Monthly Archives: February 2010

Movie Talkies – Tickets for a movie

Update for week ended 26 February 2010

The milling crowds outside the cinema hall started getting fidgety. They were not sure whether to head to the little ticket window on the side or wait for some reaction before buying their tickets. They noticed that a queue had built up outside the box-office and the poster boys were busy pasting the colourful 5’ X 7’ movie adverts on the bill board by the cycle stand.  The poster looked attractive. It was not unique in any way – it was like most movie posters – colourful, with images of the hero, heroine, villain and 1 or 2 other chief characters, all arranged in a bouquet-like manner, with the largest picture being that of the hero. He looked rugged, with a 2-day old stubble and an angry frown on his face, while the heroine had the next big billing – wearing the multicolour outfit posing in a dance step. The villain’s mug was the next with a menacing grin on his face and coloured blue to distinguish him from the “good guys”. The sundry others just looked out of the poster because they were yester year heroes. There were some fillers of car chase scenes, picturesque Swiss mountains, a gold locket with an emblem and a blood dripping dagger indicating that the movie would try and meet expectation of romance (songs on mountaintops), drama and emotion (golden locket), thrill (car chase) and suspense (blood dripping dagger). But the skeptical crowd outside the movie hall was still not sure if they wanted to pay money to get into the dark hall with its malfunctioning air conditioning, insipid samosa, Indian stuffed and fried pastry, and spend the next three hours on a creaking chair. The movie had to be compelling; the poster had done half the trick, as the box-office queues got longer and rowdier. The undecided crowd finally bit the bullet and decided to walk in. They were slightly late as the initial round of slide projection silent ads had just concluded and the movie hall was being darkened. The crowds now zeroed in on the usher with his torch to guide them to their seats. Their eyes had not yet adjusted to the sudden darkness and suddenly the screen exploded with colour and sound – some of the viewers stumbled as they crossed over bent knees and crushed some feet to their seats in the middle of the row. Those seated in the rear started shouting at the late-comers for marring their screen views. There was a mini-mayhem of sorts as the theatre started filling in. The movie had started, but a few of the people missed the dialogues or visuals because they were late-comers finding their way to their seats or early seaters who yelled at the latecomers as they blocked them or knocked them or crushed their toes. And then the moment came when the built anticipation was to unfold. The hero had just escaped an assassination attempt, and mingled into a crowd in a village fair, mela, and when he headed into the darkened tent, silence enveloped him, as did the movie hall. Everyone waited with bated breath for the next – suspense was built up just right. And then the studded veil rose from a podium and the carrier, a lissome lass, hummed a tune that sent the audience into a tizzy. They whistled and cat-called and stood up and cheered. As though the movie heroine was aware of the reaction, she paused for just the right time, and then continued her ditty. She danced and pranced along, and the movie hall joined her in the dance by dancing down the aisles and some energetic folks even climbed onto the stage near the screen dancing all along. The enthralled crowd wanted more of the song, and when the hero jumped onto the podium with the heroine, the crowds knew that sparks would fly and the movie would be worth every paisa they spent! They stayed glued to their seats except in the interval and when they walked out, some of them headed back to the box office window.

This week at D Street was one of wait and watch – as an anticipated event was due to unfold on the Friday – the Union Budget. So some of the D Boyz were skeptical and stood on D Street doing nothing, while some queued up to buy tickets for the event – so on Monday if 45 bought tickets, about 48 bought tickets on Tuesday. That pushed up the SENSEX by as many points on the respective days. And then a few of the skeptics stayed away from the box-office pushing the SENSEX down 36 points on Wednesday. On Thursday, they waited with bated breath for the suspense to end so did nothing; and then when the drama, song and dialogues were reeled off today, the D Boyz whistled and cheered and took the SENSEX zooming up into its 300s, but finally after the song and dance, they settled in their seats to finally close the SENSEX 175 points up – 16429. The D Boyz are happy and have headed home to prepare for the festival of colours!!

The shut box-office window greeted the fresh viewers with a happy smiling “Houseful” board. This did not deter the crowds. They simply headed out to the nearby pan-seller, and quietly slipped a few notes into his palms – to get their tickets for the show. The houseful board will surely stay for a long time at this box-office.

