Tag Archives: Bandra

I Wear: Dancing Queen

The look I’m detailing here is as retro as the title of this post. The occasion was a Christmas special dance workshop by the MadMax Academy of Dance. The invitation actually said to wear white but I couldn’t find anything good to wear in that colour. As it turned out, no one wore white but a lot of people stuck to the Christmas theme. I wasn’t really going for the Santa Claus look but as it turned out, the red fit right in. I was actually going for a biker babe look, which I switched at the last minute to include some red and resulted in a more retro feel.

I’d been dying to take out those boots, since they were my pick of the season. I didn’t want to wear jeans and it was too cold for a skirt. What better than leggings for a dance workout? The top is a long-sleeved fitted body-tee with black sleeves, that I got as a gift awhile ago. I love the colour and the print, referencing my favorite decade, the 70s. But the full sleeves get a bit much in Mumbai’s usual weather. It’s longer than a regular tee-shirt, which is why I thought it would be perfect to wear over this teensy-tiny denim skirt. The acid-washed denim and miniskirt-over-leggings is more 80s but I figured it was close enough to the period I was referencing.

I knew a dance workout would have me sweating in a matter of minutes, and the cotton would let me breathe. I could always roll up the sleeves. But it was an extraordinarily cold evening and I also didn’t want to stand out too much in the train, for my miniskirt (never mind the leggings, you know how Mumbai trains are!). So I pulled on my black Life jacket, already taken out for the biker babe look. For some reason, the jacket tones down the look, making it less fitted as well as less dated.

Since the top leaves the neck completely bare, I draped over a blue silk scarf, that would otherwise be considered more corporate attire. All my other scarfs are prints and would make this look too busy. But the muted colour matched my skirt and complemented the look well. Accessorizing any further would have been overkill and as it is, I pushed the envelope slightly since it was a vibrant, festive occasion. For just an evening out, I’d have stuck to diamond studs or maybe even worn no jewellery. And my make-up would have been more dramatic with maroon lipstick and perhaps lined eyes. But this evening’s activities would cause make-up to run. And few things look as bad as a face with worn-out make-up and bad accessories. Ear jewellery always lifts my face so in burst of daring, I added these oversized hoops made of surgical steel.

Now look carefully. The girl in the print has hair almost as short as mine and a frame that’s just as lanky. She’s also wearing white (silver?) hoops and a heart-shaped pendant. And that’s the only reason this pretty, glass heart got added to my outfit.

The look was much more fun, young and crazy than I’d imagined – just the right mood for the kind of uninhibitedness that makes dance fun! I had a great time dancing and laughing and it was the most fun Christmas event I’ve ever been to.

I wear:

  • Red-and-black full sleeved body top: A gift from a shop in Vashi
  • Stonewash, pre-faded, pre-frayed denim miniskirt: Shoppers’ Stop
  • Black leggings: Benetton
  • Black jacket: Life
  • Blue silk scarf: Cottage Emporium, New Delhi
  • Black leather ankle boots: Shop next to KFC Bandra, opposite Theobroma
  • Red tote bag: Baggit
  • Glass heart pendant: Hill Road street stall, Bandra

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Featured In DNA Around The Blog, 9Jan2012: Bandra No Longer Queen Of The Suburbs

When I tweeted, complaining about my Bandra woes a few months back, I received a slew of responses along the lines of,

All the other suburbs are much worse!

It’s just such a rocking place that it doesn’t matter.

So when I wrote ‘Bandra Is No Longer The Queen Of The Suburbs’ last week, I didn’t expect it to get quite the opposite response. Readers tweeted their agreement (a few are updated on the post itself) and a longtime SoBo (always sympathetic to Bandra, for some reason) friend turned it into a conversation on Facebook. Today’s DNA carried an excerpt in their ‘Around the blog’ section.

I don’t know if it was because my article was calmer, more factual than ranty and so easier to read. Or (dare I hope?) whether the city is seeing Bandra as I do, finally  – an ordinary location that went from old-world charming to aspirational to wannabe to overyuppified because of too much glossy hardsell.

Here’s the excerpt in DNA.

Bandra Is No Longer Queen Of The Suburbs

bandra I remember when Bandra was a sleepy little Christian community. Most of the kids from the little Christian community that I grew up in, went on to St.Andrews. For a long time, the only decent movie theatres for Western suburb-dwellers were Gaiety-Galaxy-(Gemini) off S.V.Road, Bandra. By the late 90s, Linking Road had replaced Fashion Street as the go-to place for college students’ wardrobes. Bags, shoes, clothes, accessories, they were all available on the numerous tables & tiny stalls that spotted Hill Road and Linking Road.

At the turn of the millenium, all of that seemed to change. There was a concerted effort to ‘rebrand’ Bandra. Promenades got cleaned up and beautified. Restaurants popped up. The street market was cleared away and the surviving shops packed into compact ground-floor stalls off Linking Road. That gully that housed the clothes-end of the street market got hip and found itself home to malls, fast food joints and restaurants. Suddenly everybody seemed to be going on about ‘The Queen of the Suburbs’. Bandra was the new ‘it’ place in town.

