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Archive for November, 2005

10-Nov-2005

November 10th, 2005

Tonight I am eating dinner with TC. As I was making plans for the evening, mom started saying:

 

Are you eating dinner with him tonight? Now what is the deal? I thought it was over with him (as in the walks are over, now why do you need to deal with him).

I need to finish some business with him,

 

Tonight, I was going to hand over the fee collections from the Urban Buffet Walks so that the money could be used for his Nagpada basketball court. We decided to eat at the Chinese restaurant at Minara Masjid, Mohammed Ali Road .

 

I passed through Pydhonie to get to Mohammed Ali Road . These were the same streets we had walked through during Ramzaan. But the streets were closing down for night’s rest at 10:30 PM. And come to think of it, some days ago, these were the same streets which were open and vibrant all night and the press talked and lauded these areas as the culture of Mumbai.

 

The Minara Masjid area showed some remains of a festive season passed by. The street was less crammed, yet food was the activity. I noticed Suleimaan Usmaan which was advertising Kashmiri Honey on sale and my mind went back to that Saturday night of 29 th October when blasts rocked Delhi and the turbulence after shocks were felt in Mumbai with relatives and well wishers calling participants of the Urban Buffet walk – beta, are you sure you want to go there? Be careful. These could just be the areas which may be blasted next.

 

[Aren’t cities wired together by mediated (literally) images in this age of Aaj Tak, NDTV, STAR News, Zee and all those satellite dishes?]

 

I sat at the Chinese restaurant waiting for TC to show up. TC is now a common subject for talking to people. My folks at home now know him as an entity and yet, they have their own imaginations and assumptions about him. Dad tells me – what do you think he is going to eat in a Chinese restaurant? He will ask for bheja fry and kaleji – as if implying that TC cannot have tastes which my sophisticated parents have.

 

He came on his scooter. He was wearing his usual sports cap, jeans and shirt and sports shoes. This was in complete contrast to his looks in the month of Ramzaan where he would wear a pure white kurta and pyjama, accompanied by the skull cap.

 

We sat in the restaurant and after ordering food, we began talking:

 

You are back to your regular appearance now?

Yes, yes! Oh yes! I have to be Muslim at least for one month. This malaria struck me on the 26 th fast, but I did not leave my fasts (suggesting to me that I should have also observed all the 30 fasts.)

But you did not do duty in this month.

I had a leave for the first 18 days. Thereafter I had to do duty. But I had told my colleagues that bhai, it is difficult to stand on two feet in the last few fasts, I can’t get into the magachmari of fighting with passengers and levying fines. They (seniors) also respect fasting. So they understood what I was saying.

Hmmm.

So how are the people who came on the walks?

They are all fine. Each one of them enjoyed the experience.

I was a bit nervous.

Bit? Very nervous!

Yes, very nervous. I could not understand what to do with 18 people at one time.

Everything went off well.

Yes! I now want to go out with this group of yours.

Hmmm.

 

TC is obviously excited. He enjoyed the experience himself and perhaps there is some kind of class upliftment he feels after the experience. I don’t know.

 

As we were eating, the conversation continued:

 

The food at this place is excellent. When my group comes here, we binge. I like this chutney (referring to the schezuan sauce).

 

He kept eating with the fork and spoon and continued:

 

I enjoy eating good food, wearing good clothes and traveling. What else does a man earn for?

Yeah! I can imagine how much you enjoy traveling. And that’s what makes you what you are!

Haha! We must explore some eating place at Bandra. I just know of places here, in our area.

 

Bandra was an interesting remark. It’s a statement of cultural aspiration and upliftment. Bandra symbolizes a global city dream – glamour, Page 3, parties, celebs! Eateries, coffee, the promenade and the works – Bandra is the sub-city within this city!

 

 

After we finished eating, he offered to drop me home on his scooter. I hopped on, sloppily. The roads were clear. He kept on talking and I kept nodding.  

 

There is no law and order in this city when it comes to traffic.

Why do you say so? Just because it is night time now and the signals are not working?

No, no! It is the same in daytime. We have to be careful while driving.

Hmmm.

You will find that at the corner of the signal at J.J. Hospital , a havaldar stands but he does nothing. I break the signal in front of his eyes. Everyday I let 20 cops pass by traveling in first class. At least I should also be able to get away without paying fines.

 

He proudly announced that he has not even once paid a fine! And I started thinking about how some negotiations/confrontations between the legal and the illegal are about canceling out each other! Hmmm …

 

Finally we reached Byculla:

Do you know that it will soon be a year now since we met?

Really? I don’t even remember the date.

Nor do I!

So let’s make happy birthday – celebrate! And all we can do then is to eat – that’s okay nah?

 

Yeah! Happy birthday to us!

xanga

9-Nov-2005

November 9th, 2005

At Marine Drive / Nariman Point today, I was walking. I noticed people walking about the promenade. Back to the cosmopolitan question, I realized that our clothes, make-up and accessories give us some kind of image (and here I am talking about a certain class) where we look similar in some respects and our identities become camouflaged. Yet I am not sure of the fact of whether our identities become unimportant because at some level, in my experiences since one year, I have found that everyone (irrespective of class), wants to know my religious affiliation.