Have a nice week and colourful weekend …. Cheers…


Trainer wheels

Update for week ended 19 February 2010

A cool breeze blew in from the west and the sunlight was getting weaker – as it yellowed and mellowed in the evening. It was an ideal time to be out and about engaging in outdoor activities. I had planned on going for a walk by the seaside, but a cajoling tug at my T-shirt got me to change my plan. It was my four and a half year old daughter asking me to take her down to play in the building compound. She had just brushed off her milk “moustache” and was ready to don her cycling shorts and head out. I just could not say no; so I followed her as soon as I get could into my sandals. We went down with her little badminton set and soft-ball. As we exited the building lobby, I noticed that the breeze was a little too strong for a game of shuttle and so I suggested a change in our plans. I instead offered to teach her to cycle without the support/trainer wheels. She was apprehensive and looked into my eyes pleadingly, “No Daddy! I will fall down”. It took some cajoling and commitments to finally convince her, and she agreed. I held the cycle from behind her seat and as she comfortably sat, she turned back to see that I was indeed holding onto her cycle. She needn’t have worried because she would not fall, the cycle was of the appropriate height and weight and she would have managed to break a fall if required. But the fear that the support wheels were off, put her off balance too. My re-assurances were comforting for her and she looked ahead and started cycling. Slowly to start with, and then when she saw me keep pace, walking, sometimes breaking into a run, putting a hand ahead on her handle-bar to steer it, she settled down to comfort zone and good speed. After a few rounds, I slowly noticed that she was getting the hang of balancing and I left my grip for that split second. She wobbled a bit, but was blissfully unaware that she had no support. As the riding progressed, I increased the frequency and timing of the grip release. She was doing fine, until the seventh round or so. I wanted to be vocal about her progress and told her that I would be releasing the grip for sometime. That was it; she lost all her confidence in the cycling and became so conscious at my grip hold and release that she could not concentrate on her handlebar, and she wobbled more now than at the beginning.

When the Americans hinted out loudly that they would start the process of reducing the stimulus package support, D Street and its denizens started getting wobbly. They had a hint of it yesterday, when the D Boyz pushed the SENSEX down 101 points, and this morning, they had more than a hint; so they started wobbling more, that they dropped the SENSEX down further – initially by around 120 points but later even beyond 200 points. But when the breezy news of 2 Indians winning the Gold at the Commonwealth Shooting Championship wafted into D Street, the D Boyz cheered and straightened – picking the SENSEX from its intraday low and raising it 150 points. But that did not sustain, as the US news was too loud for the D Boyz’ comfort and the SENSEX slumped a little to finally end 136 points down at 16191. Overall, this week was light and frothy as European travelers flew into Africa to rude “shocks”, and urban Mumbai tourists tried to get arty at a local festival; as busy mothers of brides-to-be went looking for the suitable boy and faithfuls returned from their worship with half a coconut. The froth did manage to add some height to the SENSEX, 40 points – but like the froth it too was light!!

The little girl has learnt to roller-skate quite confidently, and that requires good balance, so I am sure she will be able to go solo in her bicycle riding. Maybe I should be silent when guiding her cycle on the next riding sojourn.

Have a nice and safe weekend. Cheers……

Thanksgiving Offerings

Update for 18 February 2010

Many cultures in India have traditions of thanksgiving. At times they are at home, centred around the house-shrine, while many people prefer to offer their gratitude at places of worship. So if it is Tuesday, you will see serpentine queues outside temples with people carrying flower garlands, coconuts, sweetmeat boxes, incense sticks, some sugar candy and at times, a few crisp notes or shiny coins. On Wednesdays, you may see a similar line-up outside Catholic churches – as people add candles to their basket of offering, and may omit the coconut and the sweetmeats. On Thursdays, people swarm little shrines dedicated to a Saint carrying saffron head-cloths. Visitors and faithfuls heading out on Friday would be seen congregating at mausoleums with their offerings in hand – with many adding shiny, satiny green sheets. All of them would have asked for favours from an unknown, unmet force, and at times, they would return to pay obeisance when fulfilled, while others would not wait for the fulfillment, since they have immense faith in their prayers. But almost in all cases where food items are taken in as offering, like the coconuts, fruits, sweetmeats, sugar candy; the priest or conductor of the shrine or place of worship, will always take only half of it and return the other half to the faithful offeror. The faithful then does as he chooses, of either partaking morsels of it as manna from the divine, or taking all home to one’s family and friends, or even distribute it to other faithfuls who have gathered at the place of worship.

