Random Musings

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dahi Handi!!

I landed in Mumbai during the rains. Having lived in Bangalore all my life, I am used to heavy rains. However, rains coupled with dirt, muck, slush and hoards of people was a complete new experience. Regardless of this, one of the things that I really admired about Mumbai was their enthusiasm for celebrating various festivals. The festive season started with Rakshabandhan in August, and went on till Diwali in October or November.
During the monsoons just like the rest of the country, this city also celebrates Janmashthami. However, the highlight of this festival in Mumbai is the breaking of the famous Dahi Handi.  The breaking of the dahi handi or the pot of curd hung high up in the air is a big attraction every year in Mumbai. There are competitions arranged each year with prize money of over lakh rupees.  Troops train for months before the festival and compete fiercely to break this pot of curd hanging mid air.  However, my experience of these competitions is limited to seeing pictures in the newspaper and I have only seen the breaking of the local neighborhood handis. And what an absolutely lovely experience this is!!
We lived at Prabha Devi.  Arpita and me. Watching the local people celebrate the festival in this area was a new experience all together. Local societies have groups and they start dancing on the roads the previous night. The whole area is filled with the song “Govinda Aal Re” on Janmashthami with people dancing and celabrating. The first time I saw it, I was surprised at watching people come together and celebrate on the roads. Usually in Bangalore, people just celebrate festivals in their respective houses but here everyone was out on the roads. The music and dance started at nine and went on till twelve midnight at which time the trained troop arranged themselves in the pyramid formation to brake the dahi handi. As August is usually when the monsoons are on in Mumbai, this entire celebration happens in the rains. Arpi and I must have been the only ones wearing jackets and carrying umbrellas to avoid the rain. Everyone else, men, women and children, old and young were openly dancing in the rain with absolutely no inhibitions and having a blast. For two consecutive years, we went to watch the breaking of the Dahi Handi. But we never danced with them. Years of living in Bangalore had made us shy to dance on the roads.J  After these two years, we moved houses and I missed out on watching the festival.
Now, sitting in Gurgaon, with no trace of Janmashthami celebrations here, I realized what fun Mumbai was and how much I actually miss the vibrant city.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Quest for a New Phone

When cell phones first became affordable, I was in college doing my B’Com. It must have been around the year 2002 or 2003. Those days there were a few Nokia models which were affordable. The most popular were the Nokia 3310 and 3315 and most of us had them as our very first phones.  Heavy competition between Airtel and Hutch (the current Vodafone, was called Hutch then and used to have a nice orange logo) ensured that SMS was completely free on most basic plans. This made sure  that we used to have an absolute blast in college. We used to send each other messages sitting on the same bench. The days of writing notes to one another on pieces of paper and stealthily passing it around were long gone. We now sent an SMS to even the person sitting next to us. Of course, cell phones were banned during class hours and we had to hide them in our bags or be extremely cautious while using them. If we did get caught, which happened to me just once, we had to pay a fine of 200 bucks and write an apology letter.
Anyway, those were the simple days when phones were used to just make calls and send SMSes. Now there are umpteen things that the phone is used for. And sadly, each new feature seems to have become an absolute necessity. Internet is a must. When I was in Mumbai and used the train extensively, internet was an absolute must to keep me occupied. Even if I had to stand in an extremely crowded train, I could log on to some social networking site and amuse myself. Music and radio is the next absolute necessity. And now GPS. I need Google maps to help me find my way around the city.
Coming back to my present dilemma. My current confusion stems from whether to buy an Android phone or a Blackberry? The Android will have real cool features but it will again be a touch screen phone and I am bored of touch screen phones and the need to look at the phone even to make a call. However, the Blackberry won’t have the cool games and Aps of an Android, but it will let me chat endlessly with a nice key pad.
And my confusion continuous. Sigh! Whatever phone I chose to buy is going to be outdated as technology catches up and comes up with something new over the next six months. I really wish I could meet the guys who think of all these things. It must be so exciting to come with these new features and see them being used by millions of people.
When I got my first touch screen phone two years back, it was the coolest thing in the market.  Now it is just another outdated phone. So I guess I should not put in so much thought and just buy whatever phones takes my fancy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rants from a suburb

I had a nice comfortable set up in Mumbai. I guess I never appreciated it enough when I was there. Everything worked just fine.  There was a continuous supply of electricity courtesy Reliance, ample water supply courtesy the monsoons, and uninterrupted cooking gas, thanks to Mahangar Gas Palika which has smartly installed gas pipe lines in every house. (Aah! the pleasure of not having to call an agency and beg for a cylinder every few months)

Anyway, no point reminiscing about the past now. I just have to learn to live and manage like the rest of India, in this small town.  L
To begin with, we have smartly taken care of the water and electricity problem by paying a lot of money to stay in a DLF construction which promises us these basic amenities if we are willing to shell out the money. Maybe we should refuse to pay taxes for the time we stay in Gurgaon. The state government anyway provides nothing here and we have to pay private agencies for basic amenities. There aren’t even street lights on the road just outside my house and I live in one of the supposed better locations in Gurgaon.
Nevertheless back to my current problem. The gas connection is the only thing we are stuck with. I have been trying to get a new connection here for a month now and I have never come across such a tedious process.
First, I need to go to court and get an affidavit on stamp paper worth 20 bucks that we are new to this place and need a new gas connection. Apparently the court is at some place in Rajeev Chowk and as my luck would be, I can’t seem to find it on Google Maps. Sigh!
Once this is done, I need to have an address proof and an identity proof which has to be given at the local gas agency.  I am still wondering how someone who has just come into the city can have an address proof. Am I expected to buy a house and get it registered in my name to show them proof every time I move cities?
Moving on, once I can manage to get these documents I have to apply for a new connection at the local gas agency. Apparently there is a waiting time of 4-6 months because the agency does not have cylinders right now!!! I was stunned. How can we have a short supply of cylinders? How are people expected to cook without LPG?
I know I ought to stop ranting now and find a solution. My existing cylinder (courtesy my Sister in Law who gave me one before I got here) will get over in no time and I need to find some way to keep the stove burning… Sigh!! Any suggestions or solutions to this problem are always welcome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chick Lit!

I spent my entire growing up years reading chick lit. Like most other school girls I started with Sweet Valley Kids and then moved on to Sweet Valley High and whatever else was part of the series. We were allowed to pick one book ever week at the school library and I always managed to get the librarian to allot me an extra book. So, two of these books a week made my growing up years. I guess once I reached high school, or moved out of school I started reading Mills and Boons. (Can’t seem to remember when L) It was the ultimate experience to read a Mills and Boon ,flicked from my mother who always hid it under her mattress. (Did she really think no one guessed she kept them there?)  My folks never had a problem with what I read, but it was always an added pleasure to wait for them to fall asleep and then read the book in my room.
With time I got a library membership and realized that there was a world of chick lit out there waiting to be read. We had a membership at a library called Eloor near Safina Plaza. Am sure anyone who grew up in Bangalore will know of the place. They used to close for lunch at 1:30 P.M. and I used to rush there when we broke for lunch at 1:00 P.M from college.  Now when I think back, I must have read at least a book a day. J Chick Lit, historic romance, mills and boon, the list was endless.
I had moved to Mumbai at the same time Mills and Boon started selling at road side paper walas. Imagine my glee when I could get hold of a Mills and Boon just about anywhere for just 100 bucks. I think I must have spent my first year in Mumbai curled up in my small apartment reading them all the time.
I still read chick lit. But off late the books seem to be becoming really predictable and boring. I can’t stand a Mills and Boon for more than half hour. It is real sad because I spent so much of my growing up years reading them.
Random House has tried to come out with an Indian version of the Mills and Boon which is quite frankly not that appealing, I think I must be the only one to have bought and read all five of them. (I even forced my friend Neha to read them and I must get her to review one of them. Here’s a link to her blog if she ever does review them.  http://nehasbookshelf.blogspot.com/)
There is another series of Indian Romantic fiction being published by some Chennai based publisher. But they are not too great either.
Off late there appears to be a whole lot of books being written by Indian authors targeting the metro audience. But sadly, even this does not seem to hold my attention for long. They all seem to have the same theme: Small town girl, who has moved to Mumbai after an MBA from a prestigious college, who’s looking to avoid the arranged marriage market and is in search of true love!! Sigh!! Wish authors would come up with more scenarios. After all, there are people like me waiting to buy them and read.
There are so many other genres of books that I do read, but nothing gives me the comfort that Chick Lit does. Hope someone comes out with a real nice book soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Animal Attack!!

It has been a long time since I updated my blog. I keep making these resolutions about writing at least once a week, but for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to be happen.
Anyway, I am making an effort now. At least this one post J
Last Friday was like any typical Friday. I had a deliverable and was frantically trying to finish work, and simultaneously make plans for the weekend. (No point making plans here given that I hardly know anyone. Oh Mumbai! How I miss youL)
I love Fridays. It is such a lovely feeling to know that there are just nine more hours of work left and two whole days of doing nothing after that. Anyway this Friday, I was outside my office, walking in the parking lot, talking on the phone as I do every day, when a crow swooped down and hit me hard on the head. Before I could react, the crow was back once again and attacked my colleague who was also walking and talking J
And this set the pattern for the day. Any of us who took a break and went upstairs for a short walk was attacked by the crow. Apparently, the crow had just laid eggs in a very pretty nest really high up in the tree and was being overly protective and wouldn’t allow any of us to walk under the tree!! As luck would be, my car was parked right under the nest and I had to wait till it got real dark to leave for the day L
Anyway, I assumed that this was to be my only interaction with animals but was sadly mistaken.
On Saturday morning, I was happily lounging on my sofa reading the paper, when H called me to the kitchen. There was a monkey in my kitchen. It had actually opened my fridge, taken a mango, neatly removed the skin, left it on my kitchen floor and was blissfully eating the fruit!! When H tried to shoo it away, it got aggressive and tried attacking him. What a nightmare!!  We finally got it out of the kitchen and closed all the windows. After that we the spent the weekend being prisoners in our own house cause every time we opened any windows even slightly, the monkey was back.
As I write this blog, I just realized that I can’t remember if I shut the windows today. Let’s just hope I have and there are no more interactions with crows, monkeys and god knows what other animal.
Hopefully, I’ll be back soon