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


At 9:43 PM, Blogger Sridhar(mutRupuLLi) said...

Somehow this seems to remind me of Anbe does not often have such experiences...

Madhavan: Naan thirudangallelam ithukku munnal parthathe illai Sir...

Kamal: Naanga mattum thirudnagla daily pazhakita irrukom( or some such stuff)

At 4:19 AM, Blogger Deepti said...

oh wow!!! That was really awesome!! You were so lucky na??
I have till date not really seen any kind of honestly among the ppl who have stolen from me!! Except, should I be thankful that the guy who burgled my house 2 years back didn't take my passport and certificates ? ;) But, yeah.. seriously .. you really did have some kind of angel riding on your back!!

btw.. i knew this female who terrified me ...she would sleep with her eyes open and I used to get freaked out!!!

At 4:27 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@sridhar.. - My frustration that day was somewhat similar to maddy's in anbe sivam. I love the scene when kamal tells him not to charge his cellphone while wet and maddy retorts "I know..."... As he plugs in the charger.. it goes boom and the look on his face is worth a million dollars...

@deepti - I found out later from friends that if you leave your address and enough oney (over and above postage), they do send back the items worthless to them but may be critical to you... Thieves are generally behind cash..

Sleeping with eyes open!!!!.. It freaks me out even thinking of it ? how can one sleep with eyes open ??

is it possible.. ?? wierd..


At 11:41 AM, Blogger Arthi said...

Ha.. nice story!!... Pity it wasn't as interesting as Kadal Kotai!!

Your posts dwell so much on the days gone past. What do you do as of today?


At 10:22 PM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@arthi - I once attended a HR thing... long time back... similar to top peters.. where we need to chose an apt metaphor describing our personalities. Mostly these metaphors were professions in the middle ages... The choices were like this...

1) King
2) Soldier
3) Farmer etc. etc. The job descriptions of an era gone by...

My choice was A sailor (on a ship which is discovering the new world..).

Basically cross the oceans, weather a few storms and see new things in the world. After sundown the sailor gets drunk and regales his home audience with thrilling adventure stories...

By the fire place and lots of beer/whisky around....

Right now, I am an entreprenuer trying to get my company up and running..

I love regalling in the past where I have the luxury to look at events in a much more grounded fashion and see if I can extract a laugh..

what I do today will be of use tomorrow.. ;)


At 12:45 PM, Blogger kaushik said...

you were really lucky!
But if you expect the unexpected to happen, then it should really be in mumbai!

living in mumbai is such a different experience, no city can get u this experience!

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Hamsa said...

actually this did happen to my chithi in Madras. She also lost her documents in the electric train near central.
And she was applying for a job..She was terrified as my granpa was ruthless. She never told anybody @ home and spent teary sleepless nights. A wwek later a courier to the house got her her docs and she had a tough time explaining to thatha from whom SHE could have possibly had a courier from!!!!
From frying pan into fire :))
we laughed days off.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Vivek Kondur said...

Another great post mate! I enjoyed this one & the title *Chori me imandari* for this post, was perfect to the climax of the story.

While I was reading throu' the post, this made me nostalgic as well. During one of my Signal Processing tutions while my ENGG days, the Teacher once shared his one of his experiences while he was on his way for admission @ IIT Powai,Mumbai. If I recall his accounts, it is very much similar to what happened to you. He had lost his certificates, IIT admission slip & all his personal credentials; he even more devastated when the Dean said they cldn't admit him @ IIT without proper credentials. Later, the Dean gave him a week's time to arrange some copies of his certificates. He says what happened that week was the most memorable moment in his life, the Chor had sent a courier to his place.

I feel ppl who have lived or spent some part of their life in Mumbai would have many moments to relive:)

>>I Have heard of sleewalking, but not sleep laughing. Wouldnt it be wierd if someone laughs in their sleep ?

Dude, this term 'SleepLaughing' had never even passed by radar called Mind, till I read u'r post. LOL
Makes me think though, how wld ppl manage to sleep & laugh ;)

>>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...

Did I miss anything the other day, during the get together? I heard someone talking abt that, but then the topics changed gradually. I hope u change your opinion of 'maybe NEVER' & relive those moments sometime later:)

I hope you have had a great time @ the Bengali Food Festival & had enough Rasgullas.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Bombay Addict said...

Vasu - this rocked so totally and completely. Fantastic stuff dude.

I had a similar - less nerve-wracking tho - experience here.

A Bombay fan ? Wow ! good to meet you !