Today’s final tally at D Street, when the SENSEX fell 101 points reminded me of the Thanksgiving Offerings. The D Boyz had pushed up the SENSEX 202 points yesterday and in return, they got a 101 points down on the SENSEX today – exactly half of what they offered yesterday. Though the drop is a three digit number, it is not so significant given that it represents only a 0.62% variation, especially when the last 2 days saw an out of the usual 390 points up. Renewed hopes of the Reliable US tie-must have got the D Boyz the jitters (read yesterday’s update), while some metal sheets were pounded to earn profits. SENSEX rested today at 16328.   

Some places of worship also have traditions of returning edible favours, Prasad. The usual suspects are sugar candy, or sliced coconut, but at times variations trickle in, like sweet fried gram batter, boondi, or sweet milk solids, pedha. But most of the temples in South India only offer vermillion and ash or sandalwood; they prefer to hawk their Prasad. Curiously, temples run by South Indians elsewhere like in Mumbai, Delhi or even Singapore and Malaysia still offer Prasad to all visitors, and most of the time, these are more elaborate than the customary candy, or boondi, or pedha.


Looking for the Suitable Boy

Update for 17 February 2010

The hunt for a “suitable boy” is the most engaged activity – anywhere, I presume. But in a society that typically frowns upon “girl meet boy, fall in love”, this gathers significant importance with a slight twist in India as mothers, her sisters, her aunts, her grannies, her cousins, her grand-aunts, and every other female relative she has will drop everything down to go look for the suitable boy. The zeal and enthusiasm that is shown in such activities is at times overwhelming. Suitable Boys are invited out to family events, like the christening of a nephew’s son-in-law’s cousin’s wife’s sister’s son, where he is met very enthusiastically and almost immediately treated as family (though the Boy would be quite confused on who the wife is and which is the sister and who the son-in-law is and which cousin arranged this meeting). The over-fussing grows if the Suitable Boy is from overseas. You see, many Indians left our shores and sailed across seven seas in search of education, work and better life; so mothers of brides-to-be will polish up on their English to be able to communicate with their would-be-sons-in-law. Never mind, if the boy only went to the Arabian peninsula to work as a labourer on a construction site, and his co-workers were from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and none spoke or wrote English; and neither did the suitable boy! But if the Boys were from the Americas carrying their bisleri bottles (or baaddles of waadder), communication would get tougher – the accent is not easy to catch, leave alone some words. Mothers don’t care too much for Suitable Boys from Australia – who knows when they would get beaten up, or worse, start beating up? Boys from Africa are sized up to see if they had any African traits, and only then categorised into the Suitable Boys list; of course, the mothers don’t do that directly, they have ways to figure it out! Now Suitable Boys from Europe can be dicey – many of them don’t speak English, and one cannot make out whether they were former stowaways or part of a dance troupe that went for a cultural performance to the Slovak Republic and disappeared thereafter! But never mind all the above, Mothers of brides-to-be will still fuss over the Boys from overseas, while the Indian Boy waits his time out to get lucky – don’t forget that the female to male ratio in India still less than 1!!

As Indian companies looked for Suitable Matches from overseas – the D Boyz looked on with bated breath. But relief was in store as one metal company announced that its overseas arm was taking a break; the D Boyz cheered that company; (in other words saying – Look we warned you about lazy British Boyz!);  while the fact that another one just lost out on a potential Reliable American match, the Boyz cheered louder (thank God the Americans have a recession – it makes the D Street Boyz look like multi-Billionaires now). So if their cheer took the SENSEX up 160 points in the morning – nothing could push it down and keep it down; so the SENSEX bounced and stayed on course above 200 points to end 202 points up at 16428!

Some migrants would sometimes turn tables on the Mothers of Brides-to-be, by going on a Bride Hunt! The difference in this hunt is that the hunter is not chasing, but gets chased by the to-be-hunted, want-to-be-hunted, wish-i-was-young-to-be-hunted and other such species!!!! And life goes on, like it always used to…..


