Monday, April 17, 2006

Chori me imandari (Honour amongst thieves)

Mumbai is one hellava place. You will find the most stunning of all experiences. Some things that make you think, "Is this place for real ?". I started recounting all my experiences only after I left mumbai.

Some really shocking and some blissfully nice. While I lived there, I never had the time to think. I was busy running. It was one such day in the thick of monsoons. I had to sumbmit my original degree certificates for inspection at work. Just after lunch, the sky turned inky and a downpour was imminent. All of us took the cue and left for the day.

An earlier experience of ignoring the weather left us sleepless in office. With the kind of team I was with, we never could sleep. Atleast I couldnt sleep ignoring the sardar jokes that were loudly shared. I Have heard of sleewalking, but not sleep laughing. Wouldnt it be wierd if someone laughs in their sleep ? Spooky!!!

Dadar was unusually abuzz at 3.30 p.m. as everyone wanted to beat the rain. Thankfully the western lines were running. The 3:43 Andheri slow came and I decided to board it altering from my usual practice of taking only the fast trains. I love getting wet in the rains and was happy to find myself unchallenged for the corner position. People literally and figuritively die for that position.

The usual body language of the crowd standing close to the most coveted standing position were missing and I was happy enough to stake my claim. Obviously a rainy afternoon and the generall musty wetness detered the diehard train junkie who would give you a violently tough fight for that spot.

As the train picked up speed between matunga road and mahim it curves dangerously in one big arc. Instinctively one hangs out a little more than the normal. With my eyes set out straight into the rain I was blissfully in my own world enjoying every minute of it. My hands stretched out with a layers of polythene bags. My certificate, wallets everything right inside there..

All that would change in a short while turning this to be one long nightmare day. I have never felt a larger pit in my stomach and subsequently never elevated to a greater level later. Never anywhere in my life and sorry New York does not even come close.

That one day is enough testimonial for why Mumbai is the greatest place on earth.

My hands were stretched with warm rain streaming down the face. One half of my shirt was soaking wet. One arm clutching on the handle immideately inside and the other freely hanging outside. I was flying!. The thoughts of chai, some crispy bajji paav filled my mind.

Suddenly there was a sharp pain on my hand as the train arched midway between mahim and matunga. I heard a loud shriek from somewhere behind me and it was my co-passenger. He was also hit. As I reacted and recovered from that pain, I realised my bag with all the certificates and wallets was no longer there. My hands were clutching just plain water.

A lightning bolt of horror ripped through my insides. All I could think was "SHIT".. multiplied a 100 times... The bag from the other hand has fallen down!!!! Felt stupid, felt totally jolted out of the bliss. Shocked as if I landed on a granite slab... Totally chastised and my heart racing a million beats more.

I jumped in motion, swivelled and ran to the end of Mahim station. I got down onto the tracks and ran right on the tracks towards matunga. I could feel nothing. The rain, non-existent. All I was wishing was for the sight of the white and blue polythene bag. I strained my eye focused right on the sides of the tracks.

Just then a hand grabbed me from the back and pushed me gruffly to the sides. A few seconds later a train thundered by.

"Dhimarg phirgaya kya ?? Chuthiye " (Are you made, fucker ?) blurted an unkwnon face. It was the other guy who shrieked on the train. All I could mutter was.. a quizzical "huh ???".. "Shanthi rakh.. Mera bhi bag chori hogaya ?"... (Be calm, even my bag got stolen ?).

"Chori ???" I was stumped. How can it happen ? I felt infinitely stupid. Could see the whole world laughing at me. Could see "Shoba" - One of the few persons I totally detested laughing. "That crinjing shame, which occurs when one is utterly humiliated. When one's edifice of self esteem crumbles in one large public spectacle". That we were togather in the misery and stupidity didnt lessen the blow.

There is the certificates, driving license and all my visiting cards to consider.

Worse than humiliation is humiliation multiplied.

I recovered in the hope that we could locate the spot we got hit on the hand and the spot it fell. After a few trial and errors we searched searched and searched. Every once in a while a surge of hope, a voice inside would say.. "Abhe idhar nahi, aur thoda age hua".. (Not here, a little more ahead).

An hour later, completely humbled and grounded we reached matunga. Thats when the friend who alerted me of the train broke down and cried... A grown man crying.. I had my office files in it. I will be fired tomorrow.... "Whaaaaa"..

Frankly If I werent on the same situations, it would have been infinitely humurous. I couldnt put an arm and console him and neither could I laugh it out. I was caught in that dreaded grey area.

To break that impasse from no where I suggested, "Waapis doondthe hein, chalo" (Lets search again).

Through the misty rain, we could see a sillhuette of a man standing in a corner doing nothing. Our hearts raced. There was no anger, just the hope we will get our valuables. As we went there, he tried to sneak into the neighbouring mahim railway parallell road. Right through the shanties, right through someone's kitchen.

My friend (in miseries), caught up with him and prevented him from escaping. With his fists clenching on his cuff and violently shaking he was demanding "Sale, kidhar hai ? Maar dalega therekho"..

Obviously there was no response from him (we dint even know if it was him who stood there with a stick in the hope of catching some fallen valuables). "Kya poochraha hai ? Kuch samaj me nahi aa raha hai" (What are you asking, I dont understand) was his only response even after 15 minutes of pleading.

