Tag Archives: On the streets

The Mumbaiker’s Prayer

Lord, grant me an autorickshaw for this morning’s commute,
Change and the correct meter reading at the end of the journey,
A sturdy body to take the bumps and speeding around turns,
The patience to not snap and end up on the side of the road, waiting again
And a blank mind that will let me forget I have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Who’s Your Daddy?

As much as I complain about autorickshaws, I can’t deny they certainly improve the stuck-in-traffic experience.

‘If ur bad, I am ur dad.’

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:


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.


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.


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.

Building Noticeboard

Somebody has been trashing up my building. There’s a watchman around at all times (though he’s asleep every time I see him) so methinx it is the cats.

But the committee’s taking no chances. The notice is part request and part threat:

“We request the culprit person that if has got any anger and hatred he should express it within house walls of the wallsof his flat and he is free to damage his own property.”

I Style! – The BEST Man

I spotted Neil Dantas at The Wall Project and I just had to stop him to tell him just how I Style! he was!

i am the BEST

i am the BEST

Isn’t his tee-shirt absolutely fab? It’s Bambaiyya in a way that nothing else starts to match.For the uninitiated, BEST, an acronym for Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, runs the Mumbai bus system. Every bus carries the BEST logo in Hindi, in white inside an oval white patch, painted on the side of the bright red bus. It’s one of Mumbai’s most recognizable logos.

The BEST man's tee-shirt

The BEST man's tee-shirt

The good news is that Neil is himself a designer and retails his creations from his website. Do drop into his place if you’d like to carry forward his style. Or as I’d like to call it, Neil’s I Style!

Update: The full form of BEST has been corrected (thank you, Peter!). Much apologies for the error; I can only blame it on the 4a.m. posting.


* Cross-posted to Divadom.

The Wall Project: BMC Plays Tom Sawyer & Everyone Wins!

It has been nearly a week now since The Wall Project and I’m so happy to say that it was a stupendous, tremendous, awesome success! I was thrilled to have been part of the event. The photographs are still surfacing on Facebook, people tagging each other and comparing notes.

Having put out an ‘official’ call on Twitter, I know I really should have been at the venue by the stipulated 8a.m. but I plead a swine flu scare which made me stay in bed with the sniffles till afternoon. Thankfully for me, my dear Aditya shook me out of my hypochondriacal stupor with a,

You really don’t know what you’re missing! Take care of yourself and I hope you feel better soon.

Hain! Such things could not be endured so like a flash we were out of bed and chugging our way to Mahim station. Since I got there only half-way through the day, I missed picking out one of the early spots close to the station entrance. Still, I’d like to think that the quality of the paintings improve as you move from Mahim to Matunga. Heh, ‘my’ wall and those of my friends are nearly at the end, right next to Matunga Road station! 😉

FIrst day collage

Moksh planted...err, painted...trees. Simple, detailed and lovely.

Moksh planted...err, painted...trees. Simple, detailed and lovely.

The BMC had provided paints, brushes and thoughtfully, a tanker full of water to splash up. On Day 1, I even managed to get a lift from them from the station, all the way down to my wall. Aditya, Rehab, Spitphyre and Vagrant Seeker had been already and created their colourful collage, replete with Twitter ids. They also very thoughtfully helped me start up my first wall project and left me to fill in the end details.

On the BMC truck

Left to right: BMC guy, @wanderblah, @ideasmithy, @Spitphyre, @Adityab, BMC guy

Since the BMC came around to wrap up by around 5:30pm, I’m afraid it turned out to be a rather rushed job. The results can be seen on a pinky-pink wall with green swirly things and bleeding red eyes, almost opposite to the J&J building. I was gunning for a psychedelic design but I’m afraid it ended up being more kiddy crayoney.

Pink psychedelia

Pink Psychedelia: My efforts at the end of Day 1

I also managed to carefully white-wash the wall on its immediate left, layering on the paint evenly. When the BMC guys took away my paints, I vowed to get back early the next day and start on the white wall.


