Sunday, July 31, 2005


Well...much has been said about rains. One must have heard countless stories of bravery, tolerance, mishaps etc. etc. courtesy the media, friends, blogs, magazines and so on. Some of the stories I have heard are chilling. I was fortunate enough to have a relative staying nearby. Things were so bad that my family couldn't go back to our home for 3 whole days. Fortunately Amma, Appa and me were together at my relative's place. However I do have a little experience to share with you. On my way back to my workplace, I hopped into the train which happened to one of the last trains which plied on tracks that day. Suddenly it halted in middle of nowhere with the rains lashing heavily outside. I waited patiently for 15-20 minutes in a hope that the train will start moving. Much to my dismay, I saw other trains also halting abruptly in middle of nowhere. It was then I realised.....Oh oh...I AM STUCK. Gradually ladies in my compartment started getting down. Well getting down isn't very easy because in absence of a railway platform, the distance between the compartment and the tracks below is huge. The ladies started getting down with the help of the chotu ladder installed below. The tracks were full of water. If unlucky, one would just land up inside a naala. Also, some years back amma had done a little bit of jumping from the train and had broken her ankle into 3 pieces. The imaginary warnings of Appa kept ringing inside my head. I tell you, when you left to fend for yourself also, parents' warnings and Dos and Donts don't leave you! So there I was busy contemplating whether should I jump....well not technically jump, hop out of the train.....hehehe! But then I finally decided that instead of staying inside the train and rotting away the time, I might as well hop down and walk my way to the station. I positioned myself properly and was all geared upto get down, but my legs couldn't find the stairs and I chickened out. I was way too afraid tog et down. Also when you are scared of heights, it doesn't help matters. I stood there looking like a fool. Gradually the number of ladies began to dwindle which prompted me to think about it again. I decided that I would try for a second time. Again I chickened out. Feeling like an absolute loser, I came inside the train . I was all drenched with all my stupid histrionics. (How irritating. Got all drenched but still did not get down.) I enviously looked at the ladies who were all down and walking their way. Then I saw this 60-yr old lady getting down. That was it! Now my ego was hurt. I had to get down. I had a point to myself. So I mustered all the courage and decided, ok....I am getting down. Suddenly one gujju lady who had got down, took the initiative of supervision of the remaining ladies' climbdown. My legs again started searching for the stairs and I again panicked. However, this lady grabbed my leg and placed it over the ladder. Thank god, bless her! Finally I got down and I walked up to my way to the station. I finished my work and then went to my relative's place who stayed closeby.

I should confess that this has been one of the most disastrous rains ever faced. It's the not the magnitude of the rains which is alarming, it is the way the infrastructure has literally crumbled is a cause of major worry. In my 20 years of my existence I have never seen the infrastructure crumble like this. Take the railways for example. The lifelines of Mumbai. Heavy rains are not unusual in Mumbai. Neither are the stalling of trains. However usually, the train services resume the next day after an event of a downpour. The torrential rains hit Mumbai on July 26th. The railways have not yet resumed their services properly and there exists only skeleton service for the time being. This is worrying because for the first time I am seeing the city being brought to a halt. No matter what, Mumbai has always bounced back, that's the unique feature of the city. However this time, I see schools, colleges closed. Many people have not been reporting for work. I am afraid that the undaunting spirit which Mumbai is known for has been hit badly. Not because that Mumbaiites have suddenly chickened out. It's because the infrastructure has just tumbled like a pack of cards.

It's the biggest irony that after raining COWS AND BUFFALOES AND HIPPOES, there is an alarming water shortage. I mean isn't it's the biggest joke. My house has not received water for the past4 days. We received water only today only for 10 minutes :| There are power cuts galore.

There is anger, there is frustration. The administration did not come and help anyone. The people helped each other and that is the real story of the disaster. The feel good factor of the tolerance of Mumbai shouldn't be taken for granted and I am afraid that's what has been happening now. If care is not taken to rectify the situation, I really don't know, it would escalate into something really disastrous.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Aaaah, that's my pathetic attempt to con a word. But well, what the hell. Hello people...How have you all been doing? Life's become hectic for me but well, I met Ridhish and Bhai the other day :D

Ridhish and me started blogging about the same time. We both have known each other for the past 2 years. So I was all excited and looked forward to meeting him. When I started blogging, we belonged to a small coterie of bloggers (aint that a nice collective noun?) who had all started blogging round the same time. Me, Vidya, Ashwin, Ridhish (dumbo, doesn't blog anymore..grrr), Shonu etc. etc. Infact it quite funny. I got acquainted to Mumbai bloggers only after I started visiting Ridhish and Vidya's blogs. And they both reside in Australia. So well, to cut the story short, we both go a long way Also Ridhish is the one who is responsible for the template that I have currently, he designed it for me :D

Pranshu....It was so much fun meeting him too :D An absolute sweetheart :D So, myself, Ridhish, Bhai and BBC decided to meet up and what a meet up it was! As usual, I started my budbud......but I had someone here who just about overtook me as far my chatterbox skills are concerned. Ridhish, I bow to thee....Kitna bolta hain yaar....Hahahahaha! As we both competed as to who spoke the maximum, Poor Bhai and BBC were left with no chance but to keep mum :p But well, this just happened only for 15-20 minutes :p Bhai gave a polite excuse of a sore throat for not talking, but well, we know it better, don't we, Ridhish? ;) hehehhee!