Walking on the promenade was S. J. Kunte, the chief of MHADA. And even he was lost in the crowds. No one seemed to bother about him. No one to approach him and ask about the collapsing buildings in the city. Seems like the Marine Drive promenade is an unconscious, non-intrusive space.

xanga

9-Nov-2005

November 9th, 2005

This morning, I was in bus number 85. The crowd of this bus is completely different from the one in number 69. The crowd in 85 no. is hip and cosmopolitan. These days, G and I are asking people about their notions of cosmopolitanism and a common response we have been getting is that cosmopolitan is that space/ideology/city where identity is unknown and where religion acquires secondary identity. I found the women in the bus wearing glossy L’Oreal lipsticks and dressed in tight jeans and skirts as against the women I see in number 69. The atmosphere in the bus was quite different. Felt like back to the college days in number 134 …

 

 

 

xanga

9-Nov-2005

November 9th, 2005

(Yesterday) I was in the bus, traveling on the JJ flyover to Churchgate. There was traffic on the flyover. The bus was moving very slowly. From atop, I noticed the streets of Dongri and Minara Masjid, almost those streets which I used to walk through at the nights on Saturdays with the groups for Urban Buffet. Again it struck me that the pace of life in these localities is different from the rest of the city. People here have their own ways of living and being. To us, these ways may appear exotic and acquire the flavour of culture, something to see and admire.

I remember my own childhood in Dongri when kite flying was a pleasure. Today, watching the children play, watching people walk on the street, a sense of fear ran down my spine – what makes these areas ‘communally sensitive’? It struck me that if a riot were to happen here again, what would happen to this area? Will it be destroyed? Maybe the fear was of destruction of my home – a space which was once upon a time my home.

Maybe if riots were to happen again in Mumbai, this time they would be economic and a reaction to controls of the state.

 

 

xanga

9-Nov-2005

November 9th, 2005

(Yesterday) I was in the bus, traveling on the JJ flyover to Churchgate. There was traffic on the flyover. The bus was moving very slowly. From atop, I noticed the streets of Dongri and Minara Masjid, almost those streets which I used to walk through at the nights on Saturdays with the groups for Urban Buffet. Again it struck me that the pace of life in these localities is different from the rest of the city. People here have their own ways of living and being. To us, these ways may appear exotic and acquire the flavour of culture, something to see and admire.

I remember my own childhood in Dongri when kite flying was a pleasure. Today, watching the children play, watching people walk on the street, a sense of fear ran down my spine – what makes these areas ‘communally sensitive’? It struck me that if a riot were to happen here again, what would happen to this area? Will it be destroyed? Maybe the fear was of destruction of my home – a space which was once upon a time my home.

Maybe if riots were to happen again in Mumbai, this time they would be economic and a reaction to controls of the state.

 

 

xanga

9-Nov-2005

November 9th, 2005

(Yesterday) I stepped into number 69, these days my usual bus. A Maharashtrian girl dressed in executive clothes with the unmistakable and noticeable orange tilak on her forehead, stepped in. I had seen her on previous occasions in the bus. She has a bus group. I spontaneously asked her, this is your regular bus, isn’t it? She said yes.

I got excited on noticing the prospect that space and pace of BEST buses also affords the formation of groups though the groups may be for a shorter period of time.

Regularity seems to be an interesting feature of the city. Group formation is a product / practice of regularity. I guess our bodies are conditioned to the concept of regularity – getting into the train at the same time every single day, following the same route to office, catching the same evening train – it seems like we unconsciously practice regularity, like our bodies are programmed to a tune, to a pace. What does regularity do to our mentality and mindset? Is the framework of regularity critical to our survival in the city? Can we survive without regularity? I need to fish for stories of people who live without the framework of regularity. But before that, I need to figure out whether regularity is equal to security???

 

 

 

xanga

9-Nov-2005

November 9th, 2005

Yesterday I entered Byculla post office in the morning, at about 9 AM . I went eagerly to post books to K. I was in a hurry and was hoping to get done with the posting soon. But the post office was very sleepy then. It seemed like the individual who wakes up from his bed and starts rubbing his eyes. The pace of the post-office was slow.

 

Byculla post-office is quaint. But yesterday, when I stepped in, I noticed brand new computers in the post office. They seemed a bit vague or should I say surreal there. Somehow, the presence of the computers was a statement of pace, movement and time – the onslaught of modernity (of the global city, a concept of speed!).

 

I approached two office bearers sitting in the post-office, asking them to help me out. They called on to dada who was taking his own time to service me. He brought out the traditional cash box and put it on the desk. Then he asked me what I wanted and then went on to gradually weigh the books and give me the amount for postage.

 

I actually enjoyed the time I spent in the post-office. It reminded me that the city is not a singular entity and even today, pace has different definitions in some spaces. At least not everyone is slave to time!