A shop selling a wide variety of belts with pl...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the past few years, Bandra has seen nightclubs, haute cuisine, exclusive boutiques and fad concept shops. It has also drawn an equally flashy population, ranging from local celebrities to yuppie stars. The old cottages and villas are being fast replaced by high rises and higher prices.

Here’s the Bandra of today:

Every second building is being redeveloped so the air is thick with construction dust and materials. The current Bandra citizen carries what I think of as the Delhi attitude – ostentatious displays of wealth, fancy cars and overaggressive attitudes. As a result the roads are utter mayhem. The above mentioned gully off Linking Road is a nightmare to navigate every single day. Not because its too small for the traffic but because it’s blocked up by overlarge vehicles whose drivers don’t know how to drive and will persist in loud arguments when challenged.

English: Bandra Worli Sealink Inside View

Image via Wikipedia

Public transport is the universal nightmare that unifies all of this city, at the moment. But in Bandra, it has reached a point of unrealistic proportions. I lived in Bandra for about 4 months and I lost a lot of weight – because I walked everywhere, rather than spend half an hour arguing with autorickshaws & taxis. I mean everywhere and this isn’t really a great solution to the problem. For one, the construction everywhere means filthy (or non-existent) pavements. The big vehicles make walking on the roads or even the bylanes a tangible danger. Arterial junctions like the end of Linking Road, the start of S.V.Road and the Elco end of Hill Road are all blocked off for digging, construction or redevelopment. The Bandra-Worli sealink has only compounded to Bandra’s woes by feeding in town traffic into what used to be the quieter end of Bandra, without adequate planning on where that traffic would go after. The Lilavati junction is the latest on the list of avoidable Bandra haunts.

Real estate prices are through the roof and for what? The chance to live next door to hip joints. Let’s talk about these places. Every single restaurant/nightclub/hip joint that I went to, was pretentious (even rude), overpriced and had service completely unworthy of the price paid. I can see why menus would need to be priced high in order to cover the rental costs of an expensive place like Bandra. But that doesn’t explain the lack of thought given to hiring proper staff and training them on how to provide service. High prices warrant at least good service, if not good products.

And finally, the actually living in Bandra. You can shut away the boors on the road and the creeps at a fancy restaurant. But what do you do about the poor construction of your own building? The water woes, following all the massive construction everywhere (meaning more people have to share the same water pool)? A friend of mine actually found a mushroom growing under the sink of his Bandra Reclamation flat. Shortly after, he had to move out of his bedroom because the rain entering the room had grown from seepage to bucketfuls pouring it. Monsoon in Bandra was anything but romantic or delightful.

The ostentatious display of wealth everywhere, does nothing but poison the attitudes of every person in its vicinity. Getting help is yet another in the long list of the Bandra nightmares. Maids, dhobis, milkmen, sweepers, every one of these is a potential problem. There is a palpable resentment, a hatred almost, that festers between the socioeconomic classes, especially when the money gulf seems so vast. The watchman of the building I stayed in, slept most of the time, when he wasn’t leching when I passed. Some nasty  building redevelopment politics between the sweeper, the secretary & the landlord meant there was no garbage disposal system for weeks. The dhoban abused me and slammed the door once, because I didn’t open the grill before reaching for my purse. Personally, I felt well rid of the hellhole called Bandra, when I moved out.

Map of Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, India

Image via Wikipedia

A lot of the issues I faced, are borne by tenants all over the city. But to go through all of them together, while also paying through one’s nose, just doesn’t seem to make any sense. I can’t see how Bandra’s growth is sustainable. Already it is too expensive to own a flat in Bandra and I’ve demonstrated why renting is extremely unattractive. It could shift from a residential area to a shopping/nightclub district. However, the service providers don’t seem to have given any thought to how their customers will get to them and where they’ll park. What do they do to make it worth their customers’ making the extra effort of enduring Bandra? Zilch.

The only good thing about the so-called Queen of the suburbs seems to be that it connects Andheri to Dadar. Bandra is dead and I don’t mourn its loss any more than I miss that mushroom under the sink.

Update 1: Yesterday I tweeted asking why Bandra was supposed to be the Queen of the suburbs. Here’s a selection of the answers I received:

@mithunk: because Times of India decided to brand it a few decades ago

Things To Not Do In Mumbai

Inspired by this list, I put together my own things to not do in Mumbai. My list isn’t even remotely as funny as his though I hope it’ll be just as useful. Considering Satish got to 84, you’d think I’d have a tough time coming up with more. But they don’t call this the big, bad city for nothing. So here’s my take. Please do NOT do the following, for your own safety, sanity and that of other citizens of this city:

Trains

BANDRA Railway Station in Mumbai

Image via Wikipedia

1. Travel by train wearing open sandals. The ladies’ compartment does not include ladylike behaviour, unless that means wearing pointed heels.