It was just meeting old pals and catching up! I had great fun. Of course, we spoke endlessly...had pav bhaji, coffee, Mayonnaise roll outside my college......Boy, it was one fun day :D You will find masaledar spicy gossip added versions of blogmeet at Bhai and Ridhish's blog (he promised me that he will blog) Don't believe it I say..:p Also, thank you for the books Bhai :D You da best >:D

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Reporter's diary--Part 2

Hmm...So I finally reached the area where the actual family stayed. This family stays in one of the numerous slums Mumbai has. I was directed by a small girl to the house of that family. I am really amazed as to how these people live. It was like a bhool-bhullaiya, by the time I reached the family's house, I was completely lost. I mean the distance between two houses is so small that I can't walk's like I am walking on a narrow bridge and if someone comes opposite to me, then we both are stranded. I don't know if I am describing the whole scene properly...But well, that's another post altogether. (I really wanna visit the slums of Dharavi, I am wondering when would the visit happen...hmmm) Ok, I went to the house and inside there were two ladies sitting. I thought they were Rajasthanis. Well, when I introduced myself, I could actually see them tremble. I was shocked to see that. I wasn't intimidating, I didn't speak anything wrong. But well, I was prepared for a negative reaction, so did not really mull over it. I tried convincing them once but well, I came out on the main road. I was talking to the little girl when the little girl suggested to me that she will take me to the family's friends' houses. I agreed. I went to another family's house. I began just talking to them about idhar-udhar ki baatein and then broached about the family's topic. Suddenly they started talking in hushed tones. The interaction went something like this....
Family Member (FM): That guy died of AIDs na?
Me: Umm...welll.....ummm........errr... (I wasn't sure whether to open my mouth here) How did you arrive at this decision?
FM: Arrey, it came in the newspaper...
Me: WHAT? (absolutely shocked)

Well, newspapers normally never mention the names, addreses or anything related to the victim. So I was shocked to know how they came to know about it?

FM: Arrey, it came in the XYZ Marathi paper. His name also was mentioned. That's how we all know.
Me: WTF! Do you have the copy of the paper.
FM: Oh it is..(he removed the paper out of his pant pocket and showed it to me)

I stood staring at the paper, completely shocked beyond my wits. The reporter had not only mentioned the victim's name, he had also mentioned his address. SICKOS! Now I knew why the family trembled. I can visualise how people around them would have subjected them to thousands of questions, simply cause AIDS is such a taboo topic. I shudder to think what the family must be going through. The lady has 3 kids. The kids will surely be mocked at. DAMN!

I kept telling myself...ETHICS OF JOURNALISM.....whr did it go? all for a toss.... Now the entire galli, mohalla knew about the incident. Ironically I felt really powerful that day. But you know, alongwith power comes responsibility. I think many journos forget that. The kind of effect media has on people, is amazing. A small report in 4th page could bring about such a huge difference....This incident was an eye-opener for me as a journalist. I think i would take extra pains now to see if I am not hurting people's sentiments. I know I have to be more aware now.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Reporter's diary

Reporting is a fun job though I repeat again that it could be very tiring. Travelling from anywhere to anywhere in Mumbai is so tiresome and takes a minimum of an hour. That can be pissing off but well, all part and parcel of the job. Reporting gives me a chance to meet new and very interesting people. In this one month, I have learnt lot of things. I have some amusing experiences to share with you.

However recently, there was a suicide case in JJ hospital. The person had AIDS and he committed suicide jumping from the third floor of the hospital. To know more read..

I was asked by my editor to hunt down the family of the suicide victim and do a human-interest story on them. I immediately agreed. I had to first trace the address of the family. Now I called up the police to find out the address. Hmmm..After few attempts I finally got hold of the police-in-charge who gave me the required address. Surprisingly the place turned out to be somewhere close to the area I stay.