The Missing Black Horse at the Art Gallery Square

Update for 16 February 2010

The urban tourists had a gala time over the last fortnight, as they congregated at various parts of South Mumbai’s fashionable addresses. They wore their ethnic best, which was not the sari or the dhoti, traditional Indian attire for women and men, respectively; but wore their capris, with stylish kurtis while the men wore their T-Shirts emblazoned with slogans extolling peace, love, and what-not. Some men and women alike, liked to wear tight blouses or shirts – showing their concern for the environment, by using only the appropriate amount of clothes to cover their modesty; so altruistic; some used fewer buttons to be eco-friendly by shunning plastic to the extent possible. They all carried jholas, long cloth bags strung on the shoulder, and talked animatedly on their mobile phones – I am not sure who they spoke to as I did not eavesdrop, but I was intrigued nonetheless since they held the hands of their significant others and looked in different directions while they spoke into their mobile phones in hushed tones. Those who went to see theatre had to pop their phones into their bags, while those who wanted to see Iranian and Swedish films had to be content with the auditorium that had no provision for pop-corn or cola. The art lovers hovered around the main street and the art gallery, looking at installation art that said so many things, and so loudly, that I could not comprehend much; except some fibre-glass life size wild animals, and a black horse atop a faux brick platform; and some painted and decorated fibre-glass canoes – the theme that most of them wanted to purportedly convey was something to do with greening the world and going eco-friendly. So some walking-art-installations (oxymoron, anyone), actually looked like a garbage dump that suddenly fell off those BMC dump trucks, except that were much cleaner and did not smell of rot. They extolled the virtues of going green and dangers that lurked around if we littered. Good message, but wrong place I think. Because all the food stalls selling exhorbitantly priced “arty” and “local” meals, served it on plastic plates, with plastic spoons and forks stuck into it and had left behind huge plastic bags to collect the refuse in. And the food ranged from Chinese Dumplings to Burmese Khowsuey with a few Indian foods like puri-undhiyo, jalebi and gulab jamuns around. And for those looking for something light, there were sandwiches to fall back on. The arty crowd was absorbing all the “Indian” art and culture and music at the 2 week festival, which had tributes to a departed Mr Jackson in every second dance act. And at the end of day they were mighty pleased to see a potter’s wheel where the he taught them to make small mud pots for a little fee, just like in Indian villages. Oh how so earthy and helping the planet go green!

The festive mood at D Street was in play today, as they D Boyz reminisced their evening trysts with the arty crowds that gathered on the streets adjoining D Street. They initially looked for cues to play their daily game – and seeing the Chinese enjoy their New Year Holidays and US staying shut for a long weekend, they just chose to play safe and skim the surface. Then they heard of the European tourists that flew into an unexpected Africa and out and heaved a sigh of relief to see that they actually enjoyed their holiday. So what if they were startled in the beginning, but at the end of it, they did manage to catch up with wild-life at its best, and pastoral Masai in their traditional gear and they did indulge their oral senses to game meat, but did not like the smell of raw meat roasting over a pit. So the D Boyz took that as a cue for a buoyant SENSEX and raised it to over 200 points today, but finally ended at the magic number of 16226 – 188 points up; the shave off of a few points was because of the bad air over the roasting meat.  

The suburban Mumbaikars are ruing the fact that they do not have an art festival in their midst. Yes, they did have some sessions of music at a fort by the Sealink, and some poetry reading sessions by Lahoris and Lucknowis (or their nearby neighbours), but it was not a festival. It was thrust down their throats like their morning newspaper is thrust from under their main doors each morning. Maybe some of the “artists” among suburbanites will put together something.