If you're wondering why there's white in my hair, it's my swine-flu protection pushed up to double up as headband!

Rather unfortunately the next day too, my sleepy somnambulistic side surfaced and I ended up getting there only around noon (Aditya, stop laughing! You also turned up at exactly the same time!). To my grimacing-frowny dismay, the whitewashed wall had been taken over by a family. What’s more, my carefully even-toned whitewash was being covered meticulously by layer over layer of blue-black. Ah well, I cut my losses and decided to look for another wall further up.

Happily I bumped into Shawn, Wanderblah, Jayant, Spitphyre, Aniceto and Jai at the end of the road. The corner after the tree seemed to become ‘ours’ as we set up our mini-studio there, piling up our backpacks onto the carriers of the taxis close by and painting the adjacent walls. We were joined in the middle of the day by Ashwin, Princila and Sayan. Princila took up the brush to paint a little something right under my painting. She says it’s a man being splashed with paint but I personally think it looks like a guy running away from the spotlight…which inspired me to spray an ‘AnonyMouse’ next to it.

I never imagined painting a wall could be so much fun and I realize in retrospect that it was only because it was such a community event. None of my art classes or solo ventures have been as thrilling as the weekend I spent with these amazing guys. We poked fun at each other’s artwork, we photographed together and each other in weird poses (and continue to leave silly comments on each other’s FB albums), we shared paints and brushes, we mixed up our ideas and added to each other’s work. It was such a lovely, brilliant day!


Top l-r: Jai, Spitphyre, Adityab, Wanderblah. Bottom: Ideasmith, Shawn

We also received our 10 seconds of fame when Aparna brought in an interview on UTVi (aired yesterday and to be repeated on the weekend; youtube video to be linked shortly). Their anchor was very prettily (and somewhat unsuitably) dressed in a lavender formal shirt, wherein she borrowed my paint-streaked apron (already smuggled out of mum’s kitchen). That’s the one that you see on her in the video. 😀

Interviewed by UTVi

With @Spitphyre, being interviewed on UTVi for a TechTree segment.

There was a spot of unpleasantness when we tussled for the plastic stool and spray paint cans with our neighbors, one of whom left after uttering a diabolical statement that the paintings may not be around the next day.

But the ickiest part of the day wasn’t the mean neighbors or the blue-paint which turned out to be a shitty brown. It was the attack of the Twitter vandals. If you’ve been around on the Twitterverse, you’ll know who I’m talking about. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I invited the leader of that gang to visit the wall and join us in the project, earlier in the day. Of course I had no way of knowing that his version of contributing to The Wall Project would be to spray-paint his own name on other people’s good work, mess around with some really fantastic paintings, take stupid dirty photos of the wall and finally to add insult to injury, tweet that,

We’re done desecrating the wall project.

I’m embarrassed to say that I know this man. Most of the tweeple who were around that day have unfollowed the vandals in question. The leader of that gang has since initiated a ‘clean-up’ effort and accordingly tweeted pictures of his effort. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m left with a the thought that,

That’s just uncool. Only for losers, dude.

‘Nuff said.

The highlight of our day was the Twitter wall that we painted in our far corner. One panel was painstakingly painted shiny blue (we couldn’t get the pale sky blue of Twitter) long after everyone else had packed up. And then we recreated a Twitter timeline with actual tweets from the gang that was there. I’m so proud of us for this one guys, you all rock!

Wall Twitter - All

Though the Project spanned only two days, people are still talking about it. There’s newpapers, the TV interview and loads and loads of photographs circulating on Facebook and discussions still happening. Yes, the BMC may have pulled a Tom Sawyer on us but what the hell, it was fun, wasn’t it (aching bones notwithstanding)?!


Hidden Tiger, Crouching @adityab

Hidden Tiger, Crouching @adityab

Painting @krist0ph3r's face. Don't miss his expression!