The person who died was Abhimanyu Rane and I had to meet his wife, Naina Abhimanyu Rane. The next day I left home early and went about hunting for that place. I realised it was not all that close either, but it was ok. In process I reached a slum area. I began hunting for Abhimanyu Rane. Now it was really odd that people couldn’t really figure out whom I was searching for. Normally when you go to slums, everyone knows everyone. I felt really odd. Nevertheless I kept asking around. Finally I landed up at the Rane residence. The people who were giving me directions kept asking me what work I have with them. Damn, some people, they have so many questions to ask! It was raining cats and dogs. I felt very weird. How to approach them in a moment of grief like this? One of the disadvantages of my profession is that it can land you in the most awkward situation possible. Also, I was doing something like this for the first time. I was supposed to sensitive too. I was just tongue tied and I can tell you it not the best situation to be in after you have landed up at the your subject’s house and knocked the door too. I knocked and man in his early thirties answered the door. (All the conversation that ensued happened in Marathi. I am speaking sexy Marathi now, I am proud of myself, Yayyy!)
He : Whom do you want.
Me: I wanted to meet Naina Abhimanyu Rane.
He: Oh, she is my brother-in-law’s wife. What work you have with her?
Me: (In a fix. How to tell him, that I wanted to meet her coz I want to talk about her hubby who died committing suicide coz of AIDS ) Well, I had some work with her (All I could mumble)
He: But she doesn’t stay here.
Me: Oh Damn… (I didn’t want to delay my article.) Where does she stay then?
He: Don’t worry, she stays nearby only. I will take you there.
Me: Oh, ok, great.
He: But she’s gone for work.
Me: Eh, work? (Goodness, her hubby died and she’s gone for work?) Where does she work?
He: She works in J J, she’s an attendant there.
Me: Eh? (An attendant in the same hospital where her hubby committed suicide? Oh my! this is amusing. ) Oh well….when will she be back from work?
He: She will come a bit late. In the evening only.
Me: Oh damn! (and I was there by noon. It would be late)
He: By the way what work you have?
Me: I wanted some information.
He: what you want, I know everything about her. I will give all the information.
Me: Well..err….I am from the press. I wanted to meet for some information.
He: Oh, press….hmmm
(He suddenly goes in to show photographs)
He: This is Naina. (Her marriage photos they were.) This is her husband. They used to stay here before. But she shifted to another place two years back. She used to stay here only.
Me: But the information I got was to meet her on this address.
He: Ohh…she stays at a different place now.
Me: Where’s her husband?
He: Well, he expired.
Me: Oh…how come?
He: HIV (in hushed tones)
Me: (All surprised. This chap doesn’t have any qualms admitting it. WOW) Ohh…sad.
He: Yea and Naina did not even marry you know.
Me: Does Naina have AIDS?
He: No. I did a proper check up. Neither does she nor does her son who is 6 years old.
Me: Oh, great. (Just for clarification) When did he die?
He: Some 4 years ago.
He: yea…
Me: Did he not die some 4-5 days back by committing suicide?
He: No, he died a natural death and he dies four years ago.
Me: But how can it be possible? There was a suicide few days ago in JJ of a patient who had AIDS. Isn’t he the same? Isn’t he Abhimanyu Rane?
He: Arrey, But he died four years ago and He did not commit suicide.
Me: Oh Damn
He: You don’t trust me? Ask my neighbour.
(Neighbour nods in assent)
Me: (Shit shit shit) Sorry, Sorry I wasted you time. I seem to have got wrong information. (Freaking stupid arsehole police.)
He: (laughing) Arrey na, no problem.
Me: Thank you haan, bye!

Now I know how she can go to work inspite of her husband’s death. Well, he died 4 years back, she can’t be mourning for four years na. I was all confused. Why did the police give my wrong address? Damn it. I felt so stupid. Then the first thing I did was to go to JJ Marg police station. I went there and asked the police who made me wait for almost an hour. Finally when they gave me the address, I realised I had a different address. I was so angry. I told them that I was given the wrong address. But well, they were too busy to even pay any heed. I think the attendant’s address was used to accept the body for some official purpose. I am not all that sure. It still remains a mystery to me as to why that Naina’s name was present.

Lesson number 2: You still won’t ever get your details properly. I had to again call up at 12 in the NIGHT to get the proper details because the concerned officer was available only in the night shift. Bloody….grrrr……^%$%^$%$^%

Finally I got the correct address only when the clock struck 12 night, the next day. WEIRD!! WEIRD!!!
Just imagine if the family didn’t have any death due to AIDS, I WOULD HAVE BEEN STONED TO DEATH…. HOLY CRAP! Shesssh…..God saved my life, atleast there was a death due to AIDS. (I can’t believe I am saying this) Nahi toh, I would have been dead by now. I can visualise people running behind me throwing stones and trust me it’s not a happy sight. K

I finally tracked the REAL family Well, that’s another story.

to be continued...

*Important Disclaimer*: Names, locations used above are changed.