2. Travel by train wearing make-up. It’ll get mashed in, rubbed (the wrong way) and put you in spotlight of the squatters on the train floor and make them yell that you should travel by taxi instead.

3. Board the first-class ladies compartment in the middle of the bogey. The station loos are always located right where these stop and it’s next door to the general compartment that houses the besur bhajan brigade. Take the compartments at the ends instead.

4. Cross the Western/Central train line at Dadar. The human traffic is always madness and this is the proverbial LOC of the two lines. No one on either side likes the other and the hapless ones who have to cross over are considered traitors by both sides. Instead use the bridge connecting Elphinstone Road and Parel stations.

Other commuting

5. Get into a bus where you’ll have to stand or sit near the aisle for long. The conductor is a pervert, the co-passengers are perverts, the seatees are perverts. It’s a blanket rule. Trust me, you don’t want to test this one.

6. Tell an autorickshawalla at Bandra station to take you to the landmark that your friends tell you. They never know cafes, restaurants, movie theatres, halls, gymkhanas or colleges. They also don’t know the road names that the signboards carry. Bandra autowallas only know Linking Road, Hill Road, Ambedkar Chowk and Pali Hill.

Jewellery stall on Bandra Linking Road in Mumbai

Image via Wikipedia

7. Take a route you last used over six months back. Account for potholes (of course…think what season this is), sudden one-way signs and the omnipresent metro/walkway dig-ups which will ensure rerouting and increase in fare and time of travel.

8. Promise to get ANYWHERE in this city in less than an hour. It has taken me upto 20 minutes to cross a block and a half from my place. Yes, walking is an alternative. Watch for broken road-bricks, dug-out piles of mud, gargantuan water puddles and dog poo.

Shopping

9. Window-shop in Lokhandwala. It’s bloody Dilli out here with every jerk on the road leering at you and the shopkeepers smiling honey until you turn away, after which they shout venom.

10. Smile at the staff at any of the Fame cinemas. They will take it as a sign that they can rip you off or at very least throw attitude at you.

11. Ask any of the staff at Big Bazaar or Food Bazaar where anything is. If you get an answer at all, it will be a wrong one and will only make you travel from one end of the store to another without finding what you want. (I’ve been pushed around from ‘Dairy products’ to ‘Meat & Poultry’ to ‘Confectionary’ to ‘Packed Foods’ to ‘Jams & Ketchups’).

12. Eat any food in a mall, even a food-court satellite of a popular chain. There’s a considerable drop in quality and even freshness. You’ll get evil-smelling panipuris from Kailash Parbat stalls, mouldy sandwiches by the coffeeshops and muddy-looking watery choley by Only Parathas.

Other

13. Carry a handbag that can be yanked off easily on the traffic-side of the road. Temptation is always indulged in, in PickpocketCity. Handbag on outer-corner and with flap inside.

14. Travel anywhere without change. Coins of Rs 1 and 2 are prized commodities especially if you take public transport. The thumbrule is that no one has them so if someone owes you one, act like the devil till they get it for you. You can be sure they’d do the same if the roles were reversed.

15. Park a nice-looking car in a non-paid-for location and expect it to look as pristine dent-free, scratch-free later. I’m positive there’s an underground nexus to harass carowners to ensure business for garages/repairmen and paid parking lots.

And with that added to Satish’s list, we make a total tally of 99 DON’Ts in Mumbai. *Sigh* This is depressing. It makes me wonder why anybody wants to live in this city at all.

I Wear: Desire For A Day

Comic Con Mumbai 2011, the first of its kind in the city, took place in third week of October. I have much to thank the beautiful @Phyrodite for, not the least of which was, telling me about it and then helping me construct a look for it (more later).

The event wasn’t promoted as well as I would have hoped, given the burgeoning popularity of the visual/text medium (I’ll refrain from calling them either ‘comics’ or ‘graphic novels’ since each seems to incite overstrong responses). Still, it was exciting to think of being able to attend an event that focused solely on this genre and its fans.

That it took place at the undeniably inaccessible World Trade Center, Nariman Point may have been a point lost in its favour. Still the numbers did turn out, horrible public transport and weather notwithstanding. What was slightly disappointing was the size of the actual event. My first pang of disappointment struck when I saw the ubiquitous white-and-blue temporary stalls everywhere. These have become synonymous with boring expos, meets on real estate, technology and other such stuff. I really had expected something more…I don’t know…crazy, quirky, wild, colourful? The stalls were all run by publishers, writers or occasionally an unrelated merchandiser (posters, fridge magnets, music-themed tee-shirts).

I was delighted to find India Book House had a stall there. The people who’ve delighted every Indian child with Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha, had a large stall selling their most popular comics. The covers are now glossy though the print quality suffers in some of these cases. Also, ACK digests are now hardbound editions. As a show of support (and because they were offering a 20% discount!), I picked up two Tinkle digests and two  ACK collections (“Tamil Stories” and “Jataka Tales”). I also spotted fellow NovelRacers, Vijayendra Mohanty, there to promote his comic series, Ravanayan (which the boy promptly bought).

