started walking once again. It feels bliss to be back in Mumbai. A sense of serenity prevails me as the train enters Victoria Terminus (VT) Railway Station. In Amsterdam, I was largely accustomed to the workings and the everyday of Central Station. As the train hits VT, I feel that cities across the world speak a fundamental language, something which I am to discover further.


I watch Sushanti, the home guard I had spoken to, patrolling on the station. I want to shout out to her but am in a rush to make an appointment. Hmmm, a practitioner and a researcher …


Right outside VT, there is a bench on which four Railway Protection Force (RPF) cops were sitting and sipping tea. I thought they were enforcing the rule of “no hawkers within 150 meters of the railway station”. But no, they were only sipping tea and the hawkers were doing their own thing. Arjun bhai, with the photo of Durga hung prominently on his dhanda space, was frenetically selling socks to the city. I lost him in the flurry of the crowds.


Just a few furlongs down, there were absolutely no hawkers. I think the global illegal market of VT Station has a dance the rhythms of which I need to bust definitely, sometime soon! Need to be at the station all day on day!


I hit the Marine Drive promenade. These are the days of heat in the city … oops! I mean summer days are here again (the city is always in heat!). There are few people on the promenade at 5:00 PM in the evening. I walk past to do another appointment. The crane throwing rocks and boulders in the sea has now moved further up. I see it as an eye sore at the promenade, a symbol of bureaucracy, but for the publics at the promenade, it is a source of urban spectacle and government at work.


A few hours down the line, I return back to the promenade. This evening, my experiment at the promenade involves plugging my earphones in my ear, listening to radio and walking up and down the promenade. I walk around, looking here and there. I cannot hear people speak, only loud laughs are audible. I am noting the emotions and sentiments which are expressed on the promenade:


ü       Contemplation

ü       Friendship

ü       Intimacy

ü       Love

ü       Desire

ü       Desires

ü       Aspiration

ü       Aspirations

ü       Dreams

ü       Isolation

ü       Reflection

ü       Laughter

ü       Groupism

ü       Companionship

ü       Marriage

ü       Parenthood

ü       Love for one’s child

ü       Depression

ü       Expression

ü       Solitude

ü       Bad Marriage

ü       Sad Marriage

ü       Middle-age Marriage

ü       Middle-age crisis

ü       Tourist excitement

ü       Family Photo sentiments


My question for today: what kind of a public space is Marine Drive / Nariman Point? What is the individual vis-à-vis a public space and does this role differ with different public spaces?




March 22nd, 2005

14 th March 2005


I am looking outside the window of my apartment. The window overlooks the square of the Nieu Markt. There is no TV in my apartment. There are no newspapers. The apartment perhaps derives its character from me – from my imaginations, desires, fears and articulations.


I am watching the people walk paths on the Nieu Markt square. There are:

ü       Chinese youngsters

ü       Old Chinese men and women

ü       Groups of boys

ü       Biking girls

ü       Shivering college going young people

ü       Coat clad women heading towards office

ü       Some Oriental tourists clicking pictures of each other


Constantly, people are crossing paths – a Chinese crosses paths with a white man or woman; a white young man crossing paths with a white young man; a white old woman crossing paths with a white young woman. As people cross paths, I wonder whether the square is simply a functional space. Strangers cross paths in a city but what is it that makes them talk and enter each other’s lives even if this is entry is momentary.


As I watch the peoples, I start to think that this is a small city and since there are few people in it, do the same people meet each other everyday? Do people know each other by face? My email pal, Patrice Riemens, later informs me that meeting the same people in the streets is a rarity and if that happens, it is a matter of great surprise. I meet Geert a few days down the line and he tells me that Amsterdam is a very dense city but people do not realize the density because there are few persons walking on the streets. “So where are the rest of the people?” I ask Geert curiously. He points out to the houses and says, “Inside ‘em!” Hmmm …


Concluding this part of the day with a newspaper column which I have read in the Amsterdam Weekly. The column is titled “Portable City” and the article for today is “The First Breakdancer”.


I sit in the tram, looking at the tourists shoving their way past the gables on the Damrak. I imagine that Amsterdam looks like a big city to them – that, despite the bikes and the cuddly canals, this city creates the impression of being a metropolis.

That big-city feeling has less to do with the size of a city than with its spirit of place. Aren’t there hundreds of much larger cities that are more boring than most villages in the countryside?

