It was the 31st and we had planned to go to Lonavala to welcome the new year. We were supposed to start at 9 pm from Bandra court. At 8 30 the friend who organised it gets a call from our hired driver, “Saab mereko police ne BKC ke paas pakad liya hai.” We go like what, why? “Saab woh main apni girlfriend ke saath gaadi mein baitha tha toh police aake hamko pakad liya.” Talk about PDA. Amidst confusion over whether we would go for the trip or not our group that had quite a few crime reporters in it called up the policemen apologising profusely for our ‘jawaan hai galti ho gaya’ driver. Finally thanks to the goodwill of the crime reporters they let him off with a small fine and we could set out, albeit late to our trip. I remember ribbing him all through the trip about the incident, and quite unabashedly he said, “madam aadha ghanta tha aap logon ke aane mein to maine socha ki usko bula loon waise bhi driving ki wajah se time nahin milta.” But that was not the end of the excitement. He was a 20 something driving at top speed on the express highway, so naturally we had to have a tire burst at the speed of 140 kms/hour, during which his hands went wobbly as he screeched in a I-am-here-to-control-the-situation-but-dont-know-how-to voice “Kuch nahin hoga, kuch nahin hoga.” This incident probably takes the cake when it comes to my experiences with fleet drivers.

In my two and a half years of TV reporting, every day is filled with experiences with fleet drivers, some witty, some cocky, some funny and some sorely lacking. Breaking news and Khabar har keemat par demand that you get a driver who knows the basic layout of the city and yet more than once I have had drivers who have asked in crucially important times, “Madam CST kidhar padta hai?” WTF? These episodes have always resulted in me breaking off the thin barriers of my patience and yelling at the fleet operators back in office.

Then there are those drivers who love flouting rules. They cant keep lanes, they dont understand traffic signals and they love to speed in cars with faulty brakes. So naturally the neighbourhood Pandu gets hold of them. Sometimes when breaking news demands a hassle free movement, we flash our press cards and tell the cops that we are in a hurry, some cops understand and others get even more wild on seeing the press cards, “Media ke ho to kuch bhi kar loge?” The corrupt ones however steal a glance to see if this interaction is being recorded on camera or not. Then at some other times we let the driver face the music. In such scenarios either of the two things happen, the driver proves to be adept at handling the situation or we and the cop come to know that the dude has more offences listed against him than we could have imagined. “Saab license kal doosra saab ne jabti kar liya, chudane ka hai”, “Saab license nahin hai”, “Woh saab paper aaj hamara malik ne nahin diya”, “Kya Saab aap mereko pakda aur usko jaane diya, woh pehle signal toda to main bhi peeche peeche aaya”, “Saab aap Jadhav saheb ko jaante hain, mere maama hai”, are some of the common answers but I have even had a young driver who cried in front of the traffic cop pleading to be let off. And when he finally was we thought he would be grateful, instead he took to the gear and started smiling mischievously.

Then there are those who have just learnt to drive or are too old to drive. The effect is that they are so scared of everything, applying brakes, changing gears, absolutely everything, so much so that you fear for your life. But one common characteristic with all of them is that despite not knowing a thing they speed, which scares the passengers even more. Once in fact, the driver was so bad that my cameraperson who thankfully knew how to drive had to take over. Or else we would have surely ended up in hospital that day. Another driver was understandably scared on the night of 27th November and dropped me off somewhere in Colaba at midnight rather than taking me all the way to Nariman house. It took me half an hour to find Nariman house on that scary night with no one around me. I thanked my stars I wasnt a girl roaming the streets in Delhi that night, strange how roaming the streets on the night of a terror attack seemed safer than Delhi to me then.

But there are also drivers who are a great help. Some of the drivers double up as camera assistants, carrying your tripods, helping you around. Some of them are more informed about what is going on in the city than the news channels. Other older drivers give you insights into the city’s history and psyche that no one else would give you. And some others are an asset just because they know all the routes and take you to the right place even in the dead of the night. Some of them help you with the local language and some of them know the best and cheapest roadside eateries to take you to. Well enough said now, I gotta go and ask the fleet for a cab to take me to a shoot to far off Mulund, hope I have a good driver today. Oh, did I mention my last driver had the loudest and awfullest ringtone ever or about the one who plays 90’s loser songs all the time??