There was a costume competition in the evening but then again, I didn’t really see enough of dressed-up people to really make this a success. Most of the visitors were men/overgrown teenboys sporting the now-so-common superhero teeshirts. Among the costumes I did spot were a Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter really is not a graphic novel or comic!), Fred Flintstone (Isn’t that a cartoon, not comic?), two Darth Vaders (I guess Star Warsmania is a given in any comic convention) and the only other graphic novel character – Rorschach (from Alan Moore’s Watchmen). Which brings me to the next part of this post. What did I go as?

I’ve had my eye on a certain Neil Gaiman character for a long time and just hoping for a Halloween party or costume ball of some sort to don the look. Unfortunately for me, @Phyrodite beat me to it! Looking back, I know she made a far better Death than I would have. What else could I pull up at the spur of the moment? I didn’t want to go as a superheroine, given my limited exposure to these only notes teenboy-fantasy-skimpy-costumes. I didn’t want to carry off a character I didn’t know well and I did want to honour one of my favorite stories of all time – the Sandman. So I picked another character, one not as obvious but very powerful in his/her own way. There’s a clue in that last sentence, Sandman-lovers. This is what I took my brief from (Book 4: Season Of Mists):

“Desire smells, almost subliminally of summer peaches, and casts two shadows: one black and sharp-edged, the other translucent and forever wavering, like heat haze.

Desire smiles in brief flashes, like sunlight glinting from a knife-edge. And there is much else that is knife-like about Desire.

Never a possession, always the possessor, with skin as pale as smoke, and eyes tawny and sharp as yellow wine: Desire is everything you have ever wanted. Whoever you are> Whatever you are.

Everything.

The most striking thing about Desire’s look is that it isn’t an exact half-and-half male/female depiction, but a seamless blend of the two that somehow is both striking and attractive. I’d been meaning to get a haircut anyway and with this, I decided to just go wild and carried the comic with me to the hairdresser. Following a drawn image proved to be too difficult so instead, I explained the character to her. I think she really hit the nail on the head with this haircut!

It was too hot for a suit so I decided to pick the look Desire sports in Chapter 5 of ‘Brief Lives’, when he/she rescues Tiffany, the exotic dancer from the apocalyptic last dance of Ishthar. A white cotton shirt that I’d bought just the previous week was begging to be worn, that’s how cool and starched it was. I discarded my formal trousers in favour of skinny jeans to make the look more ‘spicy’ than staid. These jeans were too tight for me a few months back but happily for me, slip on like second skin now. Second skin I say, because that’s how tight they are. I think they made for a good contrast with the prim cotton shirt. Over this, I slung a black cordruoy jacket, hanging off one shoulder in the classic Desire pose. I think all I was missing was a lit cigarette but I don’t smoke so I gave that a miss.

Footwear would have to be my strappy black sandals since the haircut and shirt made for such a boyish look. It’s the accessories that I was really proud of, at the end. First of all, a red satin pouch that I got as a free makeup kit from Maybelline, doubled up as a waist pouch. The colour, the fabric, combined with the steel chain around my waist added the kinky touch to Desire.

A heart-shaped rose quartz pendant from Magick slipped into one of my ear hoops and stood out really well against the black jacket. A silver charm bracelet with a heart was on my right wrist. And finally, at the end of another steel chain (matching the one around my waist), I attached an old pendant from my college days, that depicts a boy and girl kissing. I wound this around my wrist and swung it around to showcase my character’s belief that human beings are but objects of Desire.

And finally, the most important artefact of an Endless sibling – the sigil. My glass heart pendant was a gift from @Phyrodite. And here’s when Death and Desire walked together!

* The photographs are courtesy Rehab and Valerie, who couldn’t have been more patient as I demanded one more angle, one more frame, one more photograph!

I Wear:

  • White cotton shirt with embroidered yoke: Cotton World, Rs.750
  • Sparkly jeans, skin fit: Diva, Levis, ~Rs.1500
  • Black strappy sandals: Catwalk
  • Black cordruoy jacket: Shoppers Stop
  • Red satin pouch with steel chain: Make-up kit from Maybelline
  • Large glass heart pendant on black chain: Street stall, Hill Road, Bandra, Rs.150
  • Small rose quartz heart pendant worn on ear hoop: Magick, Bandra, Rs.150
  • Steel boy-and-girl-kiss pendant: Malhar, St.Xaviers’ college circa 1997 (!), ~Rs.200
  • Haircut: Enriche, a L’Oreal salon, ~Rs.800

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Bombay Elektrik Projekt (Open Mic) Gets Personal When The Feedback Gets Negative

Over a year ago, I saw something in the newspaper about an open forum for poets and other performers of the written word. Intrigued, I roped in a friend and went for the event. It was an Open Mic organized by Bombay Elektrik Projekt. It was held once a month at Café Goa in Bandra on a Monday night.

