Mumbai, Meri Jaan?

Having a lousy time in Mumbai. Sigh. I hope to survive this insanity long enough to return home safe and sound. I can’t believe I am in the heart of Mumbai and can’t make an international call. I can’t believe I’m in the heart of Mumbai and can’t access a stable internet connection. I can’t believe I’m in the heart of Mumbai and am cut off from the world with no phone, no money, no internet, no nothing. I can’t believe I ate Ruffles Lays for lunch because I didn’t have money to buy myself a decent meal. I can’t belive I traveled in the handicapped compartment of a local train because I didn’t know it was reserved for the handicapped. I can’t believe I went around the whole city in sweltering heat, and didn’t feel tired because I was beyond fatigue.

I can’t believe I’m in Mumbai. I can’t believe I hate this place so much, and yet, there’s something about this city that makes me want to come back, again and again. I can’t believe I love this place.

I can’t believe I love Mumbai.

 

 

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Buses, Bloggers, Booze, Biryani, Bangalore Mirror…

"Special" Buses Are Late.
"Special" Buses Are Late.

…or anything else that matter, I had an awesome weekend to say the least. I reached Chennai Saturday morning after a particularly disconcerting bus ride. The bus was supposed to be a “special” bus from KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) and the fare was 800 instead of the usual 500. It was supposed to be a Volvo bus with air-conditioning and was supposed to reach Chennai an hour early than the other buses. The bus was supposed to depart at 10:43 pm. There were 60 people scheduled to travel in the bus, and we were waiting with our tickets in hand at the designated platform, watching the 10:30 pm bus arrive and depart, the 10:45 pm bus arrive and depart and finally, even the 11:45 bus arrive. There was no sign of the “special” 10:43 bus.

Someone got agitated; someone else called the cops and brought a couple of constables to the spot and started accosting everyone sporting a KSRTC uniform. The cops were pleading helplessness and the KSRTC men were pleading ignorance. I was standing there among the crowd, feeling an unrealistic sense of amusement creep over me.  “This isn’t happening,” I said to myself. “I must be dreaming.”  I pinched myself quite hard and let out a surprised yelp of pain, drawing strange looks from the angry mob.

Finally, the “special” bus did arrive and we all got in, praying that no one beats the driver to death. An uneventful journey later, I stepped out in Chennai. I was scheduled to attend a workshop on visions and entrepreneurship on Saturday and Sunday, catch the Opeth concert at the IIT Madras fest – Saarang ’09 – meet bloggers from Chennai briefly on Monday, catch an early bus back to Bangalore and meet Shefaly who was in town, and finally, go home and catch up on some much-needed sleep before heading back to work on Tuesday. That was the plan.

Uthandi Ashram
Uthandi Ashram

The workshop was quite fascinating and enlightened me on a lot of things. A residential workshop held in the quaint Uthandi Ashram in Chennai, I can’t decide if the peace and quiet were more enthralling than the peacocks and the private beach.

The Opeth concert was mind-blowing, and that’s an understatement. More than 5000 people thronged to the Open Air Theater at IIT Madras – a campus known for it’s sheer size and natural beauty – and were entertained by some out-of-this-world music by Demonic Resurrection and Motherjane, who opened for Opeth. After an agonizing wait, Opeth finally kicked off, and for the next three hours, it was a sound fest.

I Was There! Long Live Rock!
I Was There! Long Live Rock!

When 5000+ people scream and sing along with an absolutely heavy death metal band, the world stands still and joins in the chaotic mayhem. I came out with a sore throat and a star-struck look in my eye. I became one of the few lucky human beings alive to have witnessed Opeth live in concert! 🙂

Monday morning proved to be undoing of my well-laid plans and I just did not get a bus ticket back to Bangalore. All the buses were filled and I was too broke to afford a flight. I controlled my rising panic and went to meet all the bloggers from Chennai, whom I’d ditched once for a meet.

It was an amazing afternoon, where I demonstrated my culinary skills with some mouth-watering Biryani that would put the greatest chefs to shame. I met Vimal, Aaarti, Archie, Aparna, Apar, Bhar, Praddy, Sharada, Nautankey and three non-bloggers – Vikram, Arvind MN and Guha. I got tipsy with some fine Jack Daniels and realized that it was too late for me to reach Bangalore in time to meet Shefaly. I owe her an apology.

I caught a late night “special” bus back to Bangalore after walking around the bus stand for more than 40 minutes trying in vain to obtain a seat. I paid 800 bucks again for a ticket that cost 720 bucks and forgot to get the balance money back. I got fleeced for 80 bucks by a government employee! 😀

blog-talk-jan-27-2009

I reached Bangalore this morning at 4:30 and slept for a coupe of hours and returned to the monotony of my professional life. I got a pleasant surprise, when I realized that Bangalore Mirror had featured MirrorCracked again! So, I’d say that it has been a good weekend which could’ve been great if everything on my list went according to the plan. But, that’s life.

Hippie For A Weekend!

Perhaps the best weekend of my life so far. The title of this post is in appreciation of Bina‘s wonderful retirement plans (she plans to retire as a hippie in Goa at the age of 25!), which inspired me to do something similar, if only for a weekend.

In Gokarna, I was a hippie for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with nothing to do except lounge around on the beach, lie down on the sand in the heavy rain, waiting for the waves to come crashing into me, a bottle of cold beer by my side and a packet of cigarettes handy. We left Bangalore at 9 pm on Friday night and the first sign that this was going to be pleasant journey was that the bus was a sleeper AC coach, with long beds where I could stretch my 6’1″ frame comfortably and plug in my music and go to sleep. 🙂

A clear, blue sky with a spectacular sun gave way to dark clouds that bore ominous signs of a wet weekend. And wet it was – the skies opened up a few hours after I entered Gokarna, and didn’t let up for the three days. It rained intermittently and heavily and at one time, it rained for half a day continuously. This was perhaps the best part of the whole trip. Waves six feet high crashing on to the rocks made a spectacular view.

Imagine this: you’re sitting on a piece of rock that doubles as a chair in a beach-side restaurant, you have a cup of piping hot tea next to you, you’re sitting under an asbestos sheet that barely covers your outstretched legs, the sound of the rain thumping down on the roof is deafening, this sound has been masked by the crashing of the waves right in front of you, waves that rise to astronomical heights, spraying you with a fine, cold mist of salty sea water every time it does, you sit there from morning till evening watching the tide ebb and rise, and at the highest tide, the waves almost come up to the rock on which you’re sitting, instilling in you a faint fear of being washed away, but sitting there with the confidence that the place has been built there to withstand the highest tides, struggling to light your cigarette because the wind is blowing with all its fury, adding to the harmonic noise, and finally, just when the ancient clock in the café strikes six and the tiny lights go on, you see similar lights turning on all along the beach, hundred yards away from each other, and throwing a magnificent view of the entire beach in twilight, corresponding to the distant lighthouse and the small specks of light on the horizon among the waves.

I made friends with a nice, cute dog there, who had a striking resemblance to Balto, and I christened him Murthy. This was because he had only three front teeth, and I couldn’t think of any better name for him. I was having a conversation about existentialism with him and I asked him, “Do you believe if the whole concept of existentialism holds water, no puns intended?” He gave me the most logical answer I’ve ever heard on this topic: he scratched his head, sniffed his balls and trotted away. 😀

Gokarna town is a rustic village, located twenty minutes away from Om Beach, and is famous for its historical temples. There’s one very famous Mahabaleshwar temple here and legend has it that Lord Ganesha tricked the demon Ravana into leaving behind a Shivalinga here. In spite of the might exerted by Ravana (Maha Bala), the Shivalinga stayed fixed, hence the name Mahabaleshwar. The pull exerted by Ravana, is said to have caused the Shivalinga to resemble the shape of a cow’s ear and hence the name Gokarnam (literally means “cow’s ears” in Sanskrit). I had a nice time at the temple with the crowd of people thronging there, braving the rain to offer their prayers.

I started reading Roland Barthes during the journey, a French thinker who had been on my list for a long time. His book Mythologies is quite fascinating, and most of his essays are really intriguing. A good read for any occasion. But the most excitement came in the form of Italo Calvino.

I fell in love with this book called If on a winter’s night a traveler, which is perhaps THE best book I’ve ever read in my life! Thanks Anushree for getting the book for me!! I could not put the book down and once I finished it, started kissing the book all over until it was sloppy. I really suggest this book. I love Italo Calvino! You have to, have to read it!! 😀

Caught the bus back on Sunday night and reached this morning, thus bringing to a close one of the most beautiful journeys in my life. As I said earlier, if anyone hasn’t been to Gokarna, please do. It’s one of the most breathtaking places you can ever go.

Getting there is not much trouble – buses leave from Bangalore every night at 9 pm, and the tickets cost around 500 bucks. I don’t know about buses from other places, but I’m sure it’s well connected. Any bus going to Goa stops at Gokarna. From Gokarna town, catch an auto to Om Beach for 120 bucks and stay there at Namaste Café, at 150 bucks a night! That simple! 😀

Part of me wants to go back there and part of me knows that it’ll not happen again for at least a few more months. I guess I can wait! 🙂

Time To Un-Burn!

Burnt out, exhausted, mentally frustrated, tired, disgustingly tired!

I need a break! It’s 6.10 pm, Thursday evening, and in three hours, a bus leaves to Gokarna with me on it! For the next three days, its just the sun, sand, the beach and cold cold beer for me! Technology can’t reach me there. I am going to the place where I want to be buried when I die. 🙂

Poised right at the edge of the country, the waves washing over my feet, I am going to stand very very still and let the salty air wash over me and I am going to look up to the sky and smile and stand there for a long long time with the confidence that such acts of foolishness are quite a common sight in Gokarna, where people come to remedy being burnt out. I badly need a break.

I will be back on Monday morning, 5 am, at which time, I will post all the amazing photographs that I would have taken there, and write about my absolutely wonderful yet-to-be experience! Take care, you all! God Speed! 😀