Can you let go?

Has it been raining break ups or what? Suddenly in the last few months so many of my friends have ‘broken up’ that I seem to have heard about all sorts of reasons for break ups and seen all sorts of ways people deal with them. For a person with limited actual experience, I think its great I got to hear of these things, I atleast know what not to do now. So one of those usual coffee discussions about the big R word and my friend says, ‘So you don’t believe that there are people who cant let go of their love?’

Honestly, I think we can do whatever we want, if we put our mind to it. So yes, we can let go of love too. But with the numerous second hand break up experiences and my limited experiences, this is what I have learnt of people who don’t let go. Prime reasons are as follows.

  1. Fear : What if I don’t get anyone else, what if its not the same as this? Frankly these are tricks your mind is playing on you. There are 6 billion people in this world, surely you can get someone else.
  2. My pain is my badge of honor : You wear your pain on your sleeve. You tell the world how much you have suffered and how despite all that you are still surviving. You don’t let go coz it satisfies this need of yours to tell others that you have gone through shit and still you are surviving bravely (?). Now unless you can write poems like Ghalib (a famous Urdu poet) out of that hurt or you can build a Taj Mahal out of that pain, its not worth holding on.
  3. Guilt trap : For some others it is a matter of revenge and reverse control. They want to make the other person feel bad about what they did. So they act all hurt and hold on to that hurt and bitterness all their life. Even if they get someone else who is actually better they wont allow themselves to be loved, because then they would lose that righteous anger of theirs.
  4. My love is the purest : I happen to know some of these people. They don’t let go coz they think that they are the ones who are responsible to prove it to the world that true love still exists. You ask them why are they torturing themselves, they tell you how can they let go of true love? They are proving just to themselves that their love is pure and divine. By no means am I saying that true, honest love doesn’t exist. Thing is you don’t have to prove its existence. And if you have to prove it to someone, seriously are they worth your time?

And all of these people are uncomfortable with their status. You can forever hear them saying that they want to move on, that they want to get out of it or that they want to let that person stop affecting them, but honestly they don’t want to do any of it. They want to hold on for all the above mentioned reasons. So to all of them, people decide what you really want and then just stick to it and more importantly, take responsibility for what you decided. If you want to keep crying, then realise that you made that choice. If you want to get out of it, decide that and don’t look back. In the end, life works itself out.

My 160 sq. ft. on Mumbai

Two cents are not of much use in Mumbai. What is really worthwhile is a having a small 160 sq ft apartment for yourself. I happen to be lucky enough to have one on rent, happily given to me by a Marathi Manoos and hence here is my 160 sq ft on this city.

2009 has been a tough year for the city. Living in the shadow of 26/11, recession and parochial violence, the city once again endured a lot. Add to this, poor rains in a city that always makes headlines for its torrential rains.

So 2010 started on a bleak note for the city. As the days progressed things went from bad to worse. The city’s water crisis has become a major cause of concern for the ‘aam aadmi’. Every day most of us wake up with or even before the sun to fill up our buckets and tubs so that we have enough water to last through the day. The state irrigation minister has for the time being diverted some water from the irrigation department for drinking water purposes, to keep the water cut from increasing to more than the current 15%. Then there are the reports that two hydel power plants will have to be shut during the summer due to water shortage. Which means some more power cuts in areas that already have many hours of load shedding daily. The prices of vegetables are already high. For singles like me who live mostly on take away food, these hikes have resulted in more than 2k rise in our spending, not something we can afford in times of recession. Summer would mean irrigation problems and further shortage in vegetables raising the prices even more. It is going to be one tough summer this year for Mumbaikars.

So every day while I scan the newspapers I think that there would be some good news to tell me that the summer would be better. That there is some policy change, some statement, some tussle in political circles over these issues that touch me everyday. But everyday I hear of andolans for North Indians, Marathis and every other thing but no word on how the city is to survive this summer. And in the midst of this all, the leases of many occupants of my building too will expire, which could mean some more money to be shelled out. So this summer I wonder, along with my Marathi neighbours, if there would even be a 160 sq ft of borrowed ownership that we could claim in Mumbai, while politicians and socialites debate on who the whole city belongs to.