I listened with rapt attention as people acted out, read out and performed various pieces that they had written. Once I watched a beatboxer, an a capella rendition another time, and a budding guitarist/songwriter on yet another occasion. And that’s over and above the everyday citizens who’d stop by after work to share a piece of their soul in the form of poetry, verse and other original expression. I became a regular, sometimes performing, always enjoying the varied creative output that came from everyday people in this city.

Some time ago, following some unsavoury behaviour by a member of the Bombay Elektrik Projekt team, I decided to stop performing myself. But the other performers (only one of whom is Ashwini, a.k.a. my dear Mr.Everyday) still held charm in my eyes. I’ve always admired people who excel at their chosen art so I continued to attend as a member of the appreciative audience.

A couple of Open Mic sessions ago, a drunk stand-up comedian began a slew of offensives which didn’t amuse me. Ashwini wasn’t impressed either and didn’t crack a smile. The comedian took umbrage at that and started a personal volley of attack on Ashwini and then at the person he was with – me. I let it pass. Ashwini’s turn came up right after that and he settled it in his oh-so-classy way, with a fitting reply and without any personal slurs.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the Bombay Elektrik Projekt Open Mic and a competition among the poets. Ashwini was the last on the line-up and getting ready for his characteristic freestyle rapping. The music was yet to come on when one of the audience members offered to beatbox for him. He agreed and they started off. The performance started off a bit shakily as would be natural with two people who were jamming for the first time. But they got into a groove together and the performance was picking up.

Just then, another person leapt up and grabbed the mike from Ashwini. He proceeded to perform (if you can call it that) an expletive-ridden volley of words that didn’t have much to do with the earlier performance that had been interrupted. It stunned most of us into silence and I’m choosing to believe that’s why no one reacted.

When I got home, I tweeted the following:

Quite disappointed by Bombay Elektrik Projekt 2nd anniv Open Mic. Disrespect to ur artists & ur regulars is bad form and bad business.

The response came in the form of a status update on Facebook and on Twitter as follows:

@ideasmithy well ramya,you seem to be the only one disappointed with last night. i suggest you speak for yourself… http://fb.me/Ln6P4qM7

What followed was a rather vicious fight across Twitter (me, Bombay Elektrik Projekt) and Facebook, which I reproduce as follows:

Note their tweets:

@ideasmithy @spitphyre I’m sorry its always petty with u ramya but you’re exaggerations of last nights events are misleading, misdirecting

@ideasmithy @Finelychopped its funny how you only always tweet when it concerns ashwini, whom we’ve still to hear from

@ideasmithy would be nice to see how many people agree with ur misdirected angst ‘clique-y kids playing at being cool. you’ve lost the plot.

After the first couple of tweets, I started retweeting their tweets. That resulted in a number of other people getting into the discussion. Many expressed their dissent over personal attacks in response to negative feedback. At this juncture, the Facebook conversation came alive. The Bombay Elektrik id started on a defensive, even arrogant tack. These were followed by an attempt to soothe the furore down.

The Bombay Elektrik Projekt

Hey Tarun,Ashiwini,Ken,Saurabh and Ramya.. thank you for everything you guys have shared on this wall.. I was present last night and yes, keri did take the mike away from you to add in a rhyme or to as is what he must have felt was just par…t of the performance. it was after all a rap battle of sorts. You did well in your comeback after the mic was snatched from you.

This does no way justify what he did, so if you felt offended then ashwini, i apolgise.

As far as what you said ramya about us not respecting our audience or our regulars, im sorry but that just has not happened. Yes you are entitled to an opinion and i respect that, but if you chose to say that we have no respect for all the people that help make our night, that hasnt happened during the course of the last two years.

For you to say that last night was disappointing is again surprising. Yes there was this one incident but then wheres you talking about the 30 wonderful poets who came and performed, or the smile that everyone walked away with at the end of the night.

We have built a solid reputation over the past two years as being one of the few people at the forefront of the art and culture scene in the city and it hasnt been easy.

May i just add that if you have a problem, then why not just address it and sort it out then and there, im always around so come and talk.. why wait a day to put it up online and then have someone action this.

Understand that people who follow you on a social network would have only a part account of what happened and do you think its fair to get everybody to assume that the entire night was disappointing, which in a sense reflects on all the people participating last night or that we have no respect for our audience or participants.

well, ashwini..again, if you felt keri insulted you in anyway im sorry, but please bring this up more promptly if you feel so strongly about this next time

Regards
Sudeip

Ashwini had gotten involved by this juncture (as you can see in the thread). And that thread seemed to end on the happy ‘all’s well that ends well note’.

