Monday, 29 November 2010

Maximum City

What is it that makes some cities great? What makes some places the stuff where dreams are made of; What makes New York, the Big Apple; and Mumbai, the Maximum City? 

Having been to many of the world's greatest cities, it had begun to surprise and annoy me as well, that I had never been to Mumbai (yes, really!) Somehow, I never really had a big reason to go; but then I decided that perhaps visiting the city was reason enough.

And so here I was, in this bustling metropolis. A whirlwind of people and places followed, seamless amalgamation of new and old, rich and poor. As I whizzed past neighbourhoods of Mumbai - Borivili, Kandevili, Parel, Worli...I suddenly realised that these names have transported me back to scenes from various Bollywood movies;

Despite the constant streaming of images from famous urbanscapes into our homes; despite the demystification of large cities; why is it that their charm still remains? Why am I still breath-taken by the view from Marine Drive; Why has the chaos of Times Square taken me by surprise everytime I go there; Why am I still awestruck by the grace and grandeur of Regent Street every single time I visit?

It is true that Rome wasn't built in a day, and perhaps the fact that you can see the old mix with the new in these cities that lends to its charm. The constant evolution probably inspires, challenges and presents new experiences to everyone who visits....

The city really does not seem to sleep; The hurried pace exhilarating and exhausting at the same time; A city constantly in the state of flux....

But then, doesn't the state of flux make big city life all the more difficult? Most people living in Mumbai crib about the traffic, the pollution, the extremely high cost of real-estate.....Something that every New Yorker or Londoner would identify with. Why then, do people stream into this city every single day in the hopes of making it big? How does a city built on landfill continue to make so many dreams come true?

Is it the high rises, the bright lights, the history, the monuments that make a city tick?  The high-octane life-style, the glamour or the money? Or is it the fact that one visit (or many visits) is not enough to discover the highs and the lows of the place?

Or perhaps, it is the spirit of its people: determined to change and yet not let change affect them; distinct yet united - the spirit of the Maximum city.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Happy KC

Watching my friends dressed in Indian finery and observing the age old tradition of Karva Chauth made me wonder about traditions.

What makes us follow traditions? Why do most North Indian women of my generation including the well heeled, well travelled and well read, fast from sunrise to moonrise without a drop of water for the well being of their other half? Why then did some of the other similar festivals that celebrate "suhaag" not become as popular as the KC?

Perhaps Charles Darwin has had it right all the way through...perhaps just like our bodies, our culture and traditions need to continuously change and stay relevant through the times.

What drives this change? The role of pop culture in driving this change cannot be denied.  Thanks to HAHK and DDLJ, Karva Chauth is the new Valentine's Day (without the unnecessary hulla-gulla and the ram sena and the pink chaddis...). In a country where the "partner" concept is still in nascent stages, NDTV's headline news about how Bebo kept a fast for Saif is part interesting as well disturbing...But then pop culture and commercialisation have always been intertwined, feeding off each other; creating a viscious cycle...

For now, it looks like KC has gone from kitsch to uber cool; Time for the humble "Teej" to do the evolution...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Reality Bites

One of the perks of having free time is that you get to watch TV. Its hard to escape the re-runs of Friends (even though I have seen every episode atleast 20 times, they still make me laugh!; But harder still is to escape the onslaught of the money-minting machine that has "revolutionised" (sic!) TV - the highly scripted "reality" shows and the good old talent shows.

I don't mind the talent shows that much, though I fail to understand why the studio audience is always shrieking. And why do all the contestants look like airbrushed models on a magazine cover and not like "real" people?

The "Next Top Model" shows are equally hilarious, with the waif like "models" who have "always wanted to be a model" and therefore stopped eating when they were 10! Maybe its the lack of carbs in their diet that makes them cry or get into a cat-fight at the drop of a hat...

The Big Brother / Keeping up with the Kardashians type shows definitely make me wonder what they were thinking? I mean really, what were they thinking? And what are we thinking, or for that matter do we think at all? Why they are so popular? So we can pretend to be holier than thou? Or so we can comment on how low people can go and how celebrity culture has completely destroyed our society....Or maybe deep down we are waiting for someone to make a fool of themselves so we can feel better ourselves?!

PS: Katy Perry on the X-Factor tonight was absolutely horrendous; Of Course I can do better than her!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


For those who have known me long enough, music is a powerful source of inspiration to me (my inherent laziness has prevented it from becoming larger than my life, thus far, but the hope remains that one day it will come to define me...)

My musical journey began as a member of the school choir when I was about 10; My first (unrequited) love was for the piano, that I could only admire from a distance - too cherished an instrument for a mere child to touch. Nevertheless, I loved standing in the choir and singing Silent Night to my hearts content...

Geographically removed to North India and in the "heartlands / cow belt" I discovered Indian Classical music. From Raag Basant to Megh Malhar, I cherished the moments spent in the music room. And of course my sitar, that great instrument that I can only hope to play like a true maestro...

Benaras...that 3000 year old paradoxical city; Timeless, yet a constant source of new experiences. Who would have thought that in this city steeped in Indian traditions, I would discover my love for the classic rock?

The endless qwest for new experiences, new music (which were quite old BTW), new friends (and old fashion) defined those four years. Pink Floyd provided a perfect backdrop to our dreams; Rush provided new hope and excitement..

The days are long gone, the fashion is long gone too (thank God!), the friends, the experiences, the music, the qwest and the monicker remains....

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Is there anybody out there?

After much denying, deliberating and then procrastinating for what might seem like light years in cyberspace, I have finally decided to take the plunge and pour my muddled thoughts into this blog...

So what is my inspiration? Does my opinion matter? Will my thoughts make a difference? Why did I change my mind? Perhaps its the bit of free time, or the feeling that I am getting older and I need to do something new in my life (and stick with it!)..

I guess time will tell, meanwhile I will go back to being lazy and wondering what Pink Floyd's (if they were one person) blog would have been like!