Sunday, January 29, 2017

Walking through Panjrapole- A Photo Essay

"Where do you live in Chembur?"


"Err, where is that?" 

"You know, where the Freeway begins?" 

"Ah that. I never knew"

(Excerpt from many conversations I have had with friends who are residents of Chembur)

Last year in June, I took up admission for an MA program at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar. It made sense to move into a house closer to college. So I chose to live on Din Quarry Road, in Panjrapole, a seven minute walk to the old campus. But I live at the foothills, and I take a detour while the road continues to climb right to the top, going all the way above the tunnel of the Freeway. Last evening, I skipped my detour and walked up the slope, as high as the road would take me. 

Panjrapole, which loosely translated means an enclosed yard, typically built to care for cattle, birds, and other small animals can be found all over India. The Bombay Panjrapole at Bhuleshwar was established in 1934 following the Dog Riots of 1932 is an institution which needs to be seen to believed. An infirmary that takes care of dogs, donkeys, pigeons, parrots, cows right in the middle of a bazaar is one of the more fascinating sites of the city. One of their five branches is located in Chembur where I now live. I have wondered countless times about the location of the shed for cows in the surrounding neighbourhood. But I could never find it. Today evening, I set out on a whim along the road that no rickshawallah wants to take in search of the elusive Panjrapole of Chembur. The entire locality beginning from Shivaji Chowk stretching all the way up till the eyes can see is classified as Panjrapole.

A MHADA colony, a few SRA buildings stand amid what can be classified as pucca and kuccha dwellings which together the BMC classifies as slums or zhopadpatti. Higher up the slope as is the norm, lie the more recent dwellings entirely made of asbestos sheet/tin sheets (patra). As the road continues upwards, the contrasts of the city are evident. Leaving behind the more affluent parts of Chembur, the road rises, almost paradoxically into one of Bombay's most poor neighbourhoods. My experience with these neighbourhoods is not new, in fact I have learnt to identify them by their markers - small businesses. 

Small businesses, especially street vendors selling everything from freshwater fish, snacks, dried fish, small cutlery items, toys, (not so fresh) vegetables and fruits are symbols of these neighbourhoods. You can walk around Bhagat Singh Nagar, Malad or Nehru Nagar, Kurla and you are most likely to meet the same assortment each time. In addition to this, small hole in the wall barber shops, tea stalls, meat stalls - most selling
broiler chicken except for the odd mutton shop, which will not flaunt a line of customers. 

Symbolism in form of flags put up at chowks and public gathering spaces along with the presence of various religious structures indicates a cosmopolitan population. However, prominently seen are the RPI Flags, buddhist prayer structures which indicate a sizeable Buddhist population in the area. Then of course there is the accumulated garbage, choked - swamp like sewage ponds and the ubiquitous black pigs, children defecating in the open spaces and playing a game of cricket not far away. 

To my right, almost as if in the erstwhile valley runs the Eastern Freeway. Many locals just simply stand by the boundary wall and look down at the fast cars that zoom below. Most of them take pride in the freeway and told me excitedly about how a scene from Ok, Jaanu was shot here. However, most trudge down the slope all the way to Govandi station to take the crowded local to work everyday. Apart from a couple of limited buses, there exists no affordable option to experience the freeway. Virtually everyone needs to climb down for ration, for the hospital, for the school. Most of our canteen and facility management staff lives here. It's a tough life, they tell me. 

Just a happy goat

Life Under the Freeway
The Walk down to civilisation

cheap fresh water fish, alive and kicking

The Joyride, this wiry man heaves and pushes the heavy duty metal boat with 10 shrieking pirates inside.

Just some hen hanging out over the eastern freeway #OnTheEdge
Dried Fish, substitute for fresh seafood

Numerous Flag Posts like these can be found across Panjrapole
Panjrapole - At Last

Finally, on my amble across Panjrapole I met three children from a nearby school. I asked them if they knew about where I could find cows. And they took me here. The small branch of Bombay Panjrapole. At last. I couldn't talk much to the locals about it but apparently it has been around since 'many' years. Though you can't see the cattle, MumbaiPaused has captured them well in this photo. The pressures of real estate would have shrunken the size of this pol. 

