Sunday, May 21, 2006

Between 2 and 80…

Near my house is a park which ends in a walkway by the sea. People come to the park to have some fun, and then some of them sit down by the sea-shore for a while. I also do this occasionally, and here’s what I saw today:An old woman (quite old, but rather active) of about 80 was sitting on the edge staring into the ocean. Next to her was seated a little girl (about two years old perhaps – her great granddaughter probably). And what struck me immediately what that none of them was saying anything. Both had their eyes transfixed onto that amazing nothingness that the ocean has to offer. And I started wondering what might be going on in their minds. The great grandmother would definitely have had her shares of experiences in all these years, and maybe looking at the ocean offers her a few windows into her past. A life on this planet almost over. Being born, crossing childhood, first crushes, getting married, watching your kids get married, and then spending your evenings in taking a little two-year old girl for a walk by the ocean… One entire life which I have tried to summarize in one sentence – a life sentence perhaps (pun intended).And what would that little girl be thinking as she sits by her old granny, gazing at a much older ocean with her na├»ve eyes? I noticed that she would clap her hands every time the waves hit the rocks, perhaps commending the Ocean on a step well performed, oblivious to the fact that the Ocean is a veteran at this art and lashing out at the rocks is, as some would say, “all part of the job”…In between her appreciation of these oceanic tactics, would she be thinking about her new dolls, or her shoes, or that kid next door who she plays with? Or what it takes to be a grown-up? Or what it takes to be a granny? Or perhaps, what it takes to be an ocean?Of course, I don’t know what they both were thinking. Maybe nothing. But I found myself breaking into a little smile as I turned to look away from them, and into what they were looking… that unending mass of water which is equally magnanimous in sharing its peace with anyone. Two, or eighty, it doesn’t really matter…    

Connected…

Like so many other blessings in life, this one also has its own side-effects. I am talking about the comfort of being able to go online anytime of the day, any day. Yes, I can now send emails from airports, or from my taxi, or my loo (not that I would want to, but then there are some things that can’t wait…). And even while sitting in the sea-side sands at Marine Drive, with enough babes to provide good quality distraction…

So you see, this is where the trouble lies. The last thing you would imagine yourself doing while enjoying the sea and the air and everything, is the thought of reading yet another mail from your boss reminding you that (as expected) you haven’t really done anything significant in your life till date. It is in times like these that you shift your contemplative gaze back and forth from the inviting sea to your laptop and then to the sea again, wondering whether the Indian Ocean will get angry if you offered it this piece of metal and plastic for an evening snack.

But then there is, of course, the romantic advantage of chatting with your girlfriend/boyfriend/pet/whatever while you realize that your car hasn’t moved more than 100 metres in the past 30 mins. The cops have something against the use of mobile phones while driving, but I don’t think they mind the use of laptops while maneuvering your car on Indian roads.

I remember till a few years back I always thought how it would be like to be “connected” anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted. They say you should be careful in what you ask for, for you might just get it; and as I type this out while shifting from HBO to ZNews, it dawns upon me that after all that fodder which life has thrown at me, it still keeps the greener grass on the other side…

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mumbai Times...

Sometimes an age is not enough to figure out a city. And if the city is Mumbai, some people say that a few million ages put together will still not give you a glimpse of what this city really is.
The first week, and this city actually slaps and shocks you. Coming to Bangalore (a few years back) was like being woken up with a splash of water. But the first week in Mumbai was like being dragged at 4 am and thrown into a pool of ice cold water. The day I heard the news that a plot of land near my temporary abode had sold off for INR 63000 Rs per square foot, it dawned upon me that in all these years that I’ve been on this planet, I am still not able to buy myself one square foot of land.
People say that about 6 foot space is all that a person needs in the end. But this is where we realize that while you are alive in Mumbai, you anyways have no land to call your own; but even when you die, you are still short of real estate. Perhaps this is what Lord Krishna meant when He said in the Gita “Tum kya laaye thhey, kya le jaaoge” (What did you bring and what will you take back?). In Mumbai, there’s nothing that’s your own, and thus, in perfect accordance with the rules of Bhagwad Gita, you can’t take anything with you either.

All across the world, we know that there exists a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. In Mumbai, these two opposite ends have learnt to coexist. Right next to a tall building, you will find a huge slum population. Both parties acutely and uncomfortably aware of the other’s existence. Their eyes surely meet everyday. Maybe after a few years, they even begin to smile at each other. But what is most striking is perhaps the resignation of everyone to their fates.
All I need in this city, is a Mercedes. And that’s because everyone here seems to have one. I wonder when I missed the bus.
And a loneliness that’s spreading around like a disease. People tend to multiply as they appear and disappear in huge swarms on any local train station here. And everyone is desolately lonely. One look at the disturbed people around you on a local train (i.e. people who are hanging for their dear lives in the locals), and you know that something has cracked inside the city. The veneer outside is perfect. Shining. Stain-resistant perhaps. But deeper down, those cracks in the mirror have started appearing...