Finally anger gave way to pleading. The unknwon guy understood that we lost some valuables. Valuables only to us and worthless to anyone else. Frankly I dint care for the Rs. 500 cash. All I wanted were my certificates.

With nothing more to do, we crossed over into the backyard of a shanty lining the railway track in the hope of getting to the road. The tracks were becoming too dangerous as too many trains were whizzing past.

It was dark and my watch said 7.00 p.m.

We knocked the door of the nearest shanty and the door literally fell through. As we stepped into that musty stinky interiors, I felt 3-4 hands clutch my arms and cry.. "Aaja Mera Raaja"...(come my king) "Oye chikene, aaja"...(Oh fair one, please come). My body shook violently like when you step on human excreta or something like that.

In one massive lunge I jumped out of the front door and mustered my last ounce of energy as if my life depended on it. I could feel a pair of thuds matching me which only prompted me to run faster and faster. I turned around just in time to notice that it was my-friend-in-misery and not those eunuch (transvestite) prostitutes into whose den we accidently stepped.

The feet slipped on the wet road, I fell, got up and continued the sprint. Nothing mattered to me than the relative safety of Mahim railway station.

As we gathered our wits and breaths, the friend-in-misery in a wierd sense of humour says "Gaand lag gaya na ?" (Our ass has been taken) and laughs gurrulously. It was not even funny. I wanted desperately to remind him about the cry baby he was a while back. Better sense prevailed and I kept my mouth shut. Poor guy is recovering some of his spilt dignity. Why should I trip him in the the process.

I just nodded and we departed. Through out the train journey we were both standing well inside and I made sure I was in a different compartment.

I dint really like the idea of conversing with him and prefered the anonymity the company of strangers offered. It was comforting realising no one really knows.

A longer walk from Andheri to 4-bunglows gave me a lot of time to come to terms with what happened and gather myself. Specially required with snaketounge and pounce-on-another's-misery-for-some-cheap-entertainment roommates like A and S.

I tried to forget it all. Thinking of how to reapply for my certificates from IMDR and and how to get my Driving license back.

The day ended in horrible misery so much south, everything from then on can only be better.

A week later......

I unlock my house and right on the floor lies a brown envelope. "Something to cheer me up", I thought. Recieving an envelope always cheers you up doesent it ???

I rip it open and there folded hap hazardly were my certificates. Inside them were the license , all my visiting cards and the "Lord Rama" calender which my grandma had given me when she came to know I cam going to mumbai for work.

I just looked up and said, "Thank god"... No one else had come back from work and I let out a loud cry of gratitude.

My wallet and money were gone but I got my certificates back. I couldnt do anything that day too shocked to my wits. All I could think of was a great sense of magnanimity towards the chor!!!.

Chori me imandari (Honour amongst thieves) it was. Its like you want to thank someone and you just dont know who to thank ? You dont know what to do with that trapped energy inside your head.

I walked around the house aimlessly dumbstruck at what happened and the only thing I could think of was, "Hope that Friend-in-misery, had left his address". Luckily for me my own visiting cards saved me. The feeling was very similar to a post bungee walk when your hands and legs are shaking and you need to calm your nevers. If I were 50 years older, I would have had a nervous breakdown.

One accustoms oneself not to expect stolen goods returned. Not in India and definitely not in Mumbai. That myth lay shattered.

In all this hungama (chaos), I realised that I dint even know the name of the friend-in-misery. The city seemed to me like one big karma wheel throwing your karma back at you.

For a long time, I would have made atlest a 100 taxi drivers happy. What with all The 5 bucks tip I used to hand them back with the smile.

My other mumbai chronicles are listed below. I feel so nostalgic about mumbai that nothing not even what happened in the begining of 2006 can snatch those memories. Thats for a later date though. Some day, maybe never... But for now, I feel real good thinking of those crazy days.


Morarjee Files Parallel Run
Mumbai Madness I Crazy Roomies
Small town syndrome

Read more!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Beyond Shotz... Three issues and going strong...

Beyond Shotz started out as an idea for young amateur photographers who wanted a platform to showcase their work.

The mainstream photography magazines were too much of a hassle to approach and we all know how that coterie works. The option was simple, launch your own magazine and make it freely available for all to read on the internet.

This magazine also is designed to be broadbased and include photographers from all over the world. The only criteria for being featured is "how stunning" your photographs are.. Being a photo magazine, quality photographs are the key.

Ofcourse, this magazine is not just about photographs. It aims to go beyond the frames to the people, the story and the emotion of the subject. Afterall there is more to photography than light, lens and camera. Hence the name of the magazine

Beyond Shotz !! .

Did I hear someone say, "Elementary, my dear watson ?"

Through this magazine you would view some of the most stunning photographs taken All across the globe, Travel to off the circuit places, Discover a thing or two about people, their culture and the way of life, Learn about the equipments and the legalities concerning photography, Read interviews of some unconventional yet stunning photographers.

Through this magazine you would go beyond your horizons. Maybe it should be named "Beyondhorizons". Well thats an idea for another mag..

Meanwhile all the issues are available for download right here...

Like we say in true uncouth, poriki tam bravado.. Nsoy, Jamai, Njamai...

Download (pdf~3.6 MB)
February 2006
Cover story - Bird photography

January 2006
Cover story - Chembra

Read more!