But wait, the story doesn’t end here! Twitter came alive again. This time the Bombay Elektrik id was tweeting (and I say ‘id’ because I can only assume that the conflicting messages from the same account are because of different people accessing it) but not including my id in their tweets. Instead, they were doing the Twitter version of backbiting and here are some of their tweets:

@wanderblah @priyal no,what’s weird was why she didn’t dm or msg us.again @sudeipv reply not bizzare but a correction of the facts

@priyal @wanderblah @sudeipv I agree but then why give ramya berth on twitter #ideasmithydeepfried

@angadc thanks angad, but were covered. if she chooses to rant, well that’s her choice and right. we have nothing more to say to her

So much for the facts of the case. As I see it there are two distinct and clear issues. The first, deeper one is the cliquish treatment of the events. These events ask attendees to pay and do not compensate the performers. Bombay Elektrik Projekt also establish themselves are promoters and organizers of cultural meetings and events. With this, they take on the onus of maintaining the integrity of the platform they stand for. If an artist or indeed, a member of the audience is insulted, it definitely is their problem, something that they need to take responsibility for. Interrupting a performance and in such an offensive manner is a serious issue and cannot be written off as one drunken act. These are not small intimate gatherings of close friends in somebody’s house. These are public events, calling to and entertaining a wide network of people, familiar and otherwise. Bombay Elektrik Projekt enjoys the attention and other benefits of being such a wide platform. They cannot then, shrug off the responsibility for things that happen on it.

The second issue is their response to criticism. My tweet was negative but it did not lash out at any one person. It addressed an actual incident that had happened and expressed my disappointment over it. Their response was first to ask me to shut up and then snigger and taunt me over being the only one to think so. I don’t know if they honestly believe that one person’s opinion doesn’t matter or whether they just don’t want my opinion for more personal reasons. Either way, because my making it public brought in a good degree of support for my right to my opinion, I think they backtracked. I would have been happy to let things settle there, since after all an opinion is an opinion and if someone is unable to take it in perspective, well, tough. But their snippy attitude continues, despite other people suggesting that they just let up.

I’ve been receiving some messages asking me to just forget it and let it drop. The point is, that I haven’t actually done anything after that first tweet. Everything after that has just been relaying what they’ve been saying and making it public. If I’m relaying what you said about me and to me, that doesn’t make me an accessory to this ugliness. I’m having to ask for public support on this precisely because of Bombay Elektrik Projekt’s first challenge that my opinion (since I’m the only one expressing it) doesn’t matter. What’s noteworthy is that there haven’t been too many people from yesterday’s event speaking up for their side either. It’s possible that there will be some tomorrow. Since their tweets haven’t gotten them the response they hoped for, I expect them to call in their inner circle members to attack me on the public forum and I say this from an earlier experience with trying to have an adult conversation over a disagreement. (Note – I just checked into the thread and it’s happening already. The same person who lashed out at me last time is now asking me to take lessons in battle rapping).

So, my dear friends who’ve been asking why I’m upset and Twitter followers who’re asking what the big deal is, this is the story. It is about having an opinion and being attacked for it. It is about what constitutes basic respect. It is about claims to artistic appreciation and the farce that actually happens.

Actually let me not say any further. I just checked out their latest tweet. After all this, this is what they have to say. Draw your own conclusions.

@angadc but angadc we’re used to calling a spade a spade. public or otherwise. does this mean we face public ire

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Update on 8 December 2010: On the Facebook thread, Kerry (the person who snatched the mic) and Ashwini (the artist who was performing) had the following converation.

Kerry Harwin: Sorry, not being a big social media user, I’m late to this game. I won’t address the facebook/twitter furor, because I don’t know anything about that.

I do want to apologize to Ashwini, though. My intention was just to join in the excitement. I thought it was fantastic to have a rapper close out the night, and wanted to be a part of that. I apologize if my manner of doing so upset people. Everything was meant in good humor and in jest. MNS (wow, I just realized what unfortunate initials Monday Night Slam has) is a very interactive space and some dialog between performers, host, and audience is quite common. If I took that spirit too far, the error was all mine, and I apologize both to Ashwini and to those audience members who had a worse night because of it. I had hoped to add, not to subtract.

Ashwini Mishra: fair enough.apology accepted.just for the record, i have always encouraged collaboration and especially on the spot. But when the mic is snatched in the middle of my rhyme, that irritates the hell out of me. but it’s fine. let’s bury the hatchet. maybe we can battle again sometime. god knows i have enough material now..:)

That’s issue no.1 reached resolution (or at least one incident of it). As for issue no.2, Bombay Elektrik Projekt have not issued any further statements, slanderous, apologetic or otherwise. And there have been a few nasty jibes directed my way, by one of the judges at that event.

Mumbai Ka King Kaun? Deewar Pe Dekho!

A very quick update on yesterday’s street festival. It would have been nice if it had been a day-long fest and each of the events staggered a bit.