 

 

 

xanga

4-Nov-2005

November 4th, 2005

I met Tara Reddy yesterday. Had gone over to her place for Eid. She is Communist. The other day, I met friends who are of the libertarian ideology. Some of my friends are people of socialist leanings.

 

Perhaps loving people is about complete acceptance of them as human beings. And complete acceptance by no means indicates that I don’t disagree with them on views and opinions or that I pretend that everything about them is very good.

 

What are relationships about?

xanga

3-Nov-2005

November 3rd, 2005

I was at Marine Drive yesterday. But this is not a post on Marine Drive .

 

There are times when I cannot write because writing has always meant a flow to me. I have to put in no effort to write because this is what comes most naturally to me to when I have to express myself. For that matter, I could have been a photographer researcher instead of a verbose researcher …

 

Last evening, sitting amidst avid bloggers (if I may call them so), I felt that writing is something which I do to please myself – it is a pleasure for me to write. I cannot have site meters on my blog because if I am writing for an audience, am I pleasing them? I cannot care …

 

These days, I find I have no stories and no people to talk to in the city, but then that is also because I am not making efforts to be out there and talk to people. I wonder what is becoming of this research? I am being paid a salary for being a researcher and I am not even sure how much I deserve to be paid to do this. For that matter, I have been paid manifold in the last one year – I now have some wonderful friends through blogging; the words which have flowed may have touched someone’s life and would have facilitated him/her to see things differently; and I don’t know what other unintended consequences may have come from here.

 

Each blog is special because we each bring to our blogs something which someone else could not have. Speaking to someone, I mentioned how I think what we do makes the activity/action special because there is something we bring to the activity/action which makes it special. Therefore, what I do these days, I put myself completely into it and that is what makes it wonderful!

 

Coming back to research, I find research has taken on new turns for me. The recent Urban Buffet walks have revealed that there are ways and forms of understanding locality and involving with it. Research is now becoming laced with different forms of engagement and actions. I have no answers to questions and I shall not pretend to have any. I don’t know. I am not obliged to provide answers. All I have are questions and more questions. And at each point, it is these questions which get me to investigate further.

 

People felt enriched through the Urban Buffet Walks and I felt enriched through their experiences of enrichment. This is exactly what this blog is about – experiences! And that is what I think makes it special. There is no academia here. Just stories, observations and experiences.

 

Last evening, I was listening to notions of good and evil. For me, these are personal definitions. Universal standards are not for me. These days, I find myself capable of loving people universally. I am more accepting of people now than I was ever before. And maybe this is happening to me because I have been able to shed layers of myself and look outside of myself, reach out beyond myself. From being involved with myself, I have come to the stage of becoming involved with the world out there. I feel young and vibrant these days because I suddenly realize there is so much beauty out there in the world, that despite bad things happening, I am not disheartened or discouraged. In fact, each day brings hope to me – that I am alive and kicking and that beauty and happiness are actually reflections of one another. If I have to think, there can be so much evil, so much ugliness and contradictions in the world that it can disable me. But with disability, how can I move on? I am becoming more focused on engagement with locality. Small things actually make a difference in a big way – emergence is all around.

 

So I can safely say that this one year of blogging has been a year of growth. It has been a year where I have been able to shed layers of myself and become a lighter individual (and of course Candida helped me to shed pounds of myself and actually become lighter!). Sometimes I feel afraid and I wonder whether there is anything beyond this. And that is when I have to remind myself that growth is never complete and that thinking of the future removes me from the present.

 

There are many dreams and aspirations which I have now – more walks across the city, understanding relationships between people, between people and locality, between citizenship and authority, between the legal and the illegal and I can promise that there is no stopping now. The other day, I was telling someone that I don’t care if I am no longer going to be paid to do research because for me, this is now lifelong engagement and I will be provided and supported by Life because in the last one year, I have experienced the magic of abundance – it is when you give and you give completely that you get back much more than what you will even imagine. That there is still love in this world, that the laws of nature operate if you let them and you submit … (I can’t say submit to what or whom because I still don’t know about god and company …)

 

Finally, something which I realized last night amidst coffee and conversations. We each face violence in our life. Sometimes it is the unintended violence which our parents and our loved ones do to us. We each have bad experiences … bitter experiences if I may say so. But through each experience that we have in life, we have two choices – we either let the experience disable us and we become victims or, through that experience, we transform ourselves and go beyond, to become a new individual … Perhaps that is what enhances our ability to love and to be loved …

 

With lots of love,

The Citybytes!

 

Dedicated to all my friends – Altaf, Rahul, Samanvay, Amit, Tripta, Patrice, Chandrahas, Yazad, Sheece, Gitika, Manish, and all of you out there!

 And especially to my wonderful parents, my mentors Shuddhabratha and Ravi and to my best friend Irfan who touched my life in a very special way and who taught me to love in all its messiness and clumsiness, in also its turbulence, violence, beauty and eternity …

 

xanga