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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Satkar

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Everybody has a favourite watering hole. With any job, comes a little spare money, wherein you can splurge once in a while on some good food, booze and whatever else that rocks your world. But it is that one ‘college’ watering hole which gives you that warm fuzzy feeling when you look back on your flirtations with Bacchus. No amount of hard cash, fine dining or extra-courteous service can give you the sheer idiotic thrill that you would get when you would juggle your princely pocket money rations, save and plan for days, just to get your paws on a glass of beer.

Back in RAIT, the universal refuge that we sought from the rigours of getting a Mumbai University degree in Navi Mumbai was a place called (sigh…) Satkar. To the untrained F.E. eye, it did not exactly look like a place you would die to go to (not to say blog about a good five years after graduation later). Nestled behind a petrol pump bang opposite the college gate, it was pretty much a jewel in the rough, and was usually unveiled by our seniors through either direct invites (to get ragged there of course) or when we would overhear them mooning non-stop about it. It looks every bit like a truck driver’s stop-over. (Appearances are oh not-so deceptive here, must admit. I for one really don’t know how far things have changed, and hope it still retains its shall we say… rustic charm)

We’d have to climb up 3 steps to enter its hallowed precincts, to be faced with roughly 5 tables and 10 benches, all formica topped with an inviting layer of grime. The Non-AC section would grin like a mangy, toothless old lady at you as it had a fantastic tendency to appear pitch dark even at noon. This was the spot frequented by some of the ‘Lab Assistant Sirs’, who would stop here now and then for a quick one.

On the other side of a glass panel and curtain laden door on your left on entering, was the AC section. Consisting of a solitary AC. After regally entering this pricier section, post a quick furtive recce inside to rule out any profs sitting inside, it would be a time for a bottle of Kingfisher, split across three people (or four on a bad day – An Old Monk quarter likewise…). A refreshing couple of glugs later, the magic of the place would take over when the ‘chakhna’ would start to appear. In unlimited quantities, refreshed every time the bowls of chakli, mixture, boiled chana, salted peanuts and papads would empty out. All this with the prices fixed wonderfully in deference to the lone AC. Which is why our Harbour Line Train pass and Engineering Payment Seat taxed pockets would cry out in sheer ecstasy at the mere mention of the name.

Speaking of the chakhna, the star special of this joint would be the ‘Soya Bean Manchurian’ thingie which would be dished out in generous (unlimited again) quantities, post 7 p.m. Was incentive enough to kill time post some really dreary practicals and go there just in time for this.

The freedom that this place provided was beautiful in the sense that the waiters and the manager would indulgently let us have our little ‘aalams’ (aka warbling sessions) right there in the AC section, provided there wasn’t anybody else who would mind. Time would just float by, till we’d all realize we were out of money as well as breath. (The only time we had our booze in relative silence was when we had a sten-gun toting, tough, athletic cop right on the next table, who was hell bent on enjoying his stuff, come what may. We sized him up and got a lot of subliminal messages…) Also, there was a small 14 inch TV nestled high up in a corner which would somehow make the crappiest of Rajesh Khanna/Dharmendra/Raj Babbar movies look and sound like the best thing we’d ever seen or heard. Curious really…

It was the first place we ran to…
  • after an all clear/first class to celebrate

  • after a KT to commiserate

  • after a bad day when the Lab Assistant would make you wait four blistering hours and not accept your journal work, asking you to come back the next day

  • get a little fortification before, during and after Aakarshan and Horizon (our college fests)

  • after a viva to gently nurse a thoughtful drink

  • anytime we really felt like it…

Add to that the hour to two hour commute which would take care of any alcohol-breath-and-mother issues. Leaning out of the train when it was passing over Vashi bridge with your mouth wide open or singing loudly in the bus back home with a great deal of camaraderie with the conductor and the co-passengers usually helped. The only time it failed was when we had Canon 10000. Was difficult to brush that fragrance out of my mouth even after three whole days…


posted by Tapan at 1:04 AM

Hollywood And A Little Deja Vu

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Time to visit some Hollywood clichés. For far too long poor Bollywood has been spat on, reviled and derided for churning out assembly-line productions, with the same stuff rehashed in and out. A little careful recollection tells me that masala is an inherent part of movies everywhere, irrespective of budgets, languages and locales. Some observations…

“There is no Plan B”
This is primarily found in those buddy-buddy cop-type movies. Partner A would have convinced a skeptical Partner B that he’s got all the aspects (‘plans’) covered, and that they should go right for a very risky operation, usually in the heart of the villain’s den. Things (predictably) go a liiiittle wrong, and they are usually sitting under a glass window which is shattering, with bullets and assorted shrapnel all around them.