Painting @krist0ph3r's face. Don't miss his expression!

DangerMouse on the divider

DangerMouse on the divider

Aniceto with Jai. Aditya in the background making big eyes.

Aniceto with Jai. Aditya in the background making big eyes.

And here are the results of the brilliant efforts of the wonderful people I was with.


Spitphyre's fairytale


Shawn's SCREAM

Wanderblah and Jhayu doing their crazy thing!

Wanderblah and Jhayu doing their crazy thing!

@adityab's Space Wars

@adityab's Space Wars

And here’s my piece de resistance (I hope that was used in the right context *gulp*) – my own wall!!! **DRUM ROLL**

Here’s the chess board representing order and structure, being ripped apart by a hand (whose model was a street kid called Sultan). A conversation with Sultan resulted in the painting of a crown and then a king who looked like a queen. Hence that’s the Red Queen looking very happy over the breakdown of order.


It's a honour, a high honour you see, to have tea with the Red Queen and me! - Alice in Wonderland

And finally, the resultant chaos, also known as the hungama inside my head or as you know it – theideasmithy.com. TADA!!! Incidently I stand accused of using up half of BMC’s paint supplies on one wall. I’ve also been diagnosed by the God of Gas as suffering from a disorder that makes me scared of blank spaces in art. Ah, mea culpa. See for yourself –

Me and my wall 2

You can also see Princila's paint-splash guy on the lower panel. AnonyMouse is yet to be added.

Incidentally I rode down to Tulsi Pipe Road the next night because I just couldn’t resist taking one more look. While all the other paintings in our corner were intact and looking quite brilliant in the night, I was most dismayed to find that Setto’s imaginative pink piggy in a suit had been splashed with a dab of red paint running down from the pig’s nose. Agitated, I spoke to him and told him about it. I was quite unprepared to hear him chuckle and say that he wished he had been there when it was done, he’d have shot a video. I asked him how he could possibly feel that way, I felt so bad when I saw it vandalized. Very wisely and oh so cooly he replied,

Hmmm… its graffiti. You know the fact someone did that makes me happy, coz that was what the party needed. Something unorganized…chaotic…the whole scene was too much like a ‘slumming’ party. Whoever did that is adding another layer to the image..and whoever follows him is doing so too.


Hmm, I wonder who the inspiration for the piggy face was...

Hmm, that’s food for thought. That is what street art is about I guess. And that’s what this city is about. Layers over layers. Colour and cheating, fights and fun, friends and vandals, silliness and talent. It’s just Mumbai.

Some other posts about the Wall Project:

Jhayu – “On Dirty Walls, Sundays and Stained Fingers”

Punk Polka Dots – “When India Takes 2 Steps Forward..”

Aditya (on Facebook Notes) – “Food, Drink, Writing And The Wall Project”

Deepa – “The Wall Project August 15, 2009”

*All the photographs in this piece have been taken by Wanderblah, JhayuSpitphyre and Aditya.

The Wall Project – Tulsi Pipe Road

Pop culture meets city pride. What better way to get citizens invested in beautification than to get them involved in it too? Here’s presenting THE WALL PROJECT that invites Mumbaikers to express themselves in colour on the city’s walls. The Project has been undertaken at several other locations before. This Independence day (15th and 16th of August, actually), the project asks people to paint the wall running along Tulsi Pipe Road from Mahim to Dadar.

This sounds like a damn fine idea to me. Thus far, street art has been Mumbai is restricted to badly painted promotions for local businesses or gruesome posters of B- and C-grade flicks. There is the occasional defacing with a local gang or two hoping to steal some glory for themselves by spray-painting obscene words on school walls and building compounds. But I have full faith in Mumbai. We are after all, the commercial capital, the center of the world’s largest film industry and home to the story of the Slumdog Millionaire. We are nothing else if not dreamers and productive ones at that. What else does one need for art?

Photographers – this is should also be a good opportunity for some fantastic cityscapes.

