Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ladies Only

30th September 2010 was a much hyped day in Mumbai on account of the Ayodhya Verdict which was given on that day. I have been in Mumbai for just over 3 years now and 1 thing which I have noticed here is the nonchalance which people have towards bandhs/hartals and the like. Probably, being from good old Kerala where even the murder of a mouse affiliated to a certain political party somewhere in Timbuktu will lead to a day long bandh, the non conformance to bandhs by Mumbaikars makes me feel really happy.

Well, coming back to the 30th, I found the ghost of 1992 haunting people who had been here at that time. As a result, there was nervousness among the public, a lot of organizations declared an impromptu holiday and the usual indifference of the public was replaced by panic. For me, it was business as usual as I went to office that Thursday, wishing it was Friday instead… Office talk centered around possible outcomes and wagers on them, level of violence expected and so on. It was around 2:30 PM that I saw a notice which left me wondering – the women within the organization can leave on account of violence expected after the verdict (then expected at 3:30 PM)!

Understandably, there was a ruckus… why only women? Violence would apply to all, right? The following options were put forward –

Some felt that it is because women are more important than men in the scheme of things. Hence arrangements have been made for them to get home before anything untoward can happen. The men would be left to fend for themselves in the face of violence and hence must be unimportant!

A few other were of the contrary opinion – Men are more important, the women are likely to get into trouble being on the road when start of violence is expected (i.e. around 3:30 when the verdict would come out). The men can coolly leave after everything settles down!

But the final opinion took the cake (and the bakery!)… a particular smart alec commented that, in fact, there would be no violence at all… the women are being sent off early so that at least once, the hardworking men can have a chance to work well without the interference of the women who only gossip and shirk responsibility all the time…!

Needless to say, there was a riot at this statement, which was controlled only coz most of the women left in the special bus at 3 PM!!! :-P

Anyway, I didn’t leave. And anyway, there was no violence. And of course, I travelled home in an empty train coz most people had left their offices early as a precautionary measure!

But at the end of the day I wondered… are women really so much more fragile than men? Can’t they handle a difficult situation well and is that why they alone were sent off early? It seems we still have a lot more to think and do in terms of man-woman equality!

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

In the Nick of Time

If you stay in Mumbai, u cannot avoid public transport. By ‘you’ I am referring to you, a member of the burgeoning middle class, looking for economical and fast transport. Let us see how the vagaries of public transport can make or break a deal through an incident in the lives of our Vicky n Shruti one evening when they went shopping:

“Hmm… limited edition French Connection watch eh? For whom? And where did u get the money from?” asked Vicky.

“It is for Bhaiyya… And yeah, I have saved my allowance for a long time. Bhaiyya would love to get the watch on his bday… I have told u na how much he loves watches. But we need to hurry; the store person said that there are only 2 more watches left and no more collections are expected in the near future…!” Shruti said with a shine in her eyes.

“Why don’t u ask them to just hold 1 for u…?” Vicky suggested.

“I did, but it seems it is against their policy … let us take Kaka’s bus which starts from ur office… we shall reach station fast!”

“Kaka’s bus? All my colleagues go in that… I can’t risk taking u with me in it… let us go for BEST instead!”

“U sure? I don’t wanna miss the watch!”

“You can kill me if that happens… trust me!” says Vicky in an attempt to create some humor.

They then set off to the Bus Stop.


“Hey… all buses for Bandra Station are so full… chalo na, lets go to Kaka’s bus!”

“Offo Shruti, have patience! I will ensure u get ur watch… accha, here is a bus for Dharavi; we shall go in it and get a rick from Kalanagar, as it is, rickshaw to the station is almost impossible from here!”

Shruti makes a wry face, but complies with Vicky’s suggestion. They get into the bus.

“So where is the French Connection stoooor… PHAAATTTT…!!! (Suddenly there is huge noise outside the bus) Hey kya hua?”

They realize that the bus tyre just burst… and they are just 2 stops away from where they started!

“Oh no… my watch…” Shruti is now lamenting.

Seeing her, Vicky reconsiders his decision and they move towards the Kaka’s bus, colleagues and their comments notwithstanding…! Thus they finally reach Bandra Station.

Local Train

Vicky n Shruti reach Bandra Station from where they have to take a train to Vile Parle. They notice a huge rush on the platforms, exceptionally more than usual.

“Hey, watsup? Why so much crowd?”