A real city consists of conjectures about people, clubs and restaurants that you don’t yet know. A big city is anonymous, which gives its inhabitants opportunities to take distance from themselves.

But if – like me – you grew up in Amsterdam, the illusion of being in a big city is continually being dispelled.

It’s because of the people: there aren’t just enough of them. I’m always running into people whose faces I know. Sometimes they greet me with a brief nod and sometimes they quickly look away. Some of the faces belong to people I know from school, or university. Other, more recent faces are those of people I know from restaurants, cafes or parties. All of them have a story of some kind that I remember.

Take the driver of the tram I’m sitting in now. In the early 1980’s he was the city’s first breakdancer. I’d see him in the middle of the Leidseplein, dancing to the pumping hip-hop beats coming from his ghetto blaster.

That’s the good thing about recognizing faces. But what disturbs me about so many faces I know is that they’re changing. Sometimes I’ll see someone who I’ve seen around the city all my life whose face has got fuller and who’s proudly pushing a pram. When I go out I see the same faces everywhere, but now they’ve become harder or fatter. For this reason alone I’d sometimes really prefer to be living in a bigger city; at least I wouldn’t have to see myself growing older.

What, by the way, could I ever do with all the people I know? How many people does one really need: 30, eight? Maybe only one?

The tram comes to a halt at Leidseplein. I get out and walk in front of the tram. I look up and see the first breakdancer of Amsterdam. He’s wearing a blue uniform, and he makes sure to rung the tram’s bell before driving on.



March 22nd, 2005

My Apartment – An Essay


My apartment is on the fourth floor.

It has one bedroom, one bathroom, a passage-way and a living room.

The kitchen is an isolated corner in the living room.

There is a large window in the living room.

From the window, I can see the Nieu Markt square and everyone walking on the street, trying to get from somewhere to somewhere.

There is an attic like bedroom on top of the living room.

The floors are wooden.

The windows are thin.

I can hear all the voices/noises from the streets.

I don’t know my neighbours.

I imagine about my neighbours. (My imagination for today is that my next door neighbours are Japanese and the one living on the floor below is a maniac killer who freezes people’s brains in the refrigerator freezer and then eats them up.)

I like my apartment.







March 22nd, 2005

13 th March 2005


I am rushing to claim my baggage.

I am confused because I am not sure if I am at the right place to collect my baggage.

The confused Indian in the business class is there.

I ask him, “Is this where luggage for flight 4672 will arrive?”

“Yes,” he replies. “Where did you board your flight from?”

“From Mumbai,” I answer.

“That means we were on the same flight all along and we did not interact!!!” he exclaims surprised.

I smile.

“This is my business card. My Bombay mobile is functional here. Do give a call if you need anything. We must meet in Mumbai,” he says courteously.

Wishes are horses … hobby horses … urban researchers can ride!

(I am condemned to a life of eternal research!!!)


Paul and me take a train from the airport and proceed to the city. Glass and steel buildings line up the ‘edge city’. Then, as the train enters the city, there are traditional buildings. That’s the specialty of Amsterdam I am told.


We are passing China Town which leads the way to my apartment. It seems China Towns exist all over the world. Then may be it is true that one in every five persons is Chinese.


We enter my apartment building.

It is quiet, dark and silent inside.

There is no noise at all.

How do I make out who the other residents in the building are?

For now, the only cue I have is about the residents of the flat next door. There are two pairs of shoes outside. If I ever encounter these shoes in the city streets, I would know that ‘maybe’ this stranger is actually my next-door neighbour. But I see the shoes everyday and simultaneously forget about them when I am out in the streets.





March 22nd, 2005


13 th March 2005


I board flight 4672 bound from Frankfurt to Schipol. There is a confused Indian in the business class section. He is looking around here and there. I want to talk to him because he seems like an interesting person to talk to. But I don’t have a seat in here. Can’t be illegal on business class, can I?


I take my seat in the aircraft. Next to me is an IT worker from Chennai. He has a bright orange tilak on his forehead. I ask him if this is his first trip abroad. “Yes,” he nods and tells me how he was checked thoroughly for thirty full minutes at Frankfurt airport because he had a post-dated invitation letter and everything went wrong for him in terms of his sponsor’s phone number suddenly not existing and his mail box overfull with mails. Somehow, our IT worker passed this test as well. Gawd’s grace I say!