Okay and I also have to say this. I haven’t visited this location recently but I’m guessing this is the wall running along the station since it is the only continuous stretch of wall along that road. From what I remember, the sidewalk isn’t exactly clean and neither is the wall, having been used as it has, as a public toilet for far too long. But I’m not going to let that deter me and I hope you won’t either. Come dressed in old clothes and sensible shoes and nose-clips if necessary. Beautification isn’t always pretty work. And art is often messy. But it should be fun!

So here’s a call to everyone who’s in the city – pick up a brush and a pot of paint or two and meet me at Tulsi Pipe road on 15th August. Let’s paint this town red  (and blue and yellow and green and magenta and lilac and black and…you get the picture 😀 ).

And here are the details as I received them:

The Wall Project, a humble project that started out with a few enthusiastic people, is growing to be a bigger, better project. It was an initiative to add visual elements of colour, form and texture to a space, to make the area more alive and generate a feeling among people who pass by it daily.

This process allows one to be more observant about the spaces we use and move within and how we can use various art forms in the public sphere to generate an interest in the minds of our daily human lives. The Wall Project in its own way tries to start a conversation, with no political or religious attachments.


The Wall Project along with the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai is initiating painting sessions on the Tulsi Pipe Road, stretching from Mahim to Dadar running along the Western Railway line in Mumbai. The first phase starts on the 15th -16th August 2009, 0800 HRS onwards. 

– look for an arrow indicating the start point on the Walls of Tulsi Pipe Road, (closer to Mahim(West) Railway station) And we could begin painting in that direction. 
– it would be nice to come prepared with a thought about what you would like to paint and how much wall space you will require. 

– its open to all. show up on 15th/16th August, 08:00am – 08:00pm and paint your style.
– if you are apprehensive about painting all by yourself then you could assist people who are painting.
– you could come as a group (friends, family etc) with hopefully a constructive idea and paint it.

* no adverts, no religious writings on the wall, hopefully no political slogans, no foul language.

* there is a limited amount of paint supplies on location, so early birds… 

* being a weekend/national holiday some paint/hardware shops may be shut or close shop early, so you would want to check on what you require in advance.

** clean up around you once your wall is complete

All further updates will be on THE WALL PROJECT group on FACEBOOK

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to write in at – info@thewallproject.com

Hope to c u there. 

The Wall Project Team

Things It Never Occurred To Me To Wish For

I’ve already established that my life hasn’t gone according the gameplan. But there’s plenty that I never even accounted for in the plan, that did happen. So much that it never even occurred to me to think of or wish for, that actually happened to me along the way.


I met a girl in junior college. She was smart and beautiful. I thought she liked me too but I didn’t know why and I was never sure of it anyway. Then we had a fight and didn’t talk to each other for a long time. I got to know her again, the year I was preparing for the b-school entrances. Then as luck would have it, we fought again and parted ways. And quirky as ever (Lady luck, such a cat, such a dotty old bat) we ended up within a single point of each other in the thousands of people who’d taken the admission test. We went to the same college, we saw a lot more of each other, before I knew it we were bonding. At the end of those tumultous two years, she was the only one standing next to me, propping up my mortal remains. My best friend, my soul-sister, my prize for having endured all those other painful relationships. I am so blessed to have her in my life.


My earliest memory of writing is age 4,  penning (okay, pencilling at that age) a song about a bus, using an upright soap box for inspiration. I contributed to the college magazine, two years in a row, that brought me the sweet appreciation of a teacher whose classes I’d never attended, only because she was also the magazine editor. She gifted me ‘The Little Prince’, one of my most treasured possessions. My teenage years were marked with angsty, angry and secret writing that was abruptly snuffed and revived (my version of self-mutilation). And then there was the blog. And another. Comments. Links. Emails. Friendship. Blogger-meets. Group-blogs. Editorship. Media mentions. An audience. A space to call my own. A world of my own.