I started out with a detailed itinerary, knowing even then the futility of trying to cover all the events. Kya karen, they were all so appealing! I started with the Wall Project, because it was the first event and yes, also because it enjoys a special place in my heart. 🙂

AmZ met me in Bandra and we spent a pleasant (if not fruitless) half-hour driving up and down Tulsi Pipe Road trying to find the others. The event details had only said that the project was open for painting on the blank walls left over from the earlier events. But maybe because of the heat and also since it was a less monitored event, the crowd clustered around a tree-shaded patch close to Mahim.

I daresay some people may have painted over earlier paintings. But I’m just going to take a note from a friend’s diary and say that street art is about layers over layers.

I had a run in with the shopkeeper of the only hardware shop open on that stretch.  I know it was hot but that wasn’t my fault and besides no one should be crabby about doing extra business.  Grrrrr, horrible man!


So I found myself dressed to paint in denim overalls and bright pink rubber gloves but with no paints, no brushes and no wall. Mercifully for me, Manan and his friends invited me to join them in their part of colour splashing. Here are the results.

Since they’d already started their panel, I didn’t join them but I was graciously given both the border panels to splash about with. On the right, I created a warli painting. After all these years of sketching and fabric-painting, this is the first time I’ve actually created this wall art on a real wall. Much fun it was.

E Vestigio was there all along, heckling us and snapping pics. (I do hope she’ll put up a post with them soon!) In retaliation, I incorporated her into the warli painting along with the others who were painting the wall. Can you guess which one she is? The fun bit about an event like this is the camaraderie and silliness that goes hand-in-hand with actually executing the project.

The panel on the left actually had a few pictures of gods and the pavement-dwellers asked us to not touch those. In cognizance of this, a group had left the top half empty and was in the process of creating a Pink Floyd album cover on the bottom. But the top looked rather stark. So I tempered the parts around the pictures with blue paint and created a kolam, which is fairly appropriate next to a picture of the Gods, I think. 🙂

Friends and familiar faces I spotted were Neil Dantas, Shadez and Leztah. The mad (o’ wot?) Sapna Bhavnani screamed out “IDEEEEEEEAAAAAAAA!” as she flew past in an Elvis Presley wig, as a part of the Superheroes on bicycles event. A few panels down, Ranjeet, Neeraj and their gang put up their green and peaceful messages to the world.

The Superheroes on bicycles briefly sailed past us and stopped to ogle our walls and let themselves be ogled at. Much funness. Mumbaikers need to be taught to stare. 🙂

By the time we packed up it was close to 8. So we made our way to Carter Road to catch the Mad Fake Tea Party. It was too dark by then and the party that had presumably been on for a few hours, was winding down. Still we got a few glimpses of funkily dressed people and the remaining postcards on the table.

All in all, we really only did one event completely but as Manan puts it,

What a wonderful, satisfying way to spend a Sunday!

Waltz In Matunga

Time out of office on a weekday is always fun. Even if you do have to get back to work eventually. It would be funner if the rest of the day was an unscheduled holiday, of course, but one makes do with what one gets.

So I find myself sauntering down a road that was probably desiged to be a nice, quiet side-street with colony gates opening into it but has metamorphosed instead. The road has grown up and now sees hourly traffic snarls, cars and cabs zooming and vrooming up and down and a bright neon multiplex thrusting itself in between the faded painted hoardings that came up about fifteen years ago (when the road was oh, about in its teens).

It’s scorching hot after a week of grey skies and incessant rain. Great, I left my sunglasses behind and carried my extra-heavy-duty rain protection gear instead, that’s making my otherwise ubercool bag bulge like a pillow. No matter I tell myself, in Matunga, nobody will mind.

No taxiwalla is willing to ferry me to the station and my stomach is starting to make itself (or its emptiness) felt so I pause, mid-traffic to think. If I were in Dadar, I’d pop in to sample some no-frills delicious Mahrashtrian cuisine. I spend a peaceful few seconds thinking about kokum sharbat, patra, shrikhand-puri and masale bath. The honking behind me jolts me out of my reverie so I rush on. Bandra and I would have stepped into any of the cafes, restaurants and hangouts I know so well. Town has its own delights. Even if Tea Center has ceased to function, there’s always Samrat where I’ve enjoyed many a solo lunch with the waiters dancing attendance. Yes, I know, I know that Gujjus don’t consider Samrat fare as ‘good food’ but like I said, one makes do with what one has.

My gastronomical soliloquy has carried me comfortably down the entire stretch and I’m almost near the station. I sense an Udipi close by and I walk in. Did I say ‘sense’ it? Yes, when one is hungry, one’s senses are much heightened and besides can any Mumbaiker miss the Shetty-style maroon/navy blue uniform-clad water boys, cleaners and waiters? I’m in Udipi land alright. Except…I’m most surprised to find the place almost deserted. An Udipi at lunchtime deserted? Besides I’m fairly certain I’ve been to this one before and it has reasonably nice food. Nonplussed I drift to one of the empty seats, taking in the darkness in the nether sections and waiters in huddles. One of them directs me to the inevitable ‘A.C.Room’ upstairs. I trudge upstairs only to find one single waiter and one sole customer both looking at me very curiously. So I back out, my customary confidence vaporizing and other senses taking over (“Yikes!”) and decide to sit downstairs.

