Monday, January 08, 2007


Of all my relatives, I believe I’m closer to my maternal uncle & his wife (mama, maami). So when a bonny baby girl was born to them on Xmas morning, I had to go see them. This also gave me the excuse to undertake yet another short trip & I realized that I might be turning into a travel junkie after all!

The morning of 3rd Jan took me to Mumbai by Go Air (the only reason I mention the airlines name is because in spite of being a budget airline, it is way more comfortable than Air Deccan-another budget airline). As is wont these days, the flight was delayed by more than an hour & I landed in Mumbai in the early hours of the afternoon. There are things very peculiar & unique to Mumbai and I learn more every time I go there. At the airport are young boys/men dressed in a uniform which is somewhat of a cross between a traffic police & NCC uniforms. They are called mhadas in the regional language, and they usher the cabs for you. There didn’t seem to be a pre-paid counter at the port, so I had to haggle & bargain with the drivers until I finally got hold of one who was willing to go by the meter (I was being quoted exorbitant prices). At the exit, each cab has to go through the traffic police who will ask the destination & will also note down your basic details like name & intended destination. The cop was impressed that I pronounced the destination correctly (Tardeo) – I get that a lot J

Half an hour later, I was at Tardeo with my Granny & Grandpa. Needless to say, I was fed well, with paaya – coupled with the famous Mumbai paav (bread – I wish other places would have it too). I asked my grandparents questions that my friends & colleagues often ask me. Where did you actually come from? Why did your forefathers come to India? The stories my grandparents shared was interesting. Our side of the family comes from the Hu-bei province (spelt on the map as Hu-peh) – located in Southern China & often referred to as The Land of Fish & Rice. An interesting bit of trivia I discovered about the province on the net is that other Chinese people refer to the Hu-bei people as Nine-headed birds, a mythological creature said to be very aggressive & hard to kill. "In the sky live nine-headed birds. On the earth live cunning Hubei people." Surely, we aren’t all that bad lolz ;)

The reasons for coming to India were primarily business, or less commonly, to escape the communalist clutches of the then Chinese Govt. Since there were no road, rail or air routes to take, the Chinese people who migrated to India came through the roughest terrains possible – snow clad mountains, robber, beast and cannibal infested jungles. When the people would travel in groups, they would carry a thick bamboo stick as protection and one person had to compulsorily keep watch at night to prevent the massacre of fellow passengers by the cannibals, quite common in those jungles. Most of the people who came were couples, and multitudes perished on the way as well. Calcutta was the first base for the early Hu-bei migrants, where they started work as quack dentists, with a handful of tools and our very own medicines. Thankfully, we’ve graduated to being sincere and qualified dentists since, though our medicines remain as effective as ever (It’s another issue that we can’t prescribe them as they are not accepted by the law). The early migrants knew not a word of Hindi or English; still they survived & thrived in India.

Come evening, and I was on board a train to Indore, MP, with good friend W (aunty’s sis), to visit Uncle, Aunty and Baby!!! The train journey at night time was cold as hell (a contradicting analogy since hell is said to be fiery hot – but my condition was a mix of both at the time). Shivering, half frozen and mighty tired, we reached Indore the next morning in frantic anticipation of seeing the baby. The baby was oh-so-tiny (what was I to expect of a 10day old baby?) and she made me forget all my travails from past night. I was scared to touch her coz she looked so delicate. Nevertheless, I picked up a few pointers on how to hold a baby and if need be, pacify her too. It was a blissful 2 days I spent there, playing with the baby, watching her being pampered to high heavens. Every now & then she looks like Uncle or Aunt, and as of now, she loves sleeping, crying or staring at the ceiling instead of you J Unfortunately, I had to leave soon for some work in Mumbai, and was aboard the cold, cold train once again.

We were back to Tardeo the morning of 5th Jan, and after a hearty breakfast, W and me went for a long walk. The Haji Ali dargah is close by. We didn’t go in, but just scoured the perimeter of the waterfront. We were soon in Worli, where stands the Nehru Planetarium and conference centre. W has never been to a planetarium, so to kill some time, we walked in. The show at that time of day was in Marathi, so we did not understand a word of it, but it was nice fun to hear the scores of children screaming in delight & awe as the 3-D planets zoomed & hurtled towards the camera. The reclining chairs and starry sky simulations made us drowsy & we had to struggle to keep awake by the end of the program. We got back to Tardeo, where another sumptuous meal awaited us. Granny was packing to leave to Indore too, & friends accompanying her had dropped in. By evening, we saw them off at the railway station. I had one more day to spare, so we took off to Vasai, an hour from Mumbai, where W lives.