The Flight to Africa

Update for 15 February 2010

The planeload of tourists was really excited – they were middle-aged Europeans wanting a break from their humdrum lifestyles and arctic cold winter. They could have got good bargains to holiday in the Mediterrenean Coasts of Spain, Italy and Greece or the Atlantic coast of Portugal, but since they were not interested in ham or bacon or PIGS meat and preferred game meat, they booked their tickets to Africa. They read up all about the Masai and the Samburu and Zulu and bought expensive DVDs from National Geographic and Discovery to be sure that they don’t snooze through the real hunt, when they are in the midst of it. They checked with their travel agent on whether the weather would be kind to their arthritis and wheezing. They were lucky; much of the places they intended to visit would have balmy sunny weather. Rains are not expected till April. So they packed their suitcases with assortment of sun block creams, sun tan lotions, brim hats, cotton scarves, insect repellants, an array of the most colourful bathing costumes and sundresses and shorts. The sunglasses would be carried in their hand-luggage, since they would need it as soon as they disembarked; it would be inappropriate and unpractical to unpack at arrival. The chartered flight took off – and the tourists rested themselves enough so that they could be well prepared for Africa, from the moment they landed. The flight touched down about 9 hours later and as it taxied to its bay and the aerobridge aligned for the passengers’ disembarkation, the excited crowds could not hold back. They rushed out of the aircraft only to be shocked. They were shocked not because of the serpentine queue leading out of the aerobridge; or the bright sunlight that shone all around the glass shielded window-panes; but because they felt cheated. They had paid for a trip to Africa, the continent teeming with wild animals, and sweeping savanna and where the Masai lived in mud huts and communities, dressed in colourful traditional attire. Here, they were ushered into an air-conditioned, modern air terminal that was at par with many international airports of their countries. The Hostess standing at the gate greeted them in English, German, French and Italian. She was smartly dressed in a skirt suit and stood behind a hoarding for a famous cold-drink. The tourists felt that they had just moved from one of their EU cities to another; and all this even without entering the city, with its well planned streets and avenues and parks and tall high rises. It took a lot of talking, cajoling and convincing to get them to believe that they were indeed in Africa, and that customs officer need not be surrounded by baboons sitting in his thatched outpost, or the bathroom was not a cluster of bushes with elephants for company to provide with running water when needed!

Touristy shock and awe was what the D Boyz exhibited when an Indian telecom company announced plans to acquire African Telecom assets. The Boyz could not fathom that the continent could offer any communication opportunities – didn’t some comics show tribesmen beating drums to convey messages across the “jungles”? So the Air was “deflateled” on D Street as high expectations crash landed by day end – and so what started with the SENSEX up 75 points, went under and finally ended 114 points down at 16038. So even if the PIGS stopped snorting and causing much mayhem across Europe, the D Boyz’ shock could not be changed. They did not even think of Europe all day today!!

This sometimes reminds me of some westerners who travel into Mumbai and the first thing they look for are snake charmers, Kings riding elephants, naked fakirs sleeping on a bed of nails and the tiger hunt! Barring the last one, not much can been seen in Mumbai these days, right Mr K___? (pronounced from the epiglottis).


The Grassland

Update for week ended 11 February 2010 

As one drives down the Great Rift escarpment and onto the roads that literally go straight into the horizon, you encounter the most amazing grasslands of the world – the Savannah. And within this flat land, there are numerous dormant volcano craters that rise in circular mounds. They are a continuum to the grassy landscape, but elevated – and given their dormant status of millennia – they too have a flat top with the same flora and fauna as seen around till the horizon. The crater savanna is unique because it has such a diversity of fauna that the lack of flora around is not missed much. The herbivores are around in herds (but of course) and at times are hidden in the metre long grass. Their predators are also aplenty, stalking their prey or simply lolling in the shade of a tree to escape the oppressive equatorial sun. And trees in the flat crater plains are also few and far apart. The most abundant among them is the acacia – the hardy trees with lanky, knobbly trunks that branch out upwards to the flat green leafy canopy. The leaves are small and hardy and very conveniently camouflage the thorns that abound these boughs. The sight of the acacia and its sparse shade is welcoming to the pride of lions to rest after their hunt. They at times provide good cover for a leopard that wants to hide its prey away from other scavengers. Sometimes, the baboons settle on these trees to escape being killed making sure that there are no leopards in sight (but obvious). The bark is hardy, but at times provides fodder to marauding elephants. The leaves are high and out of reach from most herbivores except the long necked giraffes. And the colony of biting ants that leads a cogent life in the tree protecting it, and in turn gets to eat the protein rich fresh leaves (this is of course another interesting story – to read more click on  ) in this tranquil landscape. The scenery often tempts painters to transfer them onto canvas – and how easy it would be for the artist – to paint greenish yellow grass – one thick flat line in the bottom dotted with little crooked “S”es rising vertically intermittently – and then capped with rough flat dark green lines above them (the canopy) while the rest of the picture can consist of a blue wash for the sky.

