Saturday, November 21, 2009

Latest Topics Of Discussion

From our cook A, I have found out that the hottest topic of discussion these days is the price of food. No matter where you go, she says, at bus stops, in the train, in the chawl where she lives, they're talking about the impossibly steep rise in the price of everything from bhindi to potatoes and wondering how they're going to survive. As for the price of dal, says A, it's a joke. It's more than doubled in such a short while. We both talked about how scary it is when such a huge chunk of the population of a city or state is faced with a serious food shortage. Gear up for more violence, I tell her and she nods with a stoic look in her eye. Only, people are so dumb, she adds. Instead of confronting those whom they should, the people in power who are responsible for this state of affairs, they will go and burn some more buses and destroy public property and that will be the end.

The Mahalaxmi temple next door has its own way of dealing with these difficult times we are going through. In the morning we are blasted out by conch shells played over the loudspeaker and our evening meditations on the balcony, over a tot of Feni or rum, are accompanied by a loud, almost aggressive rendition of "Om Jai Jagdish". Well, the rum or feni or whiskey as the case may be does make it easier for us to cope with the ear-splitting pleas for mercy. It reminds me of that bunch of priests in Bombay who, a few months back, immersed themselves in drums of water for ten hours a day over several days, chanting Sanskrit slokas to bring on rain. The rain manager apparently was deaf and didn't hear it, so we still have a water shortage in Bombay and the crops have failed miserably which is also a likely reason for the steep food prices.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ahh... Bombay!

Mansi and Sophie entertaining each other

Landing at Sahar airport was like a slap in the face. Sudden, unexpected (because when you're abroad you forget how things are in India) and stinging. There was this union strike, see, so everything was slowed down and I thought it would take not just a few hours but a few days before I got home. I most often ask for a wheelchair to circumvent the long queues at immigration and customs and am whizzed through like a rocket. This time the wheelchair took forever to arrive and when I raised an eyebrow, the air hostess told me that it was because seventeen passengers on our aircraft had put in a request for assistance. Seventeen??!! Yikes. Is India the only country where a sizeable fraction of the population is old and/or disabled?!

After a bit I saw that the wheelchairs had arrived but we were still waiting. It turned out that there were only about two assistants to push the whole lot of us because the rest of the workers were on strike. Somehow we managed (I began to regret having asked for a wheelchair and thought I might have gotten out faster on my own this time). As if this weren't enough there were some checks on account of swine flu and we had to fill in forms regarding the state of our health while we were screened for fever or symptoms of flu. The area around immigration was choking with passengers who had not been cleared but of course, there's nothing like patience. I decided to take it all with grace, even if I had to wait there till the next morning.

Finally when we got our bags I decided I'd had enough of the wheelchair and being pushed around together with seventeen others and decided to grab hold of the trolley on which my bags had been piled and made my way out. Here too, milling crowds, a mixture of passengers and those who had come to fetch them. In perpetual fear of being knocked down I made my way out to where I caught side of Tuks who had come to collect me, along with Pawar after which I stuck to his side until the car arrived.

My return home was marked with a lot of activity. To begin with, S's sister had come to stay for a few days along with her loquacious three and a half year old daughter Mansi who as long as she's awake, cant keep her mouth shut. Luckily she is at the stage when anything and everything she says is cute and you cant help laughing. Then Suhail arrived around 4 in the afternoon. He had come to meet his friend and colleague from Paris, Sophie, who was to arrive that night, and whom he went to fetch from the airport.

Sophie turned out to be a hit with Mansi who even learned a few words in French including "Bonjour" and "Comment ca va". She was also very popular with Shambhu who sidled past her as she was leaning over the railing facing the garden, raised a leg and sprayed her on the arm. I was aghast to hear about it from Suhail though Sophie just giggled and shrugged and said it was normal, if someone regarded you as his territory.

The first few days I was knocked out and mostly in a bit of a zombie like state but having slept and slept and eaten and slept this last week I am finally back to normal.