Panjrapole to me is yet another neighbourhood of Bombay that keeps the contrasts of the city alive. The workers from Panjrapole keep the city well oiled and running. They are neglected and ignored but they continue to persist and hardly perish. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Life at TISS: Reflections

My laptop is down. It seems to have caught a cold. It refuses to come on. The battery is fully charged, I checked, but it still doesn't come on. In the foothills of the BARC hills where I spend most of my day it rains incessantly, much to our delight and disappointment. Delight because the TISS campus and the surroundings have turned resplendent in green so peculiar of the monsoons. And disappointment because our underwear doesn't dry. If the humble loincloth can take two days to dry under a fan, one can imagine the state of our clothes. The laundry service on campus is kind enough to wash a bucket full of clothes for a sum of Rs. 20 per bucket but the damn sun doesn't appear. It is on a paid leave that we at the HR Department don't approve of.

From the highest floor of the library building #LifeAtTiss #BombayRains

A photo posted by Rushikesh Kulkarni (@rushikeshgk) on

This is a interesting phase in my life. I am being reflective about it because it is part of our syllabus to be reflective. Management learning hinges upon reflection, it seems. I like this idea of learning. Primarily because it involves a lot of writing. But now, that brings me back to my laptop which has been snoozing ever since I got here. I miss it at times but mostly I get by pounding away on the durable Dell Keyboard attached to a powerful Ubuntu system located in the Cyber Library. It feels like a cyber cafe in here without the dreaded timer or the restrictions. With access to a multitude of journals and virtually all access to everything, this is like home for me. I have managed to meet deadlines and send out a blog or two from here. Besides it gives me the feeling of working in an office with a swivel chair and noisy colleagues. There's a water cooler at the end of the corridor to make water coolerly-conversations.

Best view canteen. Finding five minutes of solace before rushing back to class. #lifeattiss #bombayrains

A photo posted by Rushikesh Kulkarni (@rushikeshgk) on

There is a lot that goes in here but mostly it revolves around learning. I have also been eating regular meals at the DH. DH stands for Dining Hall, the communal space that serves good nutritious food not always tasty but it is nice to share meals with your friends from class. It is amazing what all good company can get you by. There are monkeys and dogs and cats and my favorite - birds on campus. The red vented, red whiskered and the white cheeked bulbul keep flitting about the main academic block. The oriental magpie keeps posing but alas, my Moto G is unable to capture its beauty. There are the sunbirds who flit about in the morning light and then there are the munias, the drongo and the kites. The parakeets fly back home in the evening while I keep my eyes open for the elusive kingfisher. Maybe it resides closer to the Vashi creek, not far from here. And then there is the cheap chai and lemon tea in the DM canteen that overlooks a canopy of trees. I relish my time here when I am with friends or by myself.

I have also been deputed to visit a refinery in Mahul, which of all things aside, gives me an opportunity to see a part of Bombay that I wouldn't have visited. They even serve great food and decent chai, all for free of cost. But the best part is coming back to campus and listening to some stimulating discussions in the classroom and outside, while taking long walks through the campus through the sepia toned deonar farm road, avoiding the dogshit that all foreign bred dogs leave behind on their morning walks. And then there is the rain. On campus, you hear the rain first before you feel it on your skin. Thanks to the canopy, you don't get drenched immediately in the Mawsynram of Bombay.

Back on campus to see this view #lifeattiss

A photo posted by Rushikesh Kulkarni (@rushikeshgk) on

A lot of folks, since I got here have asked me about my plans for Breakfree. I miss being on the road, I do. But this phase is only temporary and sooner or later I will be heading out with my trusted backpack. Into the wild. And when I do, you will hear from me. Until then, I must get back to the classroom and learn, unlearn and reflect.