Partner B : “A, It’s time for plan B. Do you hear me? Time for plan B!!”
Partner A : “Yea…I guess it is…”
Partner B : “OK, so what’s plan B?”
Partner A : “There’s no plan B…”

After which Partner A proceeds to jump up, firing like a maniac, Partner B utters a “Oh ****!!!!” (fill in your favourite expletive there) and proceeds to join him. Both obviously live to make another sequel.

“Who called the FEDs?”
In EVERY movie, the FBI and the local cops NEVER see eye to eye on ANY case. Any crime scene will be first visited by the local cops, and while they are doing their stuff, an FBI vehicle pulls up.
The chief of local police usually mutters “Damn…it’s the Feds…who called them here?”

FBI guy (in a suit) walks up to the party, and asks
“Who’s in charge here?”
Local Police Chief : “I am”
FBI guy : “Not any more. We are taking over.”

This causes a lot of bristling resentment amongst the local cops, which usually includes the hero. After the Feds have taken over, our hero HAS to visit the crime scene again. He usually does this by assaulting some poor FBI guy who’s doing his job by trying to block his re-entry…

“The divorced guy and his messy home syndrome”
Divorced males ALWAYS have to live in a place which resembles Andheri(East) on a particularly charming day. The effect is all the more pronounced when the ex-wife comes to drop off their kids for the weekend with her new husband/flame. There’s usually a good five minutes’ worth of oh-the-scathing-disapproval-in-the-ex-wife’s-eyes-waala shots, when the poor ex-husband tries to make space for them to sit, and tries to do a quick clean-up routine.

“I’ll pick the kids up on Saturday…”
Thanks to the court order, immediately after the preceding scene, the ex-wife wants the kids back either the same evening or within a day. The ex-husband pleads with the ex-wife, inducing the kids to join in and give off their most ‘poppet’ expressions for a day more. Sometimes the ex-wife gives in, sometimes she doesn’t. That’s the way it rolls.

“The patient car crash victims”
People just throw their hands in the air, and resign themselves to a series of accidents whenever there's a high profile car chase. These guys are then consigned to a cinematic black hole, and very few movies mention the damage caused, and who actually reimburses these poor souls. A massive headache for the insurance guys am sure. You could at least show the car insurance office. Just one scene? No?
Also, every car chase worth it’s salt involves either the chaser or the chased losing control for a stretch, and going on to a sidewalk, cutting through either a road-side café, or an ‘ethnic’ market, which always has an orange vendor who loses all his stuff. Nobody ever gets crushed to death, or even remotely scratched. Go figure.

“We, the people”
Desi characters are always introduced with the same stupid bars of sitar music in the background. It is kind of like our very own ‘Intel Inside’ aural token. Also, the accent which these guys usually have is so wonderfully unique and let’s just say Simpsonian, I’ve never ever heard it in this huge stinking melting pot called Mumbai.

posted by Tapan at 11:58 PM

You Know You're New To Mumbai When...

Sunday, April 09, 2006
  • You are in a suburban train going to a suburb in the morning at around 8 a.m. and you dare to get down on the side where the platform is approaching, at either the last stop of the train, or any station starting three stops from the last. Most logical, right? What the **** else are you supposed to do? But here’s what happens - you are met by a seething, cursing mass of bodies that rushes into the train before it stops and starts boarding it with naked aggression straight out of a National Geographic TV special on elephants in ‘mast’. This is called the 'return maarna routine' where people from around three stations prior to the suburban terminus go there first, and then go back all the way downtown in the same train. All to get a seat, or a comfortable standing space, because the train gets lethally crowded from the suburban starting point. You are supposed to stand at the ‘far side’ so to speak…let the junta get in, writhe, abuse and manhandle their way to their seats and ‘stands’, and THEN it’s your turn in the writhing order, to somehow squiggle your way through to the ‘platform side’. If you are lucky, you get to alight; else it’s back to where you came from sonny. It’s that simple. And cruel.