This week at D Street was a tumultuous ride – almost like going down an escarpment slope, but thanks to some geological features like the Rift Valley, it at least ends on a flat green plain. So if the last 3 days were troublesome for the D Boyz, today was one of tranquility, as they reached their grassy plains and climbed onto the dormant volcano on D Street. The morning today started on a happy note of 200 points up, and it remained flat all through. No amount of distractions could stop the BOyz who had fixed their gaze into their horizon for the day – as they ended 230 points up at 16152. Of course, as one looks back at their journey and where they started this week, one can see some choppy behaviour, but this is the first week after long when the SENSEX actually gained – 220 points are not much – but sentimentally a green hill with grass is better than being on a treacherous slope. Although the best way around the savanna grassland is in jeeps or similar 4 wheel drives – the D Boyz did not favour them this week – instead they preferred motorbikes – unusual vehicle choice; but there must be some gameplan given that they recently visited the Hills down south (and witnessed some movie song picturisation), revisited some frozen lake on the mountain, browsed through crowded markets near railway stations. Diverse terrains in 3 days, must have taught them something.

For those in India who want to know more about the acacia can also try and spot the Indian Babool. It is a tree similar in looks to the acacia – grows in drier parts of the country and has thorns to ward off predators – and the lack of giraffes in India helps – but the marauding herd of bleating goats can be quite hard on this tree. I have seen village goatherds, pull down branches, matchet it for their herds. The belief is that the babool is a poisonous tree, but the goat can digest its leaves and provide medicinal milk. So we don’t make goat cheese in India, but quite a lot of its milk is drunk in rural areas.

Have a long and happy Weekend – and for those wishing to celebrate the festival tomorrow – take care and don’t indulge too much in the ambrosia.

Cheers …….

Market Under the Over

Update for 10 February 2010

The market under the over has been there for close to a century now. It grew in prominence as the 2 railway lines – the Great Indian Peninsular railway and the Bombay Baroda Rail – converged at this little collection of houses, before diverging to their respective distant destinations. The open ground beyond the railway yard and station was used to unload potatoes, onions, beans, carrots, cabbages and other such vegetables that grew in nearby towns like Bassein and Tanna. The flowers and fruits came in from further ahead – Deolali and Bulsar. The trade was brisk, and started even before dawn broke, and most of the time wrapped up before the sun got hot. The buyers were smaller vegetable vendors who would sell to the Goojratis at Bhuleshwar or Marwarees at Charni Road. As years rolled by, the open ground got covered with tin sheds and the cement platforms for the vegetable and fruit vendors. The business grew brisker as the city grew beyond this little station market, and this continued to be the hub for all trade. Today, when one travels through central Mumbai, you will notice the remnants of this once bustling market, but the tin sheds and open ground are obscured by tall concrete structures, and the only indicators of its past are the few retail vegetable vendors who illegally hawk their wares on the roads leading to this market. And all those in air-conditioned cars that pass this way only sneer at the garbage that is piled away each day, as working class folks jostle in the crowded streets to buy vegetables at ostensibly lower prices than they would have to shell out at the markets near their homes. Never mind the dust, the filth, the lack of space, the long journey to and from the market, knowing all the time that the vendor must have cheated them on the weighing the scales! But few people have options that were at times met by this market – the neighbourhood mall supermarket. So those people have moved to these urban vegetable supermarkets.

When the going was good around the other markets, the D Street Market took heart and the D Boyz saw buyers for their wares, helping to push the SENSEX up. But very quickly, the heat of the day played spoilsport, as their wares lost their freshness, and the buyers disappeared. So the D Boyz had to water their wares, perk them up, sift through to it to discard the “rotting” elements and re-attract buyers. It seemed to work for sometime, until the Boyz figured out that the real buyers, the Fastidious Inquisitive Individuals – FIIs were moving elsewhere for their daily shopping – and so they had to sit in idle shops on D Street and sell their wares at discounts, pushing the SENSEX down 120 points to 15922. I think the Boyz are looking at downgrading to riding motorcycles, so some Mobike company stocks perked up; while their smart MUVs and SUVs and other such jeeps would probably stay at home or go to the sellers, pushing that stock down another day!