P.S: If you use Instagram, #LifeAtTiss is the hashtag that I use to document my journey here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reimagining Futures - Journey Begins at TISS

When I was in school I remember seeing print ads of Childline. The number was 1098 and a child holding a phone was the logo. What a great idea it had seemed to me back then, I could simply call up a number if I was beaten up at school, I thought. Several years later, sitting at the Convention Centre of the TISS, Bombay campus I found out that it all began there. What was meant to be a personal project of Jeroo Billimoria has now transformed into a global movement, along with the Ministry of Women and Child Development adopting the programme as its own

The occasion was the Director's Address as part of our Orientation for the academic year 16-18. Dr. Parasuraman was to speak about the various Field Action Projects that are undertaken at TISS by various faculty members and students belonging to the myriad centres that call this campus their home. It was amazing how candid, sensitive and witty the talk was. Apart from the fact that many of the programmes which began here were then later adopted as models by the Government of India/Various States as their own welfare/development programmes. 

“No good work can be done without struggle”

There was Koshish, the programme to free Beggars' Home across India of people wrongly impounded, who were later rehabilitated. “If I go to VT at 3 AM, I will be picked up as a beggar and put into a Beggar's Home” Or the Special Cell for Women established in the 80s under Commissioner of Bombay, Julio Rebeiro IPS, which is now being adopted in Delhi. NRLM was started here while TISS also conducts the PMRDF – which invites young folks to work with the Collector of Conflict Affected districts. 

The Centre for Disaster Management responds immediately with resources and expertise in times of all the disasters and reconstruction of a landslide affected Malin in Maharashtra and cloud burst affected Tharu in Leh is underway. A free counselling helpline iCall is being run on campus. There are 30 Criminal Justice fellowships offered. Tarasha, a programme to free mentally sound women, victims of domestic trouble, from homes for the mentally ill is underway. Academically he spoke about tie ups with Foreign Universities and establishing the Hindukush-Himalyan University Consortium, and the BRICS university network. 

Social Sciences is nobody's baby

He explained how it is important to nurture social sciences. And the role it plays in finding solutions to the society's grave problems. All the projects were started on campus by enthusiastic faculty and student members. We listened in rapt attention to his accented voice, his anecdotes and witty remarks on social works, social sciences and the society. 

“If you can succeed in UP, you can succeed anywhere”

When asked about what the School of Management (the one I belong to) has done, the Director explained how he wanted to abolish the HRM&LR Programme which I am a part of, when he joined in 2004. However, he only restructured it to make it more socially relevant. He also explained how our school had run a Skill Development programme with the Weavers of Benares, the Chikankari workers of Lucknow and the Sports Goods manufacturers at Meerut. 
Apart from this, there is a lot of work being done with the Government directly such as the social audit of the Nirbhaya Programme, developing Participatory Planning for the Sansad Gram Yojana.
Why should you work for the Government?
Because the government works for the people, or is supposed to. But yes, you being there can make it for the people. 

On jobs and careers, a lady asked about the low pay packages of trained social workers. To this the Director replied candidly: Nowadays, they get paid well but of course not as well as the HR guys. More laughter. He stressed on transforming personal privileges into opportunities for others. On taking up a grass roots job. On choosing a partner that respects you. 

There is nothing that cannot be done. Speak truth to the power. Do it through research. 

On several occasions, he mentioned that there were no funds to run these projects. But the money came because the will was there. He encouraged us to bring forth our projects and “we'll talk” he said. He answers were candid and encouraging. He was unassuming, revealed to us his salary (Rs. 89,000 take home) 

But moreover, it made me feel great to be here. To be a part of something bigger, to be part of a University that doesn't stress only on getting placed but on making a difference to the lives of others. Now the slogan – Reimagining futures makes a lot more sense to me. I am looking forward to my two years here. Lots to be done.