They suddenly hear an announcement which states (roughly translated) ‘Due to the snapping of overhead cable at Bombay Central, all trains are running late. Inconvenience caused to passengers is highly regretted!”

Shruti is now on the verge of tears. Like a cricket match score update, she has just got to know from the French Connections store that now only 1 watch is left. With the train problem, it seems unlikely she will be able to reach the store on time.

“Why is everything going wrong today? When there is no urgency, everything will be on time!”

Finally, a train for Andheri comes to the platform. People are hanging from the doors and there is not an inch of space left. But Vicky n Shruti take a chance and travel in the Handicapped compartment (which itself is relatively full with normal people!).

At Vile Parle, they almost get thrown out of the train due to the rush… suddenly they notice a Ticket Examiner… before he has a chance to come near them; they manage to give him a slip!


“Arre bhaiyya Irla chaloge?”
“Bhaiyya Irla?”
“Oooofff!!!” All rickshaws are moving past them with the drivers giving them looks as though it is a criminal offence to travel in a rickshaw to Irla!

Vicky n Shruti are exasperated. Not a single rickshaw driver is willing to take them to Irla where the French Connection store is.

“Where do these people want to go? Why can’t they take us to Irla?” Shruti is frustrated with the rickshaw guys. “They need a few more days of Meter Jam. Only then will they stop taking customers for a ride!”

Meter Jam was a day when the general public boycotted rickshaws in order to protest their unreasonable ways. But it seems there has been no change in the rickshaw drivers even after the protest!

“Shruti I think we should just start walking. Who knows, we might reach Irla faster than just waiting here asking all these rickshaw people who are anyway not willing to come!”

Shruti is now in no mood to contradict anything that Vicky says. She dumbly starts walking behind him, hoping that she will still get the last watch!

So, slowly trudging all the way, Vicky n Shruti reach the store.

At the Store

“Hey Vicky look! There’s the watch I wanna buy… but a couple seems to have already shortlisted it! See… that lady seems to be keen on getting it for her partner!”

Shruti is now really upset. Will she miss the watch for which she n Vicky took so much pain? She turns around to look for Vicky… hey! Where is he?


The signature tune of Bond 007 is playing in his mind. He is slowly walking towards the couple who has shortlisted the watch. He is as unobtrusive as Bond and he is sure no one is looking at him. He is now directly behind the couple and is waiting for his chance. Shruti is watching him, confused, wondering what he is upto, but knowing better than call out to him loudly.

Suddenly Vicky notices that the lady gets a call on her cell. Her attention is diverted from the watch and her partner is scrutinizing the other watch she has shortlisted. Vicky senses his chance… NOW!

Vicky springs forwards clasping the watch in his left hand in a diving effort which will make any super fielder’s effort on the cricket field pale in comparison! Shruti cannot believe her eyes! And neither can the lady, who suddenly notices that the watch she shortlisted is missing from the table!! She swerves around in surprise to realize that the watch has been taken by someone else!

Vicky rushes to the billing counter followed keenly by the lady… thhaaaaak… he hits his elbow hard on one of the display shelves… not in the position to stop and examine his elbow, he rushes on…

“Please bill this on my credit card… quick!”

The billing guy must never have seen someone so desperate to bill a watch… Vicky’s desperation could be compared to the hurry of an asthmatic billing for an asthma pump to take a breathe from before his breathlessness gets the better of him… in other words, a matter of life n death!! Finally, before the lady could even stake her claim on the watch, it gets billed and Vicky pays for it with his credit card…SOLD!

Shruti, who has been numb all the while witnessing Vicky’s efforts to get the watch she wanted is now overwhelmed. They are in a train back home now and she is holding the watch in her hands. An angry greenish blue bruise is forming on Vicky’s elbow where he hit it on the shelf at the store.

“Vicky thanks… if it had not been for u, I would not have got the watch!”

“Hey Shruti! U don’t need to thank me… but next time…”

“Next time…?”

“Next time u want to buy something, please please…”

“Please what Vicky?”

“Pleeeease don’t call me to accompany u…!!!”

“Vicky U….!” Shruti thwacks him on his head before hugging him tight!

Lost in Vicky and Shruti’s love story is the point that had it not been for the uncertainty caused by the public transport on that day, they would have managed to get the watch without all the drama. As Murphy’s Law states, ‘If anything has to go wrong it will!’ and so it did that day with Shruti. But thanks to Vicky and no thanks to the Mumbai public transport, she managed to get the watch In the Nick of Time!