The Supermarkets don’t guarantee the freshest veggies, in fact at most times of the day – they sell fruit fly infested, wilting, at times rotting tomatoes, and greens. But if you manage to be there when the fresh produce is being stacked up, you could be in luck to get value for money. Many of these places also offer smart discounts to boost sales – 1 bundle of coriander free with another; and so on; and one can actually pick the plumpest pea-pods and the most tender lady fingers, which is not possible with the street hawkers. So we could see a change in the buyer behaviour beginning to take shape. The GIP and BB rails have changed their names and now also ferry people to far off places like Deolali and Bulsar (now Valsad) – under different names, but somehow, have still managed to offload veggies, fruits and flowers at the Market Under the Over in central Mumbai – despite more spacious and attractive options elsewhere.


The Lake in the Mountains

Update for 9 February 2010

 It was cloudy when we set off in a cramped jeep, and the cold got “bitier” as we left the city and the driver was able to push his accelerator pedal a little more. Thankfully, he could not do a full throttle – one because the jeep was overloaded with 10 people, and two, because the gradient was getting steeper and the curves were getting curvier. There was a slight drizzle as soon as we started, which the driver calmed us to believe that it would augur well, as the clouds would disappear after the rain. But the cold got to our bones, and the comfy jeep was not actually very comfy for us in the back – as the rear door did not have a window/glass pane, but a plastic flap that was tied down. Even microscopic holes would let in icy cold wind that froze us in our seats. This went on for some time, but after a few kilometers out of town, we saw icicles on the craggy slopes that we hugged as we chugged past and once in a while, we crossed army trucks which had chains on their wheels – indicating that they had driven on ice covered roads. Some of us mumbled a few silent prayers, while others chose to close their eyes, as we entered slippery road country. We stopped at 2 places up the slope – one to fix the iron chains onto our tyres and the next to bolster our energy reserves by eating crispy hot dosas, South Indian rice pancakes, at a military canteen. This was when we noticed that the clouds were getting thinner, and the ground was getting whiter with snow across much of the mountain landscape. Then the driver speeded up and we took a few more turns, but the climb got less steeper, until we noticed that there were no clouds above, but an azure blue sky with the sun shining as bright as ever. The air was crisp, yet not biting cold, and the view was magnificent. We were on top of the mountain close to our journey’s end. The mountains surrounding us had different colours – the ones facing the south were rocky and covered with snow while the northern facing slopes were craggy, rocky, but with no snow. And in between, lay the most amazing sight – a frozen lake that was covered with what looked like at least a few feet of fresh powdery snow. The local vendors had already started swarming our jeep offering us some snow shoes for hire, a yak ride, some hot tea or even instant noodles. I could not be disturbed by the cacophonic goings-on around me. I was magnetically being pulled towards the lake and the mountain beyond it. I was meanwhile warned not to get too close to the lake – not because of thin ice or other such worldly dangers, but to respect local tradition that considers this lake sacred and not to be contaminated by man. I absolutely understood this sentiment, and all I wanted to do was sit by the lake and admire every snowflake on it in the blistering sun. The grey, the white and the azure blue are such soothing colours.

The D Boyz opened their shops at D Street nervously, dropping the SENSEX a little, then piecing it together, before dropping it again – but thanks to the resilient floor on D Street, the SENSEX did not fall below, but rebounded to cooler climes and did some form of mountain climbing or trekking, moving up and down till it ended 106 points up at 16042. The mountain climb in a jeep must have been tough for the battered jalopy, so a Jeep manufacturer took some beating on D Street; while the long haul did not use the diesel economically, pushing down some Oil Companies on the street. But otherwise, the view from atop was refreshing for the Boyz.


I later on did manage to hire some snow boots, and did a little trudging in knee high fresh snow. It was tough, and a new experience for a city boy from Tropical India, but I savoured it all with much excitement.