For a complete list of the Field Action Programmes conducted at TISS and to get involved with them, kindly click here. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Scalding Hot Water

"Burn in hell"

What does that even mean? Have you wondered? It sounds painful, of course. But there may not be anything such as hell. However, the said thing to do in hell is a real life, actual thing. But why not drown in hell or why is hell full of fire and not simply a gas chamber? Because fire hurts. Immensely. It is worse than a deep cut. And infinitely worse than a bruise. My tryst with fire has been very limited. Never played with the red flower, you see.

Your skin is a wonderful organ, the biggest organ overall and also externally. Internally that position is occupied by the liver which for many of you, I am sure bears the brunt of your life's ups and downs. Coming back to the skin, it is made of many layers primarily to protect your inner machinery from any damage. It has plenty of other responsibilities but it is the first line of defence for any external attacks. Such as boiling hot water. Or Scalding Hot Water.

As I was to discover one Sunday morning of January 2016 when I accidentally dropped a big vessel full of very hot water on the floor and my left shin took the hit. At first I didn't realise how bad the damage was. By instinct I poured water on it. Very cold, straight out of the fridge, big mistake. This extreme range of surface temperatures confused the skin and led to more damage.

The sensation you feel is hard to elucidate. It stings on impact and then burns later, pun most definitely not intended. Your toes curl up, and your fingers make a fist and your other leg shakes. You want to move about but you don't. Your stifle a scream and your throat runs dry. You look at the wrinkled skin and spot some blood, thinly sliced skin it looks like. You wince in some pain but then you accept it and start looking up about burns on the internet.

Then scalds appear. Big ones. Depending upon the degree of the burn. Visual damage assessment + WebMD told me that it was a second degree burn. Scalds full of fluids formed. Big question was whether to drain them or let them be. The Internet said let them be, they are good for the burn. So I let them be. They would drain on their own they said. I had to tie a loose bandage and keep the scalds covered. Initial damage was centered around 1 square inch but as the sun set, I realised it was 4x of that. Oh well, when it rains, it pours.

The internet also told me that the scalds were prone to become septic. Tetanus shot was to be administered as soon as possible. Got that done the next day and doctor Patel recommended a few tablets, rest and betadine solution. He said the same thing as docs on the web, let the scalds appear they will drain on their own. I had to look out for pus but I trust tetanus shots. It never came to that.

The skin is an amazing organ. Healing began as soon as the damage was inflicted. Bright pink skin or what is below the epidermis had started to appear as thin dark brown damaged layers started to peel off the same day. The fluid filled scalds remained for a bit. I would keep them covered with a loose bandage, tighter when I stepped out for a friend's wedding three days later at Bandra Gymkhana where I shook a leg. Well not really, more of a foot tap but you get the drift.

It took several days to heal completely and with the scalds gone, patches of red skin appeared. Dr. P recommended Aloederm a lotion that helped faster healing. Today the shin bears the mark of that fateful day where I learnt how the term scalding hot water originated. I am just thankful that it was not scalding hot oil.

I cannot imagine the pain that a higher degree burn victim faces. I cannot imagine the bravery of the Firefighters who risks everything to save individuals. I cannot imagine the trauma that an acid attack victim suffers from. So much needs to be done but I'll conclude thus -  fire and burn accidents are preventable, be extra careful. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Story Of Santacruz

A little while ago, I found myself on the SV Road stretch near Santacruz. It was rush hour and I didn't want to negotiate my way through the vendors, shoppers and commuters thronging on all the approach roads to the station. So on a whim, I turned right into a quiet lane that seemed going towards the station. One of the address boards of a shop read - Chapel Lane. Fifty meters later, I knew why it was called so.

A small cross encased in glass stood high in one corner. Below, I noticed a marble plaque. This site was significant. After all this is what lent the entire neighbourhood its name.

Here's what the plaque read

This site is sacred & historic to the suburb of Santa Cruz. 

The words Santa Cruz translate as Holy Cross in Portuguese. Legend has it that the East Indian natives of the village Khulbowree erected a crudely made cross on a hillock which became a landmark because it could be sighted for miles amidst vast paddy fields. The original inhabitants, who were cultivators, would gather at this site daily to pray the Rosary, a Christian devotion to Mother Mary, contemplating the life of Jesus. 