  • You catch the last train of the night a couple of stations from the origin, and actually expect to get a comfortable entry, seat and exit. Har-Dee-Har-Har. (That evil laugh is amplified a million-fold if the station is Dadar…)


  • You never stop marvelling at the subtle class distinction inherent in our local trains here, where the second class (where the proletariat travels) has the concept of the ‘fourth seat’. The Spartan wooden benches in these compartments are meant to seat 3 people, but thanks to the adjusting factor of the Mumbai Manoos, people are obliged to huddle together and accommodate 4 people. It doesn’t matter that the fourth sitter can accommodate just one butt-cheek. All that matters is that he’s got a seat on the wonderful journey home. It takes just five minutes of walking to get the circulation back…contrast that with what maybe an hour’s worth of homo-erotic rubbing and jostling would do to you. Scary. However, this fourth seat funda fails when there is a ‘ladies’ sitting. (“Arre kaisa sarkega? Ladies log hai ladies…”). All this is just not observed in the snooty, white-collar dominated first class. Three means three. Period. I have a feeling this ‘rule’ might not last for long though…just a matter of time.

  • You actually ask people how many kms is place B from place A. You are usually met with a brusque, flat answer in terms of time – “20 Minutes” for example. NO Mumbaikar I know has EVER answered back in terms of kilometers, meters or furlongs(yes…they use that term in Bangalore. Quaint, what?). It’s ALWAYS in terms of time here.

  • You actually get affected by the poverty and the sheer number of beggars, lepers, handicapped people and street urchins. Also, you believe that the women begging at signals and the infants that they brandish to tug at your purse strings are actually related to each other.

  • You are catching a train late-ish at night, and you are surprised to see well made up, middle-aged and young women in bright outfits and sarees waiting around the ticket counter and the footbridge. The first thought that pops up is that it’s a marriage party returning from somewhere, waiting to buy tickets or to catch up with the rest of the company which might be en route. It’s only when a middle-aged one smiles foxily at you, and maybe sticks out her tongue for a fraction of a second, that you realize that that’s really not the case… (The same applies to well-dressed males standing underneath bus stops late at night, who slide up to cars which slow by, and ask people whether they can help them with something…)

  • You just can’t believe that you’ll get something to eat at 3 a.m. at practically every place in the city. And it’s not just like one lonely street vendor; you will have a proper, proverbial smorgasbord to choose from. Granted, the grub won’t be exactly hygienic, healthy or haute, but it will do what it’s supposed to do – give your stomach something to mull over for the next 8 hours or so. Add cigarettes, tea, coffee (courtesy the cycle-waala dudes of Tamil origin or ‘Annas’ as they are called) and booze to the list too.

  • You find it blindingly ironic that the miserable people selling ‘the apparatus that wards off the evil eye’, consisting of a lemon, a couple of chillies, and a piece of coal all connected by a bit of tin wire, themselves could do with a little bit of ‘bura nazar’ alleviation in their lives…


posted by Tapan at 11:11 PM

What Brings You All Here?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Idiotic rhetoric aside, did a random sampling of the top Google search results which have drawn people to this rag – and the results are very very interesting.

“Indus Creed mp3s”, "Colourblind mp3s"
This stuff is rarer than hen’s teeth, get a couple of hits everyday. These guys rock. Click here.

“Wardat” , “Surakksha” , “Gunmaster G9”, “bappi hits surakksha”, “complete list of Mithun movies”, “Loha”
Ob-****ing-viously, these are the MOST popular searches which somehow lead here (wonder why…). Have had hits for these from places as exotic as Somalia, Fiji, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Denmark. Just goes to show the kind of influence these movies have had on countless generations of Indians, both here and overseas alike. And I would like to believe, non-Indians too. Very possible. To all you folks who search for these, remember – you are not alone. Thank you for reaffirming my faith in God. I know, and HE knows.

“kaam vaasna”
We all know what he/she was searching for here eh? A Vatsyayanic, homegrown educational film perhaps? As greatbong would put it, ‘Sanskritized vulgarity—leching and molesting in Kalidasian style

“aur sab ne rape kiya”
(WTF?!!!!!!) shudder and wonder.

“mummy randi ho gai”
(WTF?!!!!!!!!! – louder and bolder this time). Evidently, Oedipus has a net connection.


Just got me thinking…had read some place that the Google offices have a ticker which constantly flashes search queries fired from all across the world. Just makes me wonder what a never-ending source of blogworthy material THAT can be...


posted by Tapan at 12:38 AM