Thursday, April 30, 2009

I VOTED

Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) are great, but I think it's time our country's electoral process takes another giant step forward. I went to vote early morning with my voter's ID card, before going to office. Much to my horror, I found out that my name was not in the voter's list. Actually there are two lists; the guy sitting outside the booth first confirms our name and then sends us to any one of the two (in the case of my polling station) pre-assigned booths and the other counter inside the respective booth confirms our name, puts the mark on our middle finger, etc. The counter outside the booth did not have my name although I got my Voter's ID card in 1994!!! Can you believe it? Mera Bharat Mahaan!!! The lady inside either wasn't in the mood to cooperate and double-check whether my name is infact there in the second list (which I later found out that it was there infact) or it's just too cumbersome to search manually without any reference number that all voters are also assigned. So I could not vote then. 

But that is not done, isn't it? After all I am a Mumbaikar, I have witnessed people in power ruin my beautiful Mumbai over the years. Not that I ever hoped that others (apart from the independents) would have done any better. But hey, I have seen 7/11, 26/11 and lots of communal disharmony. So vote, I think, we must, because even if we think that we don't have good enough candidates and are forced to lower the bar, we must atleast set a precedent, make a statement of sorts and prove that the vote is in our hands and if we do not like incumbents for whatever reason or if we even do not like the other parties, we can still keep them out.

Fortunately, I found out that the voter's slip or whatever that little chitthi is called that some political parties drop at our houses carrying our names, addresses, booth and our individual voter numbers was lying in my house. So I came home early, collected the chitthi and went to the polling booth and voted. I must admit that I was not very happy to see the turnout at my booth this time around. I mean, I have seen much longer queues in the past. Today, it seemed like a low turnout. When I went there at about 15.00 hrs, it was a breeze; no queue, no waiting around, it was a walk-in. Good for me, but bad for democracy, but I don't mind standing the queue at all. It's fun to hear common people, young and old but especially the old, talk and discuss politics, candidates, who they are going to vote and who they feel should be kept out, etc. We need more people to turn up and vote. This report doesn't paint a good picture either. But I am glad that I voted. 

By the way, the ink was horrible this time. Not a dot this time around, it was a long line that started from my nails and went down all the way to cover 1/3rd of my finger. And I really wish the polling booth that has EVMs, are more robust instead of some cardboard-like material covering it from three sides that's not even high enough. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Being Touristy In Delhi


Although I have been going to Delhi every year for the past three or so years, I've hardly had the chance to catch up with this beautiful city. Delhi may not be a place where I would like to settle down- in that regard it would never come close to my Bombay- but I do not mind visiting it every so often. Besides being incredibly green, it has wide and beautiful roads and
 some of the best open spaces and gardens you'll ever see in any of the congested towns across India. And with the Delhi Metro rail expanding its tentacles all over the city and even beyond, moving around the city is soon going to be a breeze. Anyways, this time around, I decided to be a little touristy. And since Lotus Temple is close to my office, I decided to stop over here. My executive chauffeur; Deepti.

Lotus Temple is a beautiful, pristine and pure white structure, a gorgeous place of worship. The beauty of New Delhi is that the city is much better planned than Bombay, if you take away large portions of South Bombay and much of Old Delhi. So any important touristy place is in the middle of a large and enclosed area and the empty space is converted into carefully manicured lawns. The temple is a large dome-like structure and looks like a lotus flower; hence the name. You form a queue to get in, listen to the importance of being there and maintaining peace inside the structure and are then allowed to go inside. The structure is made of white marble and is very peaceful inside. No idols, no nothing inside to look at, but just sit quietly on any of its numerous ans countless benches, like in Churches, and meditate or pray. Sunset is the best time to visit Lotus temple because evenings are very relaxed, calm and soothing. Besides, Lotus temple looks beautiful once the lights come on against sunset.

Then, on Sunday, I was too tired to venture anywhere out in the morning, but evening I decided to explore Lodhi Gardens. Good I did not venture out during the day time; I later heard the temperature that day was around 42 degrees! The garden is huge and spread over a large area and has multiple historical monuments housed inside. You either explore the monuments or like many Delhites take a nice, long walk in the gardens or just sit on the lawns and relax and watch the sun set and day fade away. Just looking at so much green is relaxing. Checked out the nearby India Habitat Centre and dined at the American Diner. Lovely waffles with three types of syrups, eggs, chicken sausages and chocolate mousse rounded up a relaxed and laid back Sunday.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dilli chalo

After being baked in Mumbai, I landed in 35 degrees C temperature Delhi that my Spicejet air hostess announced just after we landed. "...The outside temperature is 35 degrees. We thank you for travelling Spicejet and we hope to service you in future...."said the pretty voice. Little did I know that Dilli temperature would touch 40 degrees the next day!!! And speaking of airhostesses, what is the deal with their accents anyways? Especially the leading lady who makes announcements in the aircraft. Not that I pay much attention to such trivial things...but still. I mean I can understand if they speak accented English, but why do most of them speak Hindi as if they want to sound like they're talking in English? I mean English is English and Hindi is Hindi. It's as simple as that. And I do not really want to get started on the way pilots talk or make various announcements like welcoming us on board, when are we taking off, over where we are flying, thanking us for flying their airline and all that jazz. My Spicejet flight pilot was quite audible, but most of the time I do not understand what they say, can't really follow their deep breadth and heavily accented voice. I wonder whether they voices are really like that or they want to purposely sound stylish or something. They need voice training, man!

Anyways, the flight was one hour late, but the delay was due to the congestion at the Bombay airport. We started at right time 11.40 am, but it took us one hour (50 minutes to be precise) for us to hit the runway and take-off. We were around 8th ot 10th in the line and as each take-off takes approximate 3 minutes as per my pilot, we were massively delayed. But somehow we could finally take off only at 12.30 pm sharp. Add to that delay, my Spicejet airport bus that transports us from the terminal to the aircraft took us 20 agonising minutes to reach our aircraft! That's around 80% of the time it takes to reach Poona by air from Bombay!!! I don't know what the heck was wrong, but it was so painful to be jam-packed in a bus-  that was literally crawling all the way- standing. 

Since Spicejet is a budget carrier, it doesn't give us packed meals that I often so look forwrad to when travelling by air. And I usually do not believe in spending a ridiculous amount of Rs 100 for a chicken sandwich that they offier. But since the flight was delayed, I had no option since I thought I wouldn't have enough time  and I had to rush office. So I settled for a sandwich. 

The airport delay though is most shocking, not that it is new if you've travelled to and fro Bombay. India's financial capital has one of the worst airports in the country amongst metro cities in terms of airport congestion. In terms of facilities at the terminals and its aesthetics, it's great, but in terms of congestion it causes innumerable delays both while taking off and even landing. The Mumbai airport has only one runway and that is the major cause for the delay. As air-traffic increases, there is a need to have multiple runways, preferably one each for take-off and landing as is the case with many global airports in developed markets. I do not know when Mumbai will have a second airport. And not so long ago, our sarkari babus were talking of Mumbai becoming Shanghai. I can't recollect a more short-sighted statement made by our administration in recent years. 

Anyways, Delhi is very hot. The worst thing is that unlike in Mumbai, here we do not perspire. So the heat kind of remains inside us, in our heads. But there's plenty of stuff to look forward to; Khan market, Big Chill, Cheesecakes, desserts, Safdurjung Enclave- the place where I literally started my career at- Delhi Parsi rest house and my Fire-Temple in the complex, Irish Bailey's cream at Veena's house, again some more desserts, Sunita's mallu curry rice... 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lazying Around in the Vikhroli Woods


After almost a gap of two years, I went to Vikhroli to my cousin Kashmira's house for an overnight stay. Trips to Vikhroli are always looked forward to because I am so attached to that place. Almost every week, as a child, I used to go there on Friday with Kashmira when she was a professor at Hinduja college, she used to pick me up on her way home and then Rustom- her husband- used to drop me back on Sunday evening. Apart from my neighbours, the Bhathenas and Batliwalas, her place is one where I have virtually grown up. So Vikroli has many pleasent memories for me, since Rustom has been working at Godrej for decades.

As always, one of Kashmira's strengths is her cooking. We celebrate many celebrity chefs when we go and dine in their restaurants, 5-stars, etc., but chefs like my mom, Kashmira, Hutoxi, their mom Perin Fui, my deceased aunt Hilla Fui, Viloo Mami, Havovi, Moti Mummy and many such more, are the true star-chefs to me. This particular one though, was at my exclusive service this weekend, so I had the luxury to chose the menu over the weekend. Now this is some opportunity, if you are familiar with Kashmira's cooking. I chose Mora Dal Chawal (the Parsi-style yellow plan, but thicker than the typical Hindu dal, and plain white rice) and fish patia. But I like the fiery-red patia made out of coconut, rather than the bland tomato patia, so I chose the former. Lunch at Kashmira's place is always served with plenty of hospitality, love and affection, so that makes the food taste that much better. I can go on and on about this....

After a good siesta after such a good and heavy lunch, I spent the evening pretty much at their place because we had some visitors, but I did visit my other cousin Mahiyar, my family's in-house computer expert and my chief IT consultant. Later in the week, I took one of his recommendations and implemented it. Let's see how good his recommendation really is. I think it would be.

A trip to Vikhroli is incomplete without a walk in the Godrej Hill-side (where Kashmira & Rustom live) colony. The first thing that hits you as you take a stroll in the colony is how well the Godrej family maintains its housing societies that they build for their own staff. With so much land in Vikhroli east as well as west, I feel the Godrej family is the uncrowned kings of the real estate in India, but much of their land in Vikroli seems to be used up for their staff's housing needs. I have yet to see a bigger housing colony of any company's staff. And just because these homes are meant for their staff and not for themselves doesn't mean the family has a devil-may-care attitude. Their housing colonies are very aesthetically built and maintained, homes are very carefully constructed and are very spacious. Godrej seems to know how to take care of their employees very well. And their housing colonies are also well equipped; large playgrounds, a fully functional primary and secondary school, a hospital, store, library, club with a swimming pool, restaurant and cyber cafe amidst lush and beautiful greenery, what else do you want!!!!! And the views from the colony hill-tops are fantastic; you can see Navi Mumbai from Airoli stretched to Vashi and the beautifully lit-up Vashi creek bridge. Magnificent view!

DakshinaChitra @ Chennai

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