The next day was dedicated solely to roaming & loafing around. The morning & early afternoon took W, her friend Swarni and me to Vasai gaao (village), churches, Suruchi beach and the beautiful ruins of some qila (fort). The fort looked quite ordinary & uninviting from the exterior, but the magnificence was to seen from within. This is the fort where songs for Khamoshi and Pyar tune kya kia (Kambakht Ishq) were shot. Neglected for some time now, the place is overrun by weeds but looked awesome all the same. Standing in that place transported you to another realm – imagining the grandeur & fervor of eons gone by. The fort was satisfying not in terms of carvings or architecture, but by way of its simplicity & enormity. We spent a good 45 minutes exploring as much as we could, trying to avoid our clothes getting caught on the bushes (which they did repeatedly). Most of the fort seemed to have been destroyed, as there were no stairways where they should have been, walls were ending abruptly and it was crumbling in many places. Satisfied with our exploration, we headed back home

It was soon time for me to leave to the airport. I was regretting such an early leave-taking. Fortunately, the AirDeccan flight I was to take got delayed by more than 2 hours, and I had to (gleefully) extend my stay in Vasai by another day. This meant we had more time to kill (and explore other places). Roger, W’s bro, lent us his bike and we took off to visit a few more churches, and just take off in any direction which pleased us. We also visited a small mela (fair) – nothing extraordinary. It just felt nice to be in such a fair again after so many years & playing games. By the time we got back, Roger had arranged another bike. Post dinner, Roger, W, Swarni and me took off to far off places – Vasai gaao again, more churches, outskirts with awesome bungalows (with windmills!!!), and this place (location unknown to me) – they just call it patla rasta (narrow road). This was another wonderful place to come to, the beauty of which is perceptible only in the dead of night, when all house lights are off and you have only the stars, moon and each other for company. This place had a narrow, uneven road running for quite some distance, and there were absolutely no houses or vehicles for miles around. All you could see was empty fields till the distant horizon, which was dotted by a few scattered lights. The temperature drop in this region is considerable, and we were glad to have worn some warm clothing. Pity it was too dark to get the view in the camera. This is one simple, yet sooper place to go to, to realize what I am talking about.

The next day, I bade farewell to Roger and their dad. W and I were to go to Andheri, from where her office as well as the airport is close by. We took the rush hour local train and let me elucidate how it transpired. The experience in rush hour local train is fun, invigorating as well as draining, and if you are observant of the people around you, a good place to get to see & know different kind of people, all on one single train compartment (you don’t really have a choice, considering you get packed much worse than sardines at rush hour). It is something you may never come across in any other place other than Mumbai. It is something I never intend to do again ;)

Getting on is one big challenge by itself, so I huffed & puffed & pushed & shoved & punched to get in. Thankfully, I made it in, but soon realized my folly for carrying a big backpack. In that flood of humanity, I got locked because of the bag. I could not move a millimeter!!!! People were shouting at me from all directions – why the hell are you blocking the way? Get in or get out? What the hell is wrong with you? Are you traveling for the first time? All this & more. In five minutes I realized people were losing their patience and were pushing as much as they could manage. In a few minutes, I was standing at near 45 degree angulation, and there was nothing I could do to stand upright!!! I was laughing all the time at my helplessness, at their scorn, and the total body massage I was getting in those close quarters (Now don’t get me wrong. People are packed so close together that the massage does happen inadvertently). But yes, I did get humped a lot. Hahaha. Let me explain. Passengers usually have one hand occupied with luggage, and the other with holding onto something for dear life. So the only part of the body they really have free to push, is the pelvis!!!!! So there !!!!

I was getting pushed further in and that would mean that it would be impossible for me to disembark at my destination. So somehow, in that place I managed to get my bag off and dart for the exit, pushing, shoving, punching, swearing all over again. In spite of this grueling daily routine, Mumbaiites retain their sense of humor and zest for life. At every passing station, the youth shouted slogans of Ganpati Bappa Moriya(praise to Lord Ganesha), which are met with equally fervent slogans from the youth on the stations. In that half an hour journey, I realized that in the coterie of a bunch of people around me were Gujaratis, Bengalis, Sri Lankans, Biharis, UPites and the like. Some were cursing, some were enjoying themselves in spite of the haranguing experience we were sharing. A gentleman gave me tips how to get into the correct line so as to be able to get off where I wanted and not 10 stations after! Disembarking was another round of push, pull, swear, pinch, shout and there I was, on the station. There is a saying that in the rush hour, all you have to do s stand there & the public will automatically push you in or out. I found this to be absolutely true and I think I put in more effort there to remain in one place than I do in ten days of gymming !!!!!

The next half of the day was spent going to small beaches (where couples were making out openly!!), some beautiful churches and just plain loafing around. We passed close to some fishing colony, which was confirmed by the strong stench of fish. Soon, it was time for me to leave. A heavy heart always acts as shackles on your feet, but they sometimes aren’t enough to stop you from going away. My flight was on time, and in an hour I was back to the chill and traffic of Bangalore.


  1. So u had a joyous trip on account of baby 'joy', despite the cold travails and enduring rides on the mumbai trains!! Bless baby 'joy'.

  2. mumbai locals r something i face everyday n i love

    the outsiders perspective was hilarious