The man at the cash register a few feet away whispers loudly to one of the water-boys to…

Remove ash-tray!

Funny, I’ve never seen an ash-tray in an Udipi before. But the water-boy shows up and I forget all, savouring the cool water in a way only someone who has walked down a road on a hot day can. I run my gaze down the menu. Chicken items, Mutton items, Egg curries, Fish dishes, Snacks (yes, they spell it right!) and beverages. Uh….in an Udipi? Of course I know that the Shetty clan are as carnivorous as the next guy and enjoy their fish and meat. But you’ll never find even the smell of one of them in an Udipi. And ummm, has anyone in Matunga heard of meat?

Tentatively I ask,

This used to be a vegetarian restaurant?

The waiter shakes his head and then comprehension dawning late says,

No, this is a bar. Our veg restaurant is across the road.

YIIIIIIIIIIIIKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKES!!!!!!!!!!

So, of course, I beat a hasty retreat. If you need to ask….well forget it, don’t even ask.

Across the road I wonder if the glass of water I had, tasted any different from a restaurant. What if they had spiked it? Someone spiked my Breezer with beer once! I shudder off all those annoying senses that are surrounding me and tell myself firmly that

I would know if someone spiked my drink. And what’s a little beer going to do to a rum drinker?

In the vegetarian restaurant (which, I note is bustling with activity, much to my relief) I sink into a chair right near the entrance. Two minutes later the menu still hasn’t been arrived and I haven’t even been given a glass of water (not that I’d need another one after that beer-spiked glass I downed not five minutes back). So I scowl in impatience and move to a better location. Right near the mirrored walls, on the sofa side where I have a view of cashier, water boys, waiters, wash-basin and the door to the kitchen.

What I need is a good thali. Nothing like simple pseudo-home fare to calm the (beer-spiked) nerves. The shiny steel platter arrives in exactly the time it takes me to walk to the wash-basin and come back. Three soft and thin chappatis (I hate those doughy, chewy parathas or ‘parotas’ as the southie restaurants call them) surrounded by round katoris all along the rim. The curd is set in the katori and I break the smooth surface to test it. I note that the cream is just thick enough to bend a little before breaking but light enough to not crumple. Next, the crucial taste test. Hmm….lovely! The proof of the Udipi is in the curd-eating.

One after the other, I sample each katori, deciding which ones I like and which I don’t and can be evacuated from the plate. So out goes palak gravy (*sob* but gastroentitis was enough to throw me off my favorite green veggie in the monsoons…even if today is an uncharacteristically sunny day!). The beetroot-bhaji follows suit. I never got used to that evil thing. Lovely colour, horrendous taste. No wonder they say it’s good for the blood, it tastes like blood too! The sambar-ey thing joins them (who ever heard of sambar with chappati?). So I’m left with aloo-bhaji, brinjals in a coconut-ey orange gravy, payasam (kheer), a watery brown thing that I always decide I will try but never do and the curd. I line up all the remaining katoris to the frontlines, place the mini-papad in the conclave they form and open and re-fold the three chappatis seperately. Ready to begin!

The first morsel is dunked into payasam and disappointingly yields nothing more than two dripping fingers. So I beckon to a passing waiter and ask him,

Did you just dump the liquid in? There’s no payasam here!!!

He looks ready to argue but is pulled off by his colleague who tells him to replace it. In a blink I have another fresh katori, hot this time and filled half with soft rice. Damn and I was hoping it would be semiya-payasam. Don’t tell my mum since I feign a dislike for payasam but I love the feel of a not-too-watery, not-too-sugary semiya-payasam within a chappati. Rice will do just as well so I attack tuck in. My fresh lime soda arrives in the ubiquitous beer-mug (beer again!) with a straw in it which falls off the minute it is set on the table.

Mid-way, I’m interrupted by people standing next to my seat. Ah, the next occupants standing so as to ‘grab the seat’. But they sit down instead. And I’m mighty surprised. This is two men, the sort that I’d walk past quickly on the road anticipating their stares following me down the road. But they don’t of course. This is Mumbai at lunch-hour and the rules are different. A person eating alone and sitting in a table meant for 4 (tightly squeezed) has effectively stated that they are fine with company. Company does not speak or look. The rules of the shared table are much the same as in a closed elevator. No eye-contact and hold your breath till its over. One of them steals a glance at my almost empty katoris and I retract my uncharitable thoughts on staring. Hunger speaks across languages.

Meal done, I speed up the finishing bits and ask for the bill (yes, not ‘the cheque’). On my way out, I pause to buy a beeda. A bright green betel leaf wrapped around a mysterious something, topped with colourful dried coconut and finished with a clove through it. What Udipi meal is complete without one?

* The restaurant that served up this wonderful lunch is Ganga Vihar, close to Matunga Road west.

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