The relationship was the turning point in my life and I can clearly see my life as pre- and post- that experience. All along I had been fed the idea of independence, of liberatedness and of not needing a man to be happy. But it was only after going through that nightmare did I truly experience that understanding, in my very bones. For months afterward, I was jolted awake by a new emotion – immense, overwhelming gratitude. I couldn’t believe just how lucky I was, what a narrow escape I had had that I had not ended up married – or worse, pregnant – with him. I really felt like I had been granted a reprieve in life. And that feeling slowly evaporated, giving way to hardness, an unshakeable faith that I would rather be alone than go through that again. I remember reading Gone With The Wind, a gift from my favorite cousin, in which she had inscribed,

This is not a book about love or the war. It’s about never giving up.

It was my personal Tara moment, when I promised myself that I’d never cry over a man again.

I don’t know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. It is a fact that I’ve never had a real, lasting relationship since then. I’ve also never been broken or defeated since then. I’ve lost the desire, the aching need to belong to someone and with it, I’ve also relinquished trust in men and caring about their opinions. Yes, I’ve been alone for over six years now (relationship status independent). I’d be lying if I said I was never lonely. Far from it, I’m lonely more often than I like but each time I am, I just have to think back to this time and I know I don’t regret my desicions.


My state of mind has spread to every other aspect of my life too. I used to be the girl who always wrote postcards on vacation, called up people and asked, “Why don’t you ever call me?”. In these past few years, I can’t remember the last conversation I’ve had to initiate, the last time I’ve chased after anyone for affection or friendship. I am not necessarily proud of it and I really admire the people in my life who are there solely on the basis of their effort and very little of mine, often forgetting that I used to be them a short few years back. But I’ve just gone too far into walking alone and the ability to reach out which comes from a need to bond with other people closely has just been burned right out of my being.

My career and everything else I do has changed too. I never thought of myself as an ambitious person; not me, the back-bencher, the almost-dropout. But in the past few years I’ve found myself with so much of time and energy and a desire to burn it away as fast as possible so I have no time to get into messes. It seems to be showing results. I’m doing well in everything that I’ve taken up since then, my work, my hobbies and my activities. I still can’t get used to it though. After having been branded a loser with no future, I seem to have grown a Midas touch. It’s scary.


I can’t change the fact that I am a passionate, fiery person. So all I’ve done is unconsciously divert all my energy from personal relationships into my activities. It can’t be all bad and it keeps me engaged and brings me a lot of attention and respect, something I never would have thought would be mine in such magnitude.

In sum, I had a vague idea that I’d be ‘happy’ in ten years time. I don’t have a straight answer to whether I am or not. But I also never thought to wish for independence, admiration and success and they seem to have fallen into my lap, quite inadvertently. Ah well…life, that crazy old bat, be careful if she invites you around to tea. There’s no telling what she’ll put into it.

Surreality Show

He called me the gatekeeper of the great suburban conscience of Mumbai.

Am I? Each time I write something serious about the city, I’m reminded of a friend bitching about the ultra-intellectual types who eat at McDonalds and come out and talk about the poor people in the country. Am I one of them? Does the city give you a choice, surrounded as you are with surreal constrasts?

Here’s something I spotted a couple of weeks ago in the wee hours of the morning. Presumably the store is one of the many designer boutiques that dot the fashionable area of Juhu. Do they know that at night, their porch turns into a bedroom? Perhaps they do, considering our man has a pseudo-four-poster bed with a mosquito net tied into corners. And the faithful guard lies in waiting, a few feet away.


In the middle of this melancholic week, I don’t find cheer even in my favorite streetside philosophers. Today’s autorickshaw spotting reminds me that this city runs on money, money, money.

Maal hain to mohabbat hain (If you’ve got money, you’ve got love)

If you’re wondering what the word ‘surreal’ means outside of a Dali painting, you know where to look it up, now. What’s left for me to say?

%d bloggers like this: