Wednesday, February 22

Don't you remember?

Memories need no invitation. They're already inside the house of your mind, unobtrusively living in various nooks, crannies and forgotten attics. You'll run into them every now and then; depending on their personality, you'll feel sad, happy or just wistful. Today seems the kind of day that I'm going to run into songs from my past.

Making some space for myself in a crowded train compartment this morning, I suddenly thought about Nirvana's 'Come as you are', a song that took me back to college, a spring day in Pune, lunch at a friend's place in Lohegaon and Ketan's gutsy attempt to sound like Cobain. We stood around, listening to him give it his all, and none of us had the heart to say out loud that he was woefully off key. Maybe he knew it and didn't care. Who knows? Isn't the spirit of college the freedom to try? And isn't it funny that we only realise how much more we could have done after we've left?

Rushing through various nondescript assignments at work, I was feeling increasingly ragged. Outside, it was, and as I type this, still is a lovely, balmy day in Mumbai. The summer heat will be upon us in no time and its best to try and enjoy days like these. Ruminating on this, I thought back to a few days ago, when a friend had shared a link to some lovely old photos of Mumbai life. As I went through them, I saw fragments of a childhood home in Goregaon. The home is gone and Goregaon itself has changed into something else altogether from the cozy, friendly place it was 30 years ago. And just like that, a long-forgotten memory came floating in the wind.

A small living room, two sofas making an L on one side of the room, various people seated or lying on the floor, which is a lovely pink marble speckled with various other stones. It is mid-afternoon and the smell of boiling water (yes it has a smell) and filter coffee powder is wafting slowly from the kitchen. There is a child, sitting close to its mother, who is in conversation with her two brothers. The television is on and the kid, all of 3 years & a bit, is watching the song playing on the screen. I guess, if you are of a certain vintage, you'll recognise the nostalgia the boy associates with the song today, on another spring afternoon, many years later. Maybe you'll even smile and shake a leg...

Song for the moment: Yaar bina chain kaha re - OST Saaheb (1985)

Sunday, February 12

Imitation of life

Bombay makes it very easy to get sucked into the rhythm of work and the peculiar energy that permeates every nook and gutter in the city affects people in two ways.

It can, for instance, trick you into thinking that 2 hour commutes to your office are a normal thing. An ex-colleague would come from Vashi to Wadala on one train, take another from Wadala to Andheri and a third from there to Goregaon. Fighting ugly crowds all the way. His other option was to take an auto to the Vashi bus depot, and then take a 2 hour bus ride to Goregaon. He'd sometimes switch between these two hells. For variety, I suppose.

On the other hand, another bloke I know, who could be described as being a shade like the Marquis de Carabas, will refuse any job opportunity that doesn't appear between Bandra and Juhu, because he doesn't like to travel in Bombay. I see his point. Funnily enough, I see both their points of view as being reasonable.

Anyway, because of all this 'work-work-travel-travel-make money' prancing, its easy to become blind to the entertainment the city offers. Take, for instance, the Kala Ghoda Festival at Fort. There's a ton of stuff and activities on offer, across genres. Ok, so the timings suck for anyone who works, but there was stuff to see and do on the weekends too. Since I've come to Bombay, this was the 4th festival they've held. Every year since 2009, I've made plans to go and then simply didn't. Call it being busy, tired, lazy or downright disinterested. This time around too, the festival was almost over before I could chivvy myself up enough to attend at least one session. And I'm glad I did.

First off, going to South Bombay, or city proper as it were, is a visual treat, if you think Victorian Neo-Gothic and Art Deco are beautiful architectural styles. Heck, make your way past Andheri for 10 minutes and even a shabby, half-broken cuppola on one of the most decrepit of the Fort area's buildings will have you cooing in approval. So, by that standard, Horniman Circle and Asiatic Society buildings don't even have to try. They just are beautiful. Spend some time there and then head back towards the suburbs and you begin to wonder whether the words 'aesthetic sense' were quietly banished from the city. 

Yesterday, there were two open air music shows at the Asiatic Society steps. The setting was charming and the shows, by Niladri Kumar and the Raghu Dixit Project, were lovely. There was a moment when the sky was indigo, Venus was shining bright, a cool breeze wafted in and the buildings were enveloped in a golden glow. If there were no reference point, it could have been any city in the world. But since it is Bombay, instead of completely enjoying the music, I got to wondering if it made sense to hold the programme in the vicinity of a Grade A heritage building. Why? Because, there's a fair number of people I saw who lack even a jot of propriety, never mind any respect for property. Why else would people deliberately hoist themselves onto the steps from the side, anchoring their weights on the old bannisters and balustrades? All the while, admiringly cheered on by a crowd of lunatics standing nearby.

The original architect must have envisioned the construction for people, not idiots. Which is why it came as no surprise that the poor structure began to shake as wave after wave of Gen Yers (and I'm beginning to think that's a good name, since we can only ask why their parents hadn't bothered with a prophylactic during coitus) anchored themselves to the railings and climbed across. Some bright beans from the oldies category, no doubt seeing their misplaced sense of manhood threatened, followed suit. All this, 20 feet away from 3 cops, who, driven by a sense of duty and honour, proceeded to blow their police whistles, wave their arms about indignantly and volubly suggest that the miscreants engaged in incestuous behaviour.

Amidst the lovely surroundings and great music, it was a sad and stark reminder - this is Bombay. Anything goes, as long as you get what you want.

And in this thought, I see the burden this city bears.

Song for the moment - Hey Bhagwan - The Raghu Dixit Project