At 12:49 AM, Blogger narayan said...

Regarding reservations in IIM:-
We must investigate the term "merit".Is "merit" just a score in entrance exams at age of 17?

Take the claim of "merit based" entrance to all IIMs and dozens of other institutes.

The CAT exam is based on the SAT exam in the USA . It has been proved beyond doubt that the SAT test is culturally biased . Blacks and hispanics do poorly at it year after year .

If a student who is eligible for admission to IIM on the basis of his CAT score, were to take the same CAT exam in which he/she cleared in a language that he/she did not understand then he/she would be at a disadvantage compared to someone who was schooled in that language . Not knowing that language does not mean you lack the capacity to clear that exam.

Approximately 25 % of CAT test is about English! Another 25 % is about English Comprehension!!!! There you are !!!! About 50 % so called aptitude test is a hoax for someone who is from a non-english speaking background .

This is how the CAT like the SAT is discriminatory .

See the full form of SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test . The problem is aptitude testing is not so simple . There is no test on earth which can reliably tests aptitude .

Aptitude tests such as the SAT have a historical tie to the concept of innate mental abilities and the belief that such abilities can be defined and meaningfully measured. Neither notion has been supported by modern research. Few scientists who have considered these matters seriously would argue that aptitude tests such as the SAT provide a true measure of intellectual abilities.

It was found that people could be coached to better their scores at SAT . The name SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test could not be correct . So under such valid criticism the name was changed to Scholastic Assessment Test, since a test that can be coached clearly did not measure inherent "scholastic aptitude", but was influenced largely by what the test subject had learned in school. Even the College Board which conducts the SAT has beaten a hasty retreat.This was a major theoretical retreat by the College Board conducting SAT, which had previously maintained that the test measured inherent aptitude and was free of bias.

About ten years back , however, even the redundancy of the term assessment test was recognized and the name was changed to the neutral, and non-descriptive, SAT. At the time, the College Board announced, "Please note that SAT is not an initialism. It does not stand for anything."

The framers of these SAT tests assumed that intelligence was a unitary inherited attribute, that it was not subject to change over a lifetime, and that it could be measured and individuals could be ranked and assigned their place in society accordingly. The SAT evolved from these questionable assumptions about human talent and potential.

More and more people are questioning the validity of SAT . In the past MENSA used to accept high SAT score individuals . For the past decade it has stopped accepting SAT scores .

The whole exercise of deciding merit based on CAT scores discriminates against those from lower socio-economic status.

Though many non-IIM institutes have started accepting CAT scores, the application fee of these institutes is still inexplicably high.

The CAT is primarily an exam of Math and English. Logical and Analytical Reasoning is nearly absent (except for some verbal reasoning which again depends on knowing English well!!!!).

CAT is a clever way to keep those from lower socio-economic strata away Institutes funded with tax payers money .

So claims of “Merit” based on CAT scores is hollow and discriminatory against those of lower socio-economic strata.

Dhirubhai Ambani had a poor command over English . He would not have made it through CAT. So what "merit" are we talking of?

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Sach said...

hello saar,
its me nitin, so macha , your now at chennai how did mumbai come in here. yeppidi saar,. this is romba too much..
yea, bro i have heard. mumbai is one literal city- city. very busy meachanical type of place. lot of friends keep telling me that is should try going there and staying there atleast once. i have been there before but i hung around at my cousies place than walking around.
well so i should try that.....
but maccha i really envy you bout that train ride thing.


At 4:31 AM, Blogger Vijayeta said... were just plain lucky! I was harrassed by a cabbie on landing in Bombay just last week who insisted that it costs Rs 550 from Santa Cruz airport to Lokhandwala at 8PM. And a friend had a similar experience while going to the airport from Bandra...
But optimistic that I am, i still wait for good things and chance encounters to happen. Meanwhile, i just clutch my bag a little tighter while i'm at it!

At 2:17 AM, Blogger Wild Reeds said...

Amazing true-story.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Aparna S Mallya said...

hey, that was a great post.

A similar thing happened to my cousin. He had gotten down frm the car (on the way to chickmagalur) to pee and had left his wallet on the rock. He totally forgot abt it and remembered only much later.

After abt a week, his id card (which was in the wallet)was posted to him, probably by the same fellow who decided to keep the thousand odd rupees to himself!

At 2:17 AM, Blogger Why Am I said...

watta day...!!!...oh about the sleep laughing...i remember going for a trip in school and this girl with us who got up in the middle of the night and started laughing!!...spooky...

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