Santa Cruz railway station, which began operations in October 1888, was named after this Holy Cross. 

A chapel built on this site around 1850 is where the Christian Church and the Parish of Sacred Heart in Santa Cruz is rooted. Today, home for the destitute and dying run by the Missionaries of Charity, the site is living evidence of the values of Christ....

Love & Hope for the least of humankind. 

Opposite to it lay the St. Thomas Marthoma Syrian Church and behind the site lay the century old Willingdon Colony which has grown silent over the few years. Santacruz is rapidly changing but some things remain that remind one of the past, of the simpler times gone by.

Those of you who would like to visit the cross, simply google Cardinal Gracias Destitutes Home, Chapel Lane.

Related: The BMC was established in the same year that Santacruz station became operational.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Chapter from a Dog's Life

Stray dogs are amazing beings. They are happy to live off the leftovers found in the garbage dumps or on scraps thrown at them. They find shelter under a parked truck in the day or curl up like a ball in a corner at night. Rain, sunshine, disease and hunger don't deter them. They aren't owned or cared for by anyone but they fiercely defend the territory that they live in. It is not hard to imagine how the idiom - it is a dog's life came into existence. Pet dogs lead a far comfortable life, irrespective of the breed.

As much as I'd like, I have not had a pet dog except for this one short time when I was 13 (Suzie died within 6 months). To make up for it, I have always forged friendship with all the stray dogs I come across on a daily basis. Feeding them occasionally, playing with them and picking their ticks off their hide means time well spent. Sometimes we have even helped secure a corner for their new born puppies and cared for the minor injuries. But when Whitey, the big adult dog was injured in the shoulder and hind leg in a pre-mating fight with a rival dog, we thought it could be healed with the normal - betadine + turmeric remedy.

He never turned up for the first few days after the injury. He went underground. Probably to heal the wounds himself. But eventually he emerged. He shied away from the betadine and shook off the turmeric each time I tried to apply it. He could be tempted to stand still with some parle-G biscuits but never did he hold on for too long. We persisted and hoped against hope that our remedy would work. For a few days, it went off well. We developed a schedule around the treatment. Late at night he would emerge from the darkness and packets of Parle-G, a bowl of milk and lots of turmeric would await him. He gave in eventually and we went off to sleep with some sense of satisfaction and hope. 

But one night, we saw him whining in pain, running around aimlessly. When I approached him, he wagged his tail slowly. He would run and then sit to scratch his wound with his hind legs. He smelled of rotten flesh. When I finally got around to petting him, I flashed my torch on the wound, only to see what I had been dreading. The wound seem to be breathing, a trickle of blood ran from it, and along with the stench it became clear that he was infested with maggots.

One of the most common problems facing all wounded animals especially stray dogs and cattle is Myiasis. In urban areas, flies regularly hatch their eggs into wounds and the larvae that emerge wreak havoc by boring deep into the animal's flesh, eating away at skin and tissue. A small wound can turn into a gaping hole, irritating the animal and may even eventually kill it.

What followed is interesting and can be tried at home, with some adult supervision. If you notice an injured dog in your neighbourhood - either call up Karuna or follow the procedure mentioned below. 

We had to act quickly. His pain was unbearable to him and us. I knew chloroform could help but there was no way of obtaining it. Chemists shook their heads rapidly each time I enquired. In sheer desperation, I googled remedies and came across two very helpful posts. Jaagruti and Welfare of Stray Dogs had posted a detailed procedure of treating maggot infested wounds. I needed a couple of things which I bought from a medical shop that stocks Veterinary medicines. 

1. Topicure Spray (D-Mag or Himalaya's Scavon; available on Amazon) - Rs. 75/Rs. 220 (250 ml)
2. Neosporin powder (Neomycin) - Rs. 60
3. Betadine Solution - Rs. 80
4. Lorexane Cream (or Acrilin) - Rs. 45
5. Himax Cream - Rs 45
6. Negasunt Powder - Rs. 60 ( can be used if Topicure isn't available)

The procedure is simple if the dog is co-operative which Whitey was, but only partially. I often had to cajole him and talk to him during the entire process. Or sometimes restrain him with one hand. Make sure you are friendly with the dog before attempting this because an injured dog may bite out of irritation. Trust is vital. Use thick rubber gloves as a safety precaution if you are unsure. 

The procedure prescribed involved using Medical turpentine oil or chloroform to kill the maggots. Neither was available so I skipped this step and relied on Topicure spray. The stinging sensation caused by the impact and of the eucalyptus contents of it caused Whitey to run. Make sure this treatment is performed in an open space with no kids running around. Next step was to clean the maggots which had started to emerge after the first few applications, in the same evening. One had to use tweezers to pluck them off but again Whitey was resistant to it and instead he tried to lick them off, while I flicked some that I could with my fingers.

Next, I filled a syringe with betadine and flushed the wound with it. Neosporin came next which helped to dry the wound. The following two steps were the most important. I took some Lorexane (you can also use Acrilin) on my hand and applied it over the wound (I was wearing basic disposable gloves). This helps tissue healing and fights maggots. Lastly I applied a liberal amount of Himax which essentially prevents flies from coming near the wound. This ensures that repeat infection doesn't occur. We also applied some turmeric powder each time. Remember, the effect of Himax wears out in about 12 hours so dressing must be done twice a day. 

The next day, I was relieved to find no signs of maggots. We continued the same line of treatment, ensuring that Topicure was spread all over the wound and Himax was liberally applied every 12 hours. I stopped using a glove but instead used an old plastic spatula to apply the lotions properly.

Over the next few weeks, we monitored him closely and even tried to feed him Amoxicillin 250 crushed and mixed in his milk, which he refused to drink. In the weeks that followed, the biggest challenge remained was that of convincing the community that an injured dog was not a mad dog. He could be spotted running around aimlessly because he feared humans would hurt him. Everyone had been treating him like a pest. But with the treatment showing some results, most of the folks changed their stand. Some even offered to spray Topicure in my absence (or presence because Whitey would run away each time he saw the can in my hand)

With a good diet, adequate rest, regular dressing - Whitey managed to heal himself. It was not a difficult process but it needed persistence. The life of a dog may not have value for a lot of folks, but those utilitarian thinkers might know an injured dog could easily be a threat to the society and at least for that, it must be healed.

The idea behind this post is to encourage community participation in the welfare of dogs. A small wound if treated promptly with Betadine, Neosporin and Himax will heal quickly without getting infested with maggots. And who knows, in the process you might even gain a friend for life!

The Portrait of a Photographer

Early January of 2015.

It had been a good day. A meeting with a friend had helped clear out a lot of things in my head. The way forward from there on, seemed a bit clearer to me. The Starbucks where we had met was a new one, located not very far the chowk. I wandered back to the bus stop to catch the 266 back to the station. But the sun had not set and it had been a while since I had visited the lake.

The lake, for most, simply cannot exist. For Lokhandwala can't have a lake. A lake in Lokhandwala? Lol. Just too many cross roads and shopping streets they say. But walk down on the Backroad as it is known, towards the jogger's park but don't enter it. Keep walking straight and within a few meters, look to your right. A small clearing opens up into what looks like a small pond but a healthy one. The Lokhandwala lake has over 70 species of birds, 50 % of which are winter migrants. It was a late January evening and I was very happy to see many ducks, a few raptors and also what seemed to be the little Grebe but I couldn't be sure.

Now the little grebe, true to its name is a small bird and without binoculars, I could not have confirmed it. I wondered why not many birders or even locals visit the lake and right then, a senior person in thick frame glasses and a small pair of binoculars walked upto me. He smiled at me and said that he always visited every evening in the winters. I asked him if it could be the little Grebe, there in the corner. He offered his binoculars to me and yes, indeed! It was the Grebe. We even looked at the ducks properly now and turned out they were the Lesser Whistling Ducks, visiting Lokhandwala for the winters.

He told me how the numbers, predictably, had dwindled. Since late 90s to now, Lokhandwala - Oshiwara area has seen unprecedented rise in construction activity - leading to destruction and degradation of habitats of not just the birds but also of the mangrove forests. He said that even then he was content at seeing at least these few visitors. He added that he was also interested in Photography and had documented the bird life around the lake. From his accent, it was not difficult to tell that he was from Kerala but he told me that he had spent only his youth there. Rest of the time, he had been with an oil corporation working in the oil fields of North East India and had travelled extensively in the region, even going right upto the historic Stillwell Road.

He said that he had a lot of photos which he had taken on his vintage camera as a young man and then later on his SX-series. He told me that he didn't live far from the lake, just down a few blocks, on the third cross lane. And invited me over. I was hesitant, I asked him if his family would mind.  'don't worry about them, come' he said. so we crossed the busy junction and walked. His gait was a bit unsteady and he blamed his age for it and added that he had to make it home before it got dark, lest he missed a pothole and fell down.

As we walked slowly, I realised how senior citizens, people with reduced mobility are vulnerable - given the number of open drains, potholes, manholes and just loose paver blocks that one finds even on a small stretch of road. We soon reached his house. His son welcomed us in and asked me if I wanted tea. I politely declined and my new friend lost no time in pulling out his work from the cupboard. But as he sorted out his 'best' work, the photo frames on the walls caught my attention. To my left was the Qutub Minar, but taken from behind of an arch - a very unusual angle. To my right was a street scene from Southern India (Kerala, perhaps), it was strikingly beautiful. I stood there looking at it, and it wasn't until he pointed out that I realised that dwarfed by the streetscape, standing in the centre were two children. His two sons.

He explained as we sat down on the sofa, that the idea was to focus on the street and not let the two humans dominate the scene. It was clicked on his Bessamatic way back in the 70s. He had developed the prints on his own, in a dingy dark room. He had wasted many prints and 'so-much' chemical in learning the technique but he was entirely self taught. Over the next one hour or so, I found myself reliving my recent trips to places across India which he had captured on print many decades ago.

There were temples of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal, there was even the ruins of Hampi and Mammalapuram (Mahabalipuram), while his trip with his family to Delhi captured the architectural grandeur of the medieval times to the many emotions and moments of his family. And then, there were photos of a foggy morning by a lake in Calcutta (70s), for which he visited the lake every morning for a week to get the best angle. While seeing certain frames, he asked me to shut one of my eyes to notice the 3-Dimensional effect that his angle created on the image.

There were also many photos of birds - including the common Kingfisher, white throated kingfisher, coppersmith barbet, the ducks and plenty of other water boards that used to be spotted quite commonly at Lokhandwala Lake. He was delighted to show them to me. I asked him how had he managed to nurture the hobby for so many years. And he said that he really liked clicking photos. That's all kept him going.

However, it wasn't just point and shoot for him, he was a strict disciplinarian and thus irked his family on many trips! He explained why. His routine when arriving at a new place was simple. He would simply walk around for a few hours, studying the place and composing his shots or waiting for the sun to move more to the west and then just at the right minute - take the shots. Photography is for the patient he added.

It made me think of my impulses to instantly capture a structure on my phone without paying any thought for better composition, influence of natural light, leaving all that upto the filters on Instagram. There were photos of Bombay, of the Marine Drive, of lakes in Calcutta and many more that were stored away or were lost. We didn't realise how fast time had flown. It was a fascinating journey, virtually into the past, into the world of Photography and the serious disciplined work that went into capturing the moment right. I thanked him for his time, promised to meet again and said my goodbyes to Mr. G - the man who liked to click photographs.

Monday, February 1, 2016

कॉल्ड्प्ले in Bombay

कॉल्ड्प्ले केम टू बॉम्बे टू शुट थेइर लेटेस्ट विडीयो.

थे टूक अ कॅब अंड वेंट टो प्ले होळी इन वरळी अन्द सेंट सोनम कपूर टू वसई फोर्ट.

बेयोन्से बेकेम अ हिंदी मूवी आयटम गर्ल कॉलअड राणी.

व्हाट ईस व्रोंग विथ इत?

I saw the video only to see if I could spot the locations. Yes, there is Bassein Fort (How did they get the white peacock there! CGI like Beyonce climbing the stairs of the fort?) shot in the monsoon months with the foliage glorious and overtaking the ruins of the past, there are bylanes of Worli, the fort and the small harbour, Banganga, random streets and yes of course, the Gateway.

But there are some great visuals and some really made up ones. Sadhus doing yoga, kaleidoscope man, outdated tv sets but hey, this is a music video not a documentary on India on Discovery Channel. All I am thinking is how much fun those b-boying boys must have had and how proud their parents must be. I hope someone tracks down the group and does a story on them.

Then of course, there are the fishermen from Worli Koliwada whose dinghies Chris Martin sails away on. All in all, good song, good video - if you want to learn about India through a music video then I am sorry for you.

Also, if you are still crying hoarse about cultural misappropriation and being an apologist (We also have skyscraperzz!) then to you I'd like to say, what we say it in Bombay, khaali-peeli kaayko bomb maarta hain? Khaali fukat time waste mat kar. Culti maar, chal.

Sun, Sand and Safety

The death of 13 college students off the coast of Murud beach comes as a shock. The relatively cleaner stretch of sand, with a narrow road running parallel to it is a great place for an evening stroll. I remember spending a leisurely afternoon there. I know how tempting it must have been to enter the waters and maybe splash around for sometime. I am sure the professors accompanying the students would have thought it to be a harmless activity.

Had it been any other beach with a slight gradient and low undertow; it would have been a perfect beach holiday with an excursion to the nearby Murud Janjira fort. Was there lack of oversight among the teachers? Perhaps. Were students so naive; maybe. But were they warned? Was there anyway of them knowing that the beach is known to be dangerous for swimming?

During the afternoon when the incident took place, the locals and tourists don't frequent the beach. It is quite isolated. Naturally, with nobody to turn them around the big group must have made straight to the water. In 2014, some folks from Chembur also drowned in these treacherous waters.

If there is any takeaway from these sad incidents, it is that local capacity building is vital. Fishermen in the vicinity can easily be trained to become full time Lifeguards with the necessary knowledge and equipment. The cost can be borne by the district administration, tourism department and the gram panchayat.

The beaches of Maharashtra deserve to be promoted as International beach holiday destinations but not without taking these simple preventive measures that would ensure that the holiday doesn't turn into a nightmare.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"From Shadows to the Stars"

Much is being written, said and debated.
About Rohith Vemula.
Of course, but for how long.
26 days? He was 26.

Born in Guntur, dead in Hyderabad.
His birth his fatal accident.
His ambition to become a writer.
His work - his first final note.

His mother sewed clothes
Father guarded a hospital.
He wrote, he fought, he was expelled.
From the University and the world.


An original voice was extinguished. It is pathetic. Is this what a death of a writer feels like? Perhaps. Whose poignant note remains his best work. It makes one think, reflect and retch at what we have become. A newspaper carried it in the Op-Ed section with a smiling picture of him. I read it once. And once more. I couldn't read it again. But I did. You must read it too. Several times.


I have always defended reservations. In colleges, in universities and in jobs. Urban readers, if from the upper castes, upper class, ignorant of the problems and issues faced by the Dalits, will criticise my stand. They don't think caste barriers exist.

In Bombay, it is easy to be ignorant. We don't have the time. We don't think that there exists a barrier, a bias, a prejudice, a dogma, a hatred. But it does. In our minds and in our matrimonial meetings and dealings, it does. It permeates deep within, in dark corners unknown to the best of us. Reflect.