Saturday, February 27, 2010


Delhiites don't know how to deal with celebrities.

Actually all non-Mumbaikars don't know how to behave when there's a celebrity around, no matter how minor. Heaven help you if the said person is seriously famous. My heart goes out to you, buddy!

Now, I say this from recent experience. Last week, I was in Bombay and happened to find my way to a tattered couch at that hookah-coffee lounge called Mocha @ Oshiwara. Now here's a thought: Mumbaikars treat their celebrities like Mocha treats its upholstery, by simply not acknowledging its presence, taking the glitz and the rips in their stride.

Not poor ol' me. I was with some friends who, after introducing  me to a minor celebrity (a childhood buddy, no less), promptly walked off to find a corner to smoke. All of them. Together. Now, I should perhaps be happy about the fact that they thought I could well hold my own when faced with a stranger (given my curse of the gab), but heck! I am a warm-blooded Dilliwala, and for us Bollywood sightings are few and far between, and are usually restricted to situations where we can get away with pretending to be more famous than the poor sucker, what with the delicately-perched Diors over our perfectly coiffed hair.

Not in Bombay. And definitely not on holiday from the primness of Delhi. There I was, in a pair of purple capris (hate that word -- calf-length casual pants?), with their limply hanging strings struggling to touch my black beachy flip-flops (i have been told I should drop the pretense and just call them chappals!) and a crumpled shirt that had seen a better morning. And there he was, in all his Woodland-shoes-white-shirt-blue jeans casualness. Now, with just one Bollywood hit to his name (that too of the "parallel movie" variety), I should have been able to deal with the celebrity vibes (poor soul, not that he was aware he was emitting any), but my made-in-Delhi celebritometer started spinning like crazy.

Do I ask "So, what do you do?" and kick him in the nuts with my total lack of recognition?
Or do I act cool and pretend I know who he is but am respecting his right to be at a coffee shop with an old buddy's star-stuck acquaintance without his celebrityhood being called to attention? Huh?
I took the bull by the thorns: "I really liked your work in****** It was a disturbing movie. I wonder why Bollywood can't stick to song and dance". There. Three sentiments for the shame of one.

He smiled ruefully and said: "It was close to reality and that's disturbing sometimes." Touche. Little did he know he was in very close proximity of yet another disturbing reality: well... me. But I soldiered on, trying to be so breezy as to border into the weightless inanity of the mundane, making my hard work painfully obvious to even the waiter who chose to ignore us altogether. Till my friends decided to give their lungs a well-deserved break and rescued me. So, we shook hands and I politely wished him all the best in his future endeavours. I could give "lame" a real run for its money. But then I am no Mumbaikar, am I?    

Now it's a different matter that I saw Chetan Bhagat at a curb near a coffee shop somewhere near Andheri, and had this irrepressible urge to run him over...But then that doesn't count, does it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

MIA: Bombay's balls. RIP?

Mumbai. Bombay. Khan. Thackeray. Amar. Mulayam. Kidney. Dustbin. Rahul. Italian. Mummy. Sena. Trash. Insults. Lena-dena.  This has been quite a week for us and our politicians, and it's just Thursday. Nothing new about that, I suppose, since most weeks are quite something here in the murky underbelly of Indian politics, but even politically apathetic PS is overwhelmed.

From Amar Singh asking Mulayam for his "kidney back" in return for the former's Rajya Sabha seat; to Bal Thackeray throwing the gauntlet to "deluded" Rahul baba's "Italian mummy"; with Manohar Joshi providing some 'threatening' background music like "Whether it's Shah Rukh or anyone else, when the Shiv Sena says he must take back his comments, he'll have to do it " all the way to the SP Gen. Secy. Ram Yadav saying the party has thrown its "trash" in the "dustbin" [a.k.a the probably-recyclable Amar and the very-biodegradable Jaya, whose designer surname ain't got much brand value left] to the Congress guys saying they are not interested in being a "waste basket" [again, for the redoubtable Amar], poetic eloquence (or that much flatulence?) is the order of the day. All this as Pachauri goes around flaunting his "Chhaddha &Co." suits, which must surely be synthetic (or recycled, environment-friendly plastic?) to cost just over a pair of my snug Lee jeans.

Who woulda thunk?

Now, from the war of words between the Senapatis and the First Family over Mumbai, as well as the Amar Chitra Katha saga from the badlands of UP, what stands out is the sterling quality of debate in this kindergarten playground that is Indian politics: "You stink"... "No, you stink"... "Your mommy's a bad girl"... "No, your daddy's a bad boy"... "You're a loser"... "No, you're a loser" (Yes, if a friend with a cocky six-year-old is to be believed, kids do use such big words these days)... and so on.... and on... and on.....

The other thing that stands out in stark contrast to all this Mumbai for Indians vs. Bombay for Mumbaikars ping-pong of the last few months is the silence in the streets and parks of the city in question. Just this morning, while reading the papers, my sister commented "I'm telling you, Delhi has more balls than Bombay!"  The fact that she is a die-hard fan of the one whose name is Khan has but little to do with her outrage at the Sena's latest petulance. It has to do with what I'm sure is uppermost in most people's mind ever since the the various moral armies started marching all over everything that's good and free (speech, expression, etc.), and which dates back to the time before the pink chaddis, before news of the near-curfew conditions that are to be imposed on Pune during V-day next week, before the poster-burning gangs went on the rampage, way before the Khans began to feel the heat. Which is: what the bloody hell is going on?

In all fairness, I know that Delhi can't lay claim to being the bravest, for it is still the capital city of a nation that swears by two words: "whatever, dude". But the marginally-ballsy Delhi does feel for its beleaguered buddy Mumbai and is waiting to jump into the fight (like all true Delhiites do) -- one that has to be started by all you over there in Bombay. We're looking at you, guys, and waiting for you to do something we can jump into. After all, its amchi Mumbai -- fondly known here as the sadda Bombay of humid hangovers and kuchch bhi ho sakta hai optimism. Now, who can forget the shots of VT station without remembering the opening lines of so many movies, with a dreamy, steady voice-over extolling the virtues of the Maximum City?  

So, yeah, I feel Mumbai's pain much more than Amar Singh suddenly feels Mayawati's, with the city holding more than just a special place in my heart: it holds the key to all that's good and fair and fun about India Unrestrained. Tell me, where else can you travel in your "party-going" rags in a local train at 10:30 pm with nary a leery comment? Where else would you find women balancing their behinds on a one-square-foot space in a super-fast local, chopping vegetables and gossiping with reckless abandon? Where might you get trapped in a traffic jam at 3 AM but in the original city that never sleeps?

But napping it is now. I remember a time from my first visit to Bombay, way back in 2000. It was nearly morning and we were coming back from a party/friend's place (wee bit drunk then, eh?) in a taxi (unthinkable in Delhi!), and I saw a line of people walking barefoot along the road. This baffled Dilliwala was told that they were off to the Siddhi Vinayak temple, and she could't help but think that it took some kinda crazy devotion for anyone in their right mind to trawl the dirty  streets to visit a shrine. I know that a lot of people in India do this, in so many different parts of this crazy, crazy country, but somehow seeing it in a mad, merry metropolis seemed to leave a lasting impression on yours truly. It was an enduring image of tenacity, of fervour, of faith and, most importantly, action. I don't know too many people who brisk-walk every week to a temple before sunrise. Just like, I don't know of daredevils like the commuters on Mumbai locals. Yeah, there are lots of those.

I wonder where all these people are nowadays? The ones who would fight tooth and nail about their metropolis being better than ours. The ones who would not take an insult to their city lying down, even as they moan about their bad chaat and butter chicken, while talking longingly about Moti Mahal. The ones who go ailaa at me when I talk all snooty like Delhi...

The ones I bet that jolly ol' idol in that famous temple is wondering about too. As am I. And we're probably thinking the same thing, AGAIN: saala, yeh Mumbai ko